Every January, we food writers get all Nostradamus about noodles as we attempt to predict which hot new chefs, ingredients and cuisines will define how we eat in 2019. But this got me thinking: we talk a lot about food must-dos each Jan, far less about food must-don’ts. Why? Surely they are just as important? In that spirit, here are 10 frequently awful food experiences, which I am determined to avoid this year. Join me!
1. Hotel buffet breakfasts
Bad food does not in itself make me angry if it’s cheap and honest about its functionality. Being treated like an idiot, however, really boils my potatoes. Despite their belly-busting vastness, 97.6% of hotel buffet breakfasts (just £13.99pp!) contain nothing you actively want to eat – unless you have a thing for stale pastries and bacon congealing under hot lamps. You pig out because you paid. But do you enjoy it? God, no!
2. Pretentious pub snacks
Wasabi peas, chilli-lime edamame, chipotle-smoked almonds? In their upfront, in-yer-face flavours, none of these make sense with a pint.
From supermarket aisles to artisan bakeries, doughnuts are a deep-fried slough of despond. Repeat after me: they are not worth the calories.
4. Vegan trash
Curiosity is a killer for this cat. I keep trying vegan fast food in the vain hope that, suddenly, I’ll get all this fuss about pulled jackfruit or seitan ‘cheez’ burgers. But, no. It is a shadow of the carnivorous version. You want to eat meat-free like a king? Gujarati, Keralan or Levantine food is the future.
5. Uptight dining
In 2019, there is no reason to endure one of those meals – eight staff per-table; hushed reverence; whispered instructions – which are about as relaxing as a police interrogation. My pet hate? Staff refilling your wine glass every two sips. This constant interruption is blatant upselling. Drink up! Order another bottle!
6. New England IPAs
Momentarily, these murky juice-bombs were a welcome alternative, but now? They’re anodyne, and everywhere. Stridently bitter IPAs are becoming an anomaly. Beer needs to bring the bitter back.
7. Health fads
Over several millennia, humans have perfected certain foods. That is why, to maintain my mental wellbeing, I intend to swerve any products – no-carb pizzas; low-calorie desserts – putting a healthy twist on already great foods. I’d rather die early.
8. Motorway service stations
Forget the romance of travel. In Britain (see also airports, train stations), moving from A to B is seen as an opportunity for big business to force remorselessly dreary food on its captive audience. Rare exceptions are independently-owned Tebay and its stellar sister site, Gloucester, but, generally, I would detour 40 miles to avoid our services.
9. The full English
This blow-out leaves me bloated, tired and full of regret at not choosing the shakshuka or myriad lighter items that would set me up for the day ahead. It’s not you, fried breakfast, it’s me. Or is it a generational shift in how we eat?
10. Mainstream caffeine
You may scoff at ‘hipster’ coffee shops. But have you tasted a flat white anywhere else recently? Serious coffee is now supposedly in its ‘fifth wave’, yet the average flat white served in a British café is a travesty: a bland mug of meh! In 2019, I am solely drinking coffee made by people with too many tattoos and a nerdy interest in nitro cold brew.
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Do you have any big foodie don'ts this year? Leave a comment below...
Tony Naylor writes for Restaurant magazine and The Guardian