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Friday, March 14, 2008

We are what we eat

All this fuss over a few frozen potatoes. Who would have thought that Delia Smith could generate such high emotions? The Times has an explanation of sorts:

No, this howl of outrage is about more than the meat content of tinned mince. It reflects how food has been turned into a moral issue by those who seriously believe that we are what we eat. Thus the way to prove your wholesome character is through conspicuous consumption of the “right” foods. The flipside of such snobbery is that cheap or processed food is seen as the mark of cheap people, morally as well as nutritionally deficient. This heats up an old prejudice. In The Intellectuals and the Masses, John Carey notes how the likes of T.S. Eliot, H.G. Wells, John Betjeman and George Orwell railed against the “soulless” tinned food of the masses. These elitist prejudices are fashionable once more, expressed in the language of eco-ethics.

To these critics, Delia's real heresy is to shun the politics of food and insist that the only proof of the pudding - such as her chocolate cake made with frozen mash - is still in the eating. Her missing ingredient is the self-raising righteousness of chefs who tell us to research and make friends with our food.

Delia may simply be offering a practical alternative to those food-porn recipes that few will cook. But she also reminds us of a wider truth about how our society - especially the female half - has advanced by reducing the effort we put into the basics of existence. As another old favourite of mine, Karl Marx, put it, “Economy of time, to this all economy ultimately reduces itself.” Or as Delia said in Monday's show, she likes quick, easy recipes “because there are other things in life apart from eating - although eating is pretty good”.
We tried one of her recipes recently with frozen potatoes and it was not a great success. The proof of the pudding etc..
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