Wishbone in Brixton has recently opened; another notch in the bedpost of the gourmet fast food trend that has become so prevalent in the last two or three years. They serve fried chicken and drinks, and pretty much nothing else and I suppose I am rather grudgingly looking forward to trying it.
I come from the nation of fast food. I grew up with it everywhere. I was lucky enough to have parents who chose to feed me properly instead of using burgers and fried chicken as quick and easy meals. And frankly one of the great things, or so I thought, about living in the UK was the sort of middle class British mindset that fast food was not considered really that acceptable. Or at least, it was treated as a bit of a guilt-laden treat, which you ate when you were so hungover that you needed fat, stodge, salt and Coke to bring you back to a semi-normal state. Kebabs and chicken burgers were usually reserved for late nights, when you were so pissed and hungry that there was nothing that could or would hit the spot, and any regrets were saved for the morning.
But somewhere along the way, there became a difference between the dirty burger and Dirty Burger. Now it almost seems that gourmet cheeseburgers, fried chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, mac ‘n’ cheese, and burritos the size of a small cat are now deemed acceptable and cool, when in reality, they are the same heart-attack inducing, cholesterol-inflating food that has made my homeland synonymous with obesity, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease.
We eat at the Rita’s, the Lucky Chips, the Meat Liquors and we think, “sure, it’s not good for me, but hey, it’s just this once, so it’s probably fine.” But it’s not. The overriding popularity of this kind of food will one day make it part of our vernacular. Those in the know treat this type of dining as interesting and trendy, until it becomes mainstream, when it will then be deemed uncool and the very same food bloggers and elitists will turn to yet another food craze to fawn over. But the damage has been done. The average punters will jump on the bandwagon and assume this type of eating is decent dining. It will trickle down through the masses and “gourmet” fast food will expand into the day-to-day.
Brillat-Savarin famously said, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Looking at the offerings of late in this genre of cooking suggests an indiscriminate obviousness and a strange desire to enjoy American foods that for years have been taken for granted as uncouth. This food tastes good; of course it does. Anything deep-fried or smothered in cheese is going to taste good and it doesn’t matter if you tart it up with free-range chicken and organic beef either. It is still the culinary equivalent of a one-night stand. Eating such clichéd foods as these won’t make us any more ironically cool, it’ll just make us extraordinarily fat, and no free-range, deep fried chicken wing is going to change that. Ever.
Photo courtesy of Serious Eats