The bizarre “ingredient list” twitter makes regular appearances each day. Its purpose is to let us know that the twitterer has just eaten a brilliant combination of unlikely ingredients; it’s brilliance is signified by the addition of a tasting note such as “yum”. My three ingredients only have in common the dull property of being food.
A few days ago I was sent an email from the London Evening Standard, asking if I would write a few words, as a reader’s letter, with my views on Jack Monroe. I had twittered my disgust at Richard Littlejohn’s abusive tirade against her, and because of this had come to their attention. Living where I live means that I haven’t seen or read the Evening Standard for many years, so I have no idea if the letter was published or if the letters editor thought it was bollocks, so I’m publishing a version of it here:
It is ironic that Cucina Povera is such a fashionable cuisine; even more ironic when it is produced outside of the confines of poverty when, according to a variety of cookery books, it can only be achieved with the purchase of the finest ingredients. I know this to be true, for myself at least, as I prepared it in that extravagant style when I was a successful food photographer in London. Inside poverty, there is no cuisine: there is eating or not eating. Jack Monroe makes a pasta sauce from a pot of salmon paste and makes it taste good. The only bad thing about food is not having any, and that is why Jack Monroe’s words resonated with me.
Our neighbours, since we moved to this small hamlet in France some 13 years ago, live frugally and eat well. For the most part they eat what they produce but they are no strangers to the supermarket. It is not unusual for me to bump heads with one or other of them as we mutually engage in “sports shopping”, so named because it entails a rigorous sequence of “knee bends” as the shopper proceeds along the aisles inspecting the bottom shelves upon which are stacked the bargain, or cheap, products. What is most evident in conversation with them is their aversion to waste. Everything appears to be used, somehow, and virtually nothing becomes rubbish. The difference between our bag of waste packaging and theirs is embarrassing…theirs is non existent.
I have cooked and taken pictures of food for a large part of my life, yet never have I been so aware of the unbelievable expense of weekly shopping or of the fact that so many people go hungry because of this. I am filled with admiration when I read Jack’s shopping list on her blog, not only because it has come to £10, but because I know that the ingredients relate to a clear set of “doable” recipes. It’s the right time for someone, like Jack, to tell the ever growing multitude of people who can’t afford a “glug” of good olive oil in the pan that they can still eat well: and do it with the lights on.