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Annoying Archetypes: The Hipster Cook

15/09/2017 09:22

You've probably met this person, possibly even before Hipsterism was a thing. Here's what happens, and why it's annoying.

You're invited out to dinner with a friend at the home of this person, about whom your friend is reluctant to say too much; his name will be Django or Salinger or Tarquin or something along those lines; there will be a heavy duty check shirt, big beard and unneeded eccentric spectacles - the first clues as to what you're in for.

The evening starts rather well. Django/ Salinger/ Tarquin serves up some very nice cocktails, which include ingredients you definitely don't recognise. The conversation is lively and sophisticated, though somewhat weird.

As the evening unfolds you are served a fine though mysterious aperitif, followed by an excellent wine you've never heard of, and an elaborate meal that is actually rather good - though once again you can't quite pin down anything at all that's in it.

Innocently, you pass favourable comment on the food. "That's really rather nice, Django/ Salinger/ Tarquin" you say, whereupon D/S/T launches into an irrepressible monologue along the following lines.....

"Oh well you know it's an incredibly simple dish, I threw it together really. You just marinade a dozen Javier pimentos for twenty-four hours in some good quality Lombardy balsamic vinegar with three very ripe Trinidad guavas, seeds taken out of course, then you add half a poussin a la Dieppoise, make sure it's the kind that's been raised in Provence on organic Zechuan maize kernals, meanwhile flambé a couple of quail bottoms - any kind will do - in a good 1973 muscadet brandy and simmer the residue from this down to a quarter teaspoon of juice; then all you have to do is add the entrails of five North Sea spotted squid and a loin of greyneck woodmouse which you've previously blackened in absinthe and lighter fuel, before placing the whole lot together in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 0.1, for about say nine hours, then simply serve up with a garnish of Mesopotamian radishes pickled underground in an earthenware kim chi jar - I grow those myself but you can get them in any good greengrocer these days - blended with finely pulverised Tibetan chia seeds in non-animal rennet, and serve with an amuse-bouche of gluten-free amaranth rissoles in fermented Mongolian mare's milk and scrambled Arctic Tern eggs - my poulterer gets them from the Azores and they really are the best - plus a couple of lardons of lamprey and three or four acidulated Hunza cherries with wild pak choi. There's nothing to it, anyone could do it." I may be exaggerating a little - but you get the idea. No-one else passed comment on Django/ Salinger/ Tarquin's food; now you know why.

This annoying archetype is arrogant-and-self-promoting in the guise of humble-and-self-effacing; needless to say, the self-deprecation doesn't fool anyone. D/S/T is a provenance fanatic gone mad. He is, as you might say, artesanally retentive. He knows very well that 'anyone' couldn't do what he's just done.

The sub-text, the hidden agenda, what he's really saying is: "I am such a fantastic cook that I think nothing of doing this incredibly elaborate stuff, of going to all this trouble, even for people as unworthy as you. But of course I'm far too modest to say so."

"What I've served up this evening is simple" he is implying, "It's elementary, by my very high standards - nothing compared with the advanced stuff. You should see the dishes I can do that are really challenging" he infers - the sting in the tail being: "...when I have a quality of guest that would properly justify the extra effort." What he is really saying is, I am amazing, and you are honoured to be here to appreciate my amazingness."

Once the diatribe has started, it's impossible to extricate oneself form the Hipster Cook's one-way conversational grip. There are no gaps for interjection or contribution from anyone else; it all sounds worryingly well-rehearsed, and you guess that many others have been subjected to it before you. You just have to see it through to the bitter end.

The odd thing is that the food was actually very good. If he hadn't gone on about it so much, it could have been a terrific evening. But now it's ruined. And that's what's so annoying.

Just remember not to go again. Or call your children Django, Salinger or Tarquin.

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