I wish to discuss the truly important character of food and drink: pleasure. I will illustrate this with a meal at a branch of JD Wetherspoon. This article is probably going to vex many readers, but it is probably the most important thing I’ve written on Elitistreview.
A lot of people assign moral, political and social values to food, so even mentioning JD Wetherspoon will immediately press certain buttons in the minds of such people. Those things don’t matter, what matters is the pleasure provided by the meal Editor Daniel and I enjoyed, and it certainly did provide pleasure.
We went for our meal at Wetherspoon because we were a bit broke and wanted a more affordable meal than we’d normally opt for; obviously there is no shame in this. As we are quite middle class we have been programmed that these boozers are just filled with heavy drinking yobs who only interrupt their sexist banter for a bit of random violence. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The pub was unusual for an English pub in that it was full, had plenty of tables that were widely spaced and unlike in most pubs the staff did not view our presence as an impediment to their afternoon’s drinking. Indeed, the bar staff were as happy to serve us as they were all the other pensioners and families who were visiting for an affordable but quality time.
The bar had ten real ales and ciders on offer, all of which were in good condition and actually nice – ‘nice’ being the antithesis of the normal real ale experience. The bar staff were happy to give other customers tastes of them and explain their qualities with humorous candour. Our order for food was taken in a friendly and efficient style, and we didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive.
My fish and chips was one of the best examples of the dish I’ve ever had. Not the best fish and chips I’ve had in my life, but for £5.20 they whipped the arse of Winchester’s fish and chips shops. The chips were quite unbelievable for anyone who has experienced the dread of chips in England. On weekday afternoons the fish and chips are £3.99 with a few cup of tea.
I thought Dani was crazy to order Sirloin steak and chips. Hell’s bells, the steak may have been a little wet, but it had surprising flavour and was quite enjoyable considering it cost £6.75 including a pint of cider. If I’d have been served it at Hawksmoor I’d have had loud words, but they charge four times the amount and don’t throw in a drink. I enjoyed my two tastes and Dani was quite satisfied with what remained.
The beer battered onion rings are the best ever, or very nearly so. They are made with a real rings of onion, the batter is a delight and they are not fried in rancid grease. At £1.49 for 12, they provide pleasure a world removed from the horrors of the last chippie.
So, my point is that Wetherspoon’s provided an amply enjoyable meal for us and all the others filling the pub for not much money, and that is all that matters.
Whether you derive superiority from getting a mixed box of squash and kale once a week from your local organic farm, or from eating pasties from Greggs, you are entirely missing the point of what matters with food. It’s not your moral judgements; it is how much you enjoy it that matters.
Recently a good food blogger expressed their contempt for someone on Twitter because they said they enjoyed a McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin. This food blogger loves Scotch eggs. That they are only slightly different is a small part of my point, more it is that the MaccyD’s diner enjoyed his food and that’s what counts. You and I may think that food from there provides little pleasure, but we cannot criticise those who it does pleasure, because it is the pleasure that matters.
If you only want to eat ‘sustainable’ fish and ‘macrobiotic’ vegetables, then that is just fine as long as you enjoy them. If you are doing it for a smug glow of moral superiority over me who ate a richly fatty sausage and gizzard salad for lunch then you are warped, twisted and have a diseased attitude to food.
Similarly, if you say, “Yes, it is the pleasure that counts, but Wetherspoons is crap” you are also twisted and missing the point as Wetherspoons pleasured us, and lots of other people, and that’s all we care about. It’s not your sense of aesthetic brilliance that matters; it is the sense of raw enjoyment that someone extracts from an experience.
It is not big and clever to only eat what you’ve been told you are allowed to eat by your political party, newspaper or gossip circle. What we all want is for people to enjoy themselves in whatever way they wish and food is a glorious way of enjoying yourself, no matter what other values you attach to that food.
As long as you enjoy it, you are right to eat it! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.