Thursday 11 December 2014

Doing Porridge

When I heard the news about Lady Jenkin's comments on food banks relating to the inability of many  of the poor to cook, it was breakfast time, and I nearly choked on my porridge.  These days one simply does not offer critical advice on lifestyle choices.

That she, a scion of political classes, should be critical of the way many of our current poor live and eat was utterly shocking.  Was it because of the strong element of directing Scots blood in her veins?  Was it because a descent from the Raj of India made her less inclined to tact?

Do the poor live to eat or eat to live?  This has been an issue for a very long time.  In the late 19th Century and for two thirds of the 20th the feeding of the working class and the poor was a central issue for both social reformers and concerned persons across the board.

Imperialists of the Right and Socialists of the Left were united in wanting the people to be fed properly.  The one to provide the men and women for Empire and to improve the breeding stock.  The latter for social justice, morality and to have healthy children.

Teacher training colleges commonly had a Domestic Science or Economics wing and at the top end were specialist colleges operating to high standards in the science of nutrition and diatetics, cooking, home accounting and social welfare.

It was the schools that were going to do the job, teaching girls and in some cases boys how to manage the home and how to cook nourishing and tasty meals using the common and basic foods that were available.

Beginning probably in the 1970's with all the extensive changes in higher education, schools, food production and retailing and changing ideas about marriage, the home and the way lives were lived a lot of this went by the board.

Despite the excess of cooking programmes on TV, most of them doing fancy things on the basis of make your kitchen your own restaurant and the surfeit of goods in the supermarkets we now have burgeoning health problems with bad diets and worse meals being a major cause.

Here at Scoffing Towers we are willing to pay for quality so cannot claim to be at the lower end for spending on food.  But we spend little on much else , rarely eating out and never sending for fast food delivery for various reasons.

But from our large free range chicken at around a tenner, it is possible to get eight to ten portions with then an added stock for other dishes.  One half the price in a supermarket might allow if not the same then quite a number of portions.

So the price per portion could be quite modest compared with eating in a different way, but the way many people do eat at present.  That is if you are willing to take the time and trouble and know how to go about it.

But knowing how to cook is only a part.  You have to give the time to doing it.  I suspect that the problems arise for many of the poor is that they are not poor by historical standards having access to and use of things that are not just distracting but take up a lot of time.

If they have grown up in homes were little cooking has been done, have been taught little or nothing at school or later and the whole culture of their lives involves eating easy access products then to go back to basics, to coin a phrase, is very difficult, if not impossible.

So should the State be allowing higher benefits to allow the poor to eat to live or should it require them by lower benefits to live to eat and to pay the price of that in redirecting their lives and efforts to that effect?


  1. I wonder how many people know how to eat cheaply? We don't need to, but we know how.

  2. To quote Jerome K. Jerome:

    "1 lb. beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer every 6 hours"

    I'd love to find a chemist able to fill that prescription, for as you know; it would be free in Scotland...