Is this the conclusion of food snobbery?
— and there’s nothing wrong with that, ” says Debora Robertson
This has been the very contradictory year. It will be recalled as the one
Once we cherished our homes and yearned to get from them, adored our families but sometimes could not wait to escape out of them, adopted technology and grew tired by the work-from-home tyranny it imposed. It is the one where we dressed smartly from the waist up, in pyjamas in your waist down. We cut our own hair, did our own colour and just got on with it as best we can — all of the functioning, the disinfecting along with the home-schooling, plus the jigsaws, needlepoint and gardening we slotted into the area where our societal lives was.
For some, as best we can’
Involved nurturing kimchi andtending sourdough starters as though they were the most precious of newborns. If it comes to this,I’m as bad as anyone, but sometimes these fancy-pants-in-a-crisis ways will catch you out. On the hottest day of this year, among those bottles of home made kombucha exploded all over the kitchen. It’d had enough. We’d all had enough.
However, for all, according to a shopping report that the Co-op completed with 2,000 of its customers, thefoods we craved this season were ones who would have fitted very happily in our parents’ or grandparents’ Sales of Smash instant mash went up by 59 per cent, corned beef was up 90 per cent, tinned fish earnings jumped six-fold, packet trifles went upward seven-fold, and jelly and Bird’s custard powder sales trebled.
Tinned fruit got a boost too, with pineapple-ring earnings three and a half times bigger than normal.
This does not surprise me, given the regularity with which I have seenthat retro charmer, the pineapple upside-down cake, showing up on my Instagram feed(no real news on glace cherries, but I am certain they have also seen a rise in sales-if we weren’t performing our own hair, it seems we had been baking).
COMFORT SHOPPING Of all the items that garnered focus on my slightly shambolic Instagram accounts (follow me @ lickedspoon,I am needy), it wasn’t the warm squid and potato salad or the canard aux cerises but the corned beef pie made to my Auntie Louie’s recipe circa1968 that attracted the many admiring, madeleine-moment responses.
Obviously, some of this is easy to explain away. At a time when we’re all limiting how frequently we went into the supermarket and making the most of any grocery delivery slots we might have the ability to get our hands on, it made sense to stock up on food with a long shelf life.
When we reached for or clicked Smash and packet triflewe had been picking foods that reminded us at a time when maybe life felt safer and more confident, more optimistic, than it does now. When I look at the list of old-turned-new favourites, it reminds me of Sunday afternoons in my grandma’s house. Ironically, she had been a dreadful cook-but she wasa wonderful individual, and my memories of time spent with herare very happy ones. We knittedwe sewed, she recited enormous chunks of Shakespeare out of memory, we left packet trifle and cheesecake out of a box, and Sunday lunch wasalways followed by tinned fruit salad using condensed milk.
ARE WE JUST WHAT WE EAT?
What we eat is all about more than physical nutrition. While I love to cook, look for food, try new things, visit new restaurants and research cultures which are unfamiliarto me through their food traditions, sometimes I get tired.I get tired of the way that, rather than being about joy, food is often used asa social signifier:a means of denoting class and sophistication,a way to get one over on a different personit’s one-upmanship with fork and knife. However, you know what? Have a chair for a moment, Lady Judgment.
We’re weary, and sometimes what we really want is trifle from a packet, if that’s okay with you?
Obviously it is more important than ever for us to understand where our food comes from and how it’s been developed and reared-if nothing else, these past months have shown us the way we have to cherish and doeverything we can to preserve our own excellent health. However, the degrees of culinary show-offery, the exhausting, constant, performative, Instagrammable perfection of so much we once aspired to achieve in the kitchennow feels-to me least-slightly out of touch with the times.
Let people love what they love.
Of course, most of us flipping through these terrific pages crave amazing, seasonal, carefully created and intriguing meals, but sometimes you simply want Salad Cream on your salad rather than a homemade vinaigrette made with single-estatecold-pressed oil in the left-hand side of the olive grove-and that’s completely fine. At this time, whatever you want to assist you get by, to improve your state ofcalm, to cheer yourself up, seems all right together.
The heart wants what it wants, and if sometimes that is Bird’s custard and jelly, knock yourself out.