Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Rise of the Idiots

This Christmas I was given a collection of hefty foodie tomes , half of
which are by amateurs rather than professionals. Yottam Ottalenghi, Jamie,
Belonika, Miss Marmitelover and Mrs Beeton. It made me think: are we now at a
time where the amateur food lover is the one in control? I certainly hope so.
30% of GoodFood website's content is user generated (and most of it reliable!) as
of last year and the SupperClub movement where ambitious amateurs turn their
living rooms into pop up restaurants is very popular as the alternative to high
street chains.

The rise of the amateur cook is what Nathan Barley would call 'the rise of
the idiots', but I think it is completely wonderful. The amateur cook now has
all the privileges of the professional; he publishes cook books, has his own TV
shows (Lorraine Pascale) and even opens successful restaurants (The Underground
Restaurant charges £60 a pop).

I am however someone who is a true novice, facing a daily learning curve.
My dishes often burn, curdle and smell a bit funny, but when it comes together
and really works, my sense of achievement is immeasurable. I think feeding
other people is my favourite bit. When I was growing up in Russia in what is
now one of the most expensive and beautiful cities in Europe, St Petersburg,
there was no such a thing as 'dining out'. Real restaurants were for foreigners
and you even had to pay in dollars. Basic canteens were awful bulk cooking
affairs and real cooking went on at home and this is where you could find generous
feasts and incredible displays of hospitality. The amateurs won hands down and
recipes and skills were passed down through generations. For me, cooking is all
about hospitality and it is always sweeter at someone’s home.

Let battle commence.

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