Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What the G20's going to gulp down

As all of you likely know, the G20's in town. I attended the Put People First march on Saturday, which was a peaceful, spirited display of people's frustration with the job situation in this global economy, the decline of public services, and the seriousness of climate change. Today's a bit different, with skirmishes breaking out in front of banks downtown; some windows were smashed by a handful of people, but, of course, those pictures will stay front and center on all the major news outlets and dominate the impressions people have of the protests. Elsewhere, there's more of the spirit I witnessed on Saturday, with loads of recently-laid-off individuals justly demonstrating that the victims of the global economy shouldn't be expected to bear the burden of bankers' bonuses, while they wait in lines at welfare offices.

And, in the midst of all this, Jamie Oliver's made his G20 menu public (don't even get me started on the insipid reporting that refers to the dining politicians "and their wives" (!) ignoring Germany and Argentina's gender membership. I usually expect more from The Guardian, but I guess I shouldn't.):
  • Organic salmon from Shetland, served with samphire and sea kale, a selection of vegetables from Sussex, Surrey and Kent, and Irish soda bread.
  • Goat's cheese starter (v)
Main course
  • Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb from the Elwy Valley in north Wales, with Jersey Royal potatoes, wild mushrooms and mint sauce.
  • Lovage and potato dumplings for the main course (v)
  • Bakewell tart and custard.
I think Oliver's tribute to local produce and his country's distinctive tastes is refreshing. Chef Ottolenghi discusses the menu here and comments on its deliberate nature--none of the courses are meant to showcase Oliver's culinary prowess, in particular; instead, he's hoping to impress dignitaries with the freshness of the produce and the flavor profiles he creates with such simple, elegant choices.

The more interesting part of Ottolenghi's commentary refers to the symbolism behind Oliver's power in designing the menu of such an event. While 'shopping locally' resounds loud and clear in these courses, Ottolenghi suggests that there could have been more multicultural representation on the menu--a vegetable curry, for example, instead of the failsafe goat cheese as a vegetarian option. Let's leave aside the fact that 'curry' is hugely ambiguous and how wildly inappropriate it is to think that 'vegetable curry' is a specific enough alternative--as though the word 'casserole,' would likewise suffice--and focus on the positive intention behind the idea. I love the idea of a multicultural society being represented by its diverse parts, particularly when cuisine is such a wonderful way to highlight regional differences. Because, to be honest, if you were hoping to lure me somewhere with the promise of an authentically "British" menu, you'd probably get my voicemail. If, on the other hand, you invited me to a showcase of Britain's immigrant tastes--and added that every dish would be created with fresh and local ingredients--I'd head over early, with some Californian wine.

And maybe some dessert, because as much as tart may be offered with custard--I can't count the number of times I've looked away for a second, only to return to a tart completely immersed in heavy cream. United Kingdom, have you met the United States and its endemic obesity? Nice to meet you, too.

1 comment:

adele said...

Hmm. Any chance that Jamie Oliver will provide the recipes, too? I'm dead curious about those lovage and potato dumplings.