Saturday, 17 February 2007

Retail Therapy And Retro Food

Half-term is here at last! It's not the easiest time of year. There's precious little sunlight to get the endorphins flowing in your brain. It's just one week off after a long hard winter session, and although it's been great working in fine dining, you feel drained when your working day starts in the dark and ends in twilight hours. Spring is within reach, but it's still freezing some nights and we've had snow.

Under these conditions, women know perfectly well what to do (no, I don't mean stuff themselves with chocolate). I'm just slightly uncomfortable with my dad engaging in retail therapy today while my mum disappeared off for a long drive, but what the hell, if mum's in touch with her Clarkson side and dad with his Nigella side, all the better I say. Because this is what dad came home with.

Nothing retro about our new Breville food processor
If you've paid careful attention to my earlier posts you will know that I've been a bit deprived in the kitchen equipment department.
Our sad old Moulinex blender......and our medieval whisk!Nothing to do with lack of domestic funds, but a result of an austerity more characteristic of a protestant upbringing than my liberal atheist one. A Moulinex blender from the 1970s and a whisk from the 1770s make hard work of food preparation!

So I'm over the moon. The Breville Intelligent Food Processor FP21 has attachments and operating programmes that combine to make it a blender, smoothie maker, mayonnaise maker, batter maker, fruit puréer, citrus press, dough kneader, slicer, chopper and whisk (and probably a few more things).

Antony playing with 1980s toysNow before any of you say a word, we don't buy kitchen products in our family because of celebrity chef promotion. Anything in the supermarket with the head of Jamie Oliver, Ainsley Harriot or Rick Stein (or the bust of Nigella Lawson) smiling at me is likely to make us disappear off to another aisle.

Antony Worrall Thompson was not the factor that made dad select the Breville, but AWT's sponsorship did provide me with an excellent link between this shopping post and a recent news item.

Interviewed on BBC radio last night, Antony surprised many listeners by declaring that retro food was the biggest thing in 2007.

OK, AWT's never been one to push the gastronomic envelope, but when he explained that he had put prawn & avocado cocktail on his restaurant menu recently "for a joke" and it had become his top selling dish of the year, I was gobsmacked. I couldn't find a link to the BBC interview, but here's a recent article that makes the same point. After my guilty admission that I was cooking 1970s dishes at home after working in fine dining during the day, this made me feel much better. Especially when I read that retro cocktails are back in fashion as well!


Freya said...

Nice article! I think that chefs might not want to admit it, but most people have never stopped cooking so-called retro food. I cry and wail if I don't get my prawn vol au vents at Christmas and my mum can't hold a buffet without mini sausage rolls and pineapple and cheese on sticks. And that's without starting on the scampi in a basket...nostalgia is not such a bad thing, especially if it tastes good!

Kitchen Rat said...


Like the piece, but didn't Wozza make this statement on BBC2 on Friday night in the Grumpy Guide to Food and Wine, which was a pretty rubbish and slightly nauseating show.

But retro is definitely back in fashion - I went to an event recently where pineapple and cheese
were served on a stick as in the 70s...

But isn't this just fashion and aren't lots of fine-dining menus essentially based on old classics??

Trig said...

Freya - As you'll see from tonight's posting and several recent posts I'm really into retro cooking at home, though I don't have any desire for pineapple and cheese on toothpicks. I've got a lot of time for Rick Stein who cooks some very retro stuff and some very modern stuff which is probably why (as well as the fact that he's a really decent guy!)

Kitchen rat - Sorry, you may well be right. I usually pick up my information on Radio5Live and sometimes from the BBC food website, but maybe I was channel-hopping on Friday night before I went out because this doesn't sound like the sort of programme I would have watched.

As for your question, obviously everything that goes around comes around to some extent. But nowhere I've worked lately is serving classic 1970s dishes. The main differences are in cooking method and presentation. So much so that you wouldn't recognise a 1970s dish today even if it was attempted in a fine dining kitchen.

I guess the explanation for the prawn cocktail was that Wozza runs a group of grill bars - at least two rungs below anything you'd call fine dining.

dan said...

