Jane Devine: Learning where food comes from may help our attitude to food
WHETHER you see it as a passion or merely as fuel, food is something we all need, but something that can also divide us.
When it comes to attitudes to food, Scotland, it seems, is a nation of extremes: from the self-named foodies who make everything from scratch and rave about the fresh and local produce they serve on their table; to those people who don’t even have a table or own a cooker and live off take-away and other convenience or microwavable foods.
We also live in a nation where a quarter of adults are obese, where many people don’t understand where food comes from and where others don’t have a clue about what constitutes a balanced diet.
As a nation, our attitude to food is unbalanced and when it comes to doing something about it, we seem to be reinforcing extremes and sending mixed messages.
Historically, public campaigns have not had the impact they were meant to have. Lots of middle class children now have smoothies in their lunchboxes and can quote the mantra of five-a-day, but the reality is they were never the people who needed to be targeted and the policy has probably widened, not closed, the gap in health inequality.
Then we have the never ending schedule of television programmes – from cooking competitions to celebrity chefs showing off their latest creations. While these are interesting and indeed inspiring for some, for others, instead of encouraging them to cook, they actually make the whole process of cooking hugely intimidating and seem exclusive.
Even those who attempt to show how good food can be cheap, easy and enjoyable can have a struggle: remember the mothers passing chips through the school gates when Jamie Oliver took over the dinner hall?
We’re not even very good at grasping opportunities to make a difference. Thousands of people turned out to watch the Olympic torch relay and the first thing they all saw was the Coca-Cola bus at the head of the entourage, handing out hundreds of bottles of coke.
In a society in which we are now seeing councils and charities having to offer cooking skills to some of the families they support and even financial assistance to purchase cooking equipment, we really need to change the way we think about and portray food.
We don’t all need to learn to make a perfect soufflé, nor do we need to limit cookery programmes to educational recipes with the perfect nutritional balance, but we do need to encourage people to cook and understand their food.
We need to get to a stage where good, healthy food is as accepted by everyone as their granny’s lentil soup used to be.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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