Saturday, 10 May 2008
I woke up...
....yesterday morning with Gordon Ramsay. Not an encouraging image - but, to be more precise and to reassure those of a nervous disposition, he was merely pontificating on the radio. I half listened, and as he appeared to be saying that restaurants should only serve fruit and vegetables when they were in season, it seemed to have a kind of logic. I mean, strawberries and peaches out of season are dire - and increasingly ubiquitous - and I fully agree it's time that we reversed the trend of ' everything available, all the time' since it appears to be sending overall standards of quality down the pan as part of the process.
But, no - apparently, this wasn't what he meant at all. As the Technical Department - who had been listening properly - subsequently communicated to me. It was an entire diatribe, somewhat inarticulately linked with the idea of food miles and global warming, and introducing the concept of punitive fines for establishments which served anything outside the prescribed dates. "Nasty little fascist", was probably the mildest - and pretty much the only printable - comment from the TD, who got really quite aerated about it. Putting aside all images of SS-style raids from jack-booted 'elf'n'safety 'operatives' on hapless culinary establishments who might be serving raspberries or mushrooms or plums outside the period formally recognised by the by-laws of Kidderminster or Burnham-on-Crouch, it seems to me to be a fundamentally witless position to try and adopt. If the underpinning of the argument is to address global warming, then clearly it would mean banning anything which isn't in season in the UK, ever - like lemons, and avocado, and aubergine, and peppers, and tuna, and garlic, and oranges, and melons....the list is endless. Presumably it would apply equally to wine and all forms of alcohol produced further away than a bike ride from where it is likely to be served? Whoops - not sure how well that sits with your Threshers deal, Gordon!
And there's a fine irony to the fact that Ramsay's first restaurant, before he took over the erstwhile premises of Tante Claire, was called 'Aubergine' - which by his current reckoning should be off-limits all year round!
Anyway, it's perfectly clear what's going on here. Gordon is trying to do a Jamie, and establish his social-pioneering credentials in claiming the relevant bit of the moral high ground, exactly as Jamie did (some might say equally fatuously) over the subject of school dinners. And Dymphna or Clarissa - or whatever Gordon's fluffy-headed PR person might be called - observed Delia so clearly dropping the ball the other week, when questioned about the political correctness of buying mid-winter beans from Kenya, and they thought they saw an opportunity. Oh dear. Not Thought Through. On any level actually, since a brief glance at the menu currently on offer at Ramsay's restaurant in New York reveals it positively overflowing with things like perigord truffles, pine nuts, and iberian ham, and his establishment in Grosvenor Square is offering swordfish, caviar, and tuna - all straight from the Thames, no doubt
It's a very complicated issue, and clearly one which is beyond the abilities of Dymphna or even Gordon himself to address in any sensible way. Two central themes do emerge, though: firstly, there should be much greater emphasis on improving the quality of the produce which is generally available to us (yes, I know that wasn't what he was talking about, but it is implicit in considering questions of things being available seasonally, and is a personal hobbyhorse of mine), and secondly, to think that the problems of the World will be solved by shutting down International Trade is merely facile. We cripple third-world economies in the process of hugging to ourselves our little-Britain smugness? I don't think so......
Back to the kitchen, Gordon - once you've extracted your foot from your mouth, that is - and stick to rattlin' dem pans! You might look marginally less of a twit, that way......
Veal Burgers, served with sweet & sour Courgettes
Lemon & Blackberry Burnt Creams
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What a well reasoned article - I had the same reaction as TD when I heard Gordon putting his foot in it... and not noticing. Logic is not his forte. Having the luxury of living now in beautiful Cotswold with garden space, I have created 2 'potagers' and I grow in season fruits and vegetables, mainly because I enjoy it but also because I appreciate freshness and enjoy certain vegetables that I cannot get easily in our part of the world: e.g. artichokes, fennel, some nice French salad potatoes like Belle de Fontenay, etc. At this time of year, the farm shop is 'blooming' and the star of the show is asparagus, picked in the morning and bought for lunch. So I shall try your asparagus mousse recipe when friends visit this week-end. The other star at this time in the garden is rhubarb. I have heard of using it as a sauce with meat - an idea as old as the city of Aleppo. Have you tried?? This week-end I have used it to make very good American-type muffins with ginger. Delicious for breakfast, dusted with icing sugar and served with a small bowl of stewed rhubarb and a dollop of yogurt. Rhubarb and Asparagus ideas, welcome. But perhaps you are part of the one half of the population that does not like rhubarb……
If the TD is calmed down, could you ask ‘it’ whether there is any intention to include a 'search' option on your web site?
Again thank you for the entertaining letters and great ideas. It is a pleasure to read and follow your peregrinations.
I gather rhubarb is cooked along with potatoes, in Poland, with spinach in Afghanistan, and in Iran is used in stews - so the idea of it featuring in savoury dishes is well established . I've never used it with meat - for me, the idea is too close to pork with apple sauce, with is a personal dislike. My preference for rhubarb is combined with strawberries and orange rind, either cold as a compote or in a lattice-topped tart.
Re Search function, there already is one, on the left of the top navigation bar....
Many thanks for your comment - loved the reference to Aleppo!
Can you imagine the 'policing' of restaurants? Could you imagine a winter with nothing but root vegetables and brassicas?? As you say, foot in mouth!
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