Saturday, 17 September 2016

Well I Wonder…

Sometimes events stir your passions, and make you think! Maybe they’ll change your views and perceptions…

As I write this post, I am sitting at an oversized cotton reel, on a stool that’s too high, trying to decipher the bizarre debate that I have just been to. The occasion in question is FutureFest a forward-thinking event all about innovation. It’s at this stage that I declare the event does take place at a client’s venue, Tobacco Dock, but I don’t think that’s going to be an issue in writing this post.

The discussion in question focused on the future of the EU and I was frankly dismayed by the negativity, pessimism and misinformation shared by a distinguished panel (all of whom were vociferous remainers). At this point, I should also declare that I voted remain, before a brick gets chucked through my window by some misguided zealot. 

Of course, there were some interesting points regarding the future of Europe, but I got the feeling that the speakers and the majority of the room still harbour a bad case of sour grapes about the decision. They seek to highlight the problem, moaning about the outcome, yet offer no solutions aside from going back to the way things were. 

This was meant to be an event about vision and ambition, yet I heard nothing regarding the potential opportunities the UK has in terms of business and society in a post-leave world (aside from strengthening trade bonds with Europe, of course).

I am not knocking the event itself, let me be clear. I like to think that its purpose is to generate thought-provoking content which spurs writers like me on to develop or challenge the ideas further. It’s delivered that in spadefuls. 

But the direction of the session was pessimistic, offering none of the pragmatism for which Britain was once famous. The usual messages were spun, that the public had been duped by the right-wing media, the decision was only advisory, we don’t have to do it… the more I look at Europe, the more I feel the choice of the nation was correct. I’m big enough to say that perhaps I was rather sentimental and cautious in my decision back in June, who knows maybe I was wrong. 

Furthermore, the panel talked about accountability. When you have characters like Jean-Claude Junker and countries with the financial regulatory reputation of Luxembourg in the current EU, I don’t think you can come close to transparency. I was left thinking, ‘take the log out of your own collective eye’ before you start levelling your guns at the Daily Mail and Daily Express (which, incidentally exist to sell newspapers and make money, not act as your moral compass). It seemed the panel wanted to sweep the 52% of the nation who voted under the carpet, ‘not today thank you very much!’. 

Ted Heath, who took us into Europe, was famous for having the ‘longest sulk in history’ after he was defeated by Margaret Thatcher for the Conservative leadership in 1975. It seems the remain camp’s going to do the same, being unhelpful instead of constructive, stubborn instead of open and to me, deeply, deeply boring. 

I know this article will draw its share of criticism, but let’s look forward and be excited for opportunity rather than adopting a doom and gloom approach which might be completely unfounded.

Of course, I welcome debate on the above, but no abuse, please! 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

On burgers…

A very good friend of mine is obsessed by burgers. Whenever we go to a restaurant it’s the first thing he looks out for. Whether it be topped with cheese, bacon, avocado, even pineapple, he can think of nothing better than sinking his gnashers into a patty of ground beef sandwiched between two buns. These days he’s not spoilt for choice with every joint offering a ‘signature’ take on this American classic. Burgers are now as much of a staple on the British menu as ham, egg and chips, steak and ale pie and fish and chips.

Now it seems you can have it any way you want it: with the bun, without the bun, slathered in special mustard, complemented by rosemary-salted fries or topped with a birdseye potato waffle and a fried egg… it’s insane. As Five Guys, Byron and Gourmet Burger Kitchen battle it out on every identikit high-street (sadly becoming the norm in suburbia), hipsters in London’s more fashionable, eastern districts are flipping minced-meat discs in uber-cool, customised vans. They use esoteric ingredients, making baps from ramen noodles, wasabi mayonnaise, kimchi… the mind-boggles when you see some of the creations. 

Then you have the Buzzfeed community, faithfully documenting some of the groaning, gargantuan burgers under such monikers as ‘the most ridiculous…’, ‘you ain’t had a burger, until you’ve had…’,  ‘This burger will make you want a burger now!’. These beasts have more in common with modern sculpture than they do with food. Often these towering infernos are balanced precariously, supported with a skewer just long enough for some beatnik or other to snap it and upload it to Instagram before it topples under the shear weight of onion rings, beetroot, bacon chops, smoked eggs and Domestos-brined pickles! (I kid!). 

Goodness, I’ve got burger ennui just listing the above. It’s all got a little bit silly hasn’t it? Let’s go back to basics, back to reality. Let’s cast-off these over-complicated - and often badly cooked - pretenders to the burger throne and opt for the reliable, the decadent and the downright vulgar…

It was with great relish, last Friday, that I tucked into a McDonalds Quarter Pounder with cheese. I’m almost ashamed to admit that, after polishing off the first, I went straight back in for a second. 

What I love about McDonalds burgers is that there is no pretension, no delusions of grandeur, just a nice thin patty (all burgers should be thin), topped with cheese, pickle, raw onion, ketchup and mustard. All served between two sugary slices of bun, it’s the perfect balance of sweet and savoury  and I would take it any day over some of the ostentatious, over-sized examples you see on menus up and down the land. Let’s not gentrify the humble burger any further.

I’m not talking about quality, I’m talking about tastiness. Whatever you think of McDonalds and its practices, I don’t think you can seriously level a case against how instantly tasty their burgers are, and how guilty/dirty you feel after you’ve had one; as if you had broken a social taboo in eating it! For me that’s how a burger should be eaten and then remembered post-meal! 

So I say this, take your piss-pretentious burger away from my plate! Give me my Quarter Pounder with cheese any day.