This is probably by the most difficult article I have had to write since I started getting back into writing about food and drink, but I can also add that it is certainly the most important.
The opening salvo from Robbie Davison on this matter was to paraphrase Michael Pollan (the American food writer) in that “Cooking is a Political Act”. The context of this was rather stark; do you choose something for dinner that is a ready-meal made by a large faceless corporation – handily packaged in plastic and card which you ‘cook’ for 5-6 minutes and then pour onto a plate, or do you buy some fresh ingredients, maybe some tins or dried packets of pulses, add your own spices and seasoning in order to forgo the worrying amounts of sugar and fat contained within convenience?
You can read a little more on Michael’s thoughts here: [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/michael-pollan-cooking-is-a-political-act-8640805.html]
My feelings on the matter are fairly obvious, I despise ready meals and avoid them and would never stock them in my fridge or freezer at home in favour of raiding the cupboards or local greengrocer. The problem is that a figure around 90% of all under 25 year olds simply cannot cook from scratch, not realising all it takes is the ability to chop, boil and fry a bit of experience learning timings and a modicum of imagination. It is of no surprise that many of our European cousins are much healthier as a nation, simply because they invest more time in food preparation than we do in Britain.
This level of apathy towards our diet and cooking is quite, quite toxic and attitudes do really need to change. The recent depression, cuts and problems caused by banking collapses across the world has hit Britain fairly hard, although not as hard as some other countries, and this has certainly exacerbated problems at home for many people; commodity prices have risen, living costs have rocketed and ultimately the price of food has been hiked hitting many with a shock. There are a record number of people who are now reliant on the use of food banks and charity in order to just get by on a day-to-day basis; many of whom are working families – this is simply is not acceptable in Britain today I am sure you’ll agree.
The guys at Can Cook believe that one of the answers to this issue is to teach people how to cook, thus getting more out of the food they have, avoiding processed foods and ready meals which do not represent good value or good nutrition and I am heavily in agreement with them. If Supermarkets (who supply foodbanks in the main) do not experience a demand for processed foods and ready meals, they will not stock these items; instead favouring foodstuffs that are driven in by market forces – i.e. the things that you and I buy from their shelves and fridges. These should include items such as fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, lentils and beans will provide the bedrock for many different meals and represent better nutritional value to everyone who eats them, especially compared to say a microwave ‘burger’.
To date, the ball has been rolling quite significantly metaphorically speaking, Can Cook has been running for over 5 years, offering a number of cookery classes for both corporate and individuals. There has been engagement by the studio on a number of levels, with Robbie Davison (the Director of Can Cook) stating that they have engaged with over 30 schools in the Liverpool area and this is seen as the bread and butter level of teaching people to cook by way of improving their options and eating habits. Over the forthcoming weeks, recipes for substantial meals will be published in the local Liverpool Echo newspaper, with a budget of £1 per meal per person. Recently, there has been a lot of attention turned to Jack Monroe, who has been living on the tightrope of the breadline, having to be incredibly inventive with the food available to her and young son. Her signature recipe of a carrot, kidney bean and cumin burger coming in at 45 pence is a tribute to her skill, but also as Robbie points out, a dangerous president to set as a benchmark.
You can see a bit more on Jack Monroe’s blog and situation here:
It is possible that from something positive, those in power could take a restrictive government viewpoint in that they will point to Ms. Monroe as an example to follow in cooking on a severely limited budget and not provide the benefits and funds needed to improve the situation. This is why the recipes have been set at a more realistic budget in the press, with value and nutrition being the key issues, not price.
Everyone can make a contribution towards fixing this situation, the pledge card given to people at the launch event last Tuesday can be seen here: [http://foodpoverty.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/cancook_pledgecard_inc-bleed_v2.pdf], so you can see what the aims exactly are and how you can contribute if you can.
More information can be found here:
Can Cook Studio: http://www.cancook.co.uk/teaching-liverpool-to-cook-campaign/
Food Poverty Blogs: http://foodpoverty.wordpress.com/
In order to follow Can Cook on Twitter - https://twitter.com/CanCookStudio and Food Poverty - https://twitter.com/foodpoverty
If you have any questions or want to get involved just give them an email or call Rebecca on:
Tel: 0151 650 6444