British Food Fortnight: How has modern life changed the way we eat?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd October 2014
Modern society is fast paced, more demanding and more stressful than ever. The demands of full-time employment have changed as more businesses work to 24-hour global deadlines and staff have to be flexible with hours. It is no surprise then, that our food culture has changed too as people simply don’t have the time to sit down for a traditional family meal.Technology We all know that technology is making us less sociable but it is also changing the way we eat. This is particularly apparent with the younger generation. Children are brought up with modern technology as an integral part of their lives while the social side of eating dinner is not only considered boring but an old-fashioned novelty. Even restaurants have noticed this cultural change. Often, a customer’s first port of call is the acquisition of the wifi password, even taking priority over viewing the menu or wine list. In a world where time is increasingly precious, is food being seen as a means to an end? A source of fuel rather than pleasure? It is getting increasingly easy to avoid home cooking. Takeaway websites like ‘Hungry House’ and ‘Just Eat’ are surging in popularity, suggesting people are either not prepared to cook for themselves or don’t feel like they have the time. The significance of these sites does not necessarily mean we are getting lazier, it is the culmination of extremely effective marketing. The “don’t cook, just eat” slogan is simple, punchy and, most importantly, memorable. Food can be delivered to your door at the push of a button and after a long day’s work, the temptation to sit down and order fast-food can Just Eatbe too much. Supermarkets have also adapted products due to the demand for quick and easy meals. Ready-meals that can be prepared in minutes have been popular for years as speed, for many, is more important than quality. Now the emphasis on convenience is casting its shadow on fresh produce too. In Asda, the fresh fish on the counter is prepared for you; you choose your sauce and seasoning in store and all you have to do is put it in the oven when you get home. Tesco’s online shop creates meals for you by adding ingredients to your basket, making a week’s worth of meals accessible at the click of a button. More and more people avoid buying fresh vegetables, opting to buy frozen, for added time flexibility. Working people, with all the trials and tribulations of modern life, simply don’t have the time to stock up on fresh produce and cook traditional meals. So what, if anything, is being done? British Food Fortnight attempts to reinvigorate the appetite for British food and celebrity chefs have also got in on the act. Jamie Oliver’s charity, The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, is intent on ‘raising awareness and individual responsibility, resuscitating the dying food culture around the world and, ultimately, keeping cooking skills alive.’ Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals attempts to combine good cooking with the urgency of modern life and it isJamie_Oliver_cooking one of the most popular cookery books, topping the Christmas book chart in the UK when it was released. It is one of the first to address the importance of quick meals for working people. The message is simple, ‘you don’t have to sacrifice nutritional value to have a quick, convenient meal’. It does seem to have worked to a degree. The emphasis on quick, fresh produce in supermarkets is a clear sign that there is a desire to eat good food despite time restraints. Sadie Whitelocks, writing for The Daily Mail, ponders whether Brits are now too busy to cook the traditional roast dinner every Sunday. She wrote: “Despite Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith's efforts, the Sunday lunch is in rapid decline because Brits are too busy to cook.” Citing that there has been a 15.7% decline in consumption since 2008 and a fifth of men and women say they are less likely to cook a traditional roast than they were ten years ago. Sadie added: “Cost is also a big factor as supermarket prices reach record highs.” Roast-beef-dinner-006‘Red Tractor’ has launched a campaign to “save the Sunday roast” as chefs, farmers and traditionalists alike worry for the future of British food. Yet, it is no surprise that traditional meals like the Sunday roast are in decline in a society where time is everything. Inevitably, as convenience overtakes luxury, the socialising associated with dining among friends and family is also in decline. This is a particularly worrying trend among children as, traditionally, meal time has not just been for eating but also socialising and learning. The dinner time app is a clear illustration of the anxiety felt amongst parents that technology is threatening their child’s social education. It allows parents to block device usage at meal times and, in theory, restores the traditional social values associated with dinner time. Amid these trends, the goal of British Food Fortnight is to reinvigorate the appetite for British food at the grass-roots by means of education. In the UK, organisations representing over 9,000 chefs have teamed up with British schools offering their services in classrooms to help teachers organise practical cookery activities. The aim is to emulate the French who regularly send chefs into schools to teach children about their national cuisine. British Food Fortnight is working hard, striving to maintain our traditional cuisine. Yet, in a technology orientated society so starved of spare time, theirs is an unenviable task. By Tom Evans Do you still sit round the table as a family for dinner? Do you cook from scratch, using fresh ingredients or are ready prepared ingredients the norm in your house? We want to know if you think Brits really are too busy to cook - comment below or head over to our twitter page @canteentweets  

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd October 2014

British Food Fortnight: How has modern life changed the way we eat?