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Cake connoisseurs in Borough Market, London (credit: DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0)

An email dropped into my inbox recently informing me that we were   about to enter London Restaurant Fortnight, and promoting all sorts of inducements and cut-price offers to sample the very best that the capital's restaurants have to offer. On paper I suppose I am the market for such offers-middle-aged, professional, of a broadly metropolitan hue — but the truth is they have as much appeal to me as those Exciting Opportunities to win World Cup tickets or front row Wimbledon seats, i.e. none. For I am simply not interested enough in food, and these days that puts you right outside one of the cultural mainstreams of London life.

Part of this is a personal idiosyncrasy: a particularly nasty bout of childhood chicken pox left me with no sense of smell, certainly a handicap in cuisine appreciation. I would never make a wine connoisseur. But it's more than just this. I have an aversion to the way in which restaurants define what passes for the Good Life in the capital, with eating out now the chief cultural activity, and the extraordinary way in which food generally has become the big indicator — of class, good political character and one's overall worthwhileness as a human being.

These days you are what you eat — just not in any medical sense. You might go down to Borough Market at London Bridge and "source" your weekly shopping from the organic extravaganza, while feeling as smugly righteous and above the fray as any cyclist whizzing through stationary traffic. Your coffee-chain latte is tailored to your particular needs because, on life's menu, you are one of today's specials. Your oh-so-tired disdain for McDonald's is most likely a cover for your disdain for the people who eat there. Your stated interest in eating out is now a routine way of showing a potential love/sex interest that you are an adventurous spirit who values "learning about different cultures". And you might turn your nose up at puddings, pies and Scotch eggs as being hopelessly provincial — unless of course you work in the media and are enjoying them ironically.

Whatever you do, you're saying something about who and what you are. And of course, it is the culinary, rather than the personal, that is now political. I have had whole conversations where the pros and cons of multiculturalism and mass immigration are discussed purely, and seriously, in terms of the different foods now on offer in London. Less well-endowed towns are seen as seriously defective, in some way left behind.   

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