Trig, does this mean Simon Hopkinson was way ahead of his time?

Trig said...

I think you know the answer to that question, Dan.

For chefs of Simon's generation (he's a decade older than Gordon Ramsay and getting on for my dad's age) these dishes were the haute cuisine of the day - in Britain at least. And we didn't have a fraction of the global knowledge we have today, so few could compare modern British with modern French or Spanish in those days.

If I could understand my produce, cook as well as him and write a cookery book that made top of the best sellers list I'd be well proud of myself.

I just hope I survive the course of professional life in the kitchens. Simon is a constant reminder of just how hard that can be.

Lilandra said...

"we don't buy kitchen products in our family because of celebrity chef promotion. Anything in the supermarket with the head of Jamie Oliver [snip] is likely to make us disappear off to another aisle."

And you craved and got that Furi knife! :-p

Trig said...

I didn't crave the Füri knife because of celebrity promotion, Lilandra, but because I used one on work experience and loved it.

I'm flattered by all your comments below and I don't want to seem ungrateful, but I must warn you that I've posted over 250 articles, so you're going to wear your keyboard out if you start at the beginning and comment on them all. I'll happily settle for just comments on the most recent as a compromise.

Lilandra said...

I seriously apologise for what so really appears to look like...comment spam!

I only intended to *read* all the posts and not comment at silent etc...maybe comment on some of the more recent articles.

I just didn't feel up to doing all that without actually...reading your whole blog (this happens to me a lot when i start reading a blog...i bypass it until i have time to read it all because otherwise i don't feel i give it its full due...)

But it seems I don't do things by halves and next thing I knew there were tonnes of comments and I was can't go back and delete them can I...

So I took a break...

I sometimes tend to go overboard...maybe it all started when I fixed and reclaimed by blogger account. I should never have done that. Made commenting on blogger easier...should've left it like it was...

On a more pertinent note, I was glad to see that somebody else used the Furi knives because they sure *looked* good and was also happy to know they weren't all celeb propaganda.

Trig said...

I'm sorry Lilandra, I didn't mean to be rude to you. I appreciate all of your comments and if you want to make more, please do. It's much nicer to have loads of comments than none at all, believe me.

I honestly didn't know that celebs were promoting Füri. I must watch the wrong TV programmes.

All the best to everyone down there in paradise. It's cold, wet and miserable up here in Europe.

Lilandra said...

No worries. I didn't think you were being rude!

Oh, well, Rachael Ray has a branded set of Furi knives. She's on Foodnetwork in the USA and is the author and pusher of 30-Minute Meals.

A lot of people don't like her...she's not a chef. She calls herself a cook.

I like her. She cooks I think because she likes to and she thinks everybody should try...and not think of it as a huge chore that takes forever at home.

She's also kinda exploded. I think she has 3 shows on the foodnetwork and her own talk show now! I am still stunned even though I like her.

Trig said...

Lilandra – I had no idea about Rachel Ray, aka. "the Bobblehead" as Anthony Bourdain once referred to her, and these knives. I’m even more shocked to learn that she progressed from Wüsthof to Füri – exactly the same transition as me. If only I’d known you could get paid for it!

We don’t see this celebrity chef in the UK -I first came across her via the weird fanblog "Everything Rachel Ray". Later on I discovered the spoof hateblog Rachel Ray Sucks Community (Motto: "30 Minutes of Ramblings, Giggles and Arm Spasms!") and the associated photo album (motto: "Rachael Ray is a Plague upon Society") that I won't hyperlink to due to unsuitable content - both of which are quite funny in places.

Rachel may share my taste in knives, but somehow I don't think you'll ever find me endorsing Burger King or Dunkin' Donuts. Mind you, watch this space and you may yet see me post photos of the Barcelona outlets of both of these companies in a future blog post.

Lilandra said...

yes! that's least, i know Anthony Bourdain hates (?) her.

But...I'm lowbrow...I like her. (I like watching his shows too...)


Mamun said...

First time here...u have nice space and really inspirational stuff... I'll be back soon.


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