It is fashionable in some quarters to say that food poverty in the developed world is due to people not knowing how to cook – for example Jamie Oliver’s statement that “most low-income families do not know how to feed themselves properly and instead choose expensive options such as ready meals.” (Quoted from the Independent’s article)
It is an interesting point if you leaving aside any inference of whether he was being paternalism or patronising, the potential of counterproductive results from treating people as a homogenous bunch of stupidheads and the sad fact that fresh food (specifically fruit and vegetables) are REALLY expensive!
The definition of eating “properly” is also not one single answer – as a general rule less fat, salt and sugar is a good idea, but less than what? Guidelines from governments, charities and quangos add to the confusion with statistics, figures and recommendations; which certain food manufacturers then exploit via meaningless traffic lights which can make the product look ok until you realise that one portion is defined as a quarter of a pre-moulded square.
Very often people say that this is a modern problem, that the older generations can cook properly – I am not convinced. For example my mother-in-law’s cooking is odd; she makes and decorates very pretty cakes – prize winning ones in fact!
Yet somehow her day-to-day cooking can be a bit underwhelming. It tends to be frozen bits of meat and two vegetables covered in lots of sauce which features lots of salt. We don’t visit terribly often but when we do I always dread mealtime, but apart from the salt levels the food is probably relatively healthy.
(Photo from Blotspot)
Being a full-time unpaid babysitter of her daughter’s child has taken its toll on her, one visit we had two meals that consisted of cold sliced meat and bread –which reminded me of Save The Children’s 2012 report “It Shouldn’t Happen Here” which mention how “one in eight of the poorest children in the UK go without at least one hot meal a day”, so perhaps my mother-in-law is trying to spread awareness of how undesirable this is.
However the line “at least one hot meal” is relatively meaningless if it doesn’t also include that the hot meal must have some nutritional value, for example M-I-L does a dish which I call Voodoo Chicken. It is very cheap cuts of chicken, mostly skin, bone and gristle, boiled for hours until the smalls scraps of meat dissolve entirely. So she serves up a plateful of parts that can be used to construct a Voodoo effigy and not much else!
It isn’t even just main meals that she can make unpalatable; she makes the most disgusting stodgy summer pudding that I have ever tasted – whilst as the same time declaring that she can’t stand sponge in trifles.
She will talk about death or dying people over the dinner table, complete with gross details, or even worse we get to hear about her daughter’s child’s toilet habits in more detail than I would want to know about my own offspring!
(Photo from some shop)
Least this seems like a bitter rant from an ungrateful daughter-in-law I must add that my own mother’s cooking is probably worse – she has repeated served up sponge cakes that could have been used as a house brick. My mother also makes her own fish pate created using a method that must be blend a fish (complete with bones and skin) into a pulp and serve on toast, so anyone who eats it ends up with a mouth full of tiny sharp bones – just the memory of this is making me retch!
It was so bad at one point that I could only eat fish after first pulling it into tiny pieces and inspecting each scrap for bones – I am now making a concerted effort to be less scared of eating fish.
My mother’s dinner conversations tend to consist of things that the dogs have done or eaten – which isn’t as dissimilar to my M-I-L’s conversations as you might think!
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