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Observer Conversation – "Can Politicians Change the Way We Eat"

I took part in one of the Observer “Conversations” last week with three other food bloggers (Dan from Essex Eating, Lizzie from Hollowlegs and Helen from Food Stories).   The Conversation was based around a feature by Sarah Brown that we were told would be appearing in Observer Food Monthly today on sustainability and Downing Street’s vegetable patch.  It was led by Jay Rayner.

Having been sent a copy of the finished video earlier this week I have spent several days trying to remove the plum from my throat to no avail.  However, I thought I would still put the link up to it here (and attempt to host the video below).

I think I can say that the topic is something that we were all interested in and had views on but that it was not immediately in our comfort zones.  I mean, I essentially write extended praise or panning of restaurants.

I’ve only had a chance to read Sarah Brown’s piece now and thought it was worthy but… felt like it had been written by committee.  It was meant to be about her passion for food but I couldn’t feel it.  I have an innate suspicion when plus ones (though I used to love Denis Thatcher’s background appearances) are wheeled out for election campaigns.  There is also the special joy of the awkward press pictures that follow. Have a look at Sarah Brown here posing just like a Tory wife (I presume there is an accompanying piece in the Mirror where she is wearing a flat cap and is smeared in coal).

In the end who are Labour trying to kid?  They have had 13 years in which to make food a priority, improve child nutrition and make Britain a FairTrade bumblebee filled place.  They have had the benefit of a rampant economy and the consequential tax receipts but have chosen to spend money elsewhere.  I can’t say I disagree. I would rather kids had schools, we all had hospitals and MPs moats were properly tended but thank god for Jamie Oliver.


  1. Mr Noodles

    I love the bit in which you say Sarah Brown believes in homegrown !

  2. The Grubworm

    I thought the video (which i saw on Hollowlegs) as interesting, hard to fit as wide ranging a debate as that into five minutes, but they didn't do a bad job. If you're really going to change people's attitude to food, it's not something that can be done in a few years, probably not in a decade. Like smoking they need to work on it for at least a generation before concrete, measurable and sustainable results are shown across society, and not just in the Urban middle classes (like me) who have the resources and time to eat well.

  3. Tom

    Noodles – I haven't rewatched it but that was definitely me being ironic. Having read the print version of the OFM article it is even more stark how awkward Sarah Brown looked in the garden. My favourite was Gordon Brown in a suit trying to look casual. Awful pre election mush.

    Grubworm – I suppose there are only two ways you can really make change through politics – by legislating against (i.e. banning) or legislating for (i.e. subsidising or encouraging through education).

    The problem with banning anything is that it is contrary to our "laissez faire" economic model. Moreover, any attempt to introduce protectionism to make people "buy local" would mean other countries would do the same and we would have protectionism (not great for our few remaining industries or our role as an international middleman of trade). Now a significant change to the worldwide economic order may not be a bad thing and maybe protectionism has things going for it but as it is stands it is not acceptable to us.

    So what you are left with is the softer options. Education and, erm, a bit more education.

    I would like to see some of the halfway houses introduced. Perhaps a penny tax on sugar laden soft drinks which goes towards city farms and culinary outreach programs.

    But in the end. I would rather kids go to school and we didn't go to war. There is something to be said for politics leaving something to the individual.

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