Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Miserable Horror of the Panini

Ladies and gentlemen. Once I spoke to you in words lent urgency by true passion; inspired by the muse of culinary finesse. Once I spoke, o faithful friends, of the noble Battenberg.

Since then, howsoever, my blogged gustatory rhapsodies have taken a downward path.

Just as economists and stock marketeers eagerly anticipate the moment at which the recessionary plunge levels off – the point from which the only way is up – just so is it my hope (my fervent, ardent hope) that today's post marks the 'bottoming out' of this trend of culinary mediocrity.

For today, my friends, I blog of the Panini.

Now, before I start, I'd like to clear up one thing. I realise that the Italian word 'panini' simply means something along the lines of 'little bread'. And that, by this token, a great many fine dough-based entities might legitimately go by the name.

I speak not of these fine dough-based entities.

Instead, I speak of the very specific dough-based entity that has come to be denoted by the word panini here in the United Kingdom (and possibly – who knows? – further afield. International readers, do send your favourite panino snaps and help us find out.)

Here – below – is an image that may give you a flavour of the ballpark in which we're operating.

(With apologies to Panini on the Park, whose appealingly-depicted product I'm not entirely sorry never to have sampled.)

Panini: The Case Against

There was a time – remember it? – when a panino may have seemed a little bit cosmopolitan. A little bit urban. A little bit sophisticated. The conoisseur's alternative, mayhap, to a bacon sarnie. The lunchtime treat for the self-indulgent lover of luxury.

That was 1990.

Nearly two decades later, I think we may safely dispense with any faint remnant of panini glamour. Go back, in other words, to the bacon sarnies.

For a British panini, as dispensed in virtually any sandwich shop or cafe over the length and breadth of this sceptred isle, is a sad and tawdry thing.

More processed than a Ronan Keating greatest hits compilation (and, depending on your choice of filling, potentially similarly dripping with tasteless cheese – and approximately as likely to bring on a stomach ache and feelings of chronic misanthropy), it is a sorry excuse for a repast.

Show one of our Brit Paninis to an Italian chap and say 'Panino!' and you will deserve the derisive laughter with which you are met.

... And yet – a little like Swarovski or Pinot Grigio or Starbucks coffee (or Ronan Keating) – this foodstuff is somehow touted as a fine and wondrous thing. As an indication of quality; a hallmark of class (okay, so not that much like Ronan Keating, maybe). 'Oh, look, darling – they do paninis!' a wife might declare to her sagely approbatory husband (for instance) – in roughly the same tones as she might exclaim, 'Oh look – it got a Michelin star!'

But the tragedy is: nobody really likes the bloody things. I'm sure of it.

(I mean, seriously: let's look at that photo again, shall we, in case you're in danger of getting sentimental about this?)

[worth 1,000 words]

It's about time, in other words, that we wake up and smell the big potatoey slice of flavourless tomato. Take a long hard stare at the wilted, vitamin-drained 1-ply 'salad'. Come face to face with the buffalo-snot mozzarella. Wave goodbye to the effervescent, slugtrail-shimmering flipper of bubblegum-pink 'ham'.

... And kick the panini.

[Extra points to someone who actually goes out and kicks a panini. I will send a prize – really, I will – to anyone that sends me a video of genuine panini-abuse of their own making. That's a promise.]


Anonymous said...

This video should make your dreams come true:

Matt Sellwood said...

mmmm, panini.


FieldVole said...

We need to promote the Staffordshire oatcake.

Billicatons said...

Thank you, les trois. But did any of you make videos yourselves? No?

No prizes for you, I'm afraid...

Related posts