29 APRIL 1989, Page 43

Imperative cooking: correspondence

I HAVE received many letters following thy appeal for accounts of what the British actually eat — as distinct from what they bay — and how they eat it. There were also several letters following what Mr Bond of Oxford calls my 'vicious attack' on vegeta- rians. My thanks to all who wrote.

Mr Bond explains that he is not a vegetarian but

lives with some, and we manage to eat together every day with no hang-ups whatev- er. Meatless meals are nowadays widely available . . . in fast food joints, school and works canteens (and) supermarkets . . . tas- ty, too.

I am, he says, 'out of touch'. From what the vegemaniacs reveal of their cuisine and disposition I do hope I can remain so. They also are curiously out of touch. Several ask aggressively why meat is superior to veget- ables and go on about the delights of vegetable dishes. They seem unaware that we normals have the pleasure of eating both meat and vegetables. It is obvious that most of them, unlike Mr Bond's menage, never mix with normal eaters and observe that we, after a good day's shooting, like nothing better than pasta — but with anchovies and so long as it's followed by blood-pink lamb, tomatoes and garlic. Now, what the British eat: 'pet food' says one correspondent. Every time she has been to Sainsbury's in the last three Years, it has been to queue behind some- one buying 'only tins of Chum'. Her mother, 'an aristocratic old widow', living in Wiltshire was recently found by the Cleaning woman to be sharing a tin of Whiskas with her puppy. 'One spoon for YOU, puppy, and one for me'. The same writer is surrounded by 'excellent' Indian restaurants. Occasionally their black refuse bags split to reveal pet-food tins. This is quite a cross-section of Britons.

In Aberdeen, they eat potatoes. A selection of vegetables means 'peas, car- rots, baked tatties, creamed tatties, cro- quette tatties, roast tatties and chips.' At the polytechnic, they eat mince and tatties or `stovies'.

In Leeds, writes Professor John Burton, they eat Yorkshire puddings as big as Plates and two inches high with mint sauce and gravy. He suggests I visit a student cafeteria to see how Britons eat. Luckily, Mr Hunt has done it for me. At Oxford Polytechnic, the hamburgers and beans are favourites though the most attractive girls use something called a 'vegi-bar'.

.Several readers have tales of men who have exactly the same for breakfast every day. Shelagh — I think it is Panton's — husband, a tax manager aged 39, has, for 20 years been eating the same breakfast with no variations:

Two sausages (pork) grilled, with three slices of white toast and margarine. The sausages must be the cheapest available as these have more fat. He eats this on the bread board to save having to wash the plate and he always eats it standing up. It is washed down with a cup of (tea bag) tea and the tea bag is used to make a second cup. If I mistakenly throw away the used tea bag before the second cup, my husband retrieves it from the bin.'

Mr Panton 'has only visited the doctor once in the last 17 years and can still get into his best suit which was made for him in 1971'.

Julia, Lady Lymington is also conserva- tive but in a different way.

I am a widow living by myself but I have always cooked big so I continue to do so. I cook for eight. Four people at dinner, two helpings for my mother who is not at all young, and the last two helpings are either frozen, eaten next day with a friend or by me.

Lady Lymington has a more progressive and adventurous daughter who 'slims by not buying things but, hunger-struck one night last week, for dinner she had a whole pot of cornish cream and a pot of honey'. I assume she was on her own. Solitary eating at whim seems to be the coming thing as Dr Anne Cardle-Chamier explains.

Only 15 per cent of Americans regularly sit down to a family meal. Cooking for the family is associated with grandmothers. In most families you 'fix' yourself something to eat from the ice-box or freezer any time you're hungry, send for a pizza or ask someone to pick up a take-away. . . This unconvivial grazing should be nipped in the bud. . . . It is allied to another problem, children who won't eat wholesome food put in front of them. I can't think of a family I know without at least one problem feeder.

It is not just vegetarians we should be staying out of touch with. In fact 'staying out of touch' is fast emerging as the basic rule of Imperative cooking.

Digby Anderson