Sins of the flesh

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

When did you last stand in line for food? To dis­grun­tled mid­dle-aged types like me it con­jures up im­ages of Soviet-era Rus­sia or De­pres­sion-bound Amer­ica. Hardly the way I’d choose to spend a Satur­day evening.

But to the new gen­er­a­tion of food­ies, queu­ing, it seems, is pos­i­tively a bonus, part of the ex­pe­ri­ence and proof that some­thing – what­ever it is – is worth wait­ing for. Af­ter all, all those other peo­ple stand­ing in line can’t be wrong.

Over­whelm­ingly the queues are made up of well-heeled twentyand thirty-some­things will­ing to pay over the odds for por­tions of per­fectly cooked meat – and lots of it.

It’s a cus­tom that has spread from the street food tra­di­tion – and you can’t ex­pect a burger van to take reser­va­tions. But in­creas­ingly, it’s be­come the norm for restau­rants too, the likes of Lon­don (m)eater­ies Meat Liquor and Pitt Cue.

A fort­night ago, at St Katharine’s Dock in East Lon­don, a bread roll’s throw from the Tower of Lon­don, there was meat – and there were queues – aplenty. The oc­ca­sion was Meatopia, a flesh-eat­ing food fes­ti­val im­ported from Amer­ica.

In scenes straight out of Dick­ens, smoke bil­lowed from grills in the con­verted Vic­to­rian ware­houses as chefs dished up burg­ers, pulled pork and grilled chicken for the crowds. A queue of two hours or more was ru­moured at one of the ex­hibitor stands, Manch­ester burger-mon­gers Al­most Fa­mous. As one fes­ti­val­goer re­ported, “Ev­ery­one wanted a piece of those beef and mar­row slid­ers with Amer­i­can cheese and crushed Mon­ster Munch.”

Mon­ster Munch? For grown ups? It all sounds like a five-year-old’s dream meal, com­plete with or­ange pro­cessed Amer­i­can cheese – hardly the sort of thing that food­ies are meant to han­ker af­ter. And no, that mar­row isn’t the veg­etable type. It’s beef mar­row, lov­ingly scraped from the bone to top the slid­ers – or miniburg­ers to the over-35s.

This is all very well, but aren’t we meant to be eat­ing less meat, not more? The burp­ing – and worse – of cat­tle is a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to green­house gases, yet with the bur­geon­ing wealth of mar­kets such as China, global meat con­sump­tion is rock­et­ing.

The ven­dors at Meatopia and at high-end steak­houses such as Hawksmoor and Good­man’s are quick to jus­tify meat con­sump­tion, wax­ing lyri­cal on the prove­nance of their an­i­mals and reel­ing off de­tails of where they lived, what they ate, and how they died at the drop of a salt cel­lar.

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