BBC "Economy Gastronomy" - anyone else see it?

Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 17 weeks ago.

Considering the aim of so many of us to become more frugal in our lifestyles, I was rather looking forward to this series hoping I could pick up some useful tips.

Alas, the series wasn't aimed at me at all.

I've only seen the first episode of the series and was hugely disappointed. The family featured were presented as being of modest means, but judging by what they were spending on food each month (over £800!!!) and imagining the mortgage or rent on their house in addition to this, this was definitely a family who earned well above the average wage in Britain. So much so that they could afford never to cook their own food, each family member (3 young boys and a husband and wife) consumed either individual pre-packaged 'ready meals' that required heating up in a microwave or oven or food that had been delivered by a local Take Away.

Getting a family with these kind of habits to save money (£4k a year) by preparing their own food was hardly going to be a revolutionary concept.

The best advice was about learning to make a few base dishes, like basic braised mince, and then incorporating this into 'tumbledown' recipes (like chili con carne or cottage pie). But this is second nature to me, my 'base dish' equivalent would be a sofrito 'sauce' using tomatoes, onion and garlic.

And so I wondered who would actually benefit from this program. I already prepare my food from scratch, but as a way to economise, being encouraged to make macaroni cheese with artichoke hearts acquired from a delicatessen is not the most helpful advice for becoming more frugal. The only 'universal' tips I remember were about saving seeds discarded from a chili pepper to use in another dish (although can't think of any time I've ever wanted the heat from a chili pepper and none of the flavour) and that by buying a pepper plant one can bring down the cost of chilis to 2p a pepper. Unfortunately, when I look at my weekly expenditure, chilis are already one of the cheapest ingredients I cook with - they may cost a bit from a supermarket, but at 'ethnic' groceries they cost a pittance. Still, if I follow the advice from this first TV episode and make the investment in a chili plant and, if it doesn't die in my basement home, I could potentially save a whole 10p a week!!!

Sadly I can't imagine that any family that currently subsists on ready meals and is intimidated by the idea of preparing food from scratch will leap to the challenges and opportunities of this program. "Economy Gastronomy" has made me re-evaluate Delia Smith's last book. I'm becoming even more convinced that she was really onto something here. It's just too much to ask a family like this to change everything, but encouraging them to compromise by adapting pre-prepared foods seems like a much more feasible goal.

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Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 37 weeks ago.
Re: BBC "Economy Gastronomy" - anyone else see it?

Being on the other side of the world, I haven't seen it. But I totally agree with you. I'm constantly astounded by what people can't do these days; it's a lot of people, and it's not just cooking that they can't do.

I don't know if it's because I had old parents (and I'm not terribly young myself nowadays), but I grew up knowing how to cook basics. My stepmother grew up in the depression, and is Scottish to boot, so she was VERY economical. So much so that she wasn't prepared to let me actually cook anything in case I ruined (hence wasted) it, but I watched her and I learned. And all girls did "Home Economics" at school, where we learned useful stuff. Boring, but useful. I also remember watching my grandmother black the stove (an old cast iron coal range), "blue" the laundry, starch the linen, and dampen it before ironing it. So I know how to do these old-fashioned things too. I don't NEED to do them, but I do do them because I like to keep old knowledge alive, and I intend to pass on the knowledge to my granddaughters. I've already had to teach my daughter-in-law how to hand-wash wool! She must have grown up wearing synthetics, because she had no idea you couldn't just biff a wool/angora jersey into the washing machine.

I made sure my son would be able to feed himself by giving him a day each week to cook dinner when he was 12, and teaching him how to make the things he particularly liked. Good thing too, as his wife, as well as not knowing about washing wool, can't cook. She's learning, but they'd have been living on take-away food for the last 10 years if I hadn't made sure Jonathan could cook. And at the time, my aim was to produce a man who wouldn't be a pain-in-the-arse husband who made his wife do everything! I never dreamed it'd end up the other way around. Not that she's a pain-in-the-arse, she's a very nice girl whose parents both worked when she was growing up so she just didn't have the opportunity to learn by watching and helping.



My blog is Food and Shoes

Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 3 weeks 3 days ago.
Re: BBC "Economy Gastronomy" - anyone else see it?

Loretta, I don't know if UK TV is exaggerating or what, but I am often astonished by the number of times I see people or families depicted who just seem to live on takeaway, and unhealthy takeaway at that. If it's a single person with a tiny kitchen, I can sort of understand ( my single days with a tiny NYC kitchen I used to live more or less on takeaway/takeout or salad bar stuff) but when people have small kids, and are even stay-at-home mothers, and so on...and still live on fish and chips and curries...I have to wonder what's going on. I haven't seen Economy Gastronomy, but there were similar attempts at trying to make people cook for themselves in shows like Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food on C4, Take On the Takeaway (which was actually pretty entertaining - I hope they bring it back one day) on BBC2, etc.

I think that Delia may have hit on some trend, though I do think she went a bit too far. But then, her book did sell well... In the US the equivalent to what she was doing would be Sandra Lee and her Semi Homemade Cooking show, which constantly gets vilified but is tremendously popular. And she has a new show now called Money Saving Meals. I guess there is just a big gap between people who cook, and people who don't.


The Big Onigiri.

- Wherever you go, there you are. -

Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 17 weeks ago.
Re: BBC "Economy Gastronomy" - anyone else see it?

I snooped around a little recently to find out a little more about the show and people's reactions to it. I doubt this will be having the impact of Jamie Oliver's 'Ministry of Food'. Most disturbing (to me) is that I saw a Guardian ('Newspaper') piece about the series saying that the first family featured were the most 'hard up' financially... this doesn't bode well for the other episodes.

I used to thoroughly enjoy "Take On the Takeaway" too. I'm also totally of the belief that TV is finally ready to address Bento!

There really does seem to be a huge divide between those who cook and those who do not in the UK, with the lifestyle of one group being almost unimaginable to the other. If there's common ground anywhere it's the packed lunch - the territory where 'those who cook' will regularly weaken and buy a pre-made salad or sandwich, and where 'those who don't cook' don't feel so threatened by the idea of a rustling up a snack or sandwich.
Pretty much everyone can be convinced about the benefits of economising this way and how quickly the savings rack up. (But there's hardly any need to point this out in this forum!)

This is it, Maki!!!
If there was ever a right time to be on TV as a consultant or presenter for a genuinely useful lifestyle enhancing cooking show it's now!
Earlier this year I stumbled on a show in Japan showing how to make a selection of appetising 5 minute budget bentos. You've assembled a wealth of accessible and easy to use ideas in your sites. And the Credit Crunch is already encouraging more and more people to bring in food to work from home. All the ingredients for a successful format are there. And the BBC's dreadful cooking show with Loyd Grossman "Step Up To The Plate" (Ready Steady Cook meets Masterchef) just showcases how desperate we've become for a fresh format.

Bento-ing from: Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 7 years 34 weeks ago.
Re: BBC "Economy Gastronomy" - anyone else see it?

I saw this and I agree, Loretta, it was pretty dire. It was the usual thing of people who spend an inordinate amount on pre-packaged microwave meals and take-aways being pleasantly surprised to find out that - shock horror! - it is cheaper and healthier to cook more meals from scratch. The tumbledown idea was as you say second nature to people like us, and the whole thing was really teaching your grandmother to suck eggs.

I must say I also enjoyed Take On the Takeaway, too, it was quite fun. Depressing though, when dumb knucledragging neanderthal types preferred horrible looking take aways to freshly prepared meals from reknowned chefs. I'd kill to have Antonio Carluccio cooking lunch for me!

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