Unlike cold jelly and custard, hot sausage and mustard or pease pudding with saveloys, food doesn’t pair gloriously well with politics. Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, is only the most recent example of why. The new, well-meaning lockdown rules about pubs and restaurants has provoked a charged debate about what constitutes a “substantial” meal, the serving of which determines whether a tier-three pub, bar or bistro can remain open. A bag of monkey nuts doesn’t, for example. The beef of Old England, roasted on a Sunday lunchtime with the plate heaving with all the trimmings, by contrast, is not just a meal but a symbol of national sovereignty, the means, after all, by which les rosbifs beat Napoleon. But what, Mr Jenrick was asked, about a pasty? Pronouncing on the matter with all the authority that her majesty’s ministers used to apply to the Irish Question, the gold standard or the Versailles settlement, Mr Jenrick judged that, if served with a portion of chips, then a pasty would indeed qualify. Mr Jenrick was not “grilled” on the position of the potato wedge, the delicate status of coleslaw, or if those curly fries you used to get would also be OK in a Covid-secure hostelry. A hot topic, for sure.
So much, then, for the drive to push back the boundaries of state interference in the minutiae of our lives.
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