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YYY: Stork tongues and Smurf ice cream: simply playing with food

Stork tongues and Smurf ice cream: simply playing with food

 Strassenkreuzer (Germany) 13 May 2019

(Originally published: 05/2010) Ancient Roman feasts have already shown how very fed up of their culture they were. Menus have changed somewhat since then. Today menus are on their way to overtaking the Romans with a full stomach with animal meal given to cows, grinning slices of sausage and Coffee2go. Ulrike Löw takes a look at the ever-changing face of food. (832 words) - By Ulrike Löw

Ancient Roman feasts have already shown how very fed up of their culture they were. Menus have changed somewhat since then. Today menus are on their way to overtaking the Romans with a full stomach with animal meal given to cows, grinning slices of sausage and Coffee2go.

From when I was still a child in the 70s to this present day, I've never eaten alone. I used to sit with my little sister before school with a sandwich in front of me. At 6 o'clock on the dot we had our evening meal. After school our mother would join us for lunch. When she'd leave us on our own, which was rare, we'd tie bath towels around our shoulders and dine lying down. "Playing Romans" was what we used to call it - if we got caught, mother would scold us while scaring us with pictures of hungry children in Africa and forbade us to play with our food - it was practically the beginning of the end.

It has been almost 40 years since then, by now good bakers and butchers are trading like insider's tips, and there is one cheap discount store on every corner. Once upon a time a vegetarian was an exotic case, today we make small talk about vegans, food combinations and raw fruit and vegetables, and we talk about the Atkins diet or the cabbage soup diet. Normal eating hasn't been about for a long time. At the same time more and more people are searching through the rubbish bins not just for the deposit on returnable bottles, but also for leftovers from other people's kitchens.

This summer I visited the decadent Romans, or rather what was left of them in Pompeii, the city which was destroyed by falling ash from the erupting volcano Vesuvius, around the year 79 AD. At the historical site, many frescoes have been preserved and the ancient Roman graffiti shows interest in eating. World domination gave them plenty of gold washed into their coffees, according to the decadently designed menu: Flamingo goulash and Stork tongues, followed by a ragout of nightingale liver. It has been a historical fact for almost 2000 years that playing with food in Pompeii's case was the beginning of the end.

Nevertheless, nowadays food is being played around with again: children get slices of sausage with smirking faces on them pasted on to breakfast rolls and there's blue Smurf ice cream to eat. But if they go to school and paint purple cows and yellow ducks, behaviourists' alarms start to sound. But just what can you expect in a world where animal feed is fed to vegetarian ruminant animals. In the supermarket you can buy milk with a fat content of an unbelievable zero percent, which has had a lot of artificial vitamin A put in. There are boiled potatoes already sliced in glass jars, wholemeal bread as smooth as pink marshmallows and diet cola apparently covers my daily requirement of vitamin C. Are people who prefer peeling oranges freaks?

The question isn't absurd at all. Nowadays if you order at the meat and meat counter, you're asked whether it is for the dog, and consequently liver, kidney, heart and brain are the latest to be considered as some kind of "yuk" since the BSE crisis. Though the fillet of beef doesn't run alone around the pasture.

So where is the industry supposed to go then, with all the stuff nobody likes, despite continuous cooking on TV, and probably soon, nobody is able to prepare anymore? Efficient as the industry is, it has developed a solution: using transglutaminase, making juicy ham from this enzyme and a few bits of residual meat. It's only funny that top chefs like it too - a star in molecular gastronomy doesn't at all recommend sticking an all-purpose adhesive enzyme to small trout fillets to make them bigger. Too bad that the ancient Romans didn't know that yet, they could have made larger and smoother peacock tongue rolls. But 2000 years of developing history has left its mark, we learned a lot but it is true that in parts of Africa many are still starving, according to UNICEF, one billion people have no access to fresh drinking water - but we don't exploit slaves anymore unlike the Romans. We have machines and unemployed people, burnout and employment measures for people from the so-called second or third job market. The word "coffee morning" is synonymous with siding, for the modern person chooses "Coffee2Go". The rarely stupid Anglicism means "coffee to take away" and you can easily burn your lips and fingers. Especially when you're balancing it on the train or on the subway; while blathering into your mobile phone and have to watch out spilling it all over your dress or suit. So it is much more fun to play Romans with a bath towel around your neck and lying down to eat in the afternoon.

Ulrike Löw is the editor for Nürnberger Nachrichten


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