Sins of the flesh
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.