You will notice that I haven’t written much recently. This is because I am happy with my lot. I am content rather than miserable, chirpy not blue. And it is an absolute bastard for the creative process. But then I went to Taste of London and worked up a nice bubbling fury that got the old juices flowing.
I have been to The Taste of London festival a lot over the years and in fact went to the first one ever with my friend Jo. Those were the days. For ONE POUND , Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay would cook lobster in dragon’s breath and feed it to you with a runcible spoon whilst tossing each other off. And you always had change for a hap ’worth of chips and a Dandy on the way home. Those were the days my friends. Good times.
Now though. Now! It’s a joke. A cynical escapade in the art of corporate money making. A machine, a clinical humbuggerance designed to empty your pocket faster than The Artful Dodger on crack.
That it is sponsored by British Airways should be a clue, that Waitrose has the biggest stand another. This isn’t a celebration of British food, or even British restaurants. It’s a shopping mall. Without a roof. In London. In June. So what you have essentially is a flooded shopping mall. It is Westfields with pissing rain and mud. Joy of heavenly joys.
Oh wait though! Give us £26 quid for the pleasure! So a dank, wet shopping mall with no parking, surly security guards, ridiculous currency and an exorbitant entry charge. How wonderful. Can I get a ticket for next year please?
‘But it’s a celebration of British restaurants you miserable git!’ Is it bollocks. It’s an opportunity for celebrity chefs to unleash their commis chefs from their basement manacles to slop tepid pork belly onto a polystyrene plate. Oh and charge you 14 crowns.
Ah yes. Crowns. They sound nice don’t they? Sort of medieval and quaint. You can imagine a troupe of travelling jesters doing their weekly shop with Crowns in Dribblecock-under-Wold or similar as they pass verily and merrily through.
Well think again friend. Crowns are not quaint and cute and dripping with historical chutzpah, they are yet another cynical and manipulative way for The Taste Corporation to extract their pound of flesh. For should you ever be daft enough to exhibit your product at one of their festivals you can expect to pay thousands of pounds for a tiny stand next to the loos AND, then at the end of each trading day you MUST hand all of your crowns in. These will be counted and you will then be sent a cheque months later. Less ten percent. Yes that’s right. They charge you for your pitch and then skim off your profit margin for good measure. Of course if Taste just used cash the evil exhibitors might slip a few un-taxed quids out in their knickers. Oh, and if you, the punter, happen to have a couple of crowns left at the end of the day? Bad luck! Take them home and wipe your arse with them for all the value they have. Cha-ching! Bless Taste and their joyful ‘celebration’.
Half an under seasoned Scotch egg cost Four Pounds at the Quo Vadis stand. Half a Scotch egg. That means (keep up) that a SCOTCH EGG costs EIGHT POUNDS That’s essentially an egg, a slice of white bread and a few chipolata sausages. For eight quid. It’s not even a Golden Eagle egg. I’d pay eight quid for a lovely Golden Eagle Egg. And wash it down with dolphin tears and a fat cigar. But eight, new shiny pound coins for a stupid chicken egg in sausage meat makes me want to suck out my own eyeballs and Scotch them.
It gets me down, it really does. It’s not really the restaurants fault, God only knows how much they are paying for one of the premium stands, but why do it? I genuinely don’t understand what benefit for example Le Gavroche or similar get from being there? The food cannot be anything like as good as that served in their restaurants and the public are alienated by what looks from the outside as extreme stinginess.
But what do I know.
I know that I am a consumer, that I eat for pure joy. That I book every holiday I ever go on because of the food. I cook for people and make a living from it and dream of the perfect Scotch egg. And I know, most pertinently of all, that I trudged out of The Taste of London with a heavy heart and an empty pocket and said to myself that never again would I support this corporate behemoth, posing as something, somehow wholesome and something, somehow good.