5 Minute Read | By Gino De Blasio
Stage 12 and we are getting more extreme both in foods and in tenuous links, but that’s why you read this, right? Anyway, today we tackle the 1980’s food conundrum that was, fizzy water. Moreover, what is the way that we have moved away from such exotic taste?
Today’s race stage is also a flat sprint, without Marcel Kittel, it really could be any other teams. Expect Movistar to stick in a performance after another whinge by former Giro winner, Vincenzo Nibali.
Natural, still water, isn’t good enough it seems. Ask any self respecting Frenchman and you would find that on the whole, the thought of having to drink non-carbonated water with their meal is a culinary injustice. Moreover, it “won’t capture the thirst” as an ex French colleague once said to this author.
Take the Jardin de Reuilly in south-east Paris. Not content on sampling free street water, the local council gave go ahead to carbonate one drinking source as a friendly means to ween off the nearby residents from the bottled variety; thus reducing waste pollution.
As the Guardian reported in 2010, “locals from the 12th arrondissement queuing up to try the water greeted the fountain with enthusiasm. Speaking on television, one woman even paid La Pétillante the ultimate compliment. “I think it’s pretty tasty,” she said. “A bit like Perrier.””
Perrier typified the French obsession with fizzy water all throughout the 70s domestically and the 80s internationally. If kids TV was Knightrider, Airwolf, Thundercats, The A-Team and Full House, then adult fine dining included fizzy Perrier water. No meal was safe without it; from pizza to kung po chicken, ratatouille to falafel, meals would be accompanied with the sense that the French had won in the water drinking stakes. They covered off wine, cheese, champagne and now water. With such creativity, it’s a shambles how Napoleon (1) failed them so badly.
Perrier became a table and store-cupboard fascination to the point where Perrier themselves claimed that 95% of their sales were in the UK and USA; two nations that in the 80’s you wouldn’t have said were fine dining havens but where you could see the famous fizz being served with a Whimpy (2) and Sabrett hot dog (3) and not looking completely out of place!
As table top water trends could go, this was surely it.
That was until the late 00s, where dining experiences needed to be enhanced with anything that mentioned; pro-biotic, anti-oxidant, flavanoids, bio-flavanoids, catechins, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), extra virgin, farm fresh, fair trade, free range, grass fed, gluten free, lycopene, organic, prebiotics, polyphenol, salba, sustainable, synbiotic and or healthy. Don’t worry if you couldn’t pronounce them, they’re designed to be annunciated that way.
The food community craved for an excuse to eat something that was classed as evil from one study, to be dismissed with some sort of scientific elixir on the next study. If the Today Show (4) reported that coffee could kill you, you were sure that Al Roker (5) would amalgamate one of the aforementioned words to reassure viewers that it would indeed be your thirteenth coffee that would kill you. This news would then be condensed and make a press release statement in the UK the next day, or if you’re the Daily Mail (6), front page news.
Food evangelists were left scrambling, how many of the aforementioned nouns could be used to describe the gourmet burger quest? How about the obsession with brunch sweeping Europe? What about the street food craze that has progressively become, more gourmet?
If waiters asking you “how is your food?” as soon as you have taken the first bite may be annoying, imagine then the new water craze that would make a sip of Perrier seem like liquid foreplay.
No longer were European tastebuds subjugated to the 80’s repertoire; still or sparkling? Diners were being saved with traditional tap water served with multiple wedges of lemons, summer berries and now, the wateriest of the most watery vegetables, cucumber.
Diners were being saved with traditional tap water served with multiple wedges of lemons, summer berries and now, the wateriest of the most watery vegetables, cucumber.
Flavoured water has become the norm, so much so, that when Coca Cola dropped out of the list of the world’s top ten brands in 2011, it decided to do something about the changes in diet and drink culture and purchase brands such as Innocent (7) and vitaminwater (8) to stemy the damage.
