Bottom draw, bottom line…

kitchen_utensils_7566There’s an unfortunate link between “anally retentive” and “bottom draw”. Both suggest neatness, order and a dislike of “shit” all over the place. A place for everything and everything in its place. Nigel Slater, #realnigelslater, tweeted yesterday that a draw full of kitchen gadgets was his idea of hell. Hell, therefore, defines my cooking utensil draw. There is an order to it,  the order so hidden as to be similar to a coded message written on the Enigma machine. However, should anyone but me put a utensil back in this draw, its absence from its appointed spot would immediately draw my attention which suggests that my idea of hell is anyone messing with my disordered order. As a cook who works alone, I expect my hand to be able to locate any knife, pan or kitchen aid by reflex alone. kitchen_corners_lemonade_4632Cooking should be a pleasure, which is easy for me to say as I’m not cooking for a family of six people every day. I don’t think I would find that a pleasure, and I’m sure that many of those constrained to do that feel the same way, which may be why so much disgusting processed food is devoured by families in the West. The vast amount of money that is spent on installing smart kitchens and filling them with expensive cooking equipment does not equate to the lacklustre eating habits of the majority of our society.kitchen_cushions_notes_4628 I remember a feature in the “Sunday Times”, some 30 years ago, in which a comparison was made of the contents of dustbins in different areas of England, ranging from the poorest to the wealthiest. There were the obvious differences, but the one thing that struck me at the time was that they were all filled, rich and poor alike, not with the waste from food preparation, but with packaging. I don’t think there has been much change. Although cookery writers and magazine editors extol the virtues of fresh produce, and “farmers markets” thrive throughout the land. my experience has been that freezers are fuller than vegetable racks. Of course vegetables and fresh food are perishable, so I can see the argument for the freezer, but it is specious. In the end it’s choice. Easier to stick a frozen lasagne in the oven than to pare vegetables and trim meat after a long day working, blah, blah, blah… question. kitchen_corners_basil_4624 There is a suggestion that the “horse meat” mislabelling episode will result in a change of eating habits. That’s about as likely as the Chinese stopping eating dogs after they’ve been to Crufts. The majority of our population are either too rich to care or too poor to have a choice. The cookery book mountain has provided a similar quantity of unread books as did the Gideon Bible. I spent the most pleasurable part of my working life illustrating cookery books whilst the most lucrative part was spent making television commercials for packaged and frozen foods. With all the creative effort and talent used to convince people of the truth in a lie, it’s not hard to imagine how we can believe that the huge tin foil tray, which according to the picture on the lid contains a feast of perfectly prepared food, can be ours for £1.00 or some such unreal price. A piece of knitwear with the correct label at £350.00 makes sense to us, but money spent on good food can be such a waste. Time to wake up.kitchen_window_straw_hat_7620

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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46 Responses to Bottom draw, bottom line…

  1. Tandy says:

    If people want to eat processed food they should expect it to contain all sorts of things! Luckily in the UK that included meat 🙂

  2. I ‘love’ your last analogy about prices of clothes and food. Superb, never put that one together before. Expect a rant at about 10pm tonight round the dinner table at a friends 🙂

  3. cecilia says:

    The packaging war drives me crazy as you know, you have heard all that before from me.. however i have to go back to your your anally retentive opening. My friend would say “She is so anal that when she sits down she sucks up the furniture.” not that i would ever say such a thing of course! but every time it makes me laugh out loud..c

  4. Mad Dog says:

    I’m constantly amazed by friends who have kitchens full of everything and no decent knives.
    Anyway, I’ve got tomorrows chicken from the butcher and I’ll be visiting the farmers market in the morning. I like my horse, but not mixed with Findus 😉

    • Wise words, MD. Horse steaks are very good, but nothing is particularly good once the big freezer companies get involved – except ice cream.

      • Mad Dog says:

        Even the ice cream is best made by a small independent company. Small ice cream shops/manufacturers seem to be all the rage in London lately.

      • That’s true. We do have good ice cream here, but the small independents are based in towns like La Rochelle where they will have adequate sales to survive. I have an ice cream maker that I use in summer – sounds daft, but I never feel like making ice cream in winter.

  5. What amazes me is how many people think prepackaged freezer food is cheaper in the long run than fresh. We keep our bills low with made from scratch food which cuts down on packaging. Would love to see a day when packaging is near zero but I haven’t figured that out yet. I’m the opposite with prices though. I think nothing of buying good wine and food but agonize over a $9 jumper. I didn’t care for the buttons. My husband just shook his head and said it was $9! He was right, wear it all the time. 🙂

  6. This really struck a cord with me. My drawers are rather hectic, but in a way that makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense to me is that since being in the UK the last few months we’ve tried to eat locally grown and sourced food, nothing processed (yuk) yet my kitchen bin seems to fill in the space of a few short minutes sometimes with excessive amounts of packaging. It’s hideous and so unnecessary.

