4 May 2009

Defining Good Taste

I RETURNED full and sleepy following a long day playing judge for the Great Taste Awards. Taking place at Olympia’s Pillar Hall, which has plaster like icing, my role involved appraising all manner of foods free from their packaging. Working in one of 11 small ‘juries’ we considered each comestible innocent until proven guilty, deducting points for major and minor crimes against flavour as dispassionately as possible.
Introducing day one, Bob Farrand, Director of the Guild of Fine Food advised “those who might find it difficult to be anything but negative” to be tactful when penning comments (which the producer sees). For example, “ease back on the salt” is more helpful than “rethink recipe”. We “held power” because “top awards have revolutionised small family businesses.” Apparently some producers are so nurturing of their offerings, that “they walked them to the table” that morning.
The first of two sessions started badly. Although the majority of our group considered greaseless black pepper crisps with gently rising ginger moreish enough to be whisked to the supreme judges for a second assessment, a charming but Titanium-willed old hand at judging disagreed. Amongst other items to pass muster at the analytical feast: enchanting tangerine marmalade, an Old Spot pork pie which even exceeded the promise of its ample proportions, and pristine peanut butter ice cream. I yearn to know who made that halva-textured magnificence. Within the mercifully few failures: an appalling taramasalata which had the texture of setting latex, a dried-out, nicotine coloured insole like smoked haddock unpeeled from its plastic sarcophagus, and a drippy korma sauce.
I met some very interesting characters along the way, including Delia Smith’s online editor who was accosted by a deli owner regarding the ‘How to Cheat at Cooking’ furore, a highly talented food stylist, the Director of a confectionary charity and a national restaurant critic who gave me confidence to thieve a chunk of panettone from a neighbouring table. It efficiently cleansed away the occasional bad tastes.
I will keep you up-to-date with the winners when they are eventually simmered free from the wares of over 1,000 producers...

FURTHER LINK: My interview with Bob Farrand (January)

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