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Crimes Of The Kitchen

Hand over le fromage de la belle France qui s’appelle camembert …
I don’t care how … runny it is, hand it over with all speed!

John Cleese looks in vain for camembert (runny or otherwise) in Monty Python’s Cheese Shop sketch

runny camembert

I think it's a bit runnier than you'd like it, sir...

I was chatting the other day to someone who had spent some time living in France. They remarked to me that, having developed a liking for runny camembert, they used to put said cheese into the microwave in order to encourage it into a liquid state, an act which the locals looked upon as food crime of the highest order. (I, of course, imagine their indignation to have been accompanied by cries of “Mon Dieu!” and “Sacrebleu!” at the very least). The offence in this case was not the runniness of the cheese but the application of the microwave to the task which they probably rightly considered would destroy the subtleness of the camembert taste.

Ultimately, of course, food is a matter for our own personal tastebuds. The fact that I can’t think of sweet creamed rice without cringing doesn’t mean that there aren’t entire populations who like to eat it on a regular basis. However, we can, I suspect, agree that, if not exactly an indictable offence, it is unfortunate when perfectly good and tasty ingredients are transformed into something less than edible, most particularly where this happens in a restaurant where you expect the people in charge to know better.

Take the other day, where I ordered a piece of what was billed as tomato, spinach and ricotta lasange. It duly arrived and it did, as advertised, contain tomato, spinach and a bit of ricotta. It also sported onions, celery, courgette, red peppers, carrots that were firm and pieces of aubergine that were the wrong side of chewy, all in a tomato-based sauce that lacked any particular flavouring, apart from whatever had been imparted by the mess of vegetables therein.

Oh, I ate it alright – I was hungry and it wasn’t completely inedible – it just wasn’t very nice. It had all the hallmarks of that particular style of vegetarian food which results from a bafflement regarding what to do with a main course that doesn’t contain meat – the approach being to throw in every last one of the vegetables to hand and provide a big portion because at least that’ll fill the customer up. This is not at all uncommon but, in my book, it’s not ok from an establishment that has deliberately cultivated a foodie reputation and that I know can do infinitely better. I did go up to one of the staff afterwards to express my disappointment, hoping that it was just a temporary aberration and not an indication of general slide in standards. It also made me want to go right out and get the ingredients for Delia Smith’s sinfully tasty spinach and ricotta lasagne which is how spinach and ricotta lasagnes should be.


  1. Joie de vivre

    I’ve never seen the cheese shop sketch, but it sounds hilarious. I also hate ordering something sub par at a restaurant. Do you send it back? Do you just leave slightly disappointed? I never know.

  2. Peppercorn Press

    Another Crime of the Kitchen… When someone takes cookies that were given as a hostess gift during the holiday, freezes them, then thaws to serve them as their own at a party the following year. Not only do they taste nasty, but they look like they are a reconstituted dogs dinner.

    Now, I wouldn’t say anything to “this person” about how tacky that is, but I do believe I would speak up to the restaurant about their food being below par — especially if it is something that could definitely be done better – or you know that they have done better in the past. I wouldn’t want to serve my guests, let alone my clients, anything that shouldn’t be served. I would want to know.

  3. Daily Spud

    Joie de Vivre: the cheese shop sketch is indeed hilarious – you can see it on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3KBuQHHKx0

    Peppercorn Press: I agree absolutely that, in the restaurant case, something should be said. Personal situations (like the other crime you describe) are, of course, a lot trickier to negotiate!

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