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Good food requires getting back to basics; FOOD.


I WAS reminded recently about the first time I connected to the internet. It was some years before Google and I remember marvelling at how quickly the old modem connected (it probably took little more than five minutes) and the speed at which information was downloaded (almost as fast as getting on my bike and cycling to the library).

And it was with going to a library that I compared my early internet visits; a library that was the biggest in the world with no indexing system. You could have anything you wanted, but it seemed there was little way of finding it.

Then along came the likes of Yahoo and Google to act as librarians, which now meant that everybody could find anything and believe that the internet is the font of all knowledge; if you can't find something there it probably doesn't exist. Which is, of course, rubbish.

However, the internet does provide one with an awful lot of choice. I listen to the radio on my computer and there are literally thousands of stations I could log on to, but unfortunately only a few are actually any good. I can connect to You Tube and watch badly-made videos to my heart's content, but the trouble is they're nearly all rubbish. There are zillions of cookery recipes out there on the web but many of them are horrible and there's little cataloguing.

And like the explosion in the number of TV channels available by satellite, cable and Freeview, it's become obvious that more choice equals less quality. I guess it was bound to happen with TV in that the little talent that was available is now spread so thinly that TV production company bosses will grab any half-baked idea and manipulable presenter to fill in the time between adverts. But the fact remains that quality begets quality and increased choice eats into the reservoir of talent.

It's the same with food. Too many places have menus that are too long where there's no way they're going to be able to keep enough fresh produce in stock and the skill sets required are too wide. If it's a big menu you can be sure there's a big freezer. I don't know how it would go down here, but I love the no-choice menus you often get in rural France where you eat what you're given. It has to be good because, after all, you can't walk away thinking you didn't enjoy it just because you chose wrong. But it would be like only having BBC1 to watch. Hmm.

Or there are the other, very common, places where the chef concentrates on trying to be "different" rather than concentrating on quality. Maybe the real talent is having the confidence to concentrate on the basics and make them be as good as they can be.

It's not that I don't want people to try to push boundaries. I'm certainly no Luddite. I love new inventions and adore gadgets, and I'm not against change or progression. I accept that our language is dynamic and will change or we'd all still be talking like Chaucer. I can even accept that the pronunciation of harass has probably now changed for good. I embrace change - but not at the expense of quality.

A drizzle of this and a bunch of mixed leaves with a swirl of coulis and a scattering of herbs around the plate does not a good dish make; particularly if the basic central stuff is prepared by an untalented, uneducated slave to fashion.

That's why I bang on about the ingredients.

Understand your source, concentrate on the quality of the produce, learn how to cook them and treat them with respect. Let's get the basics right before expanding the choice otherwise the proof of the pudding demonstrates that too many cooks spoil the broth. And how often do you see broth on the menu?

Oldfields Restaurants cookbook, Passion for Real Food, is out now and available in good bookshops for pounds 12.95. For discounted copies contact us on (0191) 370-9595 or go to www.oldfieldsre
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 25, 2008
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