With aggressive cult-like social media campaigns all the rage, a bit of old-school British hospitality is more welcome than ever, writes Alessandro Tomé
Much has changed in this country since it first welcomed me – even if I now suspect that welcome might have already been somewhat reluctant. I have seen it live through many travails and traumas. I have seen it guided by women with vision and men without. I have seen it shaken to its core by the convulsions of New Labour’s drive towards the lowest common denominator.
I had thought that what made Britain so unique, original, characterful and exciting was being politically razed to the ground. The European project became a good proxy for the deep-rooted unease that these self-inflicted mutilations of idiosyncratic Britishness have engendered across the mainly older and traditional portion of the electorate. However, I was recently reminded that the Britain I fell in love with is still alive and well.
As I sat for dinner in an elegant if (in estate agent speak) ‘needing loving update’ house, I beamed in true joy at Angel Wife and I being the only foreigners there. At feeling a little awkward about it, as if we were there for entertainment purposes, exotic animals of sorts. At being told off for speaking to my left when I was meant to start to my right, and then for daring to talk across the table by the time the cheese arrived at the end of the carnivorous simplicity of the oddly refined food.
I was back in British heaven from 30 years ago. Uncomfortable, odd and weird as it was then, I was loving it now. Ah yes, the food. I said ‘oddly’ refined because in this dinner context, refinement is not a natural bedfellow to food. But there was finally something my left-side neighbour gave foreigners a little credit for.
After a fair amount of ear-bashing over why she voted L (I think, just as for cars, people who voted L should be considered ‘Learning’ voters and only be allowed to vote under younger supervision in this case!), there was the reluctant admission that Euros had helped the food scene somewhat. Here again I do worry a little about the ugly head of egalitarians rearing itself on a new crusade – our food. They are always on the lookout for a new ‘poster’ theme to meddle and bully.
Find a small group of people with a different habit or view and whip them into a digital social frenzy aimed at the vast majority who don’t share it under the premise of oppression or discrimination. Food seems to be their current ‘thing’ and vegans have been picked out. They were happily getting along with their animal-free lives until others decided to fight a fight they didn’t have.
I have friend whose husband recently turned vegan out of the blue. Whenever we have dinner there, he does get ribbed – maybe also because he has got fatter, which everyone finds somewhat humorous, even himself. And maybe because he drinks wine, which, except for rare bottles, is not strictly vegan. Or because the kitchen is clearly contaminated with animal proteins. None of it a problem for him, me or any of their other friends. However, we can’t go to most great restaurants, and even cooking at home is a bore for me.
As a result, we probably don’t see them as much as we used to. But it is his choice. And that shouldn’t affect mine. And this is where the egalitarians jump in. They try to make this a cult-like campaign for the protection and promotion of oppressed vegans. Why should all restaurants have vegan options?
Market forces will make this happen if the demand continues to grow naturally. I say, let them eat veg and let us eat what we like without guilt, in old loved homes, talking left and right when told, in this wonderfully different country of yours.