Heston Blumenthal seems to have taken over the Waitrose magazine for reasons that were never made clear, as Hunter Thompson used to say. Presenting himself as the wacky scientist chef with the James Bond villain name, the man whose restaurant mysteriously wasn’t closed down when he poisoned scores of people with oysters that were way past being a bit iffy feels it’s his duty to tell us all about the food Waitrose can sell us.
As recipes go they’re admirably simple. Sometimes they’re so simple you could get the impression you might have had when you were about seven years old, that putting toast on a plate was making breakfast or that opening a tin of baked beans was making dinner. Most of them are tweely ‘Heston’s’; as in Heston’s ultimate cheeseburger.
Never mind that it sounds exactly like those people you shared with at uni who used a chinagraph pencil to mark the level on their milk bottles and biroed their initials on sausages. But life turned out ok. I topped up the milk bottle with water. I passed it myself.
To make the cheese slices, mix the cheese, Worcestershire sauce, English mustard, cornflour, yeast and Marmite. Place in the fridge for 2 hours.
Sorry? To make cheese I put cheese in the fridge? And why isn’t there anything about slicing it? How do I do that without instructions, exactly? Is this supposed to be a recipe or what? And breathe. And look at another recipe.
(Please note, Heston’s waaaaaay too funky to use a capital at the start of each word. If you’ll pardon the expression. Funky means ‘smelling of sex.’ I always think unencumbered it’s a bit like marzipan, (me and the writer of The English Patient too if you remember the scene at the Christmas party. In the film, obviously) but not something I’d want to be aware of in a commercial kitchen where my dinner is being prepared by several people I haven’t even met.
Funky fishy stuff
By combining two forms of salmon – chargrilled and tea-smoked – you get a variety of texture.
From the wild rushing rivers of Alaska to the reaches of the Clyde and the Tay, the fjords of Norway and the Arctic tundra, salmon fishers the world over quest for the wily tea-smoked salmon. There are two forms of brown trout, which are much more interesting. The normal ones, that eat insects and larvae and grow to no more than about a foot long for a really big one. Then there are the weird, strange ones, the were-trout, the ferox that lives up to its name, brown trout that have gone cannibal and grown ten times heavier than they might have expected to when they hatched. Weirder still, absolutely no-one knows why they do that, if and when they do. There are also two forms of salmon, almost as Heston says, but he doesn’t seem to want to talk about them at all. There are wild salmon, traditionally in the UK bright pink and eaten from tins. And there are farmed salmon, which get subsidies to provide a handful of jobs in Scotland, where they have to be force-fed chemicals to stop them dying from infections caused by sea-lice eating them alive while their droppings poison the sea-bed under and downstream of their cages. Because they can’t swim far they’ve got no muscle tone so their flesh doesn’t have much texture and because they don’t get much exercise their flesh also has to be dyed to make it the colour people expect of their smoked salmon. Still, if you want this ersatz copy of the good life at £2.99 for 200g then the 27-odd industrial chemicals involved in getting it onto your plate probably doesn’t matter. Certainly Heston can’t be bothered to mention it.
But then, texture, like production and provenance seems to be something else that’s all a bit desperately un-hip and boring. The people Heston’s aiming Pork shoulder sliders at seem to think so, anyway.
Sliders are so-called because they slide down easy.
Let’s ignore the hyphen which seems to imply that they’re not called that at all. Let’s ignore the chummy anti-elitist illiteracy of using easy instead of easily. Heston, you absolute dude. Instead, let’s think about the virtues of food you don’t even have to chew. Yum.
Of course, if you don’t chew your teeth will fall out sooner than they might otherwise and equally of course, you’ll eat far more of this stuff because without chewing you by-pass the bio-feedback loop created over millions of years to tell you you’re full. Oh and you won’t produce saliva the way you’re supposed to, so you won’t digest it properly, you won’t feel great and you’ll get fat.
But so what? Who, frankly, cares? Obviously not Heston. Because food isn’t an integral part of your life that really matters and without it you’ll die and with the wrong foods you’ll die in considerable discomfort. Debatably worse, you’ll look as if you have as well.
Gin with grapefruit and ginger beer. This drink is packed full of aromatics. Yes. It’s called gin. That’s what gin is.
Spit-roasted pineapple – no, I’m not even going to go there.
But I’m a square. Food is fun. Food is wacky. Food is a zillion photos of a bald bloke fiddling with his glasses and a Bunsen burner. Food is 529 people projectile vomiting and involuntarily re-decorating their bathrooms when luckily there’s no breach of food hygiene regulations. It’s nothing to do with where it came from or how it got to your plate or what it’s going to do to you. None of that matters at all.
And on page 13, Heart disease might be scary.*
Who knew? Depressingly, I didn’t even make that up. Food as fetishism I can cope with; at least fetishism takes things seriously. Food as faddish infantilism mocks the animals that provided it and the people who eat it.
* p13 Waitrose magazine 1st August.