I’ve had a pretty tough week. I broke up with my boyfriend, received multiple career-related rejections and found out a close family relative of mine is unwell. To top it off, I’ve also had to terminated my unrequited friendship with my favourite food critic Marina O’Loughlin because she slewed Wetherspoons.
The wit I had declared to admiring about Marina, when I had the opportunity to interview her for Not Plant Based, had become the very thing to make me whimper in offence. As with most jokes, I only found her reviews funny until the subject became personal.
In her latest review for The Sunday Times, Marina urged readers that if they go to a Wetherspoons, “don’t for God’s sake order the food”. She also posted photos of said food to her Instagram, which in my opinion didn’t look any less appealing than those “testicular eggs” from her previously positive review of Chelsea restaurant Le Colombier. It struck me as odd that a critic was sent to find out that bear’s do indeed shit in the woods. I thought that everybody knew by now that nobody goes to Wetherspoons for quality, but instead for a burger greasier than your bike chain and a black eye. As one eloquent Instagram commenter put it, “shut up you fanny this is spoons for fuck’s sake, it’s meant to be a shit hole but we fucking love it”. I for one LOVE eating my food with one hand and protecting my handbag with the other.
The fact that Marina chose a dish including quinoa when conducting her review is a testament to the fact that she just doesn’t get what Spoons is all about, and that’s to leave feeling more depressed than when you arrived. The mixed grill, or “the sort of thing you might scoop out of the bottom of Hannibal Lecter’s recycling bin” saw me through many a day during my budget college years, thanks to their student deals. When I am looking for a chicken burger to cure my hangover, “flabby” is exactly the descriptive I am looking for so that I can sop up those “Calpol and diabetic coma” pitchers from the night before.
I’m from Dudley, one of the least educated and most snubbed parts of the UK, so this might explain why I love Spoons so. I don’t come from a wealthy family, quite the opposite in fact, and I remember once visiting a Spoons for our first meal out in perhaps a year for their curry night. Of course we all got Kormas. I remember my dad described the naan as “gorgeous”, which hurts my heart to think about. The fact that my family were able to enjoy a rare meal out thanks to Spoons’s cheap menu is perhaps why I’m feeling both a little embarrassed and butthurt by the review.
Despite a worsening economy, Britons have been spending more on food in 2017, and fucking good for them. According to the Office for National Statistics, UK households spent more than £45 a week on restaurants and hotels for the first time in five years. £45 a week for a six person family isn’t going to afford you much more than the occasional meal out to Spoons. The “Lipstick Effect” can probably explain why we are eating out more. This notion can be traced back to 1930s America during the Great Depression, when lipstick sales rose despite the country being poorer than ever. People couldn’t afford houses or cars, but they could afford to buy something small to make them feel better about themselves – like a burger and a beer.
Marina justified her snobbery because then the big chains don’t always win, which is a fair point, and I would agree with the Wetherspoons spokesperson who said that “she is a reviewer and is entitled to say what she wants.” But I suppose, unfortunately, low income families don’t have the option to look out for the little guys, because they are too busy trying to look out for themselves. When you’ve saved up your pitiful, monthly pay check so you can take your family out for a rare meal, you aren’t going to be worrying about sticking it to the man, or about the “calorific” menu.
I love you Marina, but I love Wetherspoons more.
Anyway, here’s my Spoons lunch from today. It cost me £5.05 (including the drink).