This is going to be a tricky thing to critique because I love eating and I love Melbourne. I lived in the cbd for five years from my late teens to my early twenties and right during the revived bar culture. So I remember when the city was still a pretty sleepy place on a weeknight and now even on a Monday you can find people out puking on the street.
The way café’s get written about these days makes me feel like a tourist in my own town. By which I mean, there’s so much supposedly to see and do and you feel the need to take a photo everywhere you go. Not that there isn’t anything to see, I mean it’s a pretty exciting time to have a disposable income in Melbourne. There’s about a hundred new frozen yoghurt stores all of a sudden. I don’t know which one came first. I just know that some offer muesli and dried fruit mix to sprinkle on top. Which is always the funny thing about fads, they’re actually kind of gross and no one is saying anything because they’re too busy #omgsogood #foodporn #melbournesummer. You get the idea. I’m a little concerned though, because #melbournesummer is over, so what are the frozen yoghurt places going to turn into…
Maybe I missed the memo, but when did we decide that this was what we wanted to eat? Are we even hungry anymore or did the excitement and satisfaction of getting 20+ likes on instagram replace that feeling? I am totally all for over-indulgence, like eating dessert before dinner and definitely all about a big bowl of pasta but I draw the line at fake hyped food. Especially if it requires waiting more than 20 minutes for your name to be called out, and don’t get me started on Asian/western fusion foods that really just mean some baguette comes with a big dollop of Japanese mayo. I’m not even a penny pincher, I will happily pay for a delicious meal, I just hate tasteless food and I’m getting pretty hangry*.
I’m especially upset because Melbourne can feel like a treasure trove of a city, but bland food in equally bland décor is making it starchy around the edges. As I’ve already mentioned, I came of age in this town, so I can I’ll tell you, the same places that are good have been standing for decades. For every Pellegrinis, Waiters Club, Supper Inn and Gaylords, there has always been a dozen about as agreeable as an Ikea catalogue that disappeared to no one’s notice. In the tradition of the English ‘greasy spoon’ I like a charming dive café with watery coffee to appreciate what’s good, but in modern Australia I fail to see how we could accept recent yuppie efforts as niche eating experiences because every new café is offering the same Eggs Florentine as the rest on the block.
Now I bring up ‘Modern Australia’ like it is its own micro-trend. It isn’t, what I’m really calling attention to is the abundance of great food that Melbourne has always been lucky to have. Almost every day I visit the Borek Bakehouse on Elizabeth street and the Lebanese girls that work there always greet me with a ‘Yes sweetie?’ and if you’re too slow to get your coins out they’ll give you eyes so sharp you’ll feel how much time they put into plucking their eyebrows. Likewise, how satisfying is going with friends to Little Africa on Victoria Street or another friend’s recent Pakistani restaurant find? Food is about bringing people together. In contrast, all the latest offerings, the ones you see written up in popular Melbourne cultural publications, cater to nothing we identify with and only what we think we should aspire to – smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce. Not to mention all the American culture appropriating that’s been going on since forever. I know burgers are delicious, but do you really need to instagram photos of burgers, buy jumpers screenprinted with burgers and generally give the impression you live to eat burgers because, I don’t know, that’s what people with ‘swag’ do or something. Come on! Do you still wear a baby pink USA jumper too?
I guess if you’re going be lining up for anything it may as well be food. It’s fuel for us human engines so really, what’s to worry in how it’s dressed up. Well, I am a little worried though. I’m worried not only about people buying mayo soaked cardboard from some food truck with generic font on it, but even more worried that they would actually confuse a new food trend as thinking they know what’s going on in their city. There’s got to be more to share and talk about yourself and I know that there’s way more interesting and beautiful things to go out and see. No one would probably like it on your instagram though.