Letter: Keeping the home fires burning

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The Independent Online
Sir: Margaret Maxwell's account of childhood culinary experiences in rural Wales ('A taste of childhood', 3 August) will touch a responsive chord among many of us born in the Twenties and Thirties who made holiday visits to countrified relatives, or were evacuated to country areas during the Second World War.

Our home in pre-war Battersea, London, had a Cornish range, which was in daily use, as did my aunt's town house in Truro. They were eventually replaced by gas cookers. In many rural locations (including here in Wales) Agas and Raeburns still provide cooking power and central heating for houses and farms. They may be supplemented by an electric or gas appliance for use in summer, but there is nothing like the ventilating effect of a real fire for keeping a solid-walled building snug and dry.

I suspect that the reason Ms Maxwell's grandmother's food tasted so differently to today's is two-fold. First, there was little, or no, 'snacking' with junk food between meals; we waited till we got good and hungry, and ate with real relish.

Second, the ingredients were grown virtually on the spot, and - in the case of vegetables at least - prepared within minutes of pulling. Pre-packed food from supermarket chains may offer the same theoretical nutritional values, but much of it suffers badly from the effects of over-standardisation and texture destruction from deep freezing.

Life may have become more convenient, but it has lost the personal involvement of yesteryear. Perhaps the ubiquitous barbeque is an unconscious attempt to compensate, and not just a method of asphyxiating flies.

Yours faithfully,

J. CHARLES HALL

Crymych, Dyfed

3 August

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