There is a great deal of talk about the pretentiousness of Australians about food these days. People clearly miss the “good old days”. Days when pulled pork was a euphemism for sticky pyjamas, and hipsters were a style of undies. I suppose, being the person I am, constantly interested in food and talking about it, I must fall squarely into some people’s idea of this pretentiousness. I’d like to calmly but firmly assure you that I’m not pretending. I genuinely miss restaurants made from brown brick with no windows and murals on the walls, electric candelabras and all male waiters with moustaches and bow ties. I went to them as a child and always ordered t-bone steak. I like stew, I like pies. But fuck anybody that wants to tell me that soggy veggies and underseasoned meat are the be all and end all, that as an Aussie, I can’t set my sights any higher. The tall poppies taste better, or at least, they provide the kind of variety commensurate with living in one of the richest countries on earth. You can enjoy the last by having a two car garage next to your Aussie dream home with a Godzilla like environmental footprint. You can drive a new car every two years, order more than you want to eat, collectively desire that the unemployed and rural indigenous live on unlivable sums. Personally, I live in a rented home and drive a small car nearly 20 years old that my grandmother gave to me, but when it comes to food and booze, I’ll spend every last cent I have to ensure that I and those at my table eat and drink as well as I can allow them. That frequently doesn’t mean spending a lot of money, I pride myself on my frugality, but not on my stinginess. Some ingredients, overwhelmingly the boozy kind, can’t be had at bargain prices.
I have never been the kind to post pictures of truffles on facebook and I honestly found my one experience of watching masterchef like an extremely dramatic day at cooking school. Ultimately, though, I figure we live in a culturally diverse nation, one where the poor and wonderous cuisines of many nations intermingle. It’s a glorious playland for anybody that cares to play, and if the nascent interest shown by masses of people in the culinary arts is a little overzealous, and occasionally smacks of a less sophisticated past, it surely doesn’t deserve to be derided. We are just about the richest people that have ever lived. Surely one of the best things that people can do with all of that wealth apart from help the needy, is endeavour to enrich themselves culturally. Or perhaps it would be better for all if everyone had a hot HSV in the driveway and every known electronic device in the house, stuffing their faces with unpretentious fast food.
Masterchef might sell the idea of sophistication to the aspirational masses, but McDonalds sells the idea of community and belonging, the lost simplicity of childhood. The end result of the former pushes the price of pork belly above the price of fillet, but you have a better chance of getting a tasty meal in any given household. The latter is more likely to push up rates of obesity and a swag of other health problems.
It’s like chefs dissing Jamie Oliver. I realise that he may take some shortcuts, making one type of dough for several different types of pasta, but he’s not trying to turn people in to high end chefs. He’s just teaching the average Joe home cooking like the kind of person that can cook well. The casual attitude and techniques are exactly what people that can cook do at home, and if you cut a few corners because you have a screaming baby, or you’re coming down, or you got drunk after work and your girlfriend has a broken finger and can’t cook and is starving and flipping out, then you go right ahead and cut a few corners. The food still tastes great and everybody is better off if they know how to do that. Good chefs cook well and can feed a lot of people. They teach other chefs how to cook well. Turning into whiny, sardonic little bitches at the drop of Jamie’s hat on account of him improving cookery and eating on a massive scale is unbecoming and smacks of petty jealousy.