I have been shamefully neglectful of my blog in recent months, and I can only apologise for those who have faithfully logged on, hoping for some fresh apercus on the shining universe of food.
And I must begin with a second apology, to Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent and Michael Gove, the Minister of Education. In an earlier blog (Gormless Gove) I questioned the need and the motives behind the commissioning of yet another report into the dire state of food in our schools. I suggested that we all knew what was wrong. There had been plenty of earlier reports saying much the same things, and what was needed was action.
I still feel that I was accurate in some of my assessment. Where I was wrong was in underestimating the three men, and in criticising their competence, purpose and determination. First of all the report, The School Food Plan, was a first class piece of work, crisp in its analysis and crisp in its recommendations. My friend, Joanna Blythman, wrote to me that ‘It seemed to me that there were a few new ideas in it e.g. universal free school meals for primary kids, and they do seem to have convinced government about cookery lessons.’
It’s all very well making recommendations. Anyone can make recommendations. It’s quite another to locate the political vision, will, determination and, above all, money to make them a reality.
Here, again, I was wrong. First of all cooking is to be made compulsory for children up to year 9 in the new National Curriculum, with a view to ‘instilling a love of cooking in children’. And then came the announcement by Nick Clegg on 17th September that the government was going to fund free school meal for all children Reception to Year 2. Well, blow me down. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Here is the Dimbleby/Vincent plan in action, and in short order, too.
The importance of these commitments to the future of kids in this country cannot be overestimated. For the first time food and cooking will play a central role in their education, and therefore their lives. They will give them the tools to challenge the prevailing domestic apathy regarding the pleasure and value of cooking good food from scratch. They may even begin the long, slow process of reversing the trend towards obesity and diet –related problems among children.
I would say that this is a fine beginning, and I would be happier if free school meals were made compulsory. There is still a long way to go. However, I touch my forelock to Messers Dimbleby, Vincent and Grove. I misjudged them.