May 19 2013
What a lot of hullabaloo about a load of old socks!
Twitter and Facebook have been getting their knickers well and truly in a twist this morning talking about the above article from the WSJ. It contains a frankly pretty candid interview with a Parisian restaurateur who cites the rising costs (of both fresh ingredients and staff) as justification for buying pre-prepared frozen meals.
That's not news. For years we've been talking about the difference in baguettes - between those which have been partially frozen and those made according to the "traditional" method. Did we think that the rules and constraints that apply for one don't exist for the other?
All you need to do is sneak into a Metro (the giant food chain, not the subway) and peruse their vast frozen food section. You'll understand then how some restaurants are able to offer classic French fare for half the price of the one next door.
Admittedly, I can see the interest in taking a few shortcuts when you're in a professional kitchen faced with as many kilograms of potatoes to be peeled as you have fingers and toes, but that's not what cooking is for me. Cooking is the art of elaboration. Of taking fresh, raw ingredients and turning them into something far better. If you can find some good wine that compliments what you've just made, you're onto a winner.
No-one understands that better than one of my most prized recipe books: Fifty Shades of Chicken. A parody of a certain chick-lit bearing a similar title, it is the only cookbook I've ever come across that had me in fits of giggles in the bookshop, as I tried (in vain) to stop blushing.
Only by demanding more transparancy will we learn what actually goes into the food other people prepare for us (whether that be in a restaurant, Picard, or any other ready-meal that we're going to put in the microwave at home) but we, as the end consumers, also need to set the example. Let's cook at home more often, stand by our values and be prepared to pay a few more pennies for good-quality, fresh ingredients.
"Oh, Chicken, did you just cluck at me?"
"No," I squawk hoarsely.
"I believe you did. Yes, you did. You remember what I said I'd do to you if you clucked?"
Aw, jeez. "Yes," I pause before I add, "Yes, Chef."
"My word is my bond," he crows. "I'm going to spank you. And then I will cook you, very hot and hard."