A side of lies: streetfood serves up a swindle

 

photo-1557818471-8a140ea11868[1]

Along with woke, work/life balance and self-care, streetfood is one word (or is it two) that I never want to hear again. Streetfood conjures up a myriad of overused travel article clichés: vibrant market, nose-to-tail, warm and friendly locals (preferably poor), authentic recipes handed down from Papaw and the backstory of hard-working immigrants having a go and bringing their invariably fabulous, but undiscovered, cuisine to the masses.

Trouble is it’s none of that. Not any more anyway. It’s Instagrammable food from a re-modelled vintage van run by some privileged hipsters who wouldn’t know a good hamburger if it smacked them in the face and are handily bankrolled by mum and dad. It’s designed to be eaten cold with pseudo-eco cutlery after it’s been insta-imaged to death. It doesn’t matter what it tastes like, as long as it “pops” on Instragram (pops is another word I never want to hear again).

But even if you just actually eat the streetfood and don’t even Instagram it, streetfood is not good. It’s not restorative to queue then stand up in a carpark trying to eat Gumbo with a fork or wrench open the packaging on your gluten-free panko-breaded oxtail taco and then chunder it down in a carpark with grease and dressing running down your arm and a brand new stain on your shirt.

Call me old-fashioned, but take me to a restaurant any day with table service, a plate, serviette and a knife and fork. I’d much rather make a reservation than stand in line under the sun, wind or any other weather event we are likely to get these days.

But even in restaurants, there is no escaping streetfood. Show me an eatery that doesn’t have the word streetfood lurking somewhere there on the menu. It’s like the restauranteur thinks this menu needs sexing up so what to do? Add the word streetfood to our spicy poke bowl number or New Orleons style kale po’-boys, jack up the price and start counting the moolah.

Of course real streetfood does exist. Sadly usually in poverty-stricken countries or the Royal Easter Show. It hits the spot and serves a purpose, it is quick, economical, tasty and hopefully doesn’t need too many rounds of Immodium afterwards. But if you’re not either drunk at 2am or at a sporting event, this hipsterised overly packaged, fake-authentic streetfood slopfest is just un-woke. You don’t need a cutesy truck run by smug millennials to eat good food.

Keel over Kale, Cauliflower is in town

Take a bow and move aside please, Kale. Cauliflower is the new Must-have vegetable accessory. There’s nothing you can’t do with cauliflower – make it into rice or pizza or chug it down raw. You can smash it, mash it, pulverise it, roast it. You can spiral it, grind it, bind it and blowtorch it. Take that kale! You could do some of those things but you could never pull off rice or pizza.

It’s strange to think that the humble cauli, the veg that used to be like an embarrassing cousin at the wedding, is this year’s new It food.

But why? And how? Who decided you could rub it with spices and roast whole in the oven and call it Cauliflower Roast? Who exactly is the cauliflower Insta-influencer who told us cauliflower’s time has come. Who is the marketing genius who pared it first with pomegranate? And most importantly, with demand skyrocketing, where are the cauliflowers grown? Did farmers have to rip out kale plants to put in cauliflower? The logistics are fascinating.

Now that cauliflower has been elevated to the big league, I want to know how did we ever survive without having cauli in every meal? That was madness.

I’m not anti-cauliflower (although those those teensy tiny florets sure are mess mavens). If you smother it in salt and oil it tastes pretty good (which is the only way we got through the kale years). As far as fake rice goes it tastes pretty good and is nearly as cheap. It’s good to see it is finally getting the recognition it deserves but I’m worried for it. Kale lasted about 3 – 5 years and cauliflower is destined to do the same. Once you’ve had it as rice pizza, mac and cheese, whole roasted or raw with a vegan dip where can you go? And what will be next?

Zucchini has some form thanks to zucchini noodles, it probably has a little too much Latin flair. I’m thinking celeriac, which has a face like a dropped pie, or else turnip. They both have the advantage of looking and sounding bad, a prerequisite for the next hit vegetable. Until we can 3D print the next new veg, Kalieflower, perhaps?

Fancy a Tonka Bean Fizz?

So who decided that drinking gin and whiskey is now a thing. In the last few years there’s been an explosion of gin bars, speakeasys and whiskey rooms popping up faster than a Donald Trump tweet. These bespoke bars are a study in comfy clubby leather furniture, old-school framed pictures and hipster pot plants. Many of them invoke the 20’s and 30’s – an era that millennials are obsessed with and think they invented. It goes with the fixed gear bikes, upturned milkcrates and jam jars in an ex butcher’s shop. Throw in a bearded bartender, artsy menu and ridiculous prices and you are all set to order your gin fling (craft beer and organic wine is so last century).

So what to choose? Why not start with a staple. For instance a freshly foraged Lemon Aspen Gimlet with locally foraged berries which are pureed into a sorbet using liquid nitrogen.

Or how about a Pressed Kale Fizz or Green Ant Gin Julep with dill infused green Chartreuse and orange marmalade syrup. Want something more nuanced? Try a Norwegian foraged Cornish Cumbrian or a charcoal filtered sling with a shot of green pea tonic. To mix things up a bit add a single origin shot of peanut butter bitters mist, a cold drip coffee sphere, wood smoke popcorn or an infusion of whey vapour.

If this seems more confusing than ordering a glass of house red, then it’s important to know who is to blame. HIPSTERS! Not content with beer, wine or a gin and tonic, hipsters have to overdramatize the gin and whiskey scene. Make it something it is not, make it expensive and impenetrable. Make it an expensive conglomeration, not just a drink you have in summer on the balcony before you get stuck into the vino. And now, not only does it cost the earth but you have to wait a long time before that first sip. By the time the bartender (sorry, mixologist) has added small batch cardamom mist and hand-massaged pomegranate seed to your drink, it is a good six minutes, which is five and a bit minutes longer than I ever want to wait for a beverage. Anyway who wants salad in their drink. The more greenery you put in it, generally the less gin there is and the more it costs. Clearly hipsters are not very bright.

Not content with gin, hipsters have also moved into whiskey and spinning it like a vinyl record. I can see why whiskey is hipster heaven or on point as an actual hipster would say. Whiskey bars are intimate and clubby and the names of whiskies usually sound bespoke and hand-crafted. Besides who doesn’t want to imbibe a wee dram in a place called Irish Snug, Swine Moonshine, Whiskey Ginger.

Luckily for hipsters, no-one really knows how to drink whiskey. It is a drink that was last around in the 1950’s and 60’s, which means millennials have been able to pretend they invented it. Anyone who was thoroughly refreshed by a whiskey bar in the 50’s isn’t going out to bars any more.

Even though I’m not that ancient, I yearn for that time a few short years back when I could order a glass of $8 wine in a bar with only a short queue. Of course, this gin fling and whiskey fetish is nothing new. It’s the new smashed avo only in liquid form. Like edible flowers it won’t last. And like millennials it will fade and get old then wither. Just not soon enough.