Eggs, walnuts and garlic…..

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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.

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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.
This entry was posted in 2013, Cooking, Digital photography, Emotion, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Eggs, walnuts and garlic…..

  1. Victoria says:

    Brilliant post.

    Having gone from the healthiest, best, organic diet imaginable in my old working life to trying to life on a more frugal Govt Disability Pension, my hat goes off to anyone who can grow and/or live well on a tight budget.
    ……..I’m still trying, but I can’t bear to give up organic fruit & veg (which is very expensive here in Oz). My latest effort is growing lettuce & rocket amidst my potted herbs on a tiny inner city balcony.

    Your letter was ‘spot on’ – well said, Roger.

  2. Mad Dog says:

    I heard Jack Monroe on Radio 4 and thought she was brilliant. However, rich or poor, there are an awful lot of people out there who just don’t cook. You can eat reasonably well and be frugal, but you have to want to make the effort.

    • I agree. I think a lot of people have been brought up in households where cooking never happened. Cans and packets were opened and heated, but cooking and shopping to cook is a foreign language.It’s a big learning curve for many which makes the honesty and simplicity of Jack’s recipes very important.

      • Mad Dog says:

        That’s very true, but there are also a lot of people who are not very interested in food. Obviously they have to eat to live, but they don’t find food very exciting. I know some quite well off people who really don’t care what they put in their mouths. I don’t go out to dinner with them much 😉

      • You’re right and I have similar friends. The problem is that they don’t have a problem. Only people with no money and a lack of food educuation have this particular problem.

      • Mad Dog says:

        True and that’s where Jack’s recipes are brilliant – i would never have suspected that salmon paste could be made to taste good. I’m so grateful not to have experienced rationing. Snook and Spam could put you off food for life. Jack Monroe is a modern day Marguerite Patten.

      • …with a serious social conscience.

  3. Dick Polak says:

    Bravo !

  4. Hear, hear. Food is becoming an expensive luxury if we follow certain people’s criteria for what is acceptable. I’m now a firm believer in buying the raw materials and making my own – and all recipes that give everyone a chance to eat well are welcomed.

  5. Misky says:

    Absolutely. And here’s to my old soup pot that sees a week’s worth of leftovers rehashed as delicious, steaming, nourishing soup.

  6. Michelle says:

    Hear, hear, Roger.

  7. Oh well said Roger, I have never spent less on food (even when we’re in England) and eaten so well as in the last few years. I’m ashamed of the rubbish I used to buy and waste. “Inside poverty, there is no cuisine: there is eating or not eating.” Powerful words, so very true, we are so lucky and most of us just don’t realise it.

  8. There was a recent study that said it was actually more expensive to buy processed food than fresh food. No kidding, I could have told them that! Our food budget is very reasonable and we eat very well. Same as when my parents barely had two pence to rub together. We grew some food and used everything. And my mum is a fabulous cook.

  9. cecilia says:

    liked – really liked!!

  10. Eha says:

    Having to be a ‘sports shopper’ doing healthy kneebends quite often these days this post has hugely resonated! The fact is that if you understand and care about yourself you can still eat wonderfully well if you only plan and think! Thought so much of Jack Monroe’s page I have subscribed: England v Australia: some of our practical thinking must be alike!

  11. I respect anyone who can make the best out of mid-grade ingredients. My embarrassing attempts at making something edible end up with the heavy use of condiments. At least I survived my test runs?

  12. bronxboy55 says:

    “Inside poverty, there is no cuisine: there is eating or not eating.”

    Perfectly said.

  13. margaret21 says:

    I have huge respect for Jack Monroe. She’s doing a good and important job, and it’s beyond me why the obnoxious Richard Littlejohn would wish to make her a target of one of his ill-informed rants. Thanks for a great post.

  14. thomas peck says:

    Following your comments, I’m checking out Jack Monroe!

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