Mostly Concerning Food

Mixing cookie dough

Some time ago I wrote about hearing Michael Pollan on Radio 4’s Food Programme, and how interesting I found what he had to say. One of the things he was talking about, was the importance of involving children in the kitchen and the process of producing family meals.

Rolling the dough 

Our kids don’t regularly cook, but they help out now and again, and from time to time they are quite keen to have a go. On this occasion, S had won a Cookie Dough kit at the first Silverdale Food Fair and, naturally, wanted to use it to make some cookies. The cookie dough mix included was a year past it’s use by date, as it turned out (some prize!), but we could manage a biscuit recipe and the necessary ingredients, surely? We could.

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By the time the boys had reached the stage of decorating the biscuits with icing pens their sister was back at home and was keen to join in.

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This all happened during the World Cup. Perhaps inevitably, this cookie….

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….a Little S creation, was christened Lionel Messi.

Since hearing Michael Pollan on the radio, I’ve read ‘In Defence of Food’, the source of his oft quoted maxim ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants’. I was quite surprised by how gripping I found it. Since then I keep periodically returning to books about food and its production. I read ‘Animal, Mineral, Vegetable’ which is a mixture of memoir, polemic and recipe book and tells the story of how novelist Barbara Kingsolver (and her family – who also contributed to the book) attempted to eat locally produced food for a year, much of that food grown or reared on their own Virginia small-holding.

At the moment, I’m part-way through Raj Patel’s ‘Stuffed and Starved’ which covers global food production and distribution, farming, GM crops and such like. He argues that the mechanisms which produce the burgeoning problem with obesity are exactly the same as the causes of global hunger.

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You’ve already seen S’s birthday cake, eaten on Carn Fadryn. This is another one, which TBH made for his party at home. It was a Cowboy Party. No difficulty with getting the candles to stay lit on this occasion!

Has all of this food for thought (sorry!) had an impact on the way I shop and eat? Well, yes, up to a point. I haven’t started to keep turkeys or chickens like Barbara Kingsolver did, and we still don’t grow many of our own veg, but I have been trying to eat seasonal, local produce as much as possible. In the summer, and with several Booth’s supermarkets nearby, that’s been relatively easy to do – I can generally buy English grown, or in fact, for the most part, Lancashire grown veg and have a fairly good choice of fruit too.

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Some things, obviously, don’t grow in Lancashire. When the English asparagus season finished, I stopped eating asparagus, which wasn’t a great hardship because I don’t think the Peruvian stuff is as nice anyway. I’m not eating as many avocados as I did, though I haven’t stopped altogether. I’m still drinking tea and eating chocolate, although Stuffed and Starved’s revelations (to me anyway) about child slavery in the cocoa industry in Ivory Coast has me thinking again about that.

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Hmmm, seems slightly inappropriate to accompany text about child slavery with photos of my daughter cooking. Not that there’s any coercion involved: she’s become quite keen. Baking cakes and making soup have been part of her repertoire for a while now. She’s recently turned her hand to sweets, making peppermint creams and cinder toffee. I told her that bread-making was surprisingly easy, and she proceeded to dent my ego by proving me right and turning-out a near perfect loaf at her first attempt.

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I’ve been thinking of veering off topic and posting something about food for while, but this post was finally precipitated by another Radio 4 programme. I thought I’d get something out there whilst that programme was still available on the iplayer. This week’s ‘Book of the Week’ is Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens’. The third programme, ‘The Agricultural Revolution’ suggests that wheat wasn’t domesticated by mankind, but rather the reverse, and that wheat (and other food plants) have duped us into accepting a fairly raw deal in order to provide the conditions in which they can flourish. This is pretty much the case that Michael Pollan was making in the TED talk I embedded in my earlier post.

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I was also taken by the idea, from the first programme, that mankind’s original niche might have been as a sort of lower-class scavenger, waiting for the food-chain topping predators, and then other pack animals, hyenas and such like, to finish with a carcass before using tools to break the bones and eat the marrow, food which other creatures couldn’t generally access. I’m sure that would go down well with the ‘Paleo Diet’ people who seem to regard bone marrow broth as some kind of panacea.

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So: not about walking then, or even about ‘thinking about walking’, but more ‘other stuff’ for a change. It’s not a recent development for me to be thinking about food when I’m not ‘thinking about walking’, but I haven’t always considered in the past the processes by which our food reaches our fridge. The food choices we make have a profound effect not only on our own health, but also on the state of the planet, and the health and well-being of all of it’s inhabitants. It seems to me that an interest and concern for those issues dovetails quite neatly with an interest in the natural world, but I suppose I should leave you to decide on that one.

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I’m sure that I’ve only scratched the surface in my reading, and I don’t feel like I have all, or indeed, any of The Answers, but I know that its something I shall continue to mull over.

Happy eating!

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Mostly Concerning Food

4 thoughts on “Mostly Concerning Food

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      A seems to have inherited her Mum’s confidence that if she wants to make something, she will be able to. I’m deeply envious, I tend to start from quite the opposite perspective. As well as her culinary skills, she has quite a flair for art and craft. She got a junior sewing machine for Christmas and has knocked out aprons, bags, fancy dress outfits etc as gifts. She made a replacement bit of kit for me, for a valued and very old item of outdoor apparel which I lost, a sort of hat and/or neck warmer, I think she called it a snood – I’ll post a ‘review’ and a photo when it gets cold enough for me to use it.
      The kids birthday cakes are often something to behold. There was a monkey one, quite a few years ago now, which had to be seen to be believed.

  1. Who says a blog has to always be strictly “on topic”, as long as it’s interesting (and this was fascinating) it’s worth it’s place.

    Alas you’re right on all counts but sometimes it’s hard to put it into practice. Neither of my two have shown any interest in food and cooking, probably not helped by the fact that TBF hates it and does the majority of the weekly meals. However I’m inspired to give it another go.

    Sourcing food is another matter. Other than farm shops we have just the usual big supermarkets and their emphasis on price rather than quality and responsible sourcing. Again, however I’m encouraged to try, and I’ll be trying the local farm shop for veg and meat to see where it comes from and attempt to buy local.

    I could happily live without tea and chocolate but I don’t think TBF could!

  2. beatingthebounds says:

    It’s always difficult isn’t it – you want to pass on your enthusiasms, but it would be so easy to do quite the opposite. In these cases the kids all actively wanted to cook, although sometimes when we’re in a hurry I do press gang them. (A can be relied upon to make a tomato salad or a potato salad and B can be trusted with the BBQ.)
    I didn’t learn to cook until I had too, but even though I don’t remember my mum ever explicitly showing me how to cook I think I did pick up her relaxed attitude to quantities and the confidence to substitute different ingredients if you don’t have quite what’s needed.
    Shopping is tricky, we will probably revert to online shopping now that we’re back at work and that, combined with the changing season, is going to make buying British food more difficult to do. I do always look now though. I was amazed at the start of summer when most onions in the shops seemed to be from either Egypt or New Zealand.

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