Unlike many modern things (eg. cars, women and rock’n’roll), food does not appear to fare badly when compared to its previous models. Rarely, if ever, have I heard the phrase “they just don’t make burgers like they used to!”. Not that I believe that when used to describe the golden era of any other commodity, that phrase holds much ground. I would much rather drive the cheapest car on the market today (a Kia, a Proton or whatever Great Wall cars recently released) than a 1950’s Chevrolet (actually, the Chevys were pretty cool, but their non-existent safety features, lack of aircon, AM only radio and lacklustre steering just don’t cut it any more… neither does Elvis). So, seeing as most of the food we consume today was available to previous generations, why doesn’t it bear the brunt that only time and wisdom can provide?
It is true that individual ingredients appear to get singled out as deteriorating products: namely tomatoes no longer tasting like tomatoes, and pale egg yolks; but by and large most dishes appear to be enjoyed and praised in a manner suggesting satisfaction, not diminishing standards.
A great example of this was experienced on a recent Sunday drive out country. (The Chevy would’ve come in handy then, with its bench seating and cruisin’ nature, one sure could enjoy music in those cars… sides A and B.) Determined to enjoy a good old-style country-pub lunch, a few of us settled in for a couple of beers at the Healesville Hotel. Unfortunately, a late breakfast had quenched most of our hanger. I, however, was not going to miss out on traditional fare, and as such, we ordered the Shepherds’ Pie and Fish ‘n’ Chips. Not exactly testing, nor showy meals, but old school tucker was the order of the day.
Here, amongst the hordes of city dwellers looking for some country wisdom, lied the perfect opportunity to utter the phrase suggesting previous versions of these meals far outperformed any pleasure currently being felt. But then I savoured one hell of a pie. Nothing fancy, hardly even that memorable (in fact, I’m probably reliving this with a hint of nostalgic inaccuracy) but that slightly modernised version of a shepherds’ pie, which one could almost call Modern Country-City Fusion, was spot on.
Sure, I hardly got to enjoy much of it, as my company who exhibited symptoms of ‘with-child’, quickly devoured it before most of us got a fork in. But I got enough of a taste to tick a box I’d driven 18 gallons for: country food, as good as it ever was.