Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Are All Foodies Now? Don't Be Such Turkeys

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Are All Foodies Now? Don't Be Such Turkeys

Article excerpt

Byline: FRANCIS WHEEN

REMEMBER the national outrage a couple of years ago when President Chirac cast aspersions on British grub? "You can't trust people who cook as badly as that," he advised Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schroeder. "After Finland, it's the country with the worst food."

Battalions of chefs and leader-writers rushed to the gastronomic barricades. "Don't Talk Crepe!" the Sun thundered.

Yet Chirac was right - as the cull of 160,000 turkeys in Suffolk confirms.

Never mind the bird flu: an equally shocking revelation is that eight million turkeys are still processed through Bernard Matthews's air hangars every year, emerging as Twizzlers, Dinosaurs and Mini-Kievs.

According to the version of food history which now seems widely accepted, Bernard "Bootiful" Matthews belongs to the dark ages - the era of Vesta chow mein, Angel Delight and Smash dried potato.

But, so the story goes, over the past 20 years we have embraced foodie culture. British chefs win Michelin stars; their cookery books are bestsellers.

We have chucked Surprise peas and Cup-a-Soup, replacing them with arborio rice and dried porcini. Two years ago, Gourmet magazine described London as "the best place to eat on the planet".

Only a few brave gourmets dare to question this received wisdom. "We watch endless cookery programmes," the chef Simon Hopkinson has pointed out, "but prefer, finally, to spend lots of money on supermarket ready meals while idly turning the pages of spotlessly clean cookery books until the microwave pings."

It's easy to blame supermarkets and large corporations, but consumers are just as culpable. The truth is that many Britons neither know nor care about food. We want it processed, pre-packed and preferably covered in breadcrumbs.

Even schools appear to accept this.

Where once children had cookery classes, now they study "food technology".

By the time they take a GCSE they are fully qualified for a desk-job in the cook-chill business, having learned all about " computerintegrated manufacture", " continuous flow production" and " nonenzymatic browning" - but they still can't boil an egg.

In her excellent book Bad Food Britain, Joanna Blythman suggests that our eating habits are actually getting-worse. More than half the crisps and savoury snacks in Europe are consumed in Britain; we buy more ready meals than all other European countries put together. Eating well, Blythman says, "has never been a British priority and shows no sign of becoming one in the near future".

Amid all the hype about farmers' markets and slow food, it's easy to for worse. More than half the crisps and savoury snacks in Europe are consumed in Britain; we buy more ready meals than all other European countries put together. Eating well, Blythman says, "has never been a British priority and shows no sign of becoming one in the near future". …

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