OMG, it’s all going horribly wrong, we’re eating all the wrong stuff, and the Obesity Czar is banging on the door, demanding to see a detailed inventory of everything we’ve eaten in the last three months. We’re living a good two years less than those cunning health-conscious Japanese with their sophisticated restaurants that won’t accept foreigners.
We’re eating too much horse, and we’re not doing enough foraging. We’re bingeing on TV cookery programmes, and then we’re buying packs of Findus frozen lasagne. We’re ricocheting between dieting and cup cakes. There’s the Fast Diet, invented by Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson. There’s the alarming Milf Diet (1/3 pint of milf a day), and the Cambridge Diet, a diet of Aristotle and Beowulf. Some of these diets involve weird pouches of stuff you add water to. It’s like being an astronaut. (Actually, maybe if you’re an astronaut you don’t add water, because the water will just fly away......not sure about this...)
Meanwhile in yesterday’s Grauniad, that august organ of liberal middle-class thinking, there are ten recipes for immersive chocolate experiences – chocolate on bread, some nasty-looking thing with white chocolate which I seem to remember isn’t really chocolate at all, very chocolatey chocolate cake, very gooey very chocolatey chocolate mousse, very very gooey chocolatey mousse cake, chocolate and sardines, etc etc. Confused or not?
We want to be healthy, but we want to have fun. We’re keen on self-improvement, but we enjoy a bit of self-destruction on the side. We’ve got our calorie-counting apps, and presumably we’ll soon have chlorestorol-counting apps and hydrogenated-fat-counting apps, and at the same time we’re drinking too much gin. It may be that by some fluke this is leading to a beautifully balanced diet, and maybe, more probably, it’s not, but it’s definitely making us anxious.
Which we weren’t, back in the day. It was always assumed, rightly or wrongly, that if you ate a varied diet, you’d be fine. My parents ate a substantial lunch, and a two-course supper, with a proper pudding. Lots of butter, lots of cream. Fatty cuts of meat. Lots of fish, lots of vegetables and fruit. They may have been neurotic about their health, but if so they were very good at covering it up (now I come to think of it they were very good at covering stuff up......).
And when we’re not worrying about our health, there are plenty of other things to worry about when it comes to food. How long did this pig live? Is this piece of tuna line-caught? What’s this tin of foie gras doing at the back of the fridge? Shouldn’t we bite the bullet and become vegetarians? But, hang on, where did this mange-tout pea come from? Right, let’s get an allotment. It’s hard work though, the slugs eat everything that the squirrels leave, so then the question is whether to use bad-ass chemical slug pellets which work really well, or right-thinking organic ones which don’t. Anyway, don’t slugs deserve a full life?
And then there’s the insidious middle-class food worry: are we being adventurous enough? Shouldn’t we be using more zatar? (Or is that za’atar?) Where did the pasta-making machine get to? Shouldn’t we be at least trying to thrice-cook our chips? Having hunted down the perfect potato at a specialist potato-growing coop? (Janet Street-Porter once wrote a hilarious article about trying to cook some Heston dish or other; it took several months and about £2000 just to buy the equipment, and then the resulting dish was so disgusting that she rang up my brother Piers and they went out for a steak.) Shouldn’t we be knocking up one of those dinky midweek suppers that the likes of Angela Hartnett have been kind enough to dream up for us? Duck breasts with dates....venison with loganberry beignets..... beetroot carpaccio with nigella seed confit? Shouldn’t we be preparing our own Fugu, the poisonous fish beloved of the Japanese? Then we might manage to live a couple of years longer.
We’ve published a book of Orlando’s recipes full of similar tales. For more about Orlando Gough Recipe Journal click here.