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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 23-Feb-17 12:30:32

That's right - I'm anti-'foodie'

Sam Hepburn is, by her own admission, a useless cook. For the acclaimed children's author, former BBC documentary-maker and now crime fiction writer, food is, well, just fuel. Which is why she really doesn't get the new 'foodie' generation...

Sam Hepburn

That's right - I'm anti-'foodie'

Posted on: Thu 23-Feb-17 12:30:32


Lead photo

Are you this cook, or one of the 'foodie' gang?

In Edwardian novels it's a dinner gong that summons suburban families to the table. In our house it'sthe fire alarm. Why? Because nine times out of ten the meal I'm cooking ends up boiled dry or singed to a blackened crisp.

It's not that I don't try. I do. I pick out recipes from cookery books and wander around supermarkets tossing lumps of meat and bundles of herbs into my trolley, but somewhere in the weary scramble to get the ingredients from raw to edible, I lose interest and wander off - sometimes mentally, often physically, particularly when a dish takes longer than the duration of The Archers to prepare. So I ramp up the heat to get it over with, turn away to make a phone call or glance at the paper and shazaam, all I've got left is a smouldering pile of ashes.

Don't get me wrong. I don't like being hungry and, if the meal has been cooked by someone else, I love eating with friends. But these days they're all so obsessed with textures, subtleties and sources that if anyone is coming to dinner I plunge into days of panicked, dry mouthed agony that result in the production of some tasteless shrivelled offering. How I envy those hosts who turn, immaculate and smiling, from the kitchen counter, fresh dough in hand, to engage in witty conversation while knocking up a few last minute walnut loaves to serve with the sustainably sourced squid.

Years ago, as a single mum sorely in need of weekend adult company I often used to throw caution to the wind and cook a traditional Sunday lunch for up to a dozen people. I did it by creating three complete meal plans – meal plan A, meal plan B and meal plan C – each one prepared to a strict and unwavering regime. All that peeling, chopping and par boiling made bearable by the lengthy duration of the Archers omnibus.

I kept insisting it was a local speciality only to discover that I had been demanding olive oil flavoured with tortoise

I still kid myself that the attendees at these Sunday extravaganzas were happy to sacrifice flavour for the stodgily predictable comforts of my Paxo stuffing and Bisto gravy spiced up with half a bottle of wine.

It was fine when my children were small and feeding them was all about nutrition – steam that broccoli, flake that salmon, dice those carrots, ice a nose and a pair of ears onto that (shop bought) muesli biscuit - but they've now grown up into foodies for whom the pondering, purchasing, preparation and ingestion of food is a sheer - and, to me, totally alien - delight.

My elder daughter and her boyfriend seem to structure whole weekends around food, barely finishing one meal before fetishising the next. When everyone comes home, the simple task of ordering a take-away turns into a tense full-on debate that puts the Trump-Clinton spats to shame, with my son shaking his head at every suggestion and muttering 'I'm not feeling it.'

Not feeling what? You're hungry. You eat. Then you stop being hungry.

As for holidays, for me they're all about lazing on the beach with a pile of books. They are not a chance to indulge in bizarre culinary experiences or traipse out into the burning sun in search of strange local ingredients.

On the pretext that I speak some Italian, an old friend once dragged me around Tuscany in search of olive oil flavoured with truffles. In every shop my request was greeted by horrified head shaking. Hot, cross and desperate to get back to my book and sun lounger I kept insisting it was a local speciality only to discover that I had been demanding olive oil flavoured with tortoise. For all I know I was ahead of my time and Olio al Tartaruga is now the latest must-have ingredient.

Luckily for me, my husband feels the same about food. When I first met him his diet, like some winsomely undernourished Lewis Caroll character, consisted entirely of toast. In fact, he hates it when I try. I once served up a dish of grilled sardines, only to realize that this time, far from overcooking them I'd absent-mindedly turned the cooker off half way through. He glanced into the pan, caught his meal staring back at him, limp, half raw and mournful and actually shuddered. But without a word he patted me good-naturedly on the shoulder and reached for the bread and toaster.

Is there something wrong with us? Is our lack of interest in food a shameful marital secret we should admit to only on some specialist website accessible through the black web? Or are there other non-foodies out there who share our bewilderment and pain?

