"A look at restaurant menus makes it clear — bigger is better! Loaded dishes, jaw-dropping piles of ingredients and personalized items reflect the preferences of today’s patrons." Dennis
Here's David in Northcote in The Cookie Dough Co. shop. We were visiting our son, whilst dropping off grandchildren from one family to overnight with his two. Also to check out his new home. But I won't go on about that. We went out for a meal and on the way back we stopped off at this relatively new shop - The Cookie Dough Co. shop. And I confess I still don't really understand the concept. I thought it was a kind of concept where you chose your own toppings for some cookie dough that they then somehow baked miraculously quickly. But no - it's actually just a range of cookies, made from a couple of different cookie doughs with different toppings. Each of those rather ugly looking things you see there costs a whopping $7.50 each - $8.50 if you buy them on online - and you have to have a minimum order for them then. David is having a conversation with the girl about that mind-blowing price - well he would. And she sort of agreed with him.
Anyway loaded was the term that was used and it reminded me of having seen something about some kind of loaded food recently. So I thought that I would see whether this is a new trend or not. And the answer is yes I think so, although as always I am a couple of years behind. And the original concept is, of course, so much older than that.
The cookies are a more recent thing I think - these are more from our Northcote shop. Recent here anyway, although on the Cookie Dough Co. website it seems that it comes from the good old US of A. Well it would wouldn't it?
"Founded in 2019, The Cookie Dough Co started with a simple passion for creating delicious loaded cookies in our home kitchen that reminded us of loaded cookies we’d tasted in New York."
America, after all is the land of excess. And of all the wrong things. These are not healthy items. And not only are they loaded on top - they are also loaded in the middle with things like Nutella, as this somewhat disgusting photograph from The Singapore Times illustrates. It's a trend there too. You eat them warm so that the filling in the middle melts.
I found a couple of recipes of course - an example is the one on the left, but the most amusing thing about all of this was that apparently Woolworths sell a range of loaded cookies for a mere $4.00 a packet and somehow or other they became a TikTok sensation. Back in 2021 anyway. I assume they still sell them.
The Brits, however are just as awful when it comes to excess. Witness the phenomenon of loaded fries. In 2021 Tony Naylor of the now defunct How to Eat column in The Guardian wrote an amusing piece on How to eat loaded fries. Imported from America, it seems that the Brits are now fully into them, and he ponders on whether one should ignore them or not:
"Are loaded fries somehow beyond the pale, too simple, too calorific, too unsophisticated to warrant investigation? Is disregarding them the last acceptable snobbery? A bit like Blur, Banksy or Breaking Bad, loaded fries are kind of cool, good fun and popular, but it seems no one is quite sure if we should take them seriously."
He goes on to discuss how best to prepare them, what kind of fries, what to put on top, what to serve them in or on and so on - it's a fun read. However, interestingly recently - and this is where I remember the 'loaded' bit from - he wrote another article on loaded fries a couple of weeks ago, headlining it with a rather more sophisticated version that was topped with pulled pork, jalapeños, cheddar sauce and onions, and asking advice from various more reputable chefs on how best to make your own. The suggestions ranged from murgh makhani, through kimchi, fermented tofu and cacio e pepe through to a vegan version. As he says "There are no rules".
Several writers seemed to link the loaded trend to COVID and comfort, even though the origin of this kind of thing seems to go back to the 50s, which is rather sad. I thought we were just beginning to really see that obesity was caused by this sort of excess, so it is very depressing to see it so popular. 'Greed is good' is back - if it ever went away of course. Below are three of the moreover the top examples I found, together with a much more restrained Jerusalem artichoke loaded dish which has the double virtue of using up the skins which would otherwise have been thrown away. For me, even though the title of this dish included the word 'loaded' it doesn't really fulfil the concept of 'loaded'. It's more stuffed, surely?
And looking at that last one I guess it's simple a matter of degree. After all you could almost say that Ottolenghi's trademark plating is something loaded with something else - see these two examples here - the one on the left is actually loaded fries (with tahini yoghurt and smokey-sweet nuts). And we don't think these are disgustingly over the top. More simple and tasty.
Maybe it's not a matter of degree, more a matter of viewpoint. Putting something on top of something else is fine - just don't overdo it.
"Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance." Epicurus