Monday, June 10, 2013

Hand taste

Michael Pollan told a story at the RSA last week about learning to make kimchi in Korea and his teacher explaining to him the difference between tongue taste and hand taste.

Tongue taste, she said, anyone can do. Anywhere and anyone can make food taste good. Salt, fat, flavour balance. That part is easy. But hand taste, hand taste only comes from something made with love and intent. I think it's the difference between the grilled cheese sandwich you make yourself and the one your Grandma made for you. There's a feeling and an emotion that comes through in hand taste cooking. It's the creativity and the energy put into something you make that takes it beyond sustenance and into something special and memorable.  It's hand taste that we foodie types seek out, even if we don't always have the vocabulary to say just that.

So hand taste was on my mind at the Enough Food IF dinner last week. We were very lucky to be treated to dinner by one of the River Cafe's Head Chefs, Danny Bohan and had wines chosen for us by their Head Sommelier, Emily O'Hare.  The meal was beautiful and delicious. And I kept thinking about the difference between food as sustenance and basic nutrition and food as love and enjoyment and social capital. The people who live on ugali alone… their concept of my food must be as crazy foreign as mine of theirs.

And it made me think about home and safety and comfort. About how Enough Food IF is a great starting point and so important but that what I would want for people is hand taste. It doesn't have to be crazy expensive or intricate, but hand taste needs to have a level of security and confidence. You need to have enough, nutritious food to feed your people, but you also need the space to cook, a home whatever that means and however basic, and the security and time to make something beyond basic subsistence.

I know it's a few steps beyond what the basic goals of the Enough Food IF campaign are, and really, they need to get those bits right first. This is just me being a day dreamer and thinking of happiness and love for everyone.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Enough Food IF...

Thursday I spent the afternoon listening to Michael Pollan talk about his new book Cooking and the evening with a bunch of food bloggers and Save the Children, talking about hunger. A full, interesting day of contradictions.

The #foodiesvhunger evening was hosted by Save the Children to get food bloggers talking about the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign. Brie (a food blogger and Save the Children campaigner) spoke about real people and their hunger stories and how programs like financing a cow or a sheep have had a life changing impact – income, food, school for their kids, opportunities. And it's so uplifting and hopeful to think that you can sponsor a cow or a couple sheep and totally change a family's life. That's tremendous and real and tangible and makes the donor feel important and useful and like your money is really making a difference. I get that. But you can't buy goats and cows for every family in the poor parts of the world and fix the problems of hunger. In order for there to be a lasting systemic change that means your grandchildren aren't also buying cows to give to poor people, we need a significant political shift.

That's what the Enough IF campaign is about. Hundreds of organisations around the world have joined forces to send a single message to politicians around the world: put hunger on the agenda. There's enough food to feed everyone. The Enough IF campaign is working to make sure that the issue of hunger remains a key focus for the upcoming G8. Now they need people power to make sure that the message is heard, loud enough for the politicians attending the G8 and Hunger Summit to know that this matters to their consituents.

On June 8 in London David Cameron is hosting a pre-G8 meeting on Hunger. The Enough IF campaign is holding an event in Hyde Park, not far from the meeting. A rally to show people that feeding everyone is possible and to show the politicians that it matters to us. People power and support is important and more powerful that retweeting something or liking something on Facebook.&nbsp

And you should care. Our #foodiesvhunger evening was centred around lovely wines and a gorgeous dinner put together by River Cafe sommelier Emily O'Hare and Head Chef Danny Bohan, friends of Amy from Save the Children. We drank beautiful wine and ate beautiful food, but we started the evening with a spoonful of ugali, a tasteless sludge of corn flour and water. It's a common staple starch food in eastern Africa and is meant to be eaten with other things – I imagine it's sort of like a rice or polenta base for the real food, the vegetables and meat. But if you can't afford the meat and vegetables part you eat ugali stuff on its own. It's basically nutrionless. It is definely tasteless. And if your kids grow up eating only that they will not grow up healthy.

So as we sat around eating phenomenal ham and risotto and rabbit and fresh borlotti beans (which was my favourite part of the meal) and drinking a gorgeous selection of wines that were paired with the food and enjoying conversation and laughter… well, it just makes you think. I don't think anyone needs to feel guilty about the circumstances of their lives, but we do need to recognise our privilege and acknowledge that we are lucky and not everyone is. And that we are not powerless to help those people who are not as lucky as we are. You can help buy a sheep. Or you can tweet about the #BigIF campaign. Or you can sign up here. Or you could actually show this matters with your time and your presence and attend the big event on Saturday the 8th of June.