British readers I am sure will be sick of reading about how Hilary Mantel’s essay for the London Review of Books was sensationalised by the Daily Mail and misconstrued as an attack upon our Kate. I don’t want to add to the thousands of words written about this subject. Actually that’s not true, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. A similar thing happened to a friend of mine though David Cameron and Ed Miliband didn’t feel the need to comment. Seb Emina, author of the Breakfast Bible, was on the Today program in January saying that we should take half an hour out each day to enjoy a proper breakfast. He also said in passing that breakfast is a meal where one shouldn’t feel the need to chat. It’s quite acceptable to have breakfast in silence. Not exactly controversial stuff but the next day on the front cover of the Daily Telegraph was the story that we must eat breakfast in silence according to a breakfast expert. The following day a writer for the Guardian weighed, how dare Seb Emina tell us to eat our breakfast in silence. Things got even sillier when the Toronto Globe & Mail sniffed a story and chimed in with their two Canadian cents. All great fun but not much use to those who read papers for accurate news stories.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote something about how over-specific food and wine matching suggestions take the fun out of wine. It wasn’t a polemical article. I wrote it on a whim after reading some pretentious suggestions. On another day I might have written something mocking over-vague suggestions, good with food, good with friends etc. It seemed to get people going though with even the Telegraph’s wine writer, Victoria Moore, commenting. Now Victoria Moore has written an article on just this subject:
“Among wine nerds there is a great deal of disdain for this sort of thing, which they call “pairing”. This is principally because they have not grasped that food suggestions are just that, suggestions, as in a recipe book when a cook helpfully says that such and such a dish is especially delicious with the parsnip and rosemary purée on another page.”
The truth, in my experience, is exactly the opposite: it’s the ‘wine nerds’ (not a term I like but I’m using it as Victoria Moore did to mean people who are over-obsessive about wine) who fetishise the perfect match and as a long-term reader and admirer of Victoria Moore’s columns, I know that she is no stranger to the word ‘pairing.’ Of course, I am aware that they are just suggestions, what else could they be? Mandates?
There’s a very good analysis by Sam Leith in the Guardian of how the press reduce, simplify and deliberately misunderstand things that writers say to make a story:
“Tabloid papers – actually, all papers if we’re honest – deal in templates and received ideas: in pretty princesses, snooty highbrow authors, smirking fiends and tragic tots.”
One could add wine nerds, lips curled with disdain, to that list. These faux-debates are all great fun and certainly liven up potentially boring topics such as breakfast and wine but I wonder if readers realise quite how manufactured they are. In my case, it doesn’t really matter. I’m actually rather pleased to have inspired a column in a national newspaper and at least I didn’t inadvertently upset the Duchess of Cambridge.
I’m a contributor to The Breakfast Bible.