Street food markets are the most extravagant swindle visited on the middle classes since the 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto, and it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry about it. On the one hand, the notion of scores of yuppies paying £14 for a gourmet “snack”, to be eaten out of a paper tray while balanced awkwardly on a wooden pub bench, in a car park, in February, accompanied by “crafties” from plastic pint glasses, while lining the pockets of millionaire landlords is pretty funny. On the other hand, they are hallmarks of everything that is going wrong in our big cities.
What we eat and the way we eat it has always told us a great deal about politics and society. The explosion of trendy food courts and walled-off markets is no exception. They are exemplars of the financialisation and privatisation of urban space, of a middle-class ennui and yearning for authenticity, and a profits-first, pick-and-mix version of diversity. And such small portions!