On Thursday I attended this discussion at the Soho Literary Festival with my friend A. The debate featured James Pembroke, Tom Parker Bowles, and Russell Norman discussing ‘foodies’ and their impact on restaurants and eating out. It was immensely entertaining and while by the end it had turned into a bizarre restaurant pet peeves rant session crossed with the typical British class debate (direction steered by members of the audience, I hasten to add), the first ~20 minutes was the really enlightening part. They all emphatically agreed that “YES,” foodies are changing things, and not in a good way.
And here is why. All three made variations of the same point: eating out is and should be an experience, and Pembroke reminded us that it is a triangulation — of food, of atmosphere, and of love. They argued that the latter two have been ignored in favour of the food — that food has become #1 and that the other parts of the experience of eating out at a restaurant, atmosphere and service, have been overlooked and forgotten about. Russell Norman even went so far to say that in some of his best restaurant experiences he has been served mediocre or even poor food (I personally wouldn’t go that far, but he was trying to make a point).
Matthew Ford, the moderator, sort of disagreed with the other three and said that more knowledge about what you’re eating and where it comes from can never be a bad thing. I’m somewhere in between the two. I definitely agree with Ford but cannot stand people being pretentious about food either.
However, the lesson I took away from the discussion, as a home cook, was this: it does not matter if the food is perfect. For a perfectionist like myself, this was an amazing and important reminder. What matters is the company you keep, the atmosphere, and the FUN of making and sharing food and memories with people you care about. I think this is an excellent reminder in our age of Instagrammed perfection! 🙂