The arrogance of the food industry has been somewhat exposed in recent months. I have become frustrated with McDonald's ramming the ‘paper’ straw down my throat as they hand me two kilos of plastic in which to hold the Raspberry Ripple cooler. The straws, which must have taken all of two seconds to design, have now been outed as not being biodegradable after all (except when they have sat in the drink for more than 30 seconds) and they will be reverting to plastic anytime soon.

Likewise, and it is not nice to see any business fail, especially when jobs are at risk, Jamie Oliver has also come a cropper. As the Bono-esque crusader of the ‘foodie’ industry he has taken the Government to task over issues such as school dinners. He recently saw his 15 empire collapse. Although still suitably gilded, he should stand as a lesson to not shy too far away from the core product which, in Jamie’s case is cookbooks and TV shows, as he continues his never ending quest to look and sound like everybody’s favourite geezer.

Change in any business sector is inevitable and the dining industry is no different. At the risk of sounding like an old codger again, I remember travelling to little Porthleven, a village in Cornwall, 25 years ago and ordering ham, egg and chips for less than a couple of quid. Even back then us emmets or tourists weren’t hated as they are now. With a cheery greeting from a rosy-faced local, fresh off the boat as he girdled the stomach prior to downing a pint or 15, I was welcomed with open arms. Locals could afford housing and had jobs, a totally different situation to the one encountered now.

Forgetting how much things had changed, I planned on taking her indoors to Rick Stein's restaurant in the village recently. He is no doubt good at what he does but he, like numerous celebrity chefs, has lost the ability to call it as he sees it. The menus are littered with bluff and bluster as they attempt to confuse us into eating the emperor’s new clothes.

The menus are like a smartarse's vision of confusion. The starters alone mention tapenade, pirinaca salad and Abraham's Ceviche of bass and prawns. Even when he doesn’t go all linguistic with cod and chips he ruins it by mentioning ‘thick cut’ chips, which roughly equates to three chips constructed like Jenga in a metal mini bucket. Other dishes come embedded in banana leaves (does that really bring anything to the party except expense?) and, for only £13.95 you can devour some ‘charred broccoli’. As the world’s worst cook, even I am not tempted by that offering and wonder who in their right mind would pay for the dining equivalent of a day trip to Merthyr Tydfil.

Bored with this overpriced play on words, I left Mr Stein to continue his world culinary domination and looked elsewhere for some plain British grub. It was after the third restaurant that I realised that they are all at it, the change has happened, and I have been left floundering in the dust. For fried, it is now ‘pan seared’, and every dish is touted as ‘home made’ which leaves me wondering if they have the correct council licences for home kitchen food preparation. Peas are no longer peas but ‘garden peas’ and the starters are all served on a ‘bed of’ lettuce’. Bored with this folly, and with my wife wondering how on earth she had managed to bag this uncouth oik for life, I took her to KFC where the chicken was chicken, the fries were as stated, and we washed the meal down with a flagon of diet coke and a couple of the outstanding ‘crush ems’. Fast food, despite criticisms, is the last bastion of food sanity, and I doff my cap to Ronald and the Colonel for speaking plain English. I am becoming prepared for the inevitable however and expect change is a coming: ‘Can I have a pan seared breast of West Country free range Poussin on a bed of lettuce drizzled with hollandaise sauce please squire?’ ‘Oh, and add a basket of hand cut triple fried pommes frites, there’s a love’. Until that time my waistline will go up as my view of the food industry in its current guise festers, and I am left yearning for some fatty ham and a fried egg scampering around a plate on a bed of pan seared cooking oil.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher