Who are we, to write about food in such indulgent and fawning ways? Who are we, to speak of an excess or an abundance; to be so full that we might have to roll home; to be so sated that we ‘will not eat for days’; to be so praiseful of a piece of ham that happens to be acorn fed, yet so scornful of the versions sold in German origin supermarkets?*
Yes, we are people who love food, all kinds. Yes, I cook from scratch every night because that’s the way I was brought up, and it feels wrong not to. A takeaway, though very gratefully received, feels to me that I have somehow missed out on something. There’s a bump in the road that I can’t put my finger on.
Many people are the same, for myriad reasons. Health concerns, special diets, illness aftermath that needs bolstering. Or the dreaded weight loss bunnies that know every calorie and carb count of every meal they eat.
Others have to cook from scratch because that is the way it’s done in their world, and if you don’t go to market and get it, you don’t have it. If you don’t grow it, or tend it, or milk it, it’s simply not there.
The beautiful products of Mymouné are a foodie’s delight, showcased by Nigel Slater, but that business started because of a war. Nobody in the region could get to their places of work, so the founders started to make products all taken from the land they could get to. It continued, as people realised how good they were but it started from that place of helping others and necessity, not something to fill the stockings at Christmas or look pretty on a shelf.
We have so much, these days, that there’s a food choice overload. I remember when a salad was Webb’s lettuce, cucumber, and garden tomatoes. Hard boiled egg and a slice of ham, too, if you were feeling flush, and pickled beetroot if you were adventurous. Careful now. These days I can buy so many types of lettuce that I have the luxury of getting really peeved at the existence of Rocket.
I am grateful beyond measure that I am in the position to afford good, wholesome food. I am also hugely lucky that I can cook, and cook well. I enjoy it, in fact I love it. It’s my relaxation, my way of shutting the world out but oh my god I feel like the luckiest person alive that I have the privilege to do that.
We’ve had long days when Iceland was the shop of ‘choice’, well before they improved. Only one of us was working, and so Iceland and Kwiksave were the best places to go. Not once did I feel ashamed of it, and we did not suffer from malnutrition because I had that food knowledge and cooking skill to see us through.
Ridiculously fortunate to have access to food, fuel, cooking facilities that I did not have to share. I had more than just a microwave, or a single hot plate. I didn’t have to be wary of other people taking what was mine, and I had more than three minutes of access to that microwave.
Many people out there in the non bunting bedecked UK (you know the one, where it was better in the mythical old days when farmers had pure white sheep and all the light was golden) do NOT have all that I had. They have come here, or were born and grew up here, and found themselves in dire straits for whatever reason. They make do. They live. They survive and feed their families. This trend of ‘from scratch is best’, whilst gladdening my cook’s heart, also saddens me as much as it alienates whole swathes of people. Even in our local market, an old market that’s been there for decades, half a kilo of carrots will cost you £1.50, so why get those when you can get a near kilo bag of frozen for £1.00? Or get this:
New Meal Deal: For £5 shoppers can get hold of a massive family feast which includes three pizzas, two garlic bread baguettes and a 1.5 litre bottle of Pepsi.
Carbs. Filling carbs, and fizz. It feeds the lot of you, and it’s only a fiver. Easy, tasty, quick, and tummies get filled.
People do what they need to do, what they have to do but also many will do what they want to do. However much the government and (some) food writers say X will cause Y and wag angsty fingers, people will be people. They’ll have that bag of chips, or that kebab on the way home, or that ready meal curry, and enjoy it. Or at least feel full afterwards.
My joy in food and cooking is not universal. I never expect it to be. To others, my cooking based brain is weird, and probably very boring.
Oh yes, I can wax lyrical over the new season Jersey Royals, and the freshest sparrowgrass, but my brain does poke me and say “It’s only a potato Lees, shut up and eat it.”
*I’m not. I eat it, and enjoy it. I savour it as much as any other. I have seen chefs tear it down vehemently, well, I don’t care.