When I go to a restaurant with friends I know that it’s either a particularly special occasion (or we must all be really hungry) if we order starters. If we are just going for a catch up, and the wine is more important than the food, then it will be one course each – hoping that it will be enough to soak up some of the booze and therefore preventing potential headaches the following morning. But if it is a foodie outing, and we are going to settle in at a restaurant we have been discussing and been looking forward to, then we will never have less than 3 courses, with wine and probably a cocktail as well!…
Typical Italian starters that I adore are beef carpaccio, melanzane alla parmigiana, fried whitebait and bresaola. We might have nachos before a Mexican dinner and perhaps some edamame and tempura before Japanese. All of this is pretty substantial and exotic, but well worth the time and money.
At a Chinese restaurant the appetisers like spring rolls and prawn toast are my favourite part!
I’m baffled by the selection of starters that were around in the 1960’s. Don’t get me wrong – prawn cocktail is fantastic and now getting the label of “so untrendy it’s trendy”! Most of the other options have completely left the restaurant tables of Britain. For example, a glass of fruit juice (tomato or orange and not even fresh) as a starter seems so peculiar now. Half a grapefruit with a maraschino cherry (now seen as a breakfast fruit) was one of the few things on the first-course menu at the tables of the 1960’s.
Everyone seemed to be obsessed with melon in those days. It often appears as an option for a starter and pudding on the same menu (for instance at The Hungry Horse in Fulham in 1968). The ‘melon baller’ was essential in all kitchens – a tool that has nearly disappeared now.
And what about egg mayonnaise? I understand an egg mayo sandwich but a pile of cold mushed up egg and mayonnaise when you are out for dinner (even with a consoling glass of wine) seems completely alien to me.
It’s interesting how some of these these starters have disappeared in just over fifty years, overtaken by culinary history. I was thinking of testing them out on friends but I can’t help thinking that my guests would get confused as they took their seats at dinner, the wine having being poured, while I set down a small glass of ‘tomato juice cocktail’ for each of them. They would probably think I was handing out Bloody Marys to cure their hangovers from the night before…