diamond geezer

 Wednesday, August 21, 2013

London has a true love affair with food.

High-end restaurants, pop-up kitchens, street food festivals... we'll spare no expense to give our taste buds a treat. We love our sushi, and our ramen, and our cronuts, or whatever this year's food sensation is. If Time Out announces a Portuguese saltfish bake-off, or the opening of an organic cinnamon cupcakery, we're there. We queue for bespoke burgers, order cocktails from a mixologist and snap photos of our cordon bleu platters to circulate to friends. We think nothing of splashing out on unusual ingredients, pulled pork takeaways and seven-course tasting menus. Dining out has become a pleasure, even an essential, as Londoners' lives are increasingly defined by their pampered palates.

So this is the right time to bring news of an event which celebrates the way we eat today. A reflection of the very best of innovative cuisine. An epicurean fiesta to bring the population of the capital together. It's the London Foodbank Festival. And it's coming to a street near you soon.

In recent years more and more Londoners have been discovering the joys of cooking on a shoestring. Rising rents and falling income mean smaller budgets and shorter shopping lists. And that means sourcing food more creatively... or going without.

Innovation is the key. With hungry mouths to feed, and nothing much in your basket, it becomes essential to spread what you do have further and further. This may mean swallowing your pride, or outsourcing additional supplies, perhaps even requesting a hamper of timely comestibles from your local philanthropic outlet. Pulses, pasta and potatoes are some of the daily staples of Foodbank cuisine, perhaps garnished with tinned tomatoes or tuna to keep rumbling tummies at bay. The message is "Eat well, spend less".

And now the proponents of austerity culture are seeking to share their recipes with the rest of us. That's both as a taste of what we're missing, and as a timely reminder of how the other half live. Here are some of the dishes you could be enjoying if you sign up for the experience of the London Foodbank Festival.

Beans sur toast: Moist haricot pulses in a light tomato jus, layered on stale loaf rejuvenated by a spell in the toaster.
Canned surprise: That cheap tin with the missing label, lifted from the cut-price shelf in the local supermarket.
Nouvelle cuisine: A few dainty slices of carrot and frankfurter scattered around a large plate dappled with pools of ketchup.
Food parcel: Wrapped in recycled cardboard, this box of basic ingredients could see your family through the next week.
Bedroom Tax omelette: Made from just the one egg, watered down a bit, with a dash of pepper and some KFC scrapings.
Flakes of corn: Crisp golden maize (definitely non-Kelloggs), drenched in UHT milk, as a stopgap meal at any time of the day.
Iceland cuisine: Why not bake an own-brand pizza and open a pack of £1 party nibbles to celebrate a loved-one's birthday?
Granny's wartime cookbook: Gran knew what she was doing, making do and digging for victory, and adding grated swede to everything.
Carrot, Cumin & Kidney Bean Burger (9p): The recipe makes four patties (so freeze the other three). Serve with salad, rice or potato wedges.
Roasted courgette and feta Greek-inspired potato salad (13p): This sauce, dip, whatever, is immensely versatile, either as a potato salad or as sauce to use for tomorrow's lunch.
Mushroom, Bacon & Ale Casserole (28p): Trusty cheap bacon and some of a £1 veg pack, plus a dash from a four pack of very cheap bitter, makes this hearty winter warming dinner.

Next time you're poncing round some Michelin-starred restaurant, or slapping down a £20 tip, or picking up a bottle of vintage wine to go with your premium ready meal, or slipping out at lunch to buy a ribmeat hot dog, spare a thought for those less fortunate than yourself. While the rest of the capital is splashing out, others are hunkering down to try to make ends meet. And those who are forced to live this way would rather like it if the rest of the capital would stand up and notice, maybe even contribute, rather than turn an increasingly blind eye.

Rather than buy a posh coffee this morning, why not spend £3 on basics and drop them off at your local Foodbank venue. Or nip round to a neighbour in need with more than a cup of sugar. Or try surviving on pound a day for food for a week and see how well you cope. That's the key message of the London Foodbank Festival. While you may never have had it so good, many have never had it worse.


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