Sam's new book, Her Perfect Life (whose central character is a TV chef), is published by Harper Collins and available from Amazon now.

By Sam Hepburn

Twitter: @sam_osman_books

travelsafar Sun 26-Feb-17 11:36:45

My husband is an anti foodie he will quite happily sit down to beans on toast, egg on toast, or cheese on toast. When ever i ask him what he would like for dinner he says what ever, you know im not into food. It can sometimes be quite hard though as i worry about lack of vitamins and minerals in his diet, but i cant force him to eat what he doesnt want. I enjoy all kinds of food and most days i eat something totally different to him. The one thing we both enjoy is cottage pie and lambs liver with onions and mashed potato. Fortunately in the summer he will eat some salad but then only toms, cue and spring onions with lashings of salad cream!!!!

Greyduster Sun 26-Feb-17 12:30:05

travalsafar are we married to the same chap?? I adore all kinds of fish, which he will not eat, casseroles, which he hates, and pasta, which he also hates unless it's macaroni cheese (which I hate!). He loves salad but only bog standard as described above. No peppers, watercress, rocket, radishes, cherry tomatoes, fruit - all of which I love. I confess to being a bit of a foodie, but I don't kick the bottom out of it, unlike a friend of ours with whom we shared a holiday. Most of the week was taken up searching for a) a particularly elusive golf course, and b) a restaurant that was supposed to serve suckling pig of almost legendary standing. We found both eventually and both were horrendously expensive and deeply disappointing.

grandMattie Sun 26-Feb-17 12:39:54

Congratulations on your confession.
I was the opposite. Having been brought up in a houseful of servants, I left home [and my native island] barely knowing how to boil water. It was my greed that saved me. Many, many disasters, even more magazines and books later, I am now a passionate but passable cook. Certainly not a foodie.
Food is fuel, not an end in itself. Food is to make others happy, food is to keep people together. The modern anxieties and trend-following about food is really sad and an indication of "what the country is coming to".

SueDonim Sun 26-Feb-17 14:27:56

I fall into the bracket of eating to live, not living to eat. I don't eat junk, though, I like my food to be of a decent standard. My dh is pretty non-fussy so I'm fortunate that he eats just about anything I put in front of him. He cooks too, a range of plain food, but he also makes a killer chilli con carne, yum!

My children are all quite food-oriented so it's nice when they're home and we can eat a family meal together.

M0nica Sun 26-Feb-17 17:00:50

I love food, always have. I am always interested in new flavours, new tastes and new textures. I was lucky I had a peripatetic childhood during which I lived in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Germany and Belgium and tasted their cuisine. Since then I haven't stopped.

What I am not is a trendy eater. I have yet to eat quinoa, chia(?), goji berries, or search for any rare ingredient. Last week DGD was with me and we discovered a recipe for jerk chicken that looked nice, but the recipe required limes, My nearest supermarket with limes is 5 miles away, so we replaced it with lemon juice from a bottle. Ditto rice malt syrup, whatever that may be. I used basalmic vinegar. The result taste both delicious and like the real thing, despite me not going hunting for the authentic ingredients.

I actually do not enjoy cooking very much, but if eating requires cookery I will do it. I cook and eat well, even when I am on my own qhen DH is away. I do not worry about food or cooking for other people. We all have disasters, and I happily dine out on mine. If all else fails there is always sausages.

Mamie Sun 26-Feb-17 17:04:54

I love food and cooking and am happy to be called a foodie. I wouldn't force it on anyone else though. Each to their own?

whitewave Sun 26-Feb-17 17:08:14

I adore food. It is a creative pastime, and something that is part of the pleasures of life.

BBbevan Sun 26-Feb-17 17:47:33

I too love food Cooking for others is my heaven, and I will try any recipe. Luckily DH is very adventurous too.

Mamie Sun 26-Feb-17 17:54:56

I am enchanted by the idea of being part of the "new foodie generation" though. Who knew? I thought the original "foodie" book was about 30 years ago?
Strange subject for a blog though. I would rather be fried in (extra virgin from Tuscany) olive oil than play golf but I don't think I would write an anti-golfers blog. ?

