What's the trashiest food you enjoy

Half-truths in the restaurant
The term “homemade” is no guarantee of good food

  • Seasoned

    Wolfgang Fassbender

Menus are a mystery with seven seals. Not every adulation of the food on offer should be taken at face value and, above all, a healthy mistrust should be exercised.

Sometimes the cheating is clearly recognizable - at least for those who like to eat a lot. For example, when the tortellini that are on the menu as homemade have exactly the same consistency as those that can be bought in the supermarket and have the same bland filling, about which the waiter cannot provide exact information even after repeated inquiries.

Or with the game pâté, which is also declared as homemade on the menu, but which looks exactly like a ready-made pâté that can be bought from specialized companies. Thin dough shell, finely mixed farce, decorative pistachios and an even appearance. Not to mention the boring uniform taste. A cook in a normal restaurant cannot do something like that without the appropriate equipment.

Homemade is not always fresh

In both cases, the guest can rightly feel fooled, because when he hears the term "homemade" he automatically thinks of the grandmother who rolls the pasta dough early in the morning, sees the pastry baker working in his mind, the cook cutting potatoes and fill the pastry chef with pralines. The fragrant house bread comes fresh from the oven from the most ideal of all kitchens, is sliced ​​while it is still warm and served to the guest quickly.

Term not clearly defined

But the beautiful world of gastronomy is not always what you want it to be. Especially since the term “homemade” is not precisely defined. In a statement from November last year, the Federal Council refused to regulate the term “fait maison” by way of ordinance. In the case of purchased pasta and the pate, which is only sliced ​​in the house, the landlord should still be prosecuted for deception. But if only parts are bought in and assembled on site, the matter is less clear. A salad made exclusively with semi-finished products can also be pro forma homemade, as can the crème brûlée prepared with crème base from the pack.

Commitments and trust

Self-commitments by the catering industry could help. In Ticino it is called “Fatto in casa” and is supposed to spread trust. Even here you can't be sure that the restaurateurs will keep all the rules, but at least there are strong indications. And finally, one must not forget that the Ticino people, like the Italians, are trained from an early age to distinguish bad ready-made pasta from good homemade pasta. The fact that self-made things always and invariably have to be better than what is bought in is of course also not true.

Especially in gourmet restaurants. Often there is nothing to say about “fait maison”, because it is often customary there to prepare everything or at least a lot in the house. The pasta, the desserts, the starters and of course the polenta and the potato gratin as side dishes. Ideally, neither ready-made sauces nor frozen fish are used in star-rated restaurants. But it should be clear that tomato paste and a few other ingredients are not produced on site, but are bought in even in the finest restaurants.

Paper is patient, menus are even more so

The best thing to do is to stay suspicious without seeing a fraud around every corner. Very extensive cards are diametrically opposed to the principle of doing it yourself, and if you don't stick to the season, you won't invest much in home-making. Where only individual components of a dish are referred to as “homemade”, the probability is high that this is exactly what others do not.

Finally, one should beware of terms that sound convoluted. “Like home-made” or “maison” mean nothing, with “house fries” one can assume that a finished product was simply held in the deep fryer. Just looking the waiter in the eye and asking seriously isn't the worst piece of advice, by the way. Lying boldly without blushing is something only very few service employees can and want.