Food fights cancelled until further notice

Poor old Gordon Brown – even when he’s right, he’s wrong.
He emerged from the G8 conference, whence he enjoyed a feast that included Smoked Salmon and Sea Urchin, Hot Onion Tart, Kelp-flavoured cold Kyoto Beef shabu-shabu, asparagus dressed with sesame cream, Diced fatty flesh of Tuna Fish, Avocado and Jellied Soy Sauce, and Japanese Herb “Shiso”, Japanese Herb “shiso” in jellied clear soup of clam, Boiled Prawn and Jellied Tosazu-Vinegar and Grilled Eel rolled around Burdock strip… and that’s just the first two courses (of eight). And we mustn’t neglect the wines, which include Le Reve Grand Cru Brut and (one of my favourite lunchtime tipples), a cheeky Ridge California Monte Bello 1997.
All very well and good, but speaking to reporters at the conference, he said (quoting the BBC) that “unnecessary” purchases were contributing to price rises, and urged people to plan meals in advance and store food properly.
The poor fellow has never lived down the “Mister Bean” tag given to him by Vince Cable. This “advice” reinforces that view (or mine, at least) of an error-prone clown, and his timing is trebly bad: troughing it at the G8; MPs have just voted to keep their inflation-busting expenses; and he’s a year late.
It doesn’t take much to notice how consumer habits are changing. The second week in April was the tipping point – when all the national papers front-paged the credit crunch because Britons were altering their lifestyles to accommodate their shrinking pockets.
Brown would have been better off giving us this advice a year ago, when he was fresh to the PM post. The storm clouds were on the horizon, but consumer confidence was still high. That would have been a good time to be nanny.
Up to very recently, the plethora of restaurant shows (Hell’s Kitchen and Ramsay’s Umpteenth Wotsits or whatever his latest prog was called) showed angry chefs tossing poorly-presented or too-cold food into the bin. I’m surprised there was little fuss at the time. I can’t imagine that being repeated now (the last Hell’s Kitchen was only aired last year).
I’m wondering how quickly new shopping habits will morph into new consumption habits. Watch out for the growth in a new type of food advice that has just started to appear in the media. This is where Brown is actually right, even though it’s a pity that the messenger can’t be taken seriously. Food thrift. Buying in-season veg. Imaginative use of leftovers. And, to me, the big one: meal planning.
The latter is an interesting one, and, in my opinion, the hardest to achieve.
It means a new relationship with the fridge. The fridge has made us lazy browsers and is probably one of the chief villains in the rise of unhealthy eating habits. The fridge means a place to store ready meals. The fridge means there’s a place for everything that takes your fancy when you’re shopping. Just stuff it now, and decide what to eat later.
It’ll be an interesting thing to research recipe book trends (no, I can’t be bothered, but I bet there’s a pattern) to see how the bestsellers reflect our changing relationship to food. Will we see, over the next few months, new works by Delia, Nigella and Jamie that tell us what to do with stale bread and yesterday’s beans?


2 Responses to “Food fights cancelled until further notice”

  1. 1 Charles Frith July 8, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    I just had the joy of tucking into an Economist from front to back cover on a flight (no twitter distractions) and quite enjoyed the line that when Gordon Brown commented on Tony Blair being little less than a salesman. It was pointed out that Gordon wasn’t even that!

  2. 2 oldvic July 10, 2008 at 9:01 am

    And now he has compared himself to Heathcliff. It was pointed out that the character ended up a bitter, broken man haunted by a shadow from his past.

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Self-important bit

I’m Victor Houghton, a, er... something or other in one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies. My job title has a comma in it, which is embarrassing. I’m the chief finder-things-outer with a splash of trends who is lucky to work with all the major functions of the agency, even though I am most closely associated with strategic planning. Everything in this blog has most probably been stolen from other, infinitely more talented people, although the opinions are most definitely my own and not those of the agency.



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