James and I went to Mooli’s again after work this week.
Firstly, Mooli’s is amazing. Go there often. The staff are friendly, the food is awesome, they serve Crabbie’s… it’s all good.
As we sat in silence (stuffing our fucking faces), my mind wandered to the significance of the food I was eating. James is lucky I’m such a greedy bastard. This is the bleeding edge of food cool right now. The bleeding edge in the restaurant capital of the world. Trains of thought such as these belong in blog posts, not dinner chat.
Besides, he was telling me… something… about his day. (My mind was elsewhere.)
Secondly, the reviews -including ones from Qype!- that are stickered to the door of Mooli’s make numerous references to the menu being “Indian street food”.
Which of course reminds me of my gone-downhill-a-bit-but-still-2010′s-winner Covent Garden restaurant, Dishoom. It’s apparently influenced by “Bombay cafes of old”. Again, with street food and freshly made roti and such.
Even the phraseology is telling. It’s Mumbai. Bombay is what the Raj called it because they couldn’t be bothered with correct pronunciation. Check out their Chowpatty beach pop-up. Whilst it’s certainly fun thing to do at Southbank, it’s also tellingly orientalist.
Like the language and iconography of Dishoom, it hearkens back to an India that doesn’t exist. And by extension, it hearkens back to an empire that no longer exists.
This is to be expected. In fashion there is currently a terrifying trend toward class-worship with high street retailers peddling facsimile ‘Edwardian Gentleman’ clothing at prices that plebs like us can (almost) afford. We’re literally back to the days of aping what we think our betters are wearing.
Pimm’s is popular again. Hipsters play croquet. And the gap between the rich and the poor is almost back to Victorian levels.
Based on a recommendation from a fabulous new work colleague, I went along for a drink to a bar/hotel decked out like an Edwardian gentlemens club. And it’s fantastic. I’m taking friends there this week.
But it’s also somehow vaguely menacing given the economic backdrop.
As I positively devour my mooli and extra roti, all these pieces start to look vaguely familiar. This is a recognisable historical pattern. It happened with the fall of Rome, it happened in pre-revolutionary France, it even happened in the 80s:
Cultural Indicators Of Severe Socieconomic Disruption
- A rose-tinted view of the past. Which we can see in food, fashion and TV trends.
- The growing popularity of occultism and fringe supernatural beliefs. The Great War gave Britain Spiritualism. Now we have girls fantasising about vampires, a persistently popular belief in wishing, Faust as an opera and even the great man himself, Elizabeth I’s personal sorcerer, Dr John Dee appearing on stage soon. (Cannot wait for that one.)
- An increase in decadence from the very top of society. Granted it’s always going to be difficult to separate the decadence of the super-rich from London’s traditional “background decadence” -something we all love- but the top 1% are now permanently separating themselves in fortresses all around the world.This kind of behaviour is extremely disruptive.
Does the title of this post refer to a genuine believe-it-in-the-American-sense apocalypse?
No, of course not. But I took my cultural history classes at the top of the first dot com boom. Things were amazing for everyone. Income gaps were closing, unemployment was low. In the same way that you can never see an apocalypse before it happens, you never notice a golden age when you’re in one.
We were learning about secret “endangered species tasting evenings” in New York during the 80s. The very notion appalled us. How could people behave like that?
Because, it turns out, that the commonest reaction to fear of death, fear of things ending is to party. Hard.
Here is how food trends can predict the apocalypse. Because they recall the folk meaning of Carnival.
Carne vale. Farewell to the flesh.