Sunday, 2 June 2013

Bristol’s 'feedingthe5000' and some thoughts on street cooks

How do you make people - enough people - care about an issue like poverty? The answer might seem superficial but it’s to give them a good time as yesterday’s #feedingthe5000 event on Bristol’s College green showed.

The (rare this year) sunshine obviously helped. There was free food - obviously a winner though stewards were quite rightly asking for contributions towards the meal (veggie curry, rice and salad) which was provided by the local Thali Cafe.

There was some great music from Joe Driscoll and kora player Sekou Konyate which gave the event a festival-like atmosphere. And there were cooking demos by well known local chefs and cooks such as Richard Bertinet and Tom Hunt of Poco who was apparently smoking cod with used tea bags (shame I missed that)

This week a report by Oxfam and the Church Action Poverty Group revealed that half a million people in the UK now rely on food banks, a situation they describe as a ‘national disgrace’. One way FareShare South West and Feeding the 5000, the charities behind the Bristol event, are tackling the problem is by drawing attention to the amount of food that is thrown away, their catchy slogan being ‘feed bellies, not bins’.

To underline the point they were handing out £1 bags of vegetables which would otherwise have been chucked away. I'm going to use the one I bought to cook with today. But the thing is - I can work out some good things to make with them. It’s a lot harder for inexperienced cooks.

How can we get round this? It’s a well-rehearsed observation - most recently by Michael Pollan - that the huge number of programmes on TV hasn’t resulted in more people cooking from scratch in their own homes. Fewer do, if anything.

An idea I’ve been thinking about for a long time is that there should be street cooks where a designated cook - or two - in each road offers to teach their neighbours how to make simple meals - or even makes home-cooked food for those who don't have the time or energy to make meals themselves - new mothers or those who are recovering from an operation, for example.

It could be a great thing for older people with time on their hands to get involved in and a way for younger people to learn provided bureaucracy in the form of health and safety regs doesn’t stand in the way. Well worth a pilot project or two I’d have said.

What do you reckon? Would it work?


Joy said...

I would LOVE to teach folk how to make simple soups and stews frugally. It sounds a great idea.

Sam Leach said...

Hi Fiona,
It's often said by food journalists (though never anyone else that I can hear) that food programmes are not encouraging people to cook at home, but in fact doing the reverse. I'd be interested to see Pollan's data on that statement, as it flies in the face of all evidence I see. Many of my non foodie friends in their twenties have started cooking inspired by Jamie or Nigel. From customers at the butchers I work in, it seems like plenty of people are cooking, at all ages. Though interestingly the enthusiasm is more pronounced in the 20 - 35 and 55+ age ranges.

Fiona Beckett said...

Interesting observation Sam but I have to say that I'm with Pollan on this one, otherwise why the shrinking amount of raw ingredients in supermarkets and the proliferation of ready meals? (Not just in the UK, incidentally but in France where I was last week as well)

The way I see it there's a minority of people who are keener on cooking than ever (and no doubt much inspired by Jamie, Nigel and Ottolenghi) but the vast majority are not. My son (28) says that almost none of his friends cook.

Frances Hyde said...

But I'm not sure the statistics are accurate. My (adult) children and I all cook from scratch and buy virtually none of our food from supermarkets unless its in tins. So you can see my tins of tomatoes and beans but not the meat and veg I buy from farmers' markets and small shops (or that we grow).

My children say that pretty much everyone they know cooks from scratch, most of the time - especially the ones with small children almost all of whom, as far as I can tell, are taught to cook at nursery. My two year old granddaughter makes a mean pizza!

laura@howtocookgoodfood said...

Hi Fiona,
From my experience very few people cook that I know of through my children's school. Both parents and adults. Lots of children I have over are fussy too, probably because they eat a limited diet.
I also teach cookery to young mums and children too within the family learning sector. he government provides funding for the courses and those on a low income or with very few qualifications can attend for free.
All the feedback I have had from the learners has been so positive and all the parents do go on to make changes particularly when realise just how much tastier what they make in class is than what you can buy ready made.
I think the older generation should get involved with some cookery projects along with the young as cooking can be a bonding experience, it would be a great way for people to learn about food!