Food critics - The unacknowledged victims of nuclear war?

The acclaimed food critic Aulden Juan-Cragg makes his BAZAKE debut with a blistering defence of restaurant criticism in the face of Russian aggression.


Aulden Juan-Cragg

3/5/20222 min read

The job of the food critic is to allow the cloth-tongued masses a glimpse at flavours they, thankfully, will never have a chance to try for themselves. We provide for them a window through which they can gaze, with baffled hunger in their beady eyes, at cuisines whose names their fumbling lips would only ever butcher. Think of the food critic as a safety valve through which the jealous frustrations of the working class can be vented without bloodshed.

You may scoff - but without food critics it’s fairly likely that civilisation would be a great deal less.. well.. civilised (if indeed we ever progressed beyond hunter-gatherers). As such, it’s reasonable to assume that if food criticism were suddenly to cease existing, humanity would backslide into savagery, within three generations at the very most by my estimation.

When I put this theory to my daughters in our bi-annual conference call they were sceptical (a hideous quality, bred into them by their mother, that explains their lack of husband). “You are at the very bottom rung of the journalistic ladder” remarks the eldest. “Besides, it’s highly unlikely that you’d have become a food critic if grandad hadn’t been a wealthy, highly-respected public intellectual. Your job is a sinecure and you trade on cheap outrage and self-conscious contrarianism in an attempt to remain relevant” says the youngest. I put down the phone without a word and went for a walk.

While it is a fact that a dense stratospheric layer of ash would likely spell the closure of upmarket eateries across the UK, and while service workers may bear the bulk of the casualties, it is also true that statistically they don’t even have one mortgage to worry about, let alone two plus child support. We are paid considerably more, meaning we contribute considerably more to society.

Put simply - food critics are a great deal more important to the economy than chefs, waiters etc. It therefore follows that a terminal collapse of food criticism as an industry would likely set in motion a chain events eventually culminating in primitive, warlike bands of troglodytes gathering at the gates of your villa - their noses twitching with excitement at your scent, their stomachs roaring with an irresistible demand for human flesh.

News of the Russian invasion of Ukraine broke the moment I pushed a (reassuringly heavy) fork into the roast quail that kicked off a disappointing lunch at the recently opened Bird in the Bush. As footage of tanks rolling across a bombed-out urban hellscape began to circulate social media, my appetite began to wane. It occurred to me that this surely must represent the lowest point in the history of Eastern European culinary criticism; which, despite the stodgy, flavourless and peasantly nature of their food, is charming and quaint in much the same way cave paintings are.

Soon after, however, footage began to emerge of brave, elf-like Ukrainian fighters valiantly resisting their orcish invaders, and, with a renewed sense of hunger, I raised a further hunk of overly-fatty, badly-seasoned quail to my lips.

The people of Ukraine are putting their lives on the line to defend my way of life. To lose interest in my job now would be to fail them, to render their courage and sacrifice meaningless.