Essential Cool - Part Three: Food

Restaurant Cool. You really want a well done steak, but you daren't ask for one so you settle for a "medium". Everyone knows you really want it well done. Such terrible times we live in, that even ordering a piece of dead cow is fraught with social dangers. Cools don't worry about intimidating waiters. If the waiter looks at all as if he is there to teach you a lesson, ask politely to see his finger nails. They may pass muster, but you have established the rules of the game, from which he cannot escape, which are that you are in charge, not him.

I once had the misfortune to be in a North African country. We went down a small alley in the town and discovered a cafe that had a griddle outside in the street. At the counter were various fish, mostly covered in flies and behind the counter was a nervous looking extra from "Casablanca" who could not understand why Westerners should want to eat in a shit hole like his. We pointed at something in the fly cabinet that resembled mullet, and he chucked them on the griddle. It turned out to be very good indeed and we did not die. Our later experiences in "westernized" restaurants were disappointing.

Cool Cooks. Elizabeth David was the coolest ever cook. If in doubt, just read her books and see how literary and Pavlovian they are. Recipe books are good, but really, you should, as a cool cook, be able to go to the fridge and make a masterpiece from the bits you have lying around. Cools eat less, rather than more. Some cools may have a little samphire with hollandaise or vinagrette, and call it the meal of the day. Consomme, or onion soup is cool, as is tomato soup made with tomatoes from your own garden. Good bread is the must have for the Cool Cook. Make it yourself or travel four miles to the Konditorei for your genuine Mohnkuchen. Cheese is cool. So if you have bread and cheese and maybe a home made pickle or two, you are practically sub-zero cool. My favourite pasta dish of the moment, and remember that pasta is a tricky issue, is to get some penne or those little bows, dried of course, for texture and set them to boil. Then roughly chop some semi-dried tomatoes and capers that have been marinated in olive oil. When the pasta is cooked, chuck the tomatoes and capers in the pan along with some ground pepper and perhaps a spoonful of tomato puree. Serve with freshly grated parmesan and more pepper. This of course is a veggie dish. Veggie dishes are cool, as long as you are a meat eater. If you are a veggie, you should not be reading this blog and you should bugger off and hug a melting ice-cap. Fish is probably the coolest single type of food. Chefs love it because it is impervious to abuse. Anything from a fish stew, made with mussels, monkfish, raw prawns, and squid, to a few mussels finished with cream and stilton or sardines on toast, are quintessentially cool. Keep is simple, keep it cool!

Uncool Food. Any food that is smaller than it should be. e.g, baby carrots, baby elephants, etc. Any food in a box that has a picture of the food in a bowl, with a sprig of parsley bearing the caption "serving suggestion". Any food with the words "For One" on it. Lonely and sadder, you cannot get. Any food with a picture of the farmer on the packet. (Why should they do that? Why should they put a photo of the bloke who reared the lamb chops on the packet? My shoes don't have a picture of a seven-year old Vietnamese kid on them) Any food sponsored by somebody on the telly, such as Ainsley Harriot. Indeed, any food that has a TV chef on the packet should be avoided. Indeed, unless you are buying your food in brown paper bags or greaseproof paper, you should be thinking about changing your buying habits. Any food flown in from another continent. Any meat that has been reared intensively.

Cool Food. If you have grown it yourself, it is cool. Chips are cool. Fish and Chips are cool. Boxes of organic vegetables, delivered to your door are cool. Cheese on Toast is cool. Olives are cool.  Heinz baked beans are cool. Crisps are not cool, but if you are like me, you cannot do without crisps, even if they are supposedly "hand" cooked. Most fish is cool. Personally, I don't like or eat oysters. If someone sneezed in an oyster shell and served it from the fridge, really, would you know the difference?

Starvation is not cool. Whatever your views on the world at large, starvation is something we should all be ashamed of. People who take part in American eating competitions should take a trip to Africa now and again. Sermon over, but it needed to be said.


scottish restaurants aren't very cool said...

I ordered game pie with mash at my fake pub last week and it was inedible. The meat was rock solid and tasteless served in the round ceramic dish with that puff pastry thing on top that falls to pieces when you try and put your fork into it. The mash was reheated from the week before and could have been used to re point the fake brickwork around the fake fireplace. There were a few mange tout things that were like bullets. I said it was inedible and could I have something else please.
Well what do you want asked the shocked waiter. I'll try the mixed grill please I said. How do you want your steak ? Well done please. I thought you didn't like tough meat he asked. Well done doesn't have to be hard I said. Ok then he said but you will get most of your grill first then in 20 minutes we'll bring your well done steak. I asked if he could put on the steak first then in about 10 minutes throw the rest into the pan and hopefully it will all come together and be ready at once. He said he would have to ask chef if that was possible. 20 minutes later he returned and said that should be ok. Everyone else at the table had finished their meals now so I didn't want to hold them up so had chips on the way home.
I must have had a few beers while waiting for my meal not to come as I chipped in my share for all the meals. They didn't charge for the game pie thing.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Sadly, your experience in Scotland is not unusual. Most places serve inedible food and are shocked if you complain. They don't get it, and they never will.

Mrs Rigby said...

To balance the other comment, we lived in Scotland for a few years, 'word' was 'east coast for food' - and it was too, some truly excellent meals out, even though the grouse on 12th was a bit suspect!

As you say, 'starvation isn't cool', which is a bit of a coincidence because I've just mentioned what's happening in Zimbabwe just now.

Jim Baxter said...

Elizabeth David looks most alluring in a who, me, don't be silly, that's the last thing on my mind, kind of a way. Which is the only way for a beautiful woman to be truly alluring.

Dave said...

I'm a non foodie. I've had the dubious pleasure of a meal in a posh restaurant that consisted mostly of an arty dribble of gravy over a squashed something or other. Awful. I watched the others eating it and was reminded of the Emperor's new clothes. Someone had told them it was special and they believed the hype.
I worked in food production for many years. Any food that has been produced by squeezing it through a tube or in moulds must be avoided.
Avoid all "party food" at all costs, and don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognise.
Which leaves us with bread and cheese- cheddar of course.