  7. Time to wake up, indeed. I shudder at these fast foods. And there are ways of preparing something gorgeous quickly: having home made pasta sauces on the side packed with vegetables and flavour; making home made burgers or meatballs inside home-made bread with piles of fresh salads. Better to find fresh recipes- just because they can be savoured, because they make us want to sit down and spend time eating them, and they afford the opportunity for talk at the table. Convenience food is the meanest of surrenders.

    • That says it all, Kate. The problem still remains that too few people cook owing to the fact that they have grown up on a diet of packaged and processed food because their parents didn’t know how to cook. They just don’t know how to do it and, more importantly, have palates that are totally attuned to processed and artificial flavours.

  8. I used to harbour similiar feelings when I had a gallery and people could not make up their minds or justify buying art – the inexpensive prints and drawings of emerging artists but they would not think twice about buying high end clothing accessories that they would eventually wear out or tire of.
    And you are so right about the wealthy not necesssarily being enlightened, they call it being time poor to avoid cooking. Somewhere in the middle are a bunch of people who seek as close to authenticity as they can in all things. Whether that middle is burgeoning left and right up or up and down is the question today.

    • We’ve created a very misguided society whose main aspiration is “fame” and eating healthily is not in their remit.There is a deeply ill educated class of people, both rich and poor, emerging and this lack of education leads them to value shiny things, appearance and trivia above all.

  9. Eha says:

    This post should be compulsory reading for everyone who has ever provided a meal for self or others: ‘truth in a lie’ – you summed it up! Unfortunately you can lead the proverbial horse to water . . . etc ! ‘Anally retentive’ – have always disliked the term and nature thankfully seems to have created me so it does not apply 🙂 !

  10. ChgoJohn says:

    Convenient foods. Convenient for whom? The undertakers? Yes, the food saves us prep time but since consuming it will put us 6 feet under sooner, it’s a bit of a false economy, don’t you think? And considering that much of today’s packaging will still be here when our great-grandchildren inherit the planet, I wonder how convenient they’ll find it.
    Really enjoyed the illustrations in today’s post, Roger.

  11. Of course, I agree, and I’m laughing at ChgoJohn’s ‘convenient for the undertakers’ comment – very true. I can’t understand the use of prepared food when it’s so quick to make proper food. As for the cookery book avalanche – my son finds a lot of pristine, unused cookery books in charity shops in Fulham. He snaps them up and uses them!

    • Amazon is full of unused, knock down price, cookery books let alone Fulham. Everyday on Twitter someone is talking about the launch of yet another.I still think the problem is that people like to look at pictures and then go out and buy prepared food, with a picture on the packet like the one in the book:)

  12. Time to wake up indeed. I cook for a family of six everyday (2 times a day) and is soooooo boring!! I understand the virtues of pre-cooked or frozen food. But, on the other hand, the flavor and quality of a meal cooked from scratch is priceless. I try to balance both choices and work accordingly to the time I have (and the willingness ). 😉

  13. The only way to know what we’re eating is to grow/raise it ourselves. We are a member of community supported agriculture here and only eat organic, but in the USA, when something proves lucrative, like organic food, big money takes it over and ruins it.

    • The “organic” label doesn’t mean much in Europe, if it’s been bought in Supermarket. The markets here have good, but comparatively expensive food, and the local farmers use masses of chemicals.The big companies are greedy and the smallholders are desperate to produce food to sell at any cost – if it means chemicals, so be it. Only us armchair organic farmers have the comfort of proselytising:)

  14. All the packaging in our food culture is ridiculous. If more people just stopped opening so many packets, boxes and jars of things, surely this would = waste/waist management. Pretty simple really.

  15. I enjoyed the treatment you gave these images Roger.

  16. Good post. I’ve got the same kind of utensil drawer.

  17. Pete Ramskill says:

    Identical draw in my kitchen – though my kitchen isn’t in photoshop…
    Main point is spot on!

  18. Karen says:

    Great post and I do so enjoy your photoshopped photos…I think I probably mentioned that before. The young children who are growing up now and eating this prepared food won’t need a kitchen when they are grown. They will never have seen anyone cook other than using a microwave. They will just need a fast food station with a microwave where they can stand and eat something without any family members being around.

  19. Colin Forbes says:

    (A pedant writes) It’s ‘drawer’, Roger, not ‘draw’ – three instances in your first para alone! Apologies for drawing your attention to this …(A real person writes) I’m absolutely with you re the chaos in my implements and utensils drawer, and the tendency to fill kitchens with unused kit. Shops like Lakeland are full of people for kitchen kit that will never be used. I’m as guilty as anyone: unused ice-cream maker anyone? But does anyone know how to get rid of the night-time genie who gets into the implements drawer and creates chaos where order reigned a few hours previously?

    • That’s so funny – I changed drawer for draws as I kept mentally associating drawers with old ladies’ knickers. It was creating bad pictures in my mind, so I opted for a misspelling. Chaos in my drawers would entail a visit to the doctor.

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