Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Cast of "Oliver!" – "Food, Glorious Food" (1968)

Food, glorious food!
What is there more handsome?

Spoken English is a hot new restaurant in downtown Washington, DC.  

One thing that sets it apart from every other restaurant in town is that you have to eat standing up.  That’s right – there are no seats for the diners at Spoken English.

Standing up to dine at Spoken English
And you can’t make reservations – you have to queue up and wait your turn to eat.  Given that the restaurant can only accommodate 15 diners at a time, that wait may be a l-o-n-g one.

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Are you wondering what they serve at Spoken English that is so good that people will wait in line to get in and then eat standing up?  From the Post review:

[One of the] Asian-flavored small plates [on the menu is] a pickle platter with nicely sour kimchi, tender cumin beef that’s nearly upstaged by its fermented mustard greens and a soft blood cake made with what you think . . . .

Not a fan of blood cake?  Then try the restaurant’s best-selling dish, fermented durian curry, instead:

“People are excited to try it,” [the chef] says of the Malaysian-inspired vegan dish featuring spaghetti squash “noodles” and durian, the fruit whose infamous stink is mellowed by fermentation.  

Spoken English's fermented durian curry
A couple of weeks ago, a university library in Australia had to be evacuated because someone left an overripe durian fruit in a cupboard.  The odor from the rotting fruit was so disturbing that someone alerted the fire department:

A hazardous-materials team was dispatched to the scene to investigate “potentially dangerous chemicals” stored in the building.  Amid fears of a gas leak, police evacuated about 500 students and teachers from the library.

“After a comprehensive search, firefighters identified the smell was not chemical gas, but gas generated from rotting durian, an extremely pungent fruit which had been left rotting in a cupboard,” the Metropolitan Fire Brigade said.

“The smell had moved around the building via the air conditioning system,” fire officials added.

More about the durian fruit, which is popular in southeast Asia, from the Washington Post:

Everything about the fruit would seem to signal “STAY AWAY” to a human’s survival instincts: its tough outer rind is covered with thorns so sharp that farmers often wear helmets when they harvest them from the trees.

And that smell.

“Best described as . . . turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock,” the food writer Richard Sterling declared, according to Smithsonian magazine.

The stinky durian fruit
Durian are just about synonymous with their repulsive odor, which (to be fair) has whiffs of sweetness that are immediately overwhelmed by notes of corrosion and rancid egg.  (They are banned on Singapore’s subway system, as well as some hotels and trains in Asia.)

But fans of the stinky fruit swear by the sweet-yet-savory taste of the durian’s mushy pulp, which can be scooped out and eaten raw or used in a number of Southeast Asian recipes, especially in desserts.

Muchas gracias to the chef at Spoken English for bringing durian curry to the DMV!  (It’s a bargain at only $13.)

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The fetishization of restaurants by hip young foodies is completely out of control.

A number of the hottest restaurants in town don’t take reservations, meaning that people start lining up hours before they open in hopes of getting a table.  (Would you believe that some people pay others to wait in line for them?  How obnoxiously elitist is that?)

Other restaurants are ridiculously expensive.  It’s simply obscene to pay hundreds of dollars for dinner but quite a few Washingtonians – most of whom are Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren supporters – are more than happy to pay those prices.  Not so much for the food, but so they can bask in the envy of the friends and colleagues.

I’ll rant some more about Washington’s restaurant fetish in the next 2 or 3 lines.

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Today’s featured song, “Food, Glorious Food,” is the opening number from the musical Oliver!, which is based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

It’s a rapturous paean to food – glorious food! – but it’s not sung by the foodie millennials who worship at the altar of oh-so-precious restaurants like Spoken English.   

No, it’s sung by a group of orphan boys who are housed in a Victorian workhouse where they are fed only gruel – and not very much of it.

They lust after food because they don’t get nearly enough of it.  That’s not a problem that the denizens of Spoken English and its ilk have ever had.

Click here to listen to “Food, Glorious Food,” from the original soundtrack album of the 1968 movie of Oliver!, which won six Academy Awards – including the “Best Picture” award.  (It was the last G-rated movie to win the the “Best Picture” Oscar.)

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