Time to break bread on feeding the world

Food, glorious food ...
Food, glorious food ...

By Sheona Small

Food is a funny old business. If you’re as cool as a cucumber you might butter up a bean-counter big cheese as easy as a piece of cake or it could be a different kettle of fish if you’re too cowardy custard and end up crying over spilt milk if you can’t bring home the bacon.

Maybe that’s just sour grapes or maybe you don’t give a fig. You name it, we have a food saying that serves up the perfect analogy for every scenario.

I’ll just come out and say it, I’m a bit of a foodie. Not so much that I weep over my plate at never having had the El Bulli experience before it shut up shop, more that I really like my grub.

I’m not of the school of thought that views food as simply fuel to keep everything going, more that whenever possible every mouthful should be a pleasure.

I read this week that the latest opinion is that if you want your offspring to enjoy a wide and varied diet from an early age, forget about the jars of bought offerings or even mashing up your own food, instead give them real honest-to-goodness healthy food they can get hold of to munch on. Which makes so much sense when you think about it.

I’m not saying serve up a gourmet special from the get go but imagine you had a choice between a spoonful of bland baby food or a nice cooked sweet carrot, which do you think you’d be hoping to grab with gusto?

I also love to cook.

Well, I’ll qualify that.

I have a low boredom threshold so need to be always searching out something new.

I have my old favourites that will never be abandoned but I’m like a kid in a sweetshop if I’m let loose in an exotic upmarket deli in search of new inspiration.

Which would lead you to think that my household is like a scene from Nigella’s life - the onscreen domestic goddess version not the throat-grabbing restaurant one obviously - in that I’m there with my pinny serving up unctuous wondrous platefuls of love to my adoring-never-complaining children.

The reality is that I’ve had years of cooking as a thankless chore that HAS to be done over and over and over again, feeding hungry youngsters who’d always prefer a plate of chips over anything nutritious I’m pulling out the oven.

Once, in a fit of anger, I threatened to stop cooking from scratch and feed them nothing but the cheapest nastiest food I could find from the freezers of a well-known high street food store with a pastural name that makes you think of fields.

Needless to say, they loved it. I cracked first and after a week I was back to ignoring complaints over why couldn’t they just have chips.

However, this story has a happy ending,

They all now - okay, three out of four - have fairly sophisticated palates when it comes to what they eat, though none of them are averse to a munchbox when left to their own devices.

While they’re not so grown up yet as to actually want to talk to their mum about much, I’m delighted to find that as they start to leave the nest, they’ve started to text me pics of food that they’ve cooked. My work here is done.

But is it just the sheer necessity of our daily bread that feeds the cultural references and rituals that surround food?

It’s not just Scottish hospitality to pop on the kettle and dig out the biscuits when anyone from a long-time friend to a complete stranger steps over the threshold.

In cultures around the world the failure to offer something to eat and drink to a visitor would be a seen as a gross lack of manners.

Not such a happy ending is the politics and economics of food on a global scale.

We can’t live without it and millions face death on a daily basis for want of it, which is why here in our throw-away ‘developed’ country sending tonnes of food to landfill every day is a such sad, if not obscene, symbol of the inequality between the haves and have-nots.