How to Criticise?

Sometimes beans on toast are better!

I like to write restaurant reviews online. I do it because those reviews help me find good places to eat. And I feel like I ought to contribute to the pool of knowledge. My problem is that I’m reluctant to criticise. I’m especially reluctant to criticise a small business. I know how tough it can be to get a small business up & running. I know too that it’s been really tough for many small restaurants to survive covid restrictions. But, to be honest, some of them don’t deserve the reviews I give them!

I know, I know, that is not very helpful to the other readers. But I just can’t help it. When I hint that the food was mediocre, the service average, or the cleanliness just slightly lacking, I then compensate by enthusing about how great & nice the people were. Even if they weren’t! I’ll then tick 3 of 5 stars, because I just couldn’t force myself to give them the 2 that would have been generous.

Is this wrong?

It’s been really challenging to write good restaurant reviews in whatever phase of the pandemic we’re in at the moment. I don’t know what’s going on, but places that I used to like are now awful. Did they fire the old chef? Are they using last year’s oil? Are they buying cheap ingredients? It’s been so challenging to write good reviews, that I’m not writing any recently.

We’re all used to something advertised as “home cooked” being absolutely nothing like Mom used to make. But we’ve only got one Mom, so that’s understandable. But when something is advertised as bring authentically Irish, British, or whatever ethnic flavour is core to the business, then it should vaguely resemble that. Sometimes, it doesn’t. And when the owners are from that country, I feel even more cheated. I know they know better. Or maybe their Moms (or Dads!) were hopeless in the kitchen!

So here’s my dilemma … how do I warn the other Irish people out there that the Irish breakfast at this particular restaurant is about as Irish as flambéd alligator ice-cream? That the other place is about as British as Timbuktu? But without beating up on some small business owner, who may be struggling to pay his kids tuition through school. Or she is trying to keep the place afloat because her partner is sick. I worry that my criticism will add to the burden of their backstory.

But if I don’t offer criticism, how can I help the small businesses owner who genuinely wants the feedback, so they can improve?

I’ve built a list of new restaurants that I want to visit. I’m hoping there will be some good ones that will free me to wax lyrically about how great they are. Fingers crossed! 🤞🏻

Despite all the very mediocre food I am being served, I’m still tucking it away. So, no, I’m not losing any weight either. Maybe those people are serving me this stuff because they see that I need the help! 😜

Anyone got any idea how to best provide feedback? Without being too hurtful!

Bubble ‘n’ Squeak

Bubble ‘n’ SqueakBubble n Squeak

Bubble ‘n’ Squeak might be familiar to anyone with a connection to the British Isles. In our house, it is very much a part of our Christmas tradition. It is a pan-fried collection of Christmas dinner leftovers. And we very deliberately cook Christmas dinner to excess, with a view to eating bubble ‘n’ squeak for several meals afterwards!

We start out by adding diced turkey and ham to a pan swimming with your fat of choice. Though butter is highly recommenced! Adding the Christmas veggies next, Brussels sprouts and carrots are among my favorites, starts the whole bubbling and squeaking symphony that gives the dish its name. Chop up some leftover roast potatoes, and in they go. Next it’s the mashed potatoes, to glue the whole mix together. These should have been mashed with ludicrous amounts of butter and heavy cream! When the first evidence of pan singeing appears on the potatoes, turn the mess over to brown the other side. Now add heapings of stuffing on the already-browned side. Next comes a strained jar of sour pickled onions. And finally, just before serving, add a big splodge of Christmas gravy, and blend.

If you haven’t had bubble ‘n’ squeak before, it probably sounds disgusting. Trust me, it’s not! Indeed, we have an annual debate about which meal was better … Christmas dinner on Christmas Day, or the first Bubble ‘n’ Squeak meal on Boxing Day. Or St. Stephen’s Day if you prefer.

We went out for Christmas dinner this year. But we cooked a full Christmas dinner on Boxing Day anyway. Just so we could have bubble ‘n’ squeak. No kidding, we didn’t eat the food when it was hot and freshly cooked, we just tossed it into the fridge so we could make bubble ‘n’ squeak later.

I’m really not sure what this all says about my weight problem! LOL

The bottom line is that we need a diet that tolerates occasional bouts of delicious insanity. And what better time is there to go nuts than Christmas. Just now isn’t the right time for me to discuss the impact of all this on the bathroom scale. We’ll get back to worrying about all that nonsense in the new year!

Whatever your traditions, I hope you are enjoying them to the fullest this holiday season. And if you have any good recipes or food traditions to share, please do. I love to learn about new cuisines and cultures. And I’m an equal opportunities eater! 🙂

PS … Next time, I must remember to tell you what those closest to me think appropriate as Christmas gifts for a fat guy trying to lose weight! And no, it’s not socks!