Tag Archive | food

In defense of the food selfie

We are all gripped by the selfie: the pointless, egotistical guilty pleasure of photographing ourselves with our smartphone, to not only document the mad and wonderful life we live, but to rub other people’s noses in it. Selfies may be taken for oneself, of oneself and by oneself, but they are almost never kept to oneself. Instead, the selfies almost immediately find their way onto Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and all those other wonderful soapboxes of the internet, where we stand and scream and shout to announce and validate our existence.

Best suckling pork in the world at Lvi Dvur in Prague!

Wonderful Estonian starter at Kaerajaan, Prague.

I am not so big on taking selfies, perhaps because I just don’t find myself all that interesting or photogenic. I do, however, take lots and lots of phtotos of food and drink, and of myself eating and drinking. Recently, I have been reading articles about snooty restaurant chefs taking offense of this harmless habit. They declare war on guests who take photos of their carefully constructed culinary creations. Apparently, they are quite willing to sell you these edible works of art, but they want to maintain intellectual ownership. So you may destroy the food with your knife, put it in your mouth, dissolve it in gastric acid and send it to its demise in a porcelain toilet bowl, but you are NOT allowed to take a photo of what you just paid 50 euro’s for to keep as a memento.

These chefs have no idea about food and about what it does to emotions and memories. Let me explain how it works for me. Great, memorable meals are always more than just that. They are also great, memorable times spent with great, memorable people. A terrific meal by oneself is really quite a depressing affair. A great meal in great company is the best thing imagineable. Life just does not get any better. So, when I take a photo of a lovely plate of food, I also place a marker in my memory of a truly great moment. What chef would not be proud, to be part of someone’s dearest memories?

Yours truly having a wonderful lunch at Pillnitz Palace in Dresden.

Yours truly having a wonderful lunch at Pillnitz Palace in Dresden.

Apparently, the chefs who protest against food selfies, and who in some cases have gone so far as to explicitly forbid photography in their restaurants, are afraid that their intellectual property gets infringed upon. Yeah right. As if a crappy iPhone photo of some exquisite food is suddenly going to make you able to replicate that same food in your own kitchen. I have phtographed lots of food, but never once in order to copy a dish at home. Simply put: if a restaurant serves the kind of food I can cook at home, I am not going to eat there. The beauty of a home cooked meal is just that: that you or a loved one made it, and that you eat it at home. In a restaurant, I want to be stunned and amazed by ingredients I cannot get my hands on, by cooking skills that require years of training, by beautiful presentation I could never pull off on my cheap plates. And I want to remember that, so I want to take that photo.

Deal with it, snooty chefs, and allow me the pleasure of hanging on to what should be a wonderful memory. If you see me taking a food selfie in your restaurant, the you can be damn sure I am having a wonderful time, that I want to remember long after the food has been digested. So please… indulge me, or better still, pose with me! And you can be sure I’ll be back.

Superb starter at Villa Richter in Prague

Superb starter at Villa Richter in Prague

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Why I hate Masterchef

Suddenly, Masterchef is everywhere. In Holland we have the original Masterchef on the BBC, plus Junior Masterchef, Celebrity Masterchef and Professional Masterchef. Basically, hardly a week goes by without some sort of Masterchef, and that’s just the Beeb. Then there is obviously Dutch Masterchef, and our Dutch commercial tv channels have scoured the globe to bring us Australian Masterchef as well, plus reruns of the UK Masterchef, USA Masterchef… bloody Papua New Guinea Masterchef! In short: it’s all too much and I am not even sure if it’s a good thing in the first place.

I love cooking, and I could probably do quite well on Masterchef because I have a good palate and I have the weird ability to know what something will taste like before actually tasting it. And most of all, because to me food and love and inextricably mixed. I love to cook and I love to cook for people I love. I express my love through my cooking. And some of the most precious memories of my life -anyone’s life!- involve sharing food with loved ones. It’s a spiritual, emotional thing for me. And so much more than just some shrill competition.

To then have to watch Masterchef, and see how such an act of loving is turned into yet another competition and another means for annoying egotistical immature people to self-inflate and assert themselves is absolute torture. I hate competitive people and I love to see them fail. They always do on Masterchef because good food is never about trying to be better than others. But tell that to those smug sociopaths.

The worst is Australian Masterchef, with three presenters/judges/divas that are incredibly annoying. Especially a little stubbly Greek who apparently secretly thinks cooking is for women and sissies, so who as compensation tries to be this huge overstated testosterone clump all the time. I would smash his skull in with a Le Creuset skillet if he talked like that to me. Cooking is not the same as racing a Ferrari, George Kalombaris! Even the -far better- BBC version is guilty of souping things up to a ridiculous level. John and Gregg excel in stupid oneliners like ‘Cooking does not get tougher than this’. I could just slap them. Whenever a contestant is stressed out and clearly struggling to serve his food on time, they just stand on the side and yell at him or her, as if that makes the work go any faster or better. Intensely annoying. Get out of the way, or help. But don’t stand there stating the obvious.

I also hate the way every chef is pushed into some sort of cookie cutter, and taught to produce fashionable pretty looking food. The obsession with pureeing everything into some sort of baby-food on the BBC version is simply ridiculous. The same goes for the reductions that end up as a nasty smear, and the obsession with using snobbish jargon. Crème Anglaise instead of custard? May we charge you 5 pounds extra?

My biggest hate is the insane trend of deconstructing tried and tested dishes. There is a reason why a tarte tatin works the way it does. There is an age old method behind a perfect Boeuf Stroganoff. Any other combination leads to something that takes hours more work to produce and yet never quite reaches the same quality and flavour as the original dish did. So why so it? Showing off skill is great, but the purpose should always be to improve the favour of the dish. Yesterday I witnessed how a three-star chef devised a menu where basically 80% of all ingredients was reduced to the point of irrecognizability. The wastage, in a time of austerity, was simply staggering. Turning rhubarb into snow, by juicing two kilos and then whisking it through liquid nitrogen, so a mere handful was left of it? Whoever thinks this is the way cooking should go needs his head examined.

So there you have it, the reason why I will never succumb to Masterchef. I will not allow anyone -least of all judges from a tv show- to stand between me and my love for food, and my need to share that with people that matter to me.231450