- Olivia Robertson, The Food Consultant, explains the boom in foodie culture in our capital
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What makes a real foodie? One definition is: ‘a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; who eats food not due to hunger, but to his or her great interest’. Lesser heard terms such as gastronome or gourmand are interchangeable with the word but mean much the same thing. In plain English a foodie is a person who enjoys food for pleasure. This term was first named in print in the early 1980s by Gael Greene in New York Magazine, she wrote of a character who “slips into the small Art Deco dining room of Restaurant d’Olympe… to graze cheeks with her devotees, serious foodies.” Simultaneously the foodie was defined in the UK by Ann Barr in The Official Foodie Handbook. Yes, there is a handbook.
And so, the term is now used to great aplomb in our food capital. Where else can you casually put the word ‘flexitarian’ into a conversation, rightfully assuming that everyone knows what you are talking about? In London it’s not just about the rich indulging, food means so much more; It means family, community, regeneration, an adjoining of cultures. We are living in a hotbed of food innovation and it’s a truly exciting time! We are impatient for our next explosive food trend. Some would call us fickle, but I say we are hungry; hungry and eager to smell, taste, learn and share.
Eateries are opening up every day in London – 44 in September last year alone – all offering something brand new and individual; chefs from across the world want a seat at this table. And you can see why; the melting pot of multi-cultural cuisines that are the food markets across the capital are so inspiring that the word fusion has taken on a new meaning. Try Mexican and Thai influences jumbled together with grilled and smoked meats at Temper in Soho. Hit Selfridges Food Hall for Ross and Ross BBQ rubs to get tastebuds tingling. Jackfruit deep fried and masqueraded as chicken? Veganism gone dirty. Meals should be delicious and beautiful. Dried flowers adorn our morning flat white at Farm Girl Café. Freshly baked babka loaded with pistachios and cherry jam at Good Egg. Middle Eastern and Indian trends are still going strong, but also rising in the regenerated areas of North and East London are regional African cuisines. Eritrean cooking is influenced by its Italian colony; cardamom and cinnamon with pasta? This is fusion food indeed.
The evolution and extension of real Mexican food continues. Hopefully the playful trend of serving every kind of cuisine on a soft taco will get passed the M25. Everyone could taste Mexico’s rich and interesting ingredients, such as the Mexican ‘truffle’: huitlacoche (pronounced WHEE-tala-coach-A). A fungus found growing on corn ears, it pairs particularly well with oaxaca cheese (both available at Cool Chile’s Deli). Perhaps a step too far? As a self-confessed #flavourjunkie, for me, anything goes.
So, what do us foodies do with this global inspiration on our doorstep? We explore, experiment and eat. We search for new tastes, that not only pack a punch in the flavour department but lift the spirit and entice the eye. I am certainly inspired to cook up some delights myself; if I can get hold of the ingredients that is.
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