Last week I listened to ‘The Reunion’ on Radio 4 with some great older female food writers [in their 70s and 80s] and I remembered the cutting I tore from a Waitrose magazine a few weeks ago. It was from an interview with Prue Leith.
I have a lot of respect for Prue. I think she talks a great deal of sense about food. In the programme she spoke about the increasing popularity of ready meals, and her sadness at the demise of home cooking. Sue McGregor, the compere said that every day in this country, EIGHT MILLION ready meals are sold! Demand [per capita] is double that of France, and six times that of the Spanish. In the cutting Prue says…
The British Public are much more interested in food. People are demanding that farmers grow more interesting potatoes, and farmers think ‘Oh, you can actually make money from this!’ But for millions of people across the country, this new found love of artisan potatoes and proper home cooking is a luxury that can’t afford , or aren't aware even exists…The sad thing is that people are eating worse than they used to, because there are more poor people than people who can afford good food. The poor can no longer get fresh food – if you live on an estate and there isn’t a bus service and you never learned to cook in school and your parents didn’t cook, of course you eat garbage.
Having watched Britain’s Spending Secrets, and a few similar programmes, I am conscious of people’s different spending patterns when it comes to food, and the way things have changed over the years. I did get annoyed with Ann Robinson – who seemed to just want to make a point, and presented her ‘facts’ in a rather distorted way. She said “We are defined by the way we spend our money” – which seems wrong to me. She appeared to only focus on spending on self. Apart from the rich guy, who occasionally had charity fundraisers in his palatial home, and her visit to a Foodbank [arriving in her posh chauffeur driven Bentley] there was no acknowledgment that many people give away their money, and spend it for the benefit of others. The real ‘spending secrets’ are the secrets of people who have regular standing orders for charities, or sponsored children in the third world. And these are not all wealthy people with plenty to spare, not all church-every-Sunday-committed-Christians…they are a mixture of young and old, high and low income families, people of all faiths and none…but sadly Ann didn’t seem to find anyone like this in her research. Or maybe she did – but their stories didn’t suit the point she was trying to make.
However, I enjoyed Greg Wallace’s programme. He visited a family in Wales and helped them to change their food spending habits, and improve their eating habits too. The family concerned were genuinely trying to have a different attitude, and I felt myself wanting them to succeed. The young kids were – mostly – willing to taste new foods, and the Dad seemed to really enjoy learning to cook. The Mum admitted she didn’t have any real cooking skills – but by the end was producing better meals, from scratch, for the family and they were eating together – which they all loved.
I am sad that for many families, meal times are not everyone round a table sharing conversation, but individuals grabbing takeaways, or microwaved meals for one, to be eaten in front of the tv. I am desperately sad for the children who will go to bed hungry tonight, for whatever reason. I am glad that Greg, and Jamie, and Prue and others are encouraging family mealtimes, and cooking from scratch, and less wastage. I am so grateful for all the blessings I have and food in the cupboard. I am reminded of the old Scottish grace
Some hae meat and cannae eat. Some nae meat but want it. We hae meat and we can eat and sae the Lord be thankit.
[Translated: Some have meat and cannot eat. Some no meat but want it. We have meat and we can eat and so the Lord be thanked.]