Why I no longer call myself a foodie

saffron_bunny_food_journalism_cornwallBeing a foodie was great. Once. I ate the food of some of Cornwall’s best chefs, hung out at festivals with my press pass, stayed overnight in some stunning seaside locations, received countless edible freebies in the post and even got to take my tastebuds to the pistes of the Dolomites and sample some of Italy’s finest. Hell, I even thought I was a half decent cook myself.

Tell people about it and they are naturally very envious. My husband is a bit miffed that he no longer gets to piggyback onto my fine dining commissions. So why have I given it all up? What’s not to like about free food?

It all got very boring very quickly. Don’t hate me for being ungrateful, I feel extremely lucky to have cooked alongside Paul Ainsworth, interviewed Nathan Outlaw and eaten with Rick Stein, but I just can’t do it anymore.

Firstly, food ‘fashion’ does my head in. Just as education should not be the political football of every newly elected party, so food should be left alone to the test of time and taste. What’s all this nonsense about local and seasonal and it was Mr Brown from Muddy Farm who grew our carrots today? What a load of old supermarket fictional faff. Yes, I love to eat Cornish and respect the changing bounty of the seasons, but I don’t need it rammed down my throat (literally) as if it were a new ‘invention’. The French and Italians would laugh in our rosbif faces: they’ve been doing it quietly for generations.

Secondly, writing a review of someone’s business is a tricky business. Perhaps a PR company set you up with the gig, so it makes it somewhat ‘awks’ if you then go ahead and slate their client. You get dinner, wine, possibly an overnight stay, all for free, so can’t help but feel a certain obligation to string together some glowing remarks, even if you don’t like underdone lamb and the white wine is warm. And in case you hadn’t noticed, this is Cornwall not London and I am no Jay Rayner. I have no right to potentially ruin people’s businesses in an already tough industry. So I’ve given up the constant tight-roping of compromise. Call me a fool, but I’d rather go out and pay for my dinner these days.

And finally, the latest sugar-free food trend brings up just a little bit of sick in the back of my throat. Self-righteous media-luvvy ladies of loveliness who bathe in coconut oil, #eatclean, turn vegetables into spaghetti and think that dates have no sugar in them. Food has become an expression of moral superiority over others at which point it stops for me: I’m doing no kneeling in front of any courgetti altar and there’ll be no repenting of gratuitous pork fat snacking any time soon on this blog.

I’d rather embrace the amoral delights of sliced white toast with Marmite, the best meal I’ve ever eaten at Treliske hospital after the birth of my son. I think that means I have officially resigned from the lofty towers of ‘foodie-dom’.







How to hold a Lobster Massacre dinner party in 10 easy steps.


I write about food but as I get more and more jaded with food trends (local and seasonal, eat the whole pig, oh you’re making gourmet burgers, how unusual, everyone but probably not their dog are making them, and you say that you make your own bread, well that is wholesome yes yes yes, stab me now), I am becoming increasingly aware that I am not necessarily a great cook. Or host come to think of it. Read More

Rafferty’s Café and Wine Bar St Merryn: open for business

2012-10-05 19.46.35You could be forgiven for thinking that Padstow is the foodie capital of Cornwall but you would be 1) narrow-minded and 2) missing out. Head just a few miles south and you reach the village of St Merryn where food presents itself three ways: Stein’s Cornish Arms (good quality simple pub food), the Farmers Arms (local pub) and Rafferty’s, which replaced the very popular Rosel & Co. and opened on 5 November for food. Read More

Paul Ainsworth at No. 6 Padstow finally gets his Michelin star

Whenever I talk to people about the slate-roofed Grade II-listed house sandwiched between Stein outlets that is Paul Ainsworth’s No. 6, the response has always been the same. Until now. The question, “Why hasn’t he got a Michelin star yet?” in incredulous tones has finally been answered. As of yesterday, the team at No.6 found out ahead of time that they have nailed their first Michelin star.

Read More


Cooking with Paul Ainsworth

I say cooking with very optimistically, this was more me watching, enthralled and then eating; being cooked for would be more accurate. But what a privilege, be it with or for. Paul Ainsworth At No. 6, Padstow has shot to recent fame after Paul got through to the final in BBC2’s Great British Menu, winning the dessert category with his spectacular showpiece, Taste Of The Fairground.

