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Too much sweet and savoury

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Last modified on: November 3rd 2011

Too much sweet and savoury

There is a food trend which is creeping in everywhere in France right now: mixing sweet with savoury. In some restaurants, it is becoming difficult to order a classic dish, like “roast veal” for instance, without being served fruits in the garnish or honey/conserves/syrup in the sauce or cooked into the dish, or even both.

Alright, I admit I'm at a disadvantage here, as I really don't like this sweet-savoury combination: I detest fruit in a main course dish, and I can't stand anything sweet to accompany meat or fish. When I was little, I found rabbit with prunes or black pudding with apple a real ordeal, which I still shudder to remember!

So, of course, with that mind-set, it's almost impossible for me to appreciate the roast veal I mentioned earlier if I find the sauce has been made with honey or that it is garnished with pineapple, however pretty it looks with the accompanying vegetables.

Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not just stubbornly clinging to childhood memories; I do try things again from time to time, but to no avail: it's just not for me.

But it's not really the sweet+savoury combination itself which bothers me, it is more the fact that it has found its way onto every menu and into every sauce – well, almost. This seems to be a relatively recent trend in France, and it is taking over from our straight savoury+savoury tradition. Just where does this fashion come from: is it a foreign idea, a chef-induced madness, or something else?

Allow me to offer my own explanation, beginning with a quotation from Alain Dutournier (the great chef), who once said. “In cooking, everything has already been invented; all we do is adapt.” This is undoubtedly a bit hard, but it is at least partly true and I feel this lies at the root of the problem: as roast veal (yes, that again) is not a very original dish, the chef feel obliged to add a personal touch in attempt to distinguish himself. The easiest way is to add some unusual ingredient, so here we go with all those fruits and sweet things which are (alas!) too much of a contrast with the meat.

And that is how so many perfectly good dishes, which would be delicious even if not at all innovative, end up being “dressed up” in a sweet-savoury version to look like something fresh.

This fashion also gives rise to heresies such as apple and camembert charlotte, something I have seen prepared on television – yuk!

If this is what is going on, then it's somewhat naïve and misses the point on the flavour front. Above all, it's completely idiotic! The aim of a chef should not be to create the most original dish, but rather the best: people should flock to his restaurant because his roast veal is simply the best for miles around, not because he serves it with slices of kiwi fruit.

So, come on, you chefs! Don't be seduced by this silly rend; don't be afraid to put good old well-known dishes on your menus, but use all your skill, all your heart and soul, to make every mouthful a pure delight.

P.S.: for those who do enjoy sweet and savoury combined, I have always wondered why it is that fruit is supposed to go well with meat, but that apple tart with tomato sauce doesn't work. Can anyone explain?

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