The Grim Fascination of a Toddler

A couple of weeks ago, I tore something out of the newspaper. It’s been floating around in my possession since then, and I’ve finally gotten around to excerpting it here. It’s from a restaurant review by Giles Coren in The Times of London. He has this to say on his pollo marsala:

It is revolting. It is ill-conceived, incompetent, indescribably awful. A dish so cruel I weep not only for the animal that died to make it, but also for the mushrooms. Ms Workman said it was inedible but, to be honest, as it sits before me, congealing quietly, I cannot leave it alone but return to it every few minutes with the grim fascination of a toddler mesmerised by a pile of its own faeces, nibbling at it, gurning with revulsion, then nibbling some more. If you’ve ever sniffed your finger after scratching your arse, and then done it again, then this dish may not be entirely wasted on you.

I thought that was a very entertaining paragraph of prose. I almost never read food writing. I did, however, read a piece about food writing in Slate last fall:

The food writing that’s in vogue today consists chiefly of a bellow of bravado. It’s a guy thing, sure, but (with a few honorably hungry exceptions) these scribblers mostly ignore what’s on the plate. They view themselves as boy hunters and despise sissy gatherers, thrive on the undertow of violence they detect in the professional kitchen, and like to linger on the unappetizing aspects of food preparation. The gross-out factor trumps tasting good as well as good taste.

The tone of Coren’s piece reminded me of this eloquent defense of old-school food writing.

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