“The Joy of Lists”

11 September 2019, 16:05 pm
Fine Food by Charles Campion

So how was your summer? Time to savour traditional seasonal attractions… Sunny Glastonbury… Cricket’s World Cup.

A Wimbledon spokesperson proudly announcing that for the first time the traditional strawberries and cream could be served with soya cream, making it a treat acceptable for vegan tennis fans. (During the Championship, Wimbledon fans snuffle their way through 61,700 pounds of strawbs with any surplus ending up in pots of strawberry jam that are Wimbledon-branded and sold to visitors). Seeing the ‘vegan alternative’ on any menu was once an optional eccentricity but now it’s star billing.

The summer saw the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition joining the climate debate. The Scientists calculated that simply making those sizzled, garden-barbecued burgers out of chicken rather than red meat would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of your barbie by two thirds. It was also the summer of paper bags, with retailers everywhere frantically trying to change from the turtles’ plastic enemy to a paper carrier bag that you can use many times before it melts away with a biodegradable swan song.

It is always good to see that great organisational tool, The List making a comeback. When you set out on a shopping mission with a list it sharpens the mind markedly. We love lists even when they are just for light reading rather than buying purposes. Each summer, and with suitable hullaballoo, a list of mighty restaurants is published under the banner of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. This list is backed by San Pellegrino and has been published annually for 17 years, a remarkable record considering the impossibilities of judging such a widespread selection of restaurants and cuisines. Hands up anyone has eaten at Azurmendi in Spain, or the Schloss Schauenstein in Switzerland, or Gaggan in Bangkok. Doubtless these are all places where you would eat well but how could you possibly give them a head to head comparative score? In 2002, El Bulli in Spain won the coveted ‘50 Best’ top spot and went on to win a couple more times – how? In 2002 it was well-nigh impossible to get a booking at El Bulli unless you told the restaurant that you were coming which strategy probably meant that you would join a dining room that was wall to wall critics. This year the blurb said that the judges were a thousand or so “International restaurant industry experts” from 26 separate regions of the world, which still doesn’t overcome the problems attached if you value comparing like with like. The success of 50 Best (and many other definitive lists) is down to our love of lists – you aren’t going to eat at all these exotic restaurants, but you can read about them; and hardworking PRs will also be pleased to have something to say. There are a lot of lists out there and some are more useful than others… How about this gem from Surrey Life magazine: “Nine of the best restaurants in Reigate”?

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