Sauntering into a restaurant of your choosing, you can expect a number of things. A welcoming atmosphere, comfortable surroundings and good service never go amiss. But more specifically, you can expect to be armed with a small arsenal of items.
There are the old classics. The blunt tool of tabletop dissection and its better half, the quattro-pronged utensil of delicate food-shovelling, are usually accompanied by a piece of cloth for when you inevitably remember - no matter how fine your surroundings - that you are human and clumsy and disgusting.
Then there’s the plate, the salt, the pepper, the olive oil. No qualms yet - this all makes sense. But every once in a while, you are presented with an item so strange that I can barely imagine its conception. This item is chilli oil.
Never before have two things with such disparate properties been so brazenly presented as one. Cactus pen, fence trousers, museum bus… there’s a reason these things don't exist. And the same applies to the food world. Pasta sausages, ketchup pie and yogurt steak are equally ridiculous. But chilli oil has escaped such scrutiny.
Just because you want something to be spicy, this doesn’t mean you want it to be oily. And just because you want something to be oily, this doesn’t mean you want it to be spicy. Chilli flakes solve the former problem, olive oil the latter.
Furthermore, I can’t think of a single situation when I’ve wanted my meal to be both more oily and more spicy. By using chilli oil, you always end up doing something to your food that you didn’t want to.
Combining something with another thing doesn’t necessarily make the original thing better. In this case, it makes both things worse. Yet, in restaurants all over the world, people are ruining their food because of this madcap invention. Hopefully it’s just an extended fad. Like unicorn cakes, galaxy bagels and avocado lattes, it may just fade into obscurity. Until that day comes, my crisp, stonebaked pizza will inevitably end up spicy yet soggy.