i Editor's Letter: The horse meat scandal

  • @stefanohat


The horse meat scandal has brought out the worst in some middle-class, metropolitan journalists as the guard slips and they sneer at the poor for buying cheap frozen meat products. The gist of it is: "If you're upset about horse meat in your frozen lasagne, well it serves you right."

On paper, I am such a journalist. But I could never tell a single mum struggling against the odds to raise her children in debilitating poverty that trying to budget within her means, as best as she knows how, is to deserve horse in the family diet when she thinks it's beef. Not least because I was brought up by a (twice-widowed) single mum in such circumstances.

However, there is a big but. Ma was, and still is, a magnificent exponent of the art of Italian cucina povera – literally "cooking of the poor", now terribly fashionable in restaurants across the world, but which I used to call "dinner".

A lot of the time we did not know the fancy restaurant names of the dishes we ate: they were just what Ma made (having come home from waitressing all day) with an eye to economy, healthiness, flavour, and – yes – no little love.

Beef could be a meal in its own right one day, a basis for a pasta ragu the next (still more was frozen), and then a baked pasta dish the third. No cooked potato ever escaped reheating, an egg would be thrown into a sauce, stale bread was jujjed up by garlic and olive oil. It was exotic for 70s Croydon (roast peppers, polenta) but not expensive. It couldn't be.

So, let's have less sneering at the poor, and more education: about the food chain and how to cook it, quickly, deliciously, healthily and affordably. For all our sakes.