Keep your po­lit­i­cal hands off my burger

Sunday Star-Times - - FRONT PAGE - Jonathan Milne

An English­man’s home is his cas­tle, they used to say. And a New Zealan­der’s pri­vate life is equally sacro­sanct. Gov­ern­ments in­trude at their peril into our bed­rooms, bath­rooms, kitchens and din­ner ta­bles.

In the fi­nal months of the third term of Helen Clark’s gov­ern­ment, Labour learned that the hard way. The pro­posal to reg­u­late so house­holds could in­stall only low­pres­sure shower-heads, only en­ergy ef­fi­cient light­bulbs, was lit­tle more than bu­reau­crats spit­balling. But the pub­lic re­ac­tion to this ‘‘nanny state’’ in­cur­sion was swift and an­gry.

Nine years on, the 2017 elec­tion cam­paign proper started on Fri­day. And Bill English and his kitchen Cabi­net would do well to think back to their pre­de­ces­sors’ drib­bly shower-head woes, then pour a bucket of cold wa­ter on the lat­est bu­reau­cratic foray.

We re­veal today that new Min­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­try guide­lines for food out­lets re­quire your ham­burger to be fried or grilled to 70C in­ter­nal tem­per­a­ture. As any home cook can tell you (or in­deed, any­one with a copy of the Ed­monds Cook­book sit­ting handy) 70C is, to all in­tents and pur­poses, nuk­ing it to high heaven. What is left is a hunk of dried out, grey tyre rub­ber.

If you’re happy eat­ing Big Macs, this new rule needn’t worry you. Go back to your so-called meal.

But if you have any re­spect what­so­ever for the big, beau­ti­ful cat­tle beasts that died so you might dine, then you want your burger fresh and flavour­some and drip­ping with juice.

I went home on Fri­day night to test this out: two beef pat­ties, one fry­ing pan, and a few gherkins, to­mato and buns. The first burger (60C inside, ac­cord­ing to my kitchen ther­mome­ter) was a de­light, and it hasn’t killed me. But my ap­petite fast waned as I nib­bled the well-done, sec­ond pat­tie, ev­ery ounce of good­ness cooked out of it.

Chefs around the coun­try have no doubt been stew­ing at the new ‘‘guide­lines’’, but it was ex­ec­u­tive chef Dan Fraser at the his­toric Duke of Marl­bor­ough Ho­tel in Rus­sell who put a match to the flambe´ .

First he re­ceived an email from an MPI of­fi­cial. ‘‘You need to make some changes,’’ he was told – the same stern mes­sage they were send­ing other restau­rants and cater­ers around New Zealand

Then the MPI au­di­tor turned up this week. You ei­ther need to change your cook­ing process or take the burger off the menu, she told Fraser.

This puts the lie to the moniker ‘‘guide­lines’’. Th­ese are not guide­lines – they are rules, and any chefs who dare think they know bet­ter how to cook safe, tasty food risk the wrath of the gov­ern­ment fall­ing upon their es­tab­lish­ments.

The fi­nal in­sult comes in the ad­vice given by MPI food and bev­er­age man­ager Sally John­ston in today’s ar­ti­cles. Sure, medi­um­rare burg­ers will be off the menu at the grill – but, she sug­gests, you could al­ways try cook­ing them sous vide style in a wa­ter bath?

You could hear Dan Fraser chok­ing. ‘‘Who the f... wants a sous vide burger?’’

Drib­bling shower heads or wa­tery burg­ers, th­ese are a gov­ern­ment in­tru­sion too far.

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