Marje Sun 26-Feb-17 21:29:48

"I pick out recipes from cookery books and wander around supermarkets tossing lumps of meat and bundles of herbs into my trolley, but somewhere in the weary scramble to get the ingredients from raw to edible, I lose interest and wander off - sometimes mentally, often physically"

I rejoice that there are other people in the world like me! However, I sometimes have a burst of enthusiasm and surprise myself by spending time and effort. This doesn't happen too often!

Shizam Sun 26-Feb-17 23:11:16

Think this is almost inverted snobbism. There's nothing wrong with liking food that actually tastes good. As for cooking it, it's no harder than reading. Look at recipe and follow it. We're not talking haute cuisine, just making something that tastes good and hopefully gives pleasure to whoever you might kindly cook it for. Especially for yourself.

Rinouchka Mon 27-Feb-17 08:34:02

Good, tasty food cooked with fresh ingredients and love was an ingrained part of my childhood. My Italian mother saw food as an expression of affection towards those eating it and as a sociable act. I feel the same and have tried to follow suit, but I can never be as good a cook as she was.

And I would never quiz any guest ( as she was wont to do) who has not finished all on his/her plate with hands on hips,eyebrow raised and a disapproving " What, you don't like it?" ( imagine the accent) grin

M0nica Mon 27-Feb-17 13:39:30

Some people are just not interested in food and only see it as fuel. That is a perfectly acceptable attitude.

If you are not interested in food or cooking why bother? Between basics like omelettes, chops, steaks and ready meals there are plenty of ways of feeding yourself and your family quite satisfactorily without ruining good food because you have decided to make something elaborate and then cannot be bothered to concentrate on the job.

If there is one thing worse than the kind of foodie who spends half their life telling you how it took them a month to run down a bottle of original Tibetan tea oil and how expensive it was, it is the woman, and it always is a woman, doing the 'ditsy me' act about their lack of interest in food and cooking.

kittylester Mon 27-Feb-17 20:29:57

I didn't think I was a foodie but I've just had scallops with caramelised cauliflower puree - it was fabulous.

jack Tue 28-Feb-17 12:44:55

I think the definition of a "foodie" is someone who appreciates good food cooked from scratch (if possible)and is prepared to experiment with tastes and textures. It also means he or she has a good palate, so probably enjoys decent wine as well!

"Foodies" also save a huge amount of money if they buy and cook their own food at home instead of resorting to pubs and restaurants. Then, when we do go out for lunch or dinner, we can soon tell whether we're being given a plate of microwaved rubbish or a beautifully cooked fresh fillet of fish.

Not all foodies are cooks and not all cooks are foodies. But most of us, at our combined great age, should at least care about the quality of what we eat and be grateful that the days of post-war rationing are well and truly behind us.

M0nica Tue 28-Feb-17 14:19:07

Hear! hear!

Jalima Tue 28-Feb-17 14:29:58

I sometimes get the urge to be creative but more often than not cook the same recipes I've done for years.

Tomorrow is St David's Day and I thought I would make bara brith for DH, which I've never made before, however I don't have any soft brown sugar so won't be making it.
The thought was there ..... it wouldn't be good for him anyway

Barmyoldbat Thu 02-Mar-17 21:28:55

I love to cook but is without making a great fuss and will try my hand at most things but what I can't stand is all this pretentious rubbish about having to use some trendy ingredien, eg , coconut oil and also the names given. Today I saw the ingredient needed In a dish was melted onions. Does this mean I need to put the onions in a blender and reduce them to a liquid or what?

Saren21 Tue 03-Apr-18 08:11:13

This food-related blog making me hungry and now I'm going to prepare something for myself and have them on my newly purchased plate[].

OldMeg Tue 03-Apr-18 08:19:26

Shizam I agree

catherine123 Fri 06-Apr-18 10:51:58

my husband will eat anything so i am lucky, cant bake but my grandchildren are so loyal they will eat my fairy cakes and i lose interest i have times when i will cook something really good but have got to be in the mood but my two sons are great cooks and i love cooking with them and they have taught me a lot and my daughter is a great baker.

Bathsheba Fri 06-Apr-18 11:04:53

I've just had scallops with caramelised cauliflower puree - it was fabulous.

kitty did you make it? I need that recipe!!!

Pretty please smile