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The Siberia Manifesto, part 1

What annoys you most about restaurants, food and the whole business of eating? If we don’t name these practises then they will never know we don’t like them. If we don’t tell them we don’t like them they’ll never improve. Here is the first twenty-five on my list of the things I dislike most. The first one, to anyone who has read this blog before, is apparent. I’d love it if you made suggestions, too. All will be presented to the committee and adjudged.

  1. There is a horrible table in every restaurant between the toilets and Valhalla. No one wants to sit there. This is the area known to the catering trade as Siberia. If there is any other table free don’t pretend it’s reserved. You know, as do I, that you’re saving it in case Madonna drops by.  Madonna isn’t coming. Ever.
  2. Please stop asking me if everything’s alright. I’ll let you know when it isn’t. I’ll also let you know when it is.
  3. I want the wine I asked for not the more expensive one you want me to have. I want tap water not Hawaiian Spring. I wanted a dessert, anyway. You don’t need to upsell to me, I upsell to myself.
  4. NEVER take the wine bottle and put it in an ice bucket ten feet away so my glass can only be filled when you remember. And certainly don’t think about telling me off for trying to get the bottle myself. Oslo Court, among so many of your horrible, pink-tableclothed crimes this may be the worst. I won’t be coming back.
  5. No more two-hour slots. I know you need to make money, and someone else will want to eat at nine, but I had a reservation for eight the other night at an expensive, smart, restaurant and I still got an email saying the table was strictly for two hours only. I know it was an automated message, but I almost cancelled. It’s rare for a meal to last more than two hours, isn’t it?
  6. The hospitality trade is at its best when it’s at its most hospitable.
  7. Skinny isn’t aesthetically superior. It certainly isn’t morally superior. And thin people don’t even live longer, it just feels like it.
  8. Seasonality. I don’t want to eat peaches on Christmas day but some people do. That’s their business. It’ll be in season somewhere in the world. I couldn’t tell you when the avocado season is at its height yet I eat them all year. Still, strawberries for Valentine’s will be hard and tasteless. It’s your lookout.
  9. If locavores are going to insist that I can only eat things grown in a radius an ox-pulled cart can travel in a day, well, that’s their business, too, but include me out. A life without lemons, pineapples, and everything else not grown nearby is a sad, medieval one. I’m not an indentured serf and this isn’t the Dark Ages. Pointless. Stupid. Just stop it.
  10. All your puritanical impulses are redundant in the kitchen. Save them for the gym. Sybaritic is the way to go. Be a lotus eater. Eat lotus!
  11. Your kitchen will never be big enough, there will never be enough surface, you’ll always need another oven. There’ll never be enough people to clear up for you. All facts, accept them.
  12. It’s a way of eating that I love, but small plates need big tables. Small plates always lead to big bills, too. You know I’m right.
  13. If you’re not interested in cooking then don’t invite people for a meal. Go out with them, order in, but if you hate cooking don’t do it. You don’t, I promise you, want to be anything like Mad Mags.
  14. Ban tweezers from Masterchef. Actually, ban Masterchef.
  15. Square plates. Wavy plates. Glass plates. Chuck them. Host a Greek wedding and smash them, I don’t care which. This probably means every restaurant in France has to re-stock its crockery. That’s ok with moi.
  16. If you don’t know what scrambled eggs should be like then you shouldn’t be working in a café kitchen. I like my scrambled eggs to be runny. Even if you want them to be firmer, they should be soft, at least. You don’t want eggs as chewy as gristle. Have you ever eaten eggs at a hotel breakfast buffet? That’s what you don’t want.
  17. Butter. Please stop whipping it. I like butter cold and hard. (Insert your own joke, if you must).
  18. Of course, all margarine is banned, forever, in perpetuity. It’s not better for you than butter and never has been.
  19. I don’t much care for a painterly swoosh of stuff painted under whatever it is I’m eating. Stop it, please. It looks dated and wasn’t that interesting to begin with. I can live without an X of unchopped chives on top of anything I’m about to eat, too, while we’re at it. As a rule, if I have to move it aside before eating what’s underneath, I don’t want it.
  20. I don’t think anyone says drizzle, pan-fried or jus anymore, but if you do, don’t.
  21. A slice of lemon souring mineral water. Tap-water ice-cube in a glass of sparkling mineral water. Yuk to both. From Amanda.
  22. Let’s call it fizzy, not sparkling.
  23. Rancid, neon orange, foul-tasting, fatty smoked salmon. That artificial smoke they use is repellent and the farmed fish they use it on has been riddled with sea lice after being enclosed in too small a pool. The French and the Jews know what smoked salmon should look and taste like. Soft, pale apricot in colour, barely there in taste, like silk.
  24. The Siberia Manifesto isn’t just for the people sitting down. Clicking fingers, calling Oi, garçon or you there, grabbing a waiter’s elbow: bad, bad and terrible. Waiters should be treated with respect at all times, they’re not servants. Servants, if you have any, should also be treated with respect.
  25. There is no need for anger or rudeness even if you find a dead mouse on your plate. Even if you’ve ordered it. The restaurant didn’t want to serve you it, I promise. When she worked as a chef, my friend Amanda’s first job of the day was to kill all the trapped mice in the cold store. It happens. Leave. You don’t need to pay for that dead mouse. Call Environmental Health.

Amanda has supplied a lovely long list of her pet hates. Please tell me yours. Beetroot, linen tablecloths, mints by the till are all waiting to go on the next part of the Manifesto, as are detox, healthy eating and diets. This is only the beginning, there is a long way to go. We have a worthy cause, comrades, we are the sans culottes of the Siberia Revolution. Diners of the World – Unite! Man the barricades (then eat them!)


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