FOOD MATTERS: Simplest food is often the best

NANAIMO – The only way to increase the availability of nourishing food is to seek it out bypassing the junk crowding the grocery aisles.

When I was growing up in Glasgow, I became the only child at home with my widowed father.

I enjoyed life with my dad who was both a free thinker and an adventurous eater and who made plenty of money to indulge our joint passions for books and good food. In hindsight I realize how fortunate I was.

While we ate some great meals at excellent restaurants in our city of nearly two million, my fondest memory is of one we ate on a rocky loch-side shore that we had to ourselves.

After driving the lonely Rest and Be Thankful road en route to his home village on Loch Long,  Dad parked the car and announced that he had plans for lunch.

He produced a bag of new potatoes, a flask of good Glasgow water and a small saucepan, along with a twist of salt and a substantial knob of butter.

Before my astonished eyes, he built a small fire, cooked the potatoes in the salted water, drained them and stirred them around in melting butter.

He whittled a couple of small sticks for forks and we ate a warm, satisfying, delicious meal, washed down with water. He didn’t have to lecture me on the joys of simple food.

Once I had the taste of it, I helped him polish off all he had cooked.

In those days, “eating out” was a fairly rare treat, and there were very few restaurants in between greasy spoon and haute cuisine.

Scottish pubs were dreary places where people went to drink beer and whisky.

Café meals of eggs, chips, sausages, pies, tinned beans and toast were as limited as they sound.

The influx of Pakistanis after the Second World War brought new food tastes and spices.

Growing affluence introduced us to foreign travel.

If you have seen the movie Shirley Valentine, you will have observed the intransigent British demand for chips and gravy which dominated the first forays of the working classes into Europe in the 1960s.

Even the fine Indian restaurant in the Scottish market town near the home village was reduced to offering chips and gravy with its curries.

Vancouver Island is blessed with a wonderful variety of food cultures and increasing interest in local food, but we have a long way to go to remove the industrialized, over-processed, over-seasoned foods which clog our supermarkets and our arteries and replace them with the healthy ingredients of fresh, simple meals.

The only way to increase the availability of nourishing food is to seek it out and buy it and bypass the junk crowding the grocery aisles.

Prices will come down as supply goes up and then poorer people will be able to afford good food, too.


Marjorie Stewart is board chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at: