The English Food Movement
This isn’t just a fad or an east-London oddity, but a real movement of real English food. The simplicity of the decor, the menu and the message is indicative of the sense of purpose and the heritage of this food. It takes its style not from country hotels, old gentlemen’s clubs or grand plutocrats’ dining rooms, but from pubs and caffs of the sort that is disappearing, and the rural, bottom-up element comes from the organic and green movements, the hundreds of slightly loopy hippies in Peruvian hats and cut-down wellies making ewe’s cheese from sheep with names, breeding malevolent chickens, picking mushrooms under a full moon and driving chip-fat-burning 2CVs to farmers’ markets.
Now, I have issues with all of those things, but together they have produced the muddy ingredients and the imperative for a coherent national grub. And what I particularly like about it is that it reflects a lot of particularly English qualities that have got lost or dumped or sneered at in much of contemporary culture. Taciturn directness, thoughtfulness, a pleasure in craft, a mistrust of art, a joy in small things and details, a belief in the quality of sturdy things, openness, honesty and blushing. This is Leveller food, nonconformist, with a touch of piety and a subtle, ironic humour.