Look at me, I’m wonderful: helping the poor whilst helping yourself
September 22, 2013 8 Comments
In my long distant youth the left used to argue about the merits of giving to charity. The purest socialist would argue that any charitable need should be met by the state, and giving merely aided the state in avoiding its responsibilities. The problem with that argument is that until the state stepped in any need would go unmet; pragmatism dictated that you give whilst arguing for change.
I have been thinking about the current trend for budget cooking and what this says about those who are financially constrained and what we should be doing to help them.
Shopping choices designed to confront global capitalism, to take on ‘the man’, or to change how food is produced and distributed is a good thing. I am far from convinced that encouraging the use of big name supermarket own-label items does anyone any good.
I remember joints of meat eked out by mum to provide family meals for three consecutive days. I remember cheap stewing steak that was more gristle than meat; I recall the struggle to force it down without throwing it back up. I recall hours spent at dad’s allotment in Manchester Drive producing stuff for the table most weeks of the year. No meals out, no takeaways, no convenience foods, no refrigerator or freezer to store stuff either. I don’t think mum and dad wanted lessons in cooking on a budget from the middle classes; they just wanted more money.
I object to the meek shall inherit the Earth type arguments; the poor should never be content with their lot. However, the pragmatist in me realises that the Micawber principle is pertinent. The class tourism that seems to accompany those instructing the needy to live on a budget does seems gauche to me though; perhaps Jarvis Cocker has become a prophet.
Twenty-first century Britain is a place of food banks, of charity filling the stomachs of those made poorer by Government policy designed to punish them for their penury. The helping hand that informed cooking provides has become a necessity; but what are the motives of those making a good living selling advice to the poor? Are those that are seeking a top ten spot for their advice in it for the good they tell us they are doing, or for less selfless reasons? Is Sainsburys (for example) selling advice on how to use its economy own-brand stuff anything but an exercise in boosting profits?
It is a tricky argument, and I am aware that being no longer poor puts me in an odd place to comment. I think it is a bit like the charity argument though; pragmatism makes seeking ways to make your money go further perfectly sensible, but we must also campaign to eradicate the need to do this.
In the meantime though I cannot help but be sceptical about the motives of some, especially those who seem to have hitched onto the passing bandwagon. And whilst the big supermarkets can offer cheap food, this comes at a price too.