Since the moment I finished reading Le Carre’s novel about the spy who came in from the cold, I’ve been hooked on spies. That’s not quite true because I remember, however vaguely, looking up historical details (hopefully true but one can never say) about the beginnings of the whole spymaster saga in Britain (then England) in the time of Elizabeth 1st. Needless to say, there’s much to admire about the first Elizabeth; and not just her but a couple of other queens who were truly gutsy, such as Catherine the Great of Russia and Catherine de Medici of France. One could suggest without blaspheming that when God made these three ladies he broke the mould. Ever since that novel and reading about these 3 ladies, I’ve been an addict of spy stories, cloak and dagger stuff, and needless to say, although I would never hurt a fly, the pysches of those who would or who set out intentionally to (hurt flies) do so fascinate me.
Fortunately, the 21st century has been quite nifty at replacing the real on the ground spying with cyberspace equivalents and governments/companies/researchers/can spy by handing the job over to computer whizzes who don’t even have to consider how much hurt or damage they inflict because it’s all by proxy, Orwell’s 1984 comes to mind with Big Brother ever watching from a giant television screen.
In Nepal we have our nasty spy substitutes in ‘Food Spies’. In the old days we had to eat a heck of a lot to become plump. Now we have body mass indices that seem enormous and the world seems to have gone into a period of obesity epidemic. It’s difficult to understand how this came about. We’ve moved from the era of no bread to the era of fascinating food fads and huge hamburgers with cheese that the sellers try and convince us are ‘good food’ with no additives…….duh! Were there no additives how did so many people become obese at such young ages? And what is more, how is it that we can’t spread all this grub around more evenly? Half our world groans with excess weight and sore knee joints from eating ‘enriched’ proteins, not to mention excessive and easily available carbohydrates, while the other half groans from the pain of hunger: hunger is the rat gnawing at the entrails that will not go away. These are the pains that people who were POWs remember and the pains that produced skeletal people in various stages of kwashiorkor.
Meanwhile our newspapers and magazines send out food spies who report on one restaurant or another and grade them-but according to what, one wonders? I don’t think any restaurant in t he Kathmandu Valley is about to get a Michelin Star any time soon-----or is there something we don’t know?
It’s very competitive. Then there’s the inevitable borrowing of ideas from Masterchef Australia, who would have thought it? The swashbuckling outbacks with its billabongs and aborigines going walkabout has now become the culinary capital of the English-speaking world. Whatever happened to Julia Childs and French Cooking for American Homes?
That’s a simple one to answer I suppose when you have a President who locks his bedroom door to devour a stockpile of cheeseburgers and fries without being spied upon nobody is promoting Julia Childs’ famous cookbook! Meanwhile Australia has picked up the proverbial ball of culinary expertise and has started to run with it. It has certain advantages that give it a boost: lots of fresh vegetables and fruit and abundant seafood and of course meat and dairy produce. This doesn’t mean that vegetarians don’t exist---indeed they do and thrive. And as if that isn’t enough to make the mouth water, the American network have launched a Barbie Junior competition and 10 and eleven year olds are showing us what they can do---which is an amazing amount and good enough to make us ashamed!
So what is it we want? Do we want to be slim and eat as much as we like? Or don’t we care about the slim side of things? Eating a pile of everything delicious and fattening and following it all up with massive workouts is the swift road to extinction. It’s time we got real! There’s nothing wrong with the food our parents and grandparents ate. And while a meat dish with a fancy pattern of sauce, nuts and berries looks good on a plate served in an expensive restaurant… do we need that kind of enticement to eat? I hardly think so!
The irony is, of course, that the number of women competing for culinary awards outnumbers the men, by several times. Amazing when you think of the struggles of the early suffragettes to get women out of the kitchen. Now they seem to be crowding back in!
I’m all for cooks getting the respect and remuneration they deserve, as long as it doesn’t go overboard. I just wish that sometimes TV series’ editors would take care to cut down the number of times cooks and judges tell the audience something is ‘Yum’. Since we are not yet in an era of taste by licking the TV screen (I wonder whether that will ever come/or whether they’ve even thought of it?) there’s no way we can agree or disagree with the judge’s opinion so there’s no point in throwing in too many ‘Yums’.
So bringing us around full circle. What do we want from food? For me, I think a time in the near future when there’s enough to go around, would be very satisfying, very satisfying indeed!