When I first heard about Zoe’s new blog venture it was in the very same breath that I heard of its demise as well. Oh, how disappointed I was.
Enticed by Zoe’s recollection of setting up the site, I was all set to read more of the humour that I had so grown to enjoy at CrazyBrave applied to all things culinary. But then she told of how, in the middle of writing a post about substituting ingredients in a recipe for muesli bars, she was overcome by a moment of extreme self-consciousness, at which point she declared the blog had folded before it even began.
The cause of Zoe’s doubt was an ingredient so utterly pretentious that its name could not be uttered without rousing every latent fear she had concerning accusations of food-related onanism—the likes of which, no doubt, had not been bandied about since the heady days of the Culture Wars, when aficionados of lattes and those purporting to represent lovers of meat pies faced off over barricades built by the Murdoch Press Corps.
It is only since Progressive Dinner Party has gone ahead anyway that I’ve figured out that the fly in the ointment, or the affected berry in the muesli so to speak, was the goji berry, alleged purveyor of every health benefit imaginable.
Before I knew about the inhibiting effects of the goji berry, however, I got to thinking about the notion of pretentious ingredients. What makes a foodstuff pretentious? What makes a foodstuff down-to-earth, the proverbial humble pie? Who is qualified to declare such things?
My first thought on this was that an ingredient might not be pretentious if you could serve it to your average, friendly, middle-aged, heterosexual, white bloke who earned his living through good, honest, manual labour on a farm. You know the kind of fellow who populates ads for beer and Utes and speaks plainly, mate?
From that point on, I found myself in all sorts of trouble, not least because I could envision dismissing a whole range of pantry stores as pretentious simply on the basis that they weren’t part of some apparently authentic Australian ‘meat and three veg’ heritage.
Allow me to tell you briefly about the time I made a cup of Earl Grey tea for the visiting uncle of a flat mate from several years ago. He took one sip of my offering and it was as if I’d failed his personal test of womanhood. His lips pursed and he looked at me aghast, convinced I’d served him poison, before he resorted to lighting a fire in the front yard and swinging the boiling billy around (okay that last part is not quite true).
Now, if I were to apply the AFMAHWB measure to Early Grey tea then, judging from this experience, I would have to label it ‘pretentious’ and that seems rather harsh for a bit of bergamot flavouring.
Amidst this dilemma, I decided that what was needed to make flagrant declarations about pretentiousness or humbleness, or something in between, was a particular kind of personality. To judge without conscience, or at least a good dose of bravado, required an arbiter with chutzpah, an authority incapable of embarrassment, someone like Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear who would declare his prejudices and set up a ‘Cool Wall’to display them shamelessly to one and all.
Obviously Jeremy mislaid my request for him to apply his particular logic to the contents of Australian pantries, so I’ve suggested to Zoe that collectively, you, the readers of her blog, might like to rate them instead. She has very cleverly designed a ‘Chopping Board’ for us to place things ranging from ‘Humble Pie Goodness’ to ‘Goji Berry Pretentiousness’. The middle ground will be reserved for that which you deem to be ‘A Proper Cup of Tea’ (I will go out on a limb and put the Earl Grey there).
All suggestions are welcome. Let the slicing and dicing begin!
The teapot image is from here.