“The art of eating is more difficult to master than the art of cooking” —Controversial Cook
hen people ask me what I do in life I’m always stuck for an answer. OK, I can cook so I’m a cook and I specify not a chef. I personally find the word chef a bit too grand for me. If I’d call myself a chef I would feel like a sergeant telling to everybody that he is a general.
The fact is that I don’t give two hoots whether I’m called a chef or a cook, because, as the old adage says, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, therefore for me what really matters about cooking, whether one is a chef or a cook, is how tasty, and healthy is one’s cooking.
There are chefs that don’t cook very well and cooks who cooks very well. And looking around nowadays one will notice that there are people at the top of businesses, institutions, organizations or politics that should be at the bottom of the ladder or not there at all, and others that are at the bottom doing all sorts of menial jobs who could be at the top and do very well. To me it often seems that nowadays we live in a sort of upside down social meritocracy.
Now, returning to the question of telling people what I do in life, given that I do several activities I would start explaining it to them. Unfortunately midway during my explanation they would fall asleep so that in the end when they woke up they would know only half of the story or much less than that. The problem is that nowadays people have no patience whatsoever.
I live in Londinium, an ancient Roman city that is nowadays the capital of Britain with the name of London. I came to it in my early twenties working in hotels and restaurants to earn a living and learning English and sometimes happily others reluctantly I stayed in it ever since. I confess that to this day I can never make up my mind whether I like this city or not. It seems that my feelings about it are as changeable as the local weather.
It’s a metropolis with many good things and others not so like everywhere else. Its main problem in my view is that the maximum number of words that most people nowadays say to each other when they meet are four which are: “Hello, how are you?” end of the conversation and off they go making you wonder why they bothered to say it. Somehow Londoners with their hasty, unsocial behaviour remind me of the white rabbit of Wonderland who was always in too much of a hurry to find the time to talk to anybody. That is why I often call it: ‘White Rabbits City’.
It’s not a coincidence that a recent study made by the Cambridge university has rated London the most unfriendly city in the UK with Scotland the most friendly. Having lived in both places I’ve always said it for donkey years but of course… the experts who discovered it many decades later got the credit for it.
Therefore when people asked me what I do in life given their minimalist verbal interaction and the many activities that I do it would take me some time to explain it to them quickly enough for them not to start to slumber or dart off. In the end I got so fed up with their tendency to fall asleep or vanish and my inability to stretch their pitiable attention span that I found a shortcut to make them understand it before they started to nod off.
“Have you ever heard of a chap called Leonardo Da Vinci?” I would ask them.
“Of course!” they would reply, ” he was a famous Italian painter, inventor of many things and blah, blah blah…”
“Well,” I would say puffing my chest up and lifting up my eyebrows and nose a bit, “I’m more or less like him.”
“O really?” they would reply, “Do you mean that you draw helicopters and parachutes too?”
“Not helicopters or parachutes”, I would reply, “doodles of spaceships sometimes since we are now in the age of space exploration, but I do several other things that he did. Besides, I’m from the same part of Italy and possibly he may have been one of my ancestors.”
In that way they understood immediately. Moreover, their interest in me grew instantly. On top of it earned me the descriptive name of Renaissance man, that it’s fine and somewhat appropriate given that I was born and lived in the very city that gave birth to the Renaissance, that is Florence.
s far as I can remember I have always been interested in food and I consider myself lucky to have lived in an era when food was genuine, uncomplicated, organic and highly valued. Therefore it was a bit of a let down that when I came to Britain from Italy I had to adapt to an English diet that in those times mostly consisted of eggs, salty bacon and fatty sausages, cereals, over boiled vegetables, mashed potatoes, baked beans and a few other exotic things not indigenous to Britain such as curry, stir fried Chinese rice and tinned spaghetti bits.
To water down their food they drunk cups of sugared milky tea, pints of warm reddish beer or cider in pubs that rarely served food worth writing home about.
They had wine too but the good ones that were French and expensive were only available in posh hotels and restaurants while pubs and off licences sold only a few cheap foreign plonks that most people rarely bought or drunk.
Since then due to the influx of immigrants from all over the world that opened eating places serving the cuisines of their countries, the food scene of the city has gradually changed to the point that nowadays the British media keeps trumpeting to the four winds that London is the food capital of the world.
But is it as they say? In this site I will sometimes explore the validity of such self appointed culinary grand title.