If you thought adding carbon dioxide to water was safe in the 70’s, then how healthy are fruit flavoured waters which have nearly as much sugar as a can of coca cola. That would be like asking to compare, which Wolverine is less dangerous, the one before adamantium or the one after the gruelling adamantium procedure… (9)
Still, adding fruits and some vegetables to water has become a given gesture and when American grocery chain, Whole Foods went on the record in 2015 by adding this vegetable to their water selection, it raised eyebrows in many different ways. Hello $6 asparagus water.
Firstly, asparagus in water feels like a culinary stretch of epic proportions; it’s as if the food technologists weren’t sure what to use or had run out of ideas and grabbed the first thing they could find which in this case is asparagus – how very upper class. Secondly, asparagus whilst healthy, makes people’s urine stink.
asparagus whilst healthy, makes people’s urine stink.
Don’t believe me? Take Wikipedia’s much confirmed scientific proof on this; “asparagus contains a sulphurous compound called mercaptan (which is also found in rotten eggs, onions and garlic). When your digestive system breaks down mercaptan, by-products are released that cause the strange smell.” Adding something that creates a putrid smell alongside something that makes you urinate is not the most thought out idea. And finally, who charges $6 for water with a stem vegetable in it? Whole Foods know their audience, but even this could be a stretch.
Asparagus in water can’t even claim to taste like a summer breeze; at least berry flavoured water could do that.
Perrier may not have been perfect, it may have been overused, over-served, over utilised, at least in someway, it made sense. It added variety to water and didn’t pretend to be healthy, full of vitamins, that it would regenerate hair loss or resurrect naturally dying cells; asparagus flavoured water, take a good look in the mirror… At best Perrier made you look cosmopolitan, travelled and like ‘the Man from Milktray’, mysterious. At worst, you looked like a ponce.
And why are we talking about water when we’re Bibione? Well, this wouldn’t be #Girofood without a tenuous link to asparagus, a local delicacy that is usually consumed grilled or boiled; no water bottle to entrap it in sight.
As Bibione is home to white asparagus, a more chewy delicacy, then it is only right that we look at some white asparagus recipes to keep you entertained and to keep this hamster wheel of Giro Food on the go.
This white asparagus recipe is from BBC Good Food and combines flavours of Bibione with that of Spain (is there a VueltaFood on the cards?). Well worth a try. Saveur have delighted us with this guide to cooking white asparagus, you couldn’t just throw it into the steamer, it needs to be handled more, viciously. If you love your hollandaise sauce, then spargel is the dish for you, check it out here.
1. Napoleon Bonaparte was a Corsican nationalist, not as short as people think and fought for the French empire. ABBA would later sing about he lost at Waterloo. He wasn’t very good at winning for France, but he did start a sugar trade war; he was the 18th Century’s French military version of Jamie Oliver. He would die, in exile, on the island of Saint Helena, South Africa.
2. Whimpy was the first hamburger chain in the UK. Contrary to popular belief that it was McDonald’s. By the 90’s the decor was still in the 70’s, the food tasted like it was as well. These were popular places for birthday parties but not popular for the after effects!
3. Sabrett hot dogs are the popular street hot dog food of New York. Bright yellow and blue umbrella’s mark them out on the street. They cost $1 or used to, and so it makes you wonder about the quality of the meat.
4. The Today Show is the pride of morning television. People are happy and smiley at 7am, we’re not sure how they do it. Drugs perhaps?
5. Al Roker is the butt of many jokes but he’s also a presenter, weatherman and a human being.
6. The Daily Mail is a right wing, xenophobic, nationalistic, anti-muslim, anti-gay, anti-sense, lower middle class, sneering, effusive diatribe spreading, anti-european, simplistic taking, offense hurling piece of comic book journalism that simpletons take seriously. It is persistently factually inaccurate, laced with lies, highly opinionated to the detriment of common sense and decency.
7. Innocent soft drinks were started by two friends who tested their product at an open air concert. They made millions when Coke bought them!
8. Vitamin Water is another health story brand that to be honest tastes awful!
9. Wolverine is a comic book character. Possessed with healing abilities, lack of ageing and just pure awesomeness, he underwent a procedure to turn his skeleton into pure adamantium; a fictional mineral that is the world’s strongest metal. Watch XMen2 to see how much it hurt the chap.
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