Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

David Banks Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

David Banks Columnist

Article excerpt

FOOD will get me into an argument anywhere: from the rowdy farmers' bar at the Red Lion, where we argue over organic production, to the demure surroundings of the village hall wherein I struggle to find a chocolate biscuit that is gluten-packed and fat-filled, with nut toppings.

Trouble is my argument is widely, wildly misunderstood. "We'll never feed the planet if we just grow organic!" moans Morebottle, as if that great philanthropist has any intention of sending the Third World's starving kids off to school on anything less than two-eggs-sunnyside and a plateful of porridge.

"You eat my lamb happily enough," mumbles Billy the Kid. "And they get fat on God's grass, not some bloody organic muesli." True enough, I point out, but my meat meals are few and far between these days and Godzone's farmers don't graze their animals on freshly-sprayed land.

My billionaire golf buggy buddy the Byreman and the leering Lawnmower Salesman (recently demoted to the push-mower department) look on with admiring approval as I take this fearful shellacking.

My point is, I lamely protest, that I prefer the idea of the vegetables, fruit and meat that I consume to be as untouched as possible by even mild toxicity. Feeding the planet is a different matter: THAT may require sprays and even genetically modified assistance.

Needs must when the devil drives ... It's a different argument at the village hall, where I traipse sullenly down the refreshments table, coffee in hand (fresh-ground only!) trying to find a 'normal' biscuit or cake between the plates of not-so-goodies advertised as 'gluten free' and 'non-dairy/lactose intolerant' or 'Warning: may contain nuts'.

What I seek is a nibble with a normal list of ingredients - butter, milk, sugar, eggs and so on - rather than xanthan gum, hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose and regiments of E-numbers.

Don't get us wrong (as my old Geordie landlord friend John Turnbull is fond of saying): some of my best friends are coeliacs. Bobby the Singer and Eileen the Seamstress suffer bloating, severe stomach pain and aching joints from contact with even trace elements of gluten. …

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