In Defence of Real Food

Snail porridge. These two words make me recoil in horror: porridge, one of my favourite breakfast choices in the dead of winter, made with something as far away from the berries I would use to garnish my first meal of the day as you could possibly get. This raved-about-triumph, the work of food innovator Heston Blumenthal, fills me with intrigue, revulsion and confusion. Porridge was a perfectly acceptable meal as it was. Snails, though I am too scared to try them, I am told are actually quite nice. What I cannot understand is the desire to combine the two. What some call innovative, I call downright insane.

It is not just the snail porridge that baffles me. Egg and bacon ice cream comes in a close second. I like my food simple and understated: bangers and mash, lasagne, steak and chips and maybe on a particularly adventurous day Thai green curry or enchiladas. This is not the student in me talking, but a fear of the bizarre, which is where I have categorised Heston in my list of famous chefs. I don’t dispute that the man has talent; he is, after all, self-taught. But in my ignorant, eating-food-purely-for-enjoyment mind, there is no need to complicate things. Sometimes, simple is best. After all, who doesn’t love a good Sunday roast?

Comfort food seems to be my go-to place. Full of carbs, bursting with flavour and easy to make: simple and satisfactory. My go-to celebrity chef would always be Nigella Lawson, who can put a twist on conventional dishes without entirely changing them or creating something new that both fascinates and horrifies. Like Heston, she is self-taught. Unlike Heston, she doesn’t own a restaurant; Heston’s was voted best in the world in 2005 and yet I wouldn’t want to eat there. If I was sitting down to dinner, I wouldn’t want a tasting menu, I would want to make my own choices about what I was going to be eating. Not to mention the fact that I don’t think I have ever spent more than about £10 on a bottle of wine. The joys of being a student.

I tried to figure out why I was so anti-Heston and pro-Nigella and I realised that I associate comfort food with home, with being ‘real food’. If I went home and my dad tried to serve me up some snail porridge, I would think I had wandered into the wrong house. His lasagne, on the other hand, is a winner every single time. Food should be fun, and fill you with that warm content feeling we associate with Christmas or, in my case, just being home for the weekend, and I don’t think that is something that can be found in a borderline-pretentious menu that is highly experimental and doesn’t get me excited to sit down and eat. Maybe this makes me boring, ignorant and completely unsophisticated, but when it comes to food, I am a firm believer in having an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. A few herbs and spices, fine. A savoury ice cream? There are far too many colourful ways I would say no to that. However, spaghetti and meatballs from Nigella’s website, mmmmmm!

Emma James


Leave a Reply