Here we go again. The Government are sending leaflets to four million inner city households with recipes for nourishing vegetable soups and low calorie fish pie. Jamie Oliver has handed the poisoned 'Healthy Eating on a Budget' baton on to Ainsley Harriott who has compiled a book of recipes that can be knocked out to feed a family for a fiver.
A spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association insisted that the leaflets will help those who wanted to cook but 'did not know the ingredients involved'. Which implies that there are people out there who haven’t twigged what the main ingredient might be in a tuna sandwich or a corned beef hash. More worrying still is the idea that these people think they might be able to help them.
People like Tory health minister Anne Milton. 'The supermeals campaign will give us some great ideas for meals on a budget'. Next time David and Sam pop around for supper to discuss policy you can bet it’ll be over homemade spag bol - from scratch - and a glass of Aldi’s own brand East German merlot. With a piece of fruit as a treat for afters.
Big Business promised to do its bit by knocking 2p off the price of a haddock fillet for a day or two, provoking Diane Abbott, Ms Milton’s slightly left of centre shadow, into action.
After taking a swipe at the likes of WalMart she described some areas in inner cities as 'fresh food deserts, so families fall into eating takeaway chicken and chips'.
Do you know what? I’m not buying this crap anymore, and I don’t mean Value Label ‘Rusk and Roadkill’ sausages either.
I work in what could be termed a deprived inner city area, if you wore rose tinted spectacles and were of a resolutely sunny glass-half-full disposition. Truth to tell, it’s a dump that would give Abbott’s manor in Hackney a real run for its money. We have branches of Dixy Chicken, KFC, Chick-King and Chicken Cottage within egg throwing distance of our surgery door and anybody dumb enough to fancy a walk down the High St of a Sunday morning will find themselves wading ankle deep through a sea of cardboard boxes, greaseproof paper, chicken bones and leftover chips.
But here’s the thing. I shop on the same High St and I haven’t paid full price for produce for years. At lunchtime I pop out to the local Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local and stock up on fruit and veg that they can’t even give away. You name, they’ll have it. Runner beans, new potatoes, apples and oranges, all 'Still fresh - Reduced for quick sale' to about 20p a pack, piled up on the shelves.
Stretch your legs to the local hypermarket on the edge of town and you can get enough tuna, eggs, beans, lemons and spinach to make a nicoise salad big enough to feed a neighbourhood, let alone a family, that night and still have change from a fiver.
Amazing isn’t it? The country’s full of nine and ten year olds who are smart enough to set-up X-boxes, jailbreak iPhones and get an Android tablet up and running in a matter of minutes, even one still running Eclair 2.1 – but they can’t boil an egg.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex