If we all love Jamie and Nigella, why can't most of us even boil an egg?

Tom Parker Bowles tells literary festival that Britain is nation of 'food voyeurs'

Britain is a nation of food voyeurs who love books and programmes about eating, but still don't bother cooking for themselves, the food critic and author, Tom Parker Bowles said yesterday.

In an interview ahead of his appearence at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival tonight Parker Bowles said that while he welcomed the nation's healthy appetite for television programmes on cooking and books in which "celebrity chefs" divulge their best recipes, he bemoaned the nation's reluctance to get in the kitchen and cook for themselves.

"We are a nation of voyeurs. We love Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson in our millions, but we leave them on our coffee tables. We watch them but we don't always learn from them," he said.

Parker Bowles, who is set to speak about his latest book, Full English, said the best way to ward off a generation of armchair foodies, as well as an obesity epidemic, was to bring back cooking lessons at school. He said we had "forgotten" to cook as a nation and that it was vital to learn the basics.

"The only way we will make Britain a food nation again is by teaching children how to cook. We just need them to know how to boil an egg, make a salad and a salad dressing. I'd like them to bring back those skills at school. I was privileged enough to go to a public school where we had cooking lessons which were really good fun. We were given the basic knowledge of how to stew and roast. Many of us have forgotten how to cook," he said.

He said our eating habits had declined since the war when we ate healthy portions and that he was worried over childhood obesity which would have "long-term costs with their obsession with cheap food."

But Parker Bowles, the son of the Duchess of Cornwall, said while he was committed to eating seasonal, organic fare, he felt we should not be too disapproving about our consumption. He did, however, confess to being partial to the odd McDonalds cheeseburger.

"There is nothing wrong with the odd McDonalds. I love crappy fizzy drinks, processed cheese and cheese burgers. If I'm passing and I'm hungry, I'll go in. They do brilliant chips. I agree on the importance of eating humanely but there are too many finger-waggers," he said.

For his latest book, Parker Bowles travelled across Britain in search of regional dishes, visiting West Country cider brewers to Yorkshire tripe dressers. He is set to be in conversation with The Independent's restaurant critic, Tracey MacLeod, at Woodstock.

For full details and to download a festival brochure go to independent.co.uk/woodstock

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