Sunday, 13 April 2008

Meat And Two Veg

Bonsoir mes embusqués de jammie!

T'is Spring once again.I'm sure you can tell by the blossoming flowers, screaming kids wearing hoodies on street corners at ten at night, playing with the latest Ping nine iron while drinking lashings of Buckfast wine and the fresh, sun-kissed mornings gently awakening us from our beds of slumber and tranquility before the torrential droplets of rain scour our curs'd land......'winds light to variable'.

During the last several months, certain "Celebrity" Chefs have been promoting produce using terms such as 'local', 'organic' and 'free range'. I have become quite perturbed about this since the beginning for a couple of reasons that may, or may not, hold any ground.

My first reason is the fact that if you buy any of the named products above you will find you can no longer afford to pay your utility bills, mortgage or home insurance. When promoting produce with this type of quality, better animal welfare and less damage to the environment it would make sense to me to make it affordable, yet it is not. For example, a breast of chicken ten years ago cost around £0.95 for about an 8-9oz portion (which is usually large enough for you to enjoy without gorging yourself). Nowadays, the same breast of chicken costs, in some places, almost double the amount if not more and this is where my gripe begins.

Have you eaten out recently? Either a secretarial lunch break, quiet dinner for two or a mad night out beckham-style? Have you noticed, usually through beer-goggled glasses, that the food prices have gone up ever so slightly? Even the Kebab houses are beginning to suss that the industry is slowly turning toward the French aioli rather than garlic mayonnaise just to be able to charge that little bit extra. Some of you may not have noticed a rise at all and this is because most restaurants still refuse to pass on the high costs we are now being forced to pay to the customer.

It goes something like this, the cost of feeding livestock has increased so much due to the weather in many parts of the world. Crops have been wiped out all around the globe and the farmers are starting to struggle. This is the beginning. As the farmers are not making as much money as they would desire (try selling a Land Rover or two to ease the pressure or sell some land to a group of developers, after all, we really need more housing!), they have put up their prices to abbatoirs and wholesalers. So, now we have to cost in the rise of petrol and diesel for transportation which will also push the price of logistics up, the rise of the national minimum wage looming on the horizon will be scaring most employers (unless their staff consists of non-EU nationals or the Polish) and finally the current ban of imported meats (yes, its the EU again) from countries such as Brazil, with Namibia and Argentina soon to follow.

People within the trade will see where this is going, though we must bear in mind that this is not a political blog, but an insight into an industry that is slowly deteriorating and becoming more and more difficult to prop up every year.

I now get to the crux of my rant. We are expected, as consumers, to look after the environment and ensure we buy produce that has been allowed to run free, has been massaged with essential oils, made to listen to Mozart and fed with the finest of beers and truffles. I agree, to a point. If this is the way the country is moving, why should the customer be forced to pay a vast amount of money for the produce that we are being coraled into buying. Environmental do-gooders and 'Celebrity' Chefs are not helping the situation. Not everyone can afford to pay the extortionate prices for free-range meat and organic vegetables and why should they, it should not be expensive. This type of produce should be made available to everyone, not just the select few in the upmarket counties who go on about saving the planet then pollute half the area with the CO2 from their 4x4's and gas guzzling sports coupe's. The same could apply to the 'local' farmers and food entrepeneurs. Why does a Chicken from France cost less than one from 5 miles down the road? It makes no sense.

Animals are not people! There, I said it. I can hear a few tuts and mumbles of "bad form, Chef, bad form". Yet it's true. Do you remember Planet of the Apes? Things have gone too far and I want to know where this is going to end? Soon, all the chickens in the country will be running around your back gardens, wearing iPods, listening to the Specials or Bad Manners, necking cans of Stella while chewing on Onion Bahjis and Puppodums. The cows will be even worse, hoodies, hats on sideways, spraying graffiti on the nearest train, then collapsing in a heap of drug-fuelled debauchery. I don't think we will even go near Pork as the price has risen dramatically, so the producers are obviously shoving pure cocaine up its arse to help raise the price and if thats not genetic enhancement, I don't know what is!

Salmon is another product that will be going up in price again, but for different reasons. Norway is the highest producer of cured salmon in the world and most of the salmon is bought from Scotland. So they buy the fish, cure it, then sell it back to us at a higher rate.

Where is the logic? There is none, it's all money and economical politics, yet it's the Chefs and owners that get stuck with the price increases forcing deals and promotions to get people into their restaurants thus creating a deficit within the trade and finally closing many establishments. Where to next? unemployment, lack of traditional skills as more and more restaurants turn to pre-packaged foods or the collapse of an Industry held dear to our hearts?

It is troubling times, my galloping gastros. I hope an answer comes over the horizon soon or many more will fall. Many pubs and restaurants will close and we will be forced to pay a small ransom to consume food in the eateries of the Mighty. Times are bleak, I'm sure you agree.

In the news this week......The Prince of Mockneys claims you can feed a family of four for five pounds when buying from Sainsburys, sound advice if you all eat pasta but a complete lie in this day and age considering one of your teenage children will probably be a vegan, the other will be gluten-free and lactose intolerant, Dad will have a nut allergy and Mum won't be eating anything as she will still be trying to get into those size 0 jeans she got for her birthday.

The cheeky chappette has also been named as the most iconic British Chef of all time, by Olive magazine, beating the likes of Delia Smith, Gordon Ramsay and Keith Floyd to the top of the proverbial Culinary Tree. It is so nice to see that people focus on the Chefs that have been in the press recently and not the ones that have actually contributed to the world of British Cuisine. Yes, I know, he has done wonders for the school canteens of this green and pleasant island, so much so, that now the children go out for their lunch of chips, beans and highly sugared snacks which is much safer and healthier for them (at least they are now exercising).

I fear I must bid you farewell once more. I will now leave the 'Celebrity' Chefs to live in their lands of edible rainbows, glistening elderflower brooks and bitter Belgian chocolate bridges and return to the reality that is life amongst the foot soldiers of the gastros and gourmets on the frontline. To the Chefs and cooks of yesteryear, I salute you all! Without you, we would still be eating suet pudding, spam and lard. Or at least still trying to sell it with a fancy name and even fancier price tag.

Welcome back grumpy chef groupies. Hope your holiday was all you hoped it would be.

Le Chef Grincheux


Anonymous said...

Hello Grumpy Chef. Could`nt agree with you more. Meat used to be killed in local slaughterhouses for local butchers but successive governments and the Meat Hygiene Service put paid to that They closed so many local abattoirs that now they hump cattle all round the country, no wonder we had a big F&M outbreak in 2001. Now they are saying that meat should not be hung. Who are these guys. Organic meat, my a..e.

sheeats said...

No one can turn a phrase like you, my friend: "...their lands of edible rainbows, glistening elderflower brooks and bitter Belgian chocolate bridges..." Just smashing. :-)

I would totally buy a T-shirt with "grumpy chef groupie" written on it. Hee!