Fight your way past the Stein establishments (two next door and one over the road) and you’ll find a little slate roofed cottage, subtley signed No. 6, set back from the bustling harbor. So intimate is the homely entrance that I feel I should ring a bell, announce my presence, rather than just wander in. I catch the attention of a tablecloth ironer, who shouts, “Paul!” into the depths of the bustling kitchen and there he is, all warm smiles and a firm handshake before melting back into the kitchen. I am swiftly picked up by a suited front of house and whisked out to the diminutive terrace with drink, awaiting TV’s latest food personality.

Paul soon takes me into the bustling warm noise of the kitchen, the engine room driving the restaurant, filled with a young, mainly male team, eyes down and intent on the task in hand, concentration cut with the occasional outburst of song (Fat Boy Slim, Michael Jackson) or witty line of banter. If Paul asked, he got, and even if he didn’t, he still got: “I just turned the doughnuts over for you,” while we were making the toffee apple or a double dose of efficiency which saw a little copper pan brought out twice, one pre-empted, the other requested.

So why was I stalking Paul Ainsworth in his own kitchen? Good question. Why not? He’s a fun, talented bloke but the real reason was to get to the bottom of his award-winning dessert: Taste Of The Fairground, a model cart laden with fairground inspired treats to be shared between two. Like abstract art, it is a concept rather than just a bowl of pudding, a sharing, consensual experience rather than a one-spoon wonder, a trip down nostalgia lane not a nouveau tower with a dip, dab or a smear. This is fun to look at, fun to eat, fun to share while showcasing complex processes and ideas.

The dessert is a sevenfold affair presented on a mini fairground cart: doughnuts, coconut custard, chocolate popcorn, honeycomb lollies, raspberry curd, marshmallows and toffee apples, each made from scratch: “Basically it was practise, practise, practise to get to this point; my head chef John and I spent a lot of Sundays and Mondays getting it right.” The result is an altar to sweetness and childhood memory, Paul describes it as: “the ultimate Charlie And The Chocolate Factory experience.” Augustus Gloop wouldn’t have stood a chance and grown women will become weak at the knees when this thing is rolled out in Paul’s restaurant this week. The method in the sugar madness is loosely set out below.

Marshmallow rippled with strawberry purée is cut into neat cubes and singed with a hot knife to create a crisscross of scorch marks, the smell of which transports me right back to childhood campfires and burnt sticky blobs on twigs. Paul explains that the next part required the most tinkering: the toffee apple, which sits on the marshmallow and is more a distillation of the idea rather than an entire apple. The flesh (Braeburn or Pink Lady) is cut into a circle and bathed in a cidery (Cornish Orchards) buttery caramel so that the fruit, in Paul’s words: “laps up” the golden syrup, finally sprinkled with a few thyme leaves. Next to this, a little copper pan filled with a splodge of raspberry curd accompanies the delicate lengths of doughnut, more Spanish churros than your typical British cricket ball, rolled in sugar and cinnamon. The dough mix is a beignet, hence the lightness captured in a delicate grasp of batter.

To the side of these are glass bowls filled with a creamy golden coconut custard, a clever (and delicious) reference to coconut shys on top of which are clusters of chocolate popcorn studded with peanuts and a little salt to cut the sweetness. Finally, the honeycomb backdrop, or as it’s known in Cornwall, hokey pokey. This is homemade by boiling honey from The Lizard with glucose and water to which bicarbonate of soda is added, injecting that all-essential lift to the caramel. Left to set on a sheet, cut into ‘lolly’ shapes (complete with sticks) and coated with milk chocolate on one side, white on the other and sprinkled with gold edible almonds and popping candy, two of these are positioned at the back of the trolley. The stage is now set and the show begins.

I follow Paul out to the courtyard with the trolley of beautiful sin in various guises and he leaves me to sample, gorge, taste and come to a verdict. What verdict? Other than severe sugar rush, I had all the fun of a fairground in that corner, dipping the doughnut in the raspberry one minute, switching to the honeycomb the next, pushing the popcorn into the custard to get a good coating and cramming a marshmallow/toffee apple stack into my mouth, all to the echo of popping candy. The man is a conjuror, a lion tamer and an acrobat all in one and I take off my big top to him. So roll up ladies and gentlemen for an entirely new dessert experience. And you thought Padstow was famous for its fish. How passé.

Paul is planning to recreate his Great British Menu at the eponymous Number 6 in Padstow over a series of four evenings: October 19 and 20; November 9 and 10. For more information about availability and pricing, go to number6inpadstow.co.uk or call 01841 532 093.

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