Tweak the menu if you must, but tragedy awaits - Times LIVE
Fri May 26 07:24:55 SAST 2017

Tweak the menu if you must, but tragedy awaits

Andrea Burgener | 2016-10-19 08:36:06.0
Andrea Burgener
Image by: Supplied / Times Media Group

FADS: MAD, BAD, SAD: Changing, borrowing, tweaking the "classics", and adopting food fashions from elsewhere is what the history of gastronomy is all about. Combinations, cooking methods or philosophies which seem natural and right today were novelties at another stage.

There's nothing wrong with borrowing from somewhere else or tweaking what came before, but how it's done is what counts. Understand and respect what made the thing good in the first place and all is okay, but change for the sake of novelty hardly ever works.

Equally, speed-adoption of entire dishes on a restaurant menu because it's what some tattooed hipster in New York is doing usually goes cronut-shaped: the adopting kitchen may not have the skills or kitchen crew to look after their new charge properly - and, perhaps paramount in all adoptions, any warm and loving feelings towards the newcomer.

Long ago, adoptions of ingredients, dishes and methods were (with a few exceptions) slower and hideous mistakes died through natural selection. It took generations of cooks to communally weave tomatoes into what is now the Italian diet, starting in the late 19th century.

When someone bonkers tried adding tomatoes to almond torte or carbonara, they thankfully couldn't post the monstrosities on Instagram and so the errors could be left to die a dignified death. Nowadays the viral speed of our communication and the five-second life-span of fads means that the crazy gastronomic ramblings and delusions of chefs, food bloggers and trend forecasters actually get to be a thing. It's Warhol's 15 minutes of fame, but for ever-new versions of tuna tacos and cupcakes.

Following are some of the worst fads of the last few years, which I hope will die soon. Strawberries on sushi is foremost in my mind because this particular aberration just won't go away. My next bugbear is mediocre macarons: so trendy, so tragically abused. A failed adoption in nearly every case.

Then there's the raw food thing. I don't get it: adopting ideas from humankind before we even knew how to make things delicious is even more stupid than stealing them from this year's hippest chef. Applying heat to food is sort of what makes us human! Why go backwards?

I'm not even going to start on the whole Caesar salad story; the evils which continue to be inflicted on this dish require a book to discuss. Ditto flavoured beers.

Bad novelty also comes in the form of food context rather than the food itself: call me dull, but I don't long to eat at the Modern Toilet restaurant in Taiwan, where customers sit on toilets instead of seats and eat off glass-covered basins. Can we at least hope that chocolate mousse has been left off the menu?


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