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Food Twitter Is Bad, But the Food Tweets...The Food Tweets Are Very Good

A stomach-churning reaction to Brexit, a decade of social media misuse, and a tomato salad of trolls

Jamie Oliver looking sad about turkey twizzlers The Dr’s

Of all the restaurant innovations in the last decade — small plates, no bookings, influencers, clean food, dirty food, dirty clean food — none has been so under-examined as the effect of Twitter. It’s easy to forget that this has been the platform’s first full decade, with most of the British food world joining circa 2009-2011 to swap tips on how to make terrines, get restaurant recommendations straight from the horse’s mouth, and bring the spirit of congenial food websites like Chowhound and eGullet to a new public forum.

Approximately none of this happened.

Instead, Twitter provided the most fertile ground in human existence for pure mockery. If the decade started with the late AA Gill as the chief skewerer of food world pretension, it ended with random accounts called something like @ass_eater69 speculating on which chefs take part in certain edible activities, and everyone unfollowing each other for their views on Brexit, cultural appropriation, British politics, kebabs, veganism and Eater London. Quite simply, it has been wonderful. The fact that most of the British food world is caught between the Scylla of milquetoast blandness and the Charybdis of being way too online makes it even better, with about three people actually knowing how to use the app. The following awards are for those who have cut through the banality and made the world laugh, gasp, cry, mute, block, and relentlessly screenshot to prove them wrong. Here’s to another decade of premium, dry-aged beef.

Best food reaction to Brexit

Some people will point to Nigel Slater’s correctly apostrophised instant classic of the genre, which is the first and only time Slater has ever used the f-bomb on Twitter: basically the food world equivalent of hearing your Dad swear for the first time.

But: Nothing beats this double-hashtagged doozy by Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018 Joanna Blythman, somehow summing up the post-referendum sickness and justifying the result at the same time. It’s one of the few tweets so good it could be hung in the Louvre and admired: the way “churning” is echoed at the end with “gelato”; the very important and on-brand #organic hashtag; the ambiguity over whether the SlowFood organic gelato was ever consumed — had Brexit simply robbed everyone involved of their appetite? It’s a shame no second referendum will ever happen, as either side would have been justified in putting this on the side of a bus.

Summation of the decade in London restaurants

George Reynolds (2013-2018) may have passed on from Twitter to do bigger and better things than argue with elderly food writers online, but his immortal gift was this menu tweet, which managed to precisely skewer the London restaurant scene as neatly as a cocktail stick on a £10 pintxo. All the restaurants you dislike, all your faves, all of them kinda had this menu and kinda still have this menu. It is Noun’s world, and London is living in it.

Resignation of the decade

Delivering a massive “fuck you” to the British food media, food writer and founding member of the “blocked by Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood” club Ruby Tandoh dropped truth bomb after truth bomb in a thread that ranged from the Guardian to someone mysteriously censored as g*les c*ren. Fatphobic, elitist, toxic, rotten, classist and racist is her damning verdict, concluding that it’s impossible to change food culture from within frameworks that dull the edges of writers who believe in something. Tandoh has only gone on to become Britain’s sharpest food writers, publishing Eat Up and interrogating the power structures of sugar to name a couple. The British food media is poorer for her absence, and if and when she returns it will be on different terms. Until then, the world still has her tweets.

Tweet of the decade that wasn’t actually a tweet

This should have been a tweet, but it lives in Nigel Slater’s Instagram comments section. The safest of food spaces somehow houses the most devastating clapback of the decade, delivered by Nigel Slater, the nation’s food dad, with exquisite curtness. It’s perfect, as if a cold fury had been silently bubbling under Slater’s avuncular online persona for years, breaking the surface only to inform a baffled Helena that he was “not a fucking travel agent.”

Funny as it is, you have to pity both the poor guy, who surely doesn’t want all the secret Japanese haunts he’s spent years compiling suddenly filled with Nigel Slater fans; and even more so, poor Helena, who immediately made her account private and has to live with the fact that she is the only person who has ever been bodied by Nigel Slater.

Comeback of the decade

Unless they’re American poet Dorothy Parker, people only get one or two opportunities of a lifetime to reply to someone with the perfect comeback, a comeback so unanswerable no one remembers what they were replying to. Parker unfortunately never lived to see Twitter, so be content with Observer food critic Jay Rayner delivering a one-two jab to the Daily Mail’s top curtain twitcher and Michael Gove’s only fan Sarah Vine, as well as Toby Young, Michael Young’s most potent satire on the idea of meritocracy. As soon as these words appear: “The two of you have made a terrible mistake here,” — it’s crystal clear that Vine and Young have monumentally fucked up, and with each word Rayner hammers a nail into their coffins, operating on a level neither of them are capable of reaching. If either of them had an ounce of shame they would have quit Twitter that day and never shown their faces again. Alas, they probably have even more power than they did before, but at least the U.K. will always have Jay Rayner.

