That’s what I really wanted to call this blog. There is no excuse for mediocre. Whilst I am starting this blog about the experience of food, it may and probably will evolve into this very topic, mediocrity. Because there really is no excuse.
Dictionary.com defines mediocre as “of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate.” Synonyms include undistinguished, commonplace, pedestrian, everyday; run-of-the-mill.
Today we are overwhelmed by cooking shows and just about anyone at all on YouTube. Some are great like River Cottage, Luke Nguyen (who wouldn’t be inspired to visit Vietnam after watching him) and Jamie Oliver (yes I am a fan) to name a few. Some of the other shows are, well, a little mediocre.
But what it has shown and demonstrated to us is that food is to be savoured, enjoyed, valued, devoured and perhaps most important of all, prepared well. Food is passion. Food is, in fact, aphrodisial. Apparently, crops of figs were celebrated by ancient Greeks in a frenzied copulation ritual. I mean who doesn’t love a good fig! Chocolate and oysters are popular for their aphrodisiac qualities. But it’s not just about the food itself. The passion is in the sourcing, the preparation, the combining, the aromas, the simple and complex tastes of food and, never forgetting the final touch, the presentation.
I admit I occasionally eat a Maccas burger but, and I stress, it’s only because (a) I have a child and/or (b) I am really desperate because I am in the middle of nowhere and Maccas becomes the best choice (if anyone has ever been to the only Chinese restaurant in a country town, you will know what I mean). The strange thing is when I go to Maccas I always, without fail, think that I will finally like their burgers. I live in hope that, just once, the burger will look like and taste the picture. But I am inevitably disappointed because, without fail, it always tastes and looks like it did the last time!
But then McDonalds is what it is – you get what you get so mediocre really doesn’t come into it. What I am specifically referring to are the places you wander into and think to yourself “Yes, I can expect good maybe even great food here. At the very least, it must be reasonable.”
One of these places is The Retreat Hotel in Collingwood. It’s where they filmed the TV series the Sullivans back in the 80’s so it’s a bit of an icon. The pub is old and quaint with suitably uncomfortable little wooden chairs and mini tables you can hardly fit your legs under. It’s very English so naturally I love it. I honestly cannot remember our meals (a bad sign to start off with) but I remember my son’s and, in this case, that’s a really bad sign. What’s the deal with kid’s meals? We don’t expect gourmet (although why not but that’s another topic) but we at least expect reasonable quality. Chicken nuggets and chips – a stock standard kid’s meal. It might have been a meal but the nuggets could not be considered food. Reconstituted rubbish in bad batter. I felt guilty for giving it to my child. “Just eat the chips” I say and feel even more guilty. From now on, I am sending stuff like that back. Admittedly, this was two years ago so things may have changed but the website hasn’t so it’s not getting another chance from us. Pity, because it’s a nice place for a drink.
So now I introduce you to the opposite of mediocre – foodgasm. Yes, there is such thing. I experienced one a few weeks ago. And it had nothing to do with my husband! Although it did involve a man or possibly two. His name and face are a mystery but his food was pure heaven. So it didn’t matter whether he resembled a werewolf or Brad Pitt although the latter would have been a bonus. It happened at the Post Office Hotel in Coburg. This is the place where two weeks prior I went for lunch (excellent bar menu only on weekdays anyway). On my way back from the ladies, walking past the open kitchen, I spied, resting proudly, side by side, on the stainless counter, two frosty baby pink pig’s heads. Squirmish for some maybe but for me, the decision was made. I would definitely be back. A girlfriend and I decided to go there for dinner at the last minute and it did not disappoint. Dishes are made to share; consequently presenting excellent value. But, seriously, price can become irrelevant when the flavours just fill your taste buds with so much joy, you spend the entire meal licking your lips muttering “mmmmmm.” Coupled with two glasses of crisp and perfectly cold white wine, it couldn’t get any better. I admit I did not even brush my teeth that night before bed – I needed to savour and remember those incredible taste sensations. The food took a little while to appear but it was worth every minute. We indulged in a starter of sumak-lemon marinated red mullet cigars with shaved fennel, orange salad, champagne dressing and afterwards shared a main of charred citrus chicken with creamed leek, current and black spelt-otto with a side of wild watercress and marinated figs with walnut dressing. Yes, the menu was a bit fancy (what we really had was fish and chicken and we did have to ask what otto is) but when the food arrived, it looked exactly as described.
Not wanting to forget the experience in a hurry, it inspired what may have become husband Dean’s and my signature dish. Fennel and apple salad with a walnut and basil mayonnaise. You could smell the fresh basil, freshly picked from our veggie patch, with every mouthful. The second night, on a whim, we added some proscuitto.
What can I say – it was sensational, both ways.
There really is no excuse for mediocre.