In the Critics this week

South African photography, a history of protest songs, and DH Lawrence on screen.

In the Critics section of this week's New Statesman, Ryan Gilbey reviews Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, admiring "the plain wonder of the paintings in close-up, with hand-held lights providing shaky illumination", as well as Herzog's "wonderfully chewy voice, which suggests a kind of innocent but authoritative insanity, has mysterious catacombs of its own". Voices aside, the "oppressive choral music" comes in for criticism.

Rachel Cooke harks back to her "blue-stocking phase" and her loathing for DH Lawrence; nevertheless, she finds BBC4's adaptation of Women in Love "as enjoyable as something by Lawrence could be". Happily, "mysticism and navel-gazing are kept to a minimum". David Flusfeder listens to The Reunion, on Radio 4, which catches-up with veterans of the 1981 Brixton riots. "What emerged most clearly was that no two guests, not even supposed colleagues, were ever part of the same community", notes Flusfeder.

Fisun Guner admires French rococo artist Jean-Antoine Watteau, whose work is the subject of two exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Wallace Collection. The former is "a superb chronological survey" which demonstrates that Watteau "can be admired for his drawings alone"; whereas the latter "justly celebrates" his achievements on canvas, too. William Wiles visits the Barbican, where an exhibition of artists who "found inspiration in the decaying Big Apple" of the 1970s is running: "none of the artists attempts to impose order on a city that no longer makes sense; they prefer playing in ruins". This week's Critic at large is NS Culture editor Jonathan Derbyshire, who reports from Johannesburg where photographers "are striving to find new ways of recording the transformation of their country".

In Books, John Gray reviews The New North: the World in 2050, by Laurence C Smith, and finds it a "consistently challenging and mind-opening exercise in futurology" cataloguing "realities of which we are aware, but that we prefer not to think about". Chris Mullin reviews The Prime Ministers Who Never Were: A Collection of Counterfactuals, edited by Francis Beckett, concluding that it's "all very interesting, but...ultimately [is a] book for anoraks"; Ben Rogers writes about Edward L Glaeser's Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier: "It is one thing to defend cities," Rogers writes, "quite another to understand what makes them work". Yo Zushi considers 33 Revolutions a Minute: a History of Protest Songs by Dorian Lynskey, and the history of "dissent through popular music" that it traces. However, "it is too soon to write a eulogy to a mode of songwriting that has clearly not died out", for "to those who are listening, it remains a source of strength". Lastly, Antonia Quirke talks to Peter Bogdanovich about his 1971film, The Last Picture Show, based on the coming-of-age novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry: "film and book are (almost) equally magnificent" Quirke observes.

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The food trends coming your way in 2017 – from vegan butchers to, er, crickets

Insects are an economical alternative protein source to meat – and tastier than charred pizza base.

Eyeball to eyeball with a crispy cricket, the freeze-dried face of modern meat eating, I find it hard to imagine the UK ever embracing insects as a realistic dinner option, let alone coming round to the idea in the next 12 months. But, once I shut my eyes and bite down, the prospect seems less far-fetched. The flavour, nutty and slightly bitter, reminds me of roasted soya beans, while the texture is as blessedly dry and crunchy as a deep-fried prawn. While I’m not rushing for a second helping – to be fair, they’re completely unseasoned – neither am I reaching for the nearest napkin.

Insects are economical to farm in terms of land and energy and contain an impressive amount of protein. Nicola Lando, whose website, Sous Chef, stocks a variety of food-grade bugs (including the one I’ve just swallowed), believes that, though they’re
a novelty now, “In even a year’s time, they’ll be much less of one.”

I may cringe when I imagine a wing wedged between my molars but Lando points out that the bugs could be ground into flour, and: “Who even thinks about what they put in their protein shake?” (Certainly not me – even the most delicious insect couldn’t convince me to drink one.)

Yet, though insects have already popped up on menus at restaurants from the Michelin-starred Noma to the family favourite Wahaca, I suspect that because of deeply entrenched taboos in these parts, they will remain a niche ingredient for a few years yet.

The impetus behind the idea of introducing them to our diets – the need for the West to cut down its meat consumption – will have more mainstream effects in 2017, however. The number of vegans in this country has risen by 360 per cent in the past decade, and it’s a trend driven by the young: a fifth of 16-to-24-year-olds don’t eat meat.

In response, Britain has its first vegan butchers in the form of Sgaia – which makes “plant-based meats” – and Pret a Manger’s vegetarian pop-up in London’s Soho has not only become permanent but is expanding, much to the annoyance of a BLT-loving friend who works nearby.

This is shaping up to be a pretty worthy year for food. You’ll find grains you’ve never heard of in your breakfast cereal (M&S has launched some quinoa and sorghum clusters, while buckwheat sales at Waitrose are up 82 per cent). Meanwhile, sugar will be the new saturated fat, with government plans for a soft drinks tax nearing fruition, and the metropolitan elites are still krazy for fermented things such as koji, kefir, kombucha, kimchi and other suspiciously scented things beginning with K that are believed to be good for our gut.

Lest all this feels a bit dour, there is tropical sunshine on the horizon in the form of Hawaiian food, and I’m not talking about pineapple pizzas, which were, it turns out, created in Canada. Poke (pronounced “po-kay”), a Japanese-influenced raw fish salad, is tipped to be the “must-eat snack of 2017”, according to Waitrose: you’ll find it on the menu at Yo! Sushi and, in a veggie version, at Pret.

Barbecue will still be big and beefy. Charcoal will sneak into everything – black pizza bases may taste like dog biscuits but they look great on social media – and Mexican tacos are the new burritos. (Tacos are often deliciously meaty, greasy and smothered in sour cream. They even come stuffed with chocolate in Liverpool. There is hope for the year after all.)

We might well need a bit of deep-fried comfort in the months to come because, sadly, the winner of my Prediction Most Likely to Come True Award is Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City, University of London, who forecasts “a tsunami” of food prices courtesy of – you guessed it – Brexit. Have a good 2017, everyone. Hang on to your Marmite while you can.

Next week: John Burnside on nature

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era