You may be wondering what the title of this post is all about. Well, it’s a response to something I read a month or so ago and spoke about at a fascinating breakfast event last week…
The article in question was ostensibly about a Deliveroo board member defending their low margin – and then about half way through, the board member in question, one Martin Mignot, states that Deliveroo wants to “kill home cooking”.
If you haven’t come across Deliveroo, they are an online home delivery business with a fleet of bikes (of the pedal and motorised persuasion) that deliver ‘high quality takeaway’ food. You’ll find them in quite a few of the larger towns and cities in the UK.
The assumption seems to be that by providing accessible and cheap pre-cooked food, whether from a restaurant or one of Deliveroo’s shipping crate kitchens, in the future home cooking will become something simply done as a hobby.
To say I was kind of disgusted is perhaps something of an understatement…
Why we need to take back control
We already give away so much information to big tech companies (and yes I know they do also add value and convenience to our lives, so don’t put me down as some kind of tech naysayer). It’s easy to sleepwalk into the arms of companies collecting data on your life in the guise of making things “easier”.
We also have a growing disconnection with where our food comes from, as it turns up nicely cleaned, wonky shapes removed and prepackaged on our supermarket shelves. Couple this with growing obesity, increasing issues with digestive complaints and food sensitivities, and scenarios such as the recent toxic Dutch eggs finding their way into supermarket sandwiches.
Do we really want to give away even more control – particularly to a company that is unlikely to be genuinely interested in our welfare? (You might also want to have a little read of Joanna Blythman’s excellent book, Swallow This, to get a sense of some of the other slightly questionable practices already going on in the food industry.)
Up to the point of reading the above article, I wasn’t particularly anti-Deliveroo. In fairness to them, they have genuinely given people access to better quality takeaway food (even if there is the current tribunal on the slightly contentious nature of the “self employed” status given to their drivers, which means avoiding minimum wages and other benefits).
And Deliveroo could even be a power for good – assisting food businesses in growth and finding new opportunities, reducing food waste through helping restaurants better predict order volume, and introducing new cuisines and flavours to people who haven’t tried them before. However, any company that wants to kill off home cooking is unlikely to get my vote.
Why we should care about cooking – and not just as a hobby
Even when we feel time-strapped and overwhelmed, we need to make time to care about what we put in our mouths and bodies. Without eating well, it’s very difficult to live well. Eating well doesn’t mean a diet of superfoods and faddy ingredients. It doesn’t mean not eating out. And it also doesn’t mean not ordering the occasional takeaway. But, yes, it does mean getting in the kitchen from time to time (ideally more rather than less of the time!).
And I’m not talking about spending hours at the stove, but I am advocating for regular food preparation. This could be as simple as making a bowl of porridge in the morning, putting together a salad of roasted vegetables and couscous full of delicious spices or scrambling some eggs to top avo-smashed sourdough.
Cooking is not just a hobby (though of course it can be that as well). It’s an essential part of being connected with yourself, people around you – and the people behind the food you eat. Food production is a very human endeavour; there is a person that touches it from the growing all the way through to the serving, but the further and further away we get from this understanding, the less control and care we have.
And let’s not forget it’s also a pleasure to cook and be able to make delicious dishes.
Spending time cooking helps develop your creativity, your senses and your confidence. It can even boost your mental health – just check out some of the initial findings on the therapeutic benefits of baking in a recent report by the Real Bread Campaign with Bethlehem Royal Hospital.
The upside to all of this is that in the face of what is, frankly, a silly mission, there is the continued growth of companies like Abel & Cole, Riverford Organics and Farmdrop, as well as recipe box companies like HelloFresh, Gousto and Mindful Chef. That, and the fact that there are cookery schools and cookery classes happening all over the country – including people coming to my own workshops – gives me heart.
And some final thoughts/wishes to leave you with…
Fill your kitchen with beautiful flavours, colours and aromas.
Plan your meals and get into a habit of making as many of your meals as is possible for your lifestyle (and once something becomes a habit you don’t have to think about it quite so much!).
Take pleasure in cooking, and in the occasional takeaway, but don’t forget that food is human and connects us with other humans. Buying it, eating it and preparing it should never be viewed simply as a hobby.