Back in the UK in the eighties, things were a bit better, but not much. Vegetarianism was rarer then than now, and many restaurants simply didn’t serve vegetarian dishes. I ate out quite a bit for work in those days, and my decision to continue eating fish was largely down to the fact that it just made life a lot easier. These days menus tend on the whole to be more varied, which is a good thing, but it does bring me to the foodstuff which gave this piece its title: bloody goat’s cheese.
Ah, yes, goat’s cheese. In cuisine, as in anything else, there are trends and fashions. Mainstream cuisine was recently all excited about za’atar; today it’s chimichurri. In mainstream cheffy circles, by which I mean people cooking in independent local restaurants (and, of course, those who create dishes at Brakes Foods, hem hem) about ten years ago a new pretender to the ingredient crown burst upon the scene in the form of goat’s cheese. For a while it was barely possible to open a menu without being assaulted by a warm goat’s cheese salad or a goat’s cheese and red pepper tartlet, or possibly grilled goat’s cheese with roast cherry tomatoes, or a goat’s cheese and red onion pizza. Fortunately cookery moved on, possibly in the direction of offal, and goat’s cheese became just another ingredient, except in one place.
Yes, the non-meat corner of the menu! Chefs had discovered that sticking a bit of goat’s cheese on it is an excellent way to add a layer of faux sophistication to an otherwise fairly ordinary and cheap dish, and they stuck to it with commendable determination. Ten years later goat’s cheese is still a staple of the non-meat portion of modern British cuisine. Two or three years ago it gained a new best friend – step forward, butternut squash, another ingredient which is excitingly cheap and adaptable!!
Now menus that don’t feature goat’s cheese feature butternut squash: butternut squash risotto, butternut squash ravioli, butternut squash curry, butternut squash soup, roasted butternut squash, roasted butternut squash with warmed goat’s cheese, god save us. I don’t really mind either goat’s cheese or butternut squash, but I wish they weren’t quite so ubiquitous. It’s rather as though the fashion industry had decided in 2005 that people who took a size fourteen trouser no longer needed a fashion choice and henceforward would wear nothing but Juicy Couture sweatpants. Lovely Juicy Couture sweatpants in a wide choice of colours admittedly, but still nothing but sweat pants. After a while it’s jolly nice to discover a shop which will sell you a well-fitting pair of jeans.