Tweeter of the decade

At some point in 2009, someone told the Times restaurant reviewer Giles Coren about Twitter. ‘It’s fun,” they probably said. “You can tweet all the stuff those pesky subeditors cut from your reviews, and talk to all your famous pals,” they probably said. And indeed, for the first year it was paradise — flirting with Caitlin Moran, livetweeting reviews, making hilarious jokes — but Giles Coren would end the decade as a sentient warning against the over-use of social media.

The highlights run to the following: waging war against Amazon because he forgot to cancel his Prime free trial; joking about killing a neighbour’s child and then having to apologise to the parents in person when he realised they read it; threatening to glass and stab Guardian columnist Michael White and having his “wife delete his tweets while he slept”; live Instagramming a restaurant customer for using a laptop only to find out it was the chef doing his accounts; taking an Instagram poll of his followers to determine whether he was racist; denouncing some undetermined fellow restaurant critics and friends on Instagram Stories with the following diatribe: “Cowards, honestly, I mean, people who won’t stand up for me in public, even though they privately support me they’re the people who when the Gestapo came to the town, didn’t let you go and hide in their attic”; and creating a fake Twitter account named after a character from his book, with the purpose of insulting anyone who criticised him and getting rumbled because a) all his famous friends were following it and b) he used his Times email address as a login.

Truly this has been Coren’s decade: no-one has built being professionally mad online into such a strong brand — look forward with anticipation to what the 2020s will bring.

Shitposter of the decade

Many within the food world are unaware of former Adam Smith Institute man and part-time food blogger Sam Bowman. Few within the food world, though, were responsible for as many great tweets on the subject in the 2010s. From wondering whether an Antifa tattoo on a Smoking Goat waitress was equivalent to an EDL tattoo — it isn’t — to his blog getting into a fight with Neil Rankin for reviewing a restaurant on soft launch — an argument in which no one was right — Bowman could easily be the antithesis to those who say politics and food are inextricably linked.

Despite all this, and despite the numerous failed attempts at cooking chicken, he authored a shitpost so good that it made thousands eat their salt, pepper and oil seasoned words. Bowman’s tomato salad tweet got so much traction, making fools of food writers, that it even reached Spanish, Greek and Italian twitter, who furiously accused Bowman of being a colonialist and made everything seriously funny. Meanwhile, the tomato salad has become so widespread that it is a mainstay on many London menus, often without attribution, showing that he ultimately had the last laugh.

Food brand debacle of the year

The trend of food brands trying to become millennials’ friends has become more and more alarming over the decade, as they hire savvier tweeters to take over their accounts. The role of the food brand account should only extend to a little bit of committee-approved banter, making sure people associate that brand with good, if safe opinions — think Greggs and Wendy’s. Sometimes, it goes wrong.

When Toblerone tried to have a little bit of banter with Neo about capital letters, the triangular chocolate bar was met with “SHUT UP YOU TRIANGLE C***,” a riposte as unimprovable as it is unanswerable. Toblerone almost certainly called an entire emergency PR meeting the next day, only to decide it was best not to respond.

Wife Guy of the decade

The wife guy is a recent internet phenomenon, defined by Tom Whyman as someone who has done something online that involves their wife. Masterchef judge and randy greengrocer Gregg (not Greg) Wallace may look like a devoted wife guy from his back catalogue, until the truth slowly comes into focus:

These were all different wives.

Political photo of the year

At the time, everyone centrists thought that this photo signalled political sea change: A new party of principled MPs with the nous to have their first photo opportunity at everyone’s favourite challenge-based high street chain, Nando’s. It’s easy to imagine early New Labour doing this: taking Tony Blair over to Nando’s after a game of headers with Kevin Keegan, to order an extra hot half chicken which he would demolish without having to refill his drink. Nando’s man would become a whole voting bloc.

What actually happened, in the words of Tristan Ross, was that this became the least historically important photo of all time, as MP after MP deserted the party, leaving behind a baffled Mike Gapes as a gang of one. Now the photo looks like the final freeze frame of a political documentary, with the captions detailing how each MP lost their majority, with Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds playing in the background.

Scandal of the Decade

Next time there’s a debate about cultural appropriation in food and any British person accuses someone of being too sensitive, remember this brief moment in 2017, when almost every person in Britain lost their shit. Eater senior social manager Adam Moussa called mince on toast a “quintessentially British dish” in a tweet. Cue howls of outrage: Jay Rayner tweeting @eater “For god’s sake what are you on?”; Guardian thinkpieces on the state of the nation; 13,000 people Londoners wallowing in their own ignorance of anywhere else in Britain, proudly saying they’d never heard of mince on toast.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s possible to assert that history has completely vindicated Eater. Aside from quibbles about “quintessential” — from Latin meaning five essences, so, toast, dripping, mince, onion and cheese — mince on toast is a British dish made by British chef Shaun Searley at one of the best British restaurants in London, who remembered it from his British childhood, and found it in British cookery books as far back as 1850. Even if it hadn’t been invented at all, all it would need is someone (British) looking at their leftover spag bol and bemoaning a lack of pasta for it to happen all over again. The only person who enjoyed that day? Eater senior social media manager Adam Moussa, who had to do precisely nothing to advertise the Eater London website arriving that same week.

Tweet from some guy who writes about food now, ruining the next decade for everyone

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