Eat My Words: Bring home the bacon

Bring home the best bacon

Thomas Firak Photography/Getty Images

3rd February, 2011

Two bacon rashers are in the frying pan — one sizzling excitedly in its own fat, the other heaving a little as it bleeds odd white clots. A couple of minutes later the first is nicely browning, ready to take centre stage beside the scrambled eggs and fried tomatoes. The second has shrunk to about half its original size and curled up. It goes in the dog’s bowl. The dog sniffs before she eventually chews it.

It’s a paradox: the great love the British have for bacon, set against how little we care about how it’s made. It is the most popular form of the most popular meat, pork, that we eat and yet we insist on paying virtually nothing for it: £4.30 a kilo, this week, for the basic stuff in Tesco and Asda. There are more expensive dog foods.

Read on here at Times Online

Word of Mouth: Tesco Is No Champion of The Poor

Tesco's not a champion for the poor

Tesco's no champion for the poor: Reuters

10th June 2010, Observer Food Monthly

Forget the eulogies to Sir Terry Leahy. The legacy of Leahyism has been damage to our towns, countryside and environment, and the promotion of a much poorer diet that we’ll all pay for

Sir Terry Leahy is retiring as head of Tesco after 14 years, “to spend more time with his private investments”, according to yesterday’s Guardian. He got the sort of press that’ll make a nice decorative feature in his downstairs loo. He is one of the “10 people who have most helped the poor in recent decades,” said the Tory blogger Tim Montgomerie in a Times piece, straplined ‘champion of the poor’. “Every little he did helped us,” said The Sun. “The outstanding businessman of the decade,” said the Mail.

Do these people get out at all? They could visit one of the towns in Britain, such as Inverness, where three in every £4 is spent in a Tesco store; take a walk down the high streets reduced to a pathetic straggle of charity shops and tanning parlours. Then Leahy’s fans might begin to see why another part of the population – among them farmers, small business people and independent shop owners – don’t think Sir Terry helped at all.

How to make the perfect stock

roast chicken

Anthony Blake Picture Library

8th April 2010

The chef Tom Kitchin swap tips with Alex Renton on how to make the perfect stock

“You can cheat on light chicken stock, You can cheat sometimes on fish stock. But bouillon [beef stock] cubes don’t make it. They taste like . . . well . . . salty bouillon cubes.”

So says the American chef Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential, and an expert on chefs’ crimes, moral and technical. In top kitchens artificial stock is as unmentionable as silicone on a supermodel. Except, of course, chez Marco Pierre White, who says that he has used Knorr cubes for 30 years and now takes money from Unilever to advertise them on the telly.

How to make the perfect stock

Word of Mouth: Britain’s first milk factory

2nd March 2010 The Guardian Online

cows in a cowshed

Photograph: Rex Features

Is the plan to open an industrial feed-lot in Lincolnshire another unavoidable nail in the coffin of the British dairy industry?

The move by a group of English farmers to open the UK’s first American-style industrial dairy feed-lot – where 8,100 cows will be fed on maize and Lucerne, a form of alfalfa – was desperately predictable. The evidence has been mounting – for the want of a couple of pence on a litre of milk, we’ve destroyed our traditional, and highly efficient, dairy industry.

Britain has had a dairy industry based on cows fed on grass and kept for most of the year in fields, for millennia. You may have noticed – much of our countryside was shaped by it. It worked. It employed lots of people, and provided cheap protein and fats to the entire population.

Read the rest here via Guardian Online

Word of Mouth: Will turning vegetarian save the planet?

24th February 2010, The Guardian Online

Even committed carnivores can’t dodge the facts: we’re going to have to cut down on the red stuff. A bit.

“If one cares about the environment, one must care about eating animals … Someone who regularly eats factory-farmed products cannot call himself an environmentalist without divorcing that word from its meaning.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

The numbers look pretty unarguable. So much so that – as a senitive meat-eating, trying-hard green – I have to ask if Safran Foer is being too soft: can any meat-eater at all call themselves an environmentalist?

Livestock agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions than every train, truck, car and aeroplane put together. The resources consumed by one average omnivore in pursuit of animal protein would nourish as many as 10 vegetarians (there’s lots of argument about this stat – some would put the ratio higher). So, shift people’s diets and the planet can support more people – in fact, it will quite easily deal with the 9.2 billion at which population is currently forecast to peak in about 40 years’ time, even with the threat to agriculture that climate change poses.

Read more here at The Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog

Word of Mouth: The parable of the slaughtered lamb

12th February 2010, Guardian Online

the slaughtered lamb parable

Lambs. Photo: Alamy

Should children be taught about where meat comes from, or is it better that they come to realise the realities of rearing and slaughter later in life?

Utterly mad and particularly British is this week’s story of a Kent head teacher forced from her job because she slaughtered the school farm’s lamb.

Andrea Charman had thought it a good way of teaching the children about the agricultural economy and the food cycle, and they agreed. But then some of their parents started social network campaigns to rescue the lamb. It took off. The lamb was duly slaughtered, the threats began and now she has quit. The lamb – Marcus – has had his revenge.

Word of Mouth: Baby steps towards better regulation

14th January 2010, Guardian Website

A rebuff for Heinz over an outrageous baby formula TV ad is bad news for food corps and their ever-more-sophisticated tweaks of parental guilt. But Heinz needs a proper spanking.

Heinz has received an embarrassing ticking-off from the Advertising Standards Authority for the nauseating TV advert for its baby milk, Nurture, above. The ASA said on Monday that the claim that the formula would support growth in the brain, body and immune system of a baby was “unsubstantiated” and “unacceptable”.

Campaigners for honest food are delighted. This is a boost in the next front in the long-running war over children’s food claims: promises that food supplements can aid mental development. (How long-running? In the 1890s John Harvey Kellogg said that his cornflakes would prevent masturbation in young men, while in 1903 Grape Nuts promised a cure for malaria and loose teeth.)

Read the rest of this post at the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog.