“… there is nothing either good or
bad, but thinking makes it so”
I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in nominating this observation, penned by Shakespeare for his character Hamlet, for a top ten list of the world’s most succinct bits of wisdom. It is valid in every field coloured by subjective opinion, which means it applies to everything from music to sport and politics.
My immediate interest in the phrase is its application to food, an area at the vortex of subjectivity; a subjectivity made all the more dangerous by the fact that few people reference their culinary opinions with an acknowledgement that, at the end of the day, it is seldom more than opinion. And, those likes/dislikes are often based upon deeply hidden psychology.
The world of food has thousands of potential examples, from the texture of mashed potato, to rare beef, to raisins in muesli. You name it: out there is someone who hates what you love, and vice versa.
Even within a loved food group there are items with greater status. Hence, beef fillet is premium when compared with brisket, and cod is more highly valued than most other fish. About this I don’t have a great argument, but I do think it’s unfair to dismiss something because it isn’t at a premium in its group.
Take hake, a low-priced, widely available fish in South Africa. Spaniards value it sufficiently to pay the cost of air freight required to get it to Spain, but in its country of origin higher-end restaurants dare not put it on their menus because of its association with cheap fish and chips.
Fresh hake is delicious, and it doesn’t take complicated preparation. Simply brush the flesh side with some tarragon butter and pop it into the oven for five to ten minutes. Its white flesh has a mild flavour and shouldn’t have any bones if it’s been well filleted.