Sunday, March 30, 2008

Becoming one of those cranky correspondents to the bourgeois press. Yep, I was moved to write another letter today - this time to the Good Weekend. Really it was a lost cause, for their bread and butter is a lifestyle snobbery that oscillates between cosmopolitanism (eg: knowing about the existence of a Middle Eastern spice mix called baharat) and Rustique Chic (that hateful bourgie philosophy where everything has to be cleverly vintage or repurposed, 'sourced' rather than merely bought, made from scratch, nostalgic for old-school technologies and techniques, and above all, so simple to make! In Rustique Chic you must never admit that something was very difficult or unwieldy).

But I just couldn't bear Terry Durack's retarded list of "20 food experiences you must have before you die". They are:

1. Catching and cooking a fish
2. Drinking Guinness in Dublin
3. Watching the sun set at Mindil Beach Market in Darwin
4. Going on a tapas crawl through San Sebastian, Spain
5. Eating roast goose in Hong Kong
6. Baking a loaf of bread
7. Eating Tetsuya's confit of ocean trout
8. Eating Sachertorte in Vienna
9. Dining in the Eiffel Tower
10. Queuing for the best pizza in Naples (and therefore the world, Durack helpfully explains)
11. Breakfasting in La Boqueria food market in Barcelona
12. Staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn
13. Milking a cow
14. Buying a custard tart in Lisbon
15. Ordering a bellini in Harry's Bar, Venice
16. Hot chocolate and churros in Madrid
17. Cooking a souffle
18. Ordering the pastrami at Carnegie Deli, New York
19. Tucking into the world's best pub lunch, which apparently is in the Hinds Head pub in Berkshire, UK
20. Growing your own tomatoes

My housemate Marty had done two of these (the Vienna cake and the fish-catching). I had done three (the fish-catching, growing the tomatoes and baking the bread). But it wasn't my vast inadequacy that really piqued me - it was the cultural cringe of assuming things are always done best far away from wherever you live. He's like the Rob Sitch character in the Late Show dinner party sketch - "That's nothing compared to [insert exotic experience]. Brilliant! Brilliant!"

Despite acing the DIY Rustique Chic component ("I've seen a cow being milked but I didn't squeeze out the milk myself..." I said forlornly to Marty, who was still gloating at his Vienna-led superiority) I was also angry at that idea that "Nothing beats cooking with something you have grown yourself". I loved the way that Richie Hebden took the piss out of this bourgie attitude in his story about people who eat their own children.

So I wrote the following letter to the Good Weekend. Hopefully it will win Letter Of The Month and I will win a weekend stay for two at a hotel in my own city - a wonderful prize indeed considering that I wouldn't get to travel anywhere and have nobody to share the hotel room with.

Your Food and Wine issue (March 29) cunningly underlined that eating and drinking can easily tip over into bourgeois snobbery. First Terry Durack pronounces that you simply haven't lived unless you've had the time and money to roam the world sampling its goodies and produce basic foodstuffs yourself. Then Huon Hooke brags about the mere $55 per bottle he paid for the 1990 Pol Roger Champagne. Whatever happened to food and wine's more mundane pleasures? Hot tea and Vegemite toast in bed? The spag bol and cleanskin cab sav I cheered myself up with when I lost my job? And that naffest of drinks that never fails to conjure happy summer afternoons with friends - the white wine spritzer?

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