Munching on Food Myths

Did you think that British food is boring? Think again.

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Photo by: EujarimPhotography/Moment/Getty Images

Welcome to the 11th edition of Food Mythbusters! (If that confuses you and makes you go buy back-copies of this magazine, job done.)

In any case, today we’re dealing with some persistent and dangerous food myths, fallacies that have wrecked many a good dinner—and this, obviously, is the final word on these matters.

No. 1: The only good dessert is chocolate.

Yes, that’s a myth. Really. Stop, please, that wobbling lower lip is quite unbecoming. If you’re one from the “I won’t go if it ain’t cocoa” bunch, do keep a defibrillator ready, but please read on.

First, I love chocolate. Yes, I really do. With milk or without; with nuts, fruits, rice crispies, and praline, or without. A good bar is a mood-lifter, an ice-breaker. It gets you the dream job, Lamborghini, girl and everything the advertisements promise it will. A good truffle, sweet and bitter and perfectly smooth, is spectacular; a thickly, darkly foamy mousse even more so. However, it certainly isn’t the only thing out there.

Second, let’s admit that all chocolate isn’t equal. There’s great chocolate: from the simple Crackle bar to the best from Trinidad, which you mix with nothing but itself, and allow to just rest lightly on your tongue and slowly coat it with music. But there is also chocolate that stinks of palm oil, that’s greasy or crumbly, and the siren called alkalised chocolate that lures you with its glistening darkness but tastes like cardboard. Why would I want those?

Third—I ask that you sit down for this—is that chocolate, in the end, is just limiting. I mean, chocolate tastes like chocolate. You can hurl cream and chilli and raspberries and exotic Martian nuts at it, but under everything is that heavy, chocolatey sweetness, and that (don’t shoot) is boring after a while. Where’s the variety? Where’s the cold tartness of a good lime sorbet; or the fragrant, hot-sour-sweet surprise of a strawberry kebab; or the buttery comfort of toffee bananas and ice cream? Ever tried a strawberry zabaglione? It’s like a trip to Italy: delicious, chaotic, constantly surprising, and strangely cultured. I’ve even had a halwa made from actual lamb keema, and it was brilliant.

Go on, try something different. Remember, chocolate isn’t your wife. It’s actually better if you aren’t faithful.

No. 2: Non-vegetarians will “even eat humans, why don’t you?”

Actually, I will. I’ve been looking at your leg for a while. And since you’re vegetarian, I don’t need to order food for you. You can just eat the table. It’s wooden. Wood comes from trees. Therefore it’s vegetarian.

No. 3: Sausages will taste like they smell.

It’s a sad fact. The sausages in question might still be delicious, but they will be nothing like what the smell promised. This is like being told you’re marrying Eva Green, and yes, it is Eva Green, but not the one you thought. She might still be wonderful, but…

No. 4: That British food is boring.

I can’t blame you for thinking that. British cooking is a byword for things that are stodgy, tasteless and boiled. I mean, they think suet, chopped beef and lamb fat, is a great base for a pudding. But it wasn’t always this way: the heavy, flavourless food we know came about because of shortages during the World Wars. Spices, fruits and anything flavourful had to be abandoned in favour of transporting bulk on ships, many of which never made it past the German submarines. Before that, though, inspired by the Normans and by India, the Brits used to add spices and use the herbs that grow so well in the British Isles. Fruits grow well there too, and they even—gasp!—used citrus fruits in a lamb marinade.

No. 5: Paneer is a food.

No it isn’t. It’s a crime against humanity. Imagine this conversation taking place outside a mental asylum in Gotham City:

“You want me to heat up some milk?”

“Yes.”

“And then squirt lime juice into it.”

“Absolutely.”

“So that it curdles on the stove, breaking up into a white gooey mess and some turbid water.”

“Got it in one.”

“You can almost hear it scream.”

“Ooooh, yes!”

“And then you want to cool it, set it, and cut it up into squidgy white cubes.”

“Uh-huh.”

“That taste of nothing.”

“Yummy.”

“Right, take him away, chaps. Treatment Number Three, I think. Be sure to use the straps, this is a crazy one. And all the electrodes, please. Especially Big Bertha.”

No. 6: Food tastes better outdoors.

Actually, I can’t debate that. It just does. Thank you.

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  • Vardhan Kondvikar is a travel, car, and humour writer and editor, who is known for road trips, generalised exasperation and far too many bathroom stops.

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