There’s no excuse

One day I want to study the history of food. Over the years I’ve been bought many books along these lines, Larousse Gastronomique probably being the most comprehensive encyclopaedia of food you’ll ever find, albeit a little old-fashioned now. But nothing I’ve seen so far describes the evolution of food alongside the culture of a nation. Ask yourself: when and why did the US get its obsession with fast food and huge portions ? or how has cafe society in France evolved with the advent of the 24 hour working week ?

But one question above all absolutely dismays and puzzles me in equal quantities. Where on earth did the British get their joint obsessions with supermarkets and ready meals ? There’s a double whammy here. The so-called fresh food that supermarkets DO profess to sell is, on the whole, mass produced and bland. Meat is invariably left to sweat out its final hours on a polystyrene tray, rotting while it’s artificially red colour belies its questionable heritage. Vegetables are, more often than not, pre-packed. Are people really that lazy to chop up carrots ??? How hard can it be ?!?? And then ready meals. Awful, awful, awful. Most look like dog food and those that don’t are actually not even fit for our canine companions.

Case in point. For the past three nights, my wife has cooked three meals, all from fresh ingredients, and all in less than 10 minutes. Chinese beef with garlic, chilli and peppers; creamy crab and chilli linguine; Moroccan chicken with harisa. All are one-pot cooking, all are balanced, and none need a Michelin star to cook. And none take any longer to cook than a ready meal. So what has made Britain so bloody lazy ? Why are we now incapable as a nation of putting decent food on the table without some drone from Milton Keynes having pre-packed it first ? I despair.

But there is hope. We are fortunate enough to live near a single road that has a good butcher, a great fishmonger and a superb greengrocer all within a few yards of each other. So, while we’re at it, let’s dispell another myth. We get all our fresh produce from these three shops and only resort to buying loo roll and toothpaste from supermarkets. Do we spend any more on food per week ? No, in fact I bet we spend less. And the best thing of all is that these three shops do an absolutely roaring trade. They are always constantly busy so clearly I’m not alone in my dislike of the plastic, pre-packed Tescoville out there.

So, if I hear one more person say “I’m too busy to cook” I’ll beat them gratuitously around the head with all the pans they clearly never use.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by maireaddoyle on February 4, 2010 at 08:10

    I once cooked a chilli con carne from scratch right beside my housemate who was heating a tin of shop-bought beef chilli (still in the tin, standing in a pot of boiling water), and mine was ready before his…


  2. I have just been shopping for the ingredients we need for this weekend (we are having a Thai mussaman curry on Saturday night) but explain to my why Tesco has, what appears to be on the surface, an extensive range of “exotic” foods and yet I had to go to Waitrose to get: coconut milk, shrimp paste, 00 grade flour (to make pasta not for the curry!) and dried kashmiri chillis?

    Incomplete range at Tesco which drives me NUTS! Having said that neither store had black cardamon pods…..

    Verdit – Tesco for numpties and for those who think they can cook but Waitrose for the real/serious home cook…..


    • Posted by fridayfoodwife on February 4, 2010 at 11:51

      The comment above was made by FridayFood’s wife not the blogger himself just to avoid confusion!


  3. I am certain you could lay out the diets and the pre-prep with the rise of couples both working. I expect you’ll find that ‘family’ has a lot to do with all of this. Who really stays at home and has time to cook? While real foodies MAKE the time some couples literally run home and want dinner on the table within minutes. How many people even do a BIG shop now? We only buy what we need for that night.

    One of the things that has not really caught on in London as it has in New York is casual week day dining. That is to say that we don’t have pre-chopped carrots here or ready meals to bring home, we simply drop into a neighborhood restaurant and ‘get it while it’s hot’ for the same price as a zapped microwave meal.

    food and society are entirely intertwined. Even portions in the south and fatty diets linked to manual labor and blue color work force.. all fascinating stuff.


    • I love the idea of having neighbourhood restaurants where you can take out the same food as you eat in, I guess so you can enjoy the restaurant food but at home. That’s definitely something that I’d endorse in the UK, and clearly not confined to crappy Chinese restaurants as is the case now.

      I also think you’re right about family having a part to play in this, but also that if you’re a foodie you’ll make time regardless. By way of an example, I was out for dinner last night with a good friend who runs his own business, and whose wife is Company Secretary at Cable and Wireless (there’s a high-powered family !!). They have two kids around 4 and 6 too and he, like me, always makes a point of cooking mainly because he’s as much a foodie as I am.

      As for “big shops”, we tend to plan ahead on what we eat so do shop only a few times a week. But that definitely has to do with having a family where, if you didn’t do that, you’d be stuffed.


  4. Posted by maireaddoyle on February 5, 2010 at 10:21

    We eat out a LOT midweek (and did so in London too). But there is still nothing as nice as good home-cooked food – your favourite dish cooked just to your liking – cooked with the freshest ingredients and enjoyed on the sofa with your jim jams and favourite person. And it can take less than 15 minutes which is less than you will have to wait for freshly-cooked food in most local places (except perhaps Asian).

    I think you either get it or you don’t.

    And as you know, fridayfood, we don’t got no kids.


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