Wednesday, 11 July 2012
What a mess!
As I wrote the other day, allegedly the nation’s children are starving. But is that really true, or are they just in want of the right type of food?
A discussion on Twitter the other night brought back fond memories. Said discussion centred on an age-old Royal Navy favourite - the cheesyhammyeggy. The name is practically Germanic in its efficiency - a noun that includes the formula for its construction - cheese and ham on toast, topped off with an egg. Naturally there are variants - brown sauce or red? mustard or black pepper? Or all four? - but in an ever changing world the cheesyhammyeggy remains steadfastly, resolutely cheese and ham and egg. If only economies were that stable or governments that reliable.
It got me thinking about the price of eggs (and cheese and ham,naturally) and the armed forces' daily messing rate (DMR). The link explains the principle and as you can see, the cost to feed fighting men is around £3 per day. That's per day, mind, not per meal. Obviously forces catering takes advantage of bulk buying but two things are for certain - soldiers sailors and airmen don't starve and within that budget they get a varied, interesting and balanced diet. (Although they'll go for cheesyhammyeggy every day if given the choice!)
Every time the subject of childhood obesity is raised we get the same tired old complaints that mothers can't afford 'proper food'. This ignorance coupled with sloth and the inexorable rise of greasy takeaways that blight our streets blinds a whole class of people to the possibility of not only being able to afford, but being able to really enjoy 'proper food'. Jamie Oliver tried hard to convince schools and individuals, crippled by poor nutrition and low aspirations to at least find some pleasure in food. He seems to have failed because as Paul Weller wrote “the public gets what the public wants”.
The trouble is, the public doesn’t really know what it wants, but it’s been duped into thinking it wants more and more processed fat and sugar, rather than the stuff it needs. On the nutrition front it’s time more people took a leaf out of the book Clare Harper (Follow her on Twitter) is compiling to pass on to her boys as they leave home – all mum’s recipes from quick and easy to complex and impressive (now also including cheesyhammyeggy) – so, like generations before them they can cook from scratch, rather than rely on ready-made offerings of dubious provenance.
Part of being a proper student, surely, is the simple joy of hunting down the cheapest cuts of meat and veg and experimenting with bubbling pots of spag-bol, curries and stews – wholesome, filling, peasant food - cooked with passion and eaten with friends and hilarity. But unless somebody enthuses them with the possibilities, what chance do they have of finding out for themselves?
The nation is hungry all right. It's hungry for some decisive leadership and some new recipes – meaningful welfare reform, sensible taxation, effective justice (social and criminal) Euro-arse-kicking and getting back a grip on our own affairs. Instead we get the same old unimaginative, feeble, high-fat, high-sugar, lethargy-inducing fare of pointless Lords reform, useless posturing and nobody daring to upset the status quo. Isn’t it time we cooked up a storm and unleashed it on Whitehall?