by ALANA SCHETZER
Grabbing bowls, cutlery and cans of drink, my colleague and I prepared to have lunch together. As we walked towards an empty table and chairs, she looked at me and asked “you won’t judge me on my lunch will you?”, pointing to her bowl of 2-minute noodles.
My reaction was instant and genuine. “No, of course not!” I replied, showing her the can of soup I was about to heat in the microwave.
In a world where Foie Gras and panna cotta is becoming as common as bread and butter, my colleague and I had to laugh at our food failure. Had über -chef Shannon Bennett been in the room, he would have sentenced us to several whips and a lifetime of being force-fed French truffles.
Since the emergence of the celebrity chef and television cooking contests, food has become less a means of nutrition and sustenance, then as a philosophical symbol of status and a never-ending game of one-upmanship.
Steak and three veg has been replaced by roast duck and exotic greens, meatloaf has been banished in favour of steak tartare and a bowl of ice-cream and sprinkles is considered passé. But not everyone has jumped on the gourmet bandwagon. There are those of us that don’t have the desire to dedicate a weekend to creating a macaroon tower and don’t consider My Kitchen Rules mandatory viewing. It’s not particularly trendy to admit to this. And god forbid if someone finds out you are happy to eat a plate of pasta served with pre-grated parmesan cheese from a plastic packet – there’s really no place for you.
With television mega-hit Masterchef back on screens, it becomes harder and harder to hide my indifference to all things complicated and fancy in the kitchen.
When Matt Preston is on television, talk around the water cooler becomes less about celebrity gossip and politics than it does about what you had for dinner last night. Admitting you had a slice of toast and boiled egg for dinner is akin to admitting you smoked a cigarette in a car full of babies and puppies. It’s a cultural crime and the punishment is shame, disapproval, and possibly a lecture on why organic Danish butter truly is superior to that no-brand stuff from the supermarket.
Overall, I like plain food because it’s comforting and familiar. There’s something soothing about making something simple that my nanna used to make or reminds me of my childhood (I grew up in an era in which lavender was added to soaps, not cakes).
I like nice food, and going out to a nice restaurant for a special occasion is one of life’s true pleasures. Food feeds the soul and brings people together. But I don’t want to have to consult a dictionary when I go to the supermarket, nor do I have any desire to become acquainted with 35 types of mushrooms.
There’s a time and place to appreciate fine food. But more often than not, when I’m hungry, I just want to eat. It’s as plain as that.
Alana Schetzer is a Melbourne-based journalist and writer. She doesn’t like being sick. She tweets here.
Plain food vs fancy food. Your thoughts?