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Foodies, boroughs and the wild connection


1. The “G” word

It used to be the case for us, and it was easy to see: turn right in Peckham and you end up among lovely, quiet and clean streets. Turn left and join the crowd, the noise, the hustle and bustle. For us, this was not an experience worth having, as we were new to town and trying hard to combat the culture shock.

But it turns out that we’re not the only ones who saw it. Gentrifying Peckham is widely commented upon. And having a borough that’s torn between “rich” and “poor” neighbourhoods necessarily means that as money flows in, those without it find it hard to get by.

2. The Skint Foodie

I discovered this blog and fell in love with it instantly. The author’s story, the recipes, the background – everything about it makes me want to read on, and applaud, and maybe cook and eat the dishes described – not because I’m hungry, but because I want to relate to that kind of cooking, living, coping.

The story of food, recovery and being “in-between” is perfectly set in Peckham. The foodie tastes on a tiny budget, attempting to live normally after falling on hard times in a cruel city – this is more than a cookbook, it’s a cautionary tale-cum-cinderella story.

3. Food may be all that Londoners have left of nature

OK, dramatic, I know. But there really are some areas of this city which have very little access to green, wild open space. Which is important, even if you’re not George Monbiot. Peckham is quite fortunate in this respect, but I’ve seen patches of London where “concrete jungle” is a most fitting term.

This matters also because of the food we eat. A tandoori takeaway does not only mean that your stomach craves something. It’s eyes, ears, nose as well. And maybe the reason why some Londoners are so eager to part with their cash on farmers’ markets is this: they pay for the wild, the green, the fresh that they’ve been deprived of.

Which makes the Skint Foodie a survivor in more ways than one.

4. The added value (food as art, food as connection)

Freakonomics would be right in telling you that for many Americans, it makes no financial sense to cook at home. True also for Londoners. But only if money and time is taken into account.

Cooking food means being able to say “I made this.” It means choosing ingredients and spices. And then it actually means working to take them to a new place. This is a connection worth having – with the food you pay for with your money and labour, with the people you get the food from / serve the food to. And for many Londoners – as evidenced by some reactions to Jamie Oliver’s “cook more” plea – this is no longer an option they’re given.

5. What you can do

– Cook more.

– Shop sensibly.

– Move out.

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