This inspirational episode of the Food Programme tells the story of how a photojournalist severely injured in a war zone reinvented himself through cooking. Giles Duley uses food to help transform lives in conflict zones. Food can be about ‘healing’. In his Desert Island Discs episode, Jay Blades of the Repair Shop told how, when his life was at rock bottom, a kind uncle and aunt nurtured him back to health and wellbeing by feeding him with love. The psychologist Kimberley Wilson writes about how ‘we are what we eat’. In Unprocessed: How the Food We Eat is Fuelling our Mental Health Crisis, she highlights the links between diet, brain, behaviour and mental health. The government’s failure to address poor nutrition is a catastrophe affecting brain function. Good diet in prisons has been proved to reduce violence. Another aspect of food that I wanted to talk about was the way sharing food and our cuisine brings us together to create a healthier society, physically & mentally. It can help stop the ‘othering ‘ of minority groups. My memoir Food of Love Cooking up a Story across gender class and race, tackles sometimes distressing subjects. I use food like a river of love that brings nurturing and optimism. I invent a word to describe it.
‘Communessence’ means that ‘when we eat together we come together.’
At the end of each chapter in my book is a recipe provided by family members and friends. I start with my mother’s scones and my Cornish grandmother’s Cornish pasties but they become ever more diverse reflecting the enrichment of culture due to immigration. Behind us is the restricted diet of the fifties. Now we can taste the world and relish it. Being able to share their recipes helps immigrant communities feel a sense of belonging.The idea for communessence originated with my experience of the Sikhs. In the UK, they work hard feeding homeless people and people struggling to feed their families. The numbers they feed in Amritsar and at the Gurdwara in Delhi are mind boggling. Their practice of giving free food at their Gurdwaras has a dual purpose – one to help the community /society and the other to promote equality. Given the discriminatory nature of the caste system, eating together is a wonderful example.
I produced Green Power the Spirulina Cookbook for the Nasio Trust. My village of Kennington raised the money to build 40 tanks in which to grow Spirulina in Musanda in west Kenya. Spirulina has more protein than any other plant plus iron and other minerals. Using it in tiny quantities to supplement the diet of children Nasio supports helps children, even with HIV, grow normally. It has little taste. Couldn’t it be used in prisons and for school meals in the UK? A small pack lasts for 3 months of family meals so its air-miles are negligible.
Helen Peacock who was the food writer for the Oxford Times for 25 years produced the recipes. Helen ate locally for one year. She made one exception at the beginning and that was COFFEE. She faltered mid-way victim to a lust for lemons!
Just listened to another inspiring food programme https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001kgnr I believe that most of our countrymen and women at heart support this welcoming spirit. So many refugees are talented .They want to WORK and contribute to society -not sit in an hotel room alone with desperate thoughts! We have terrible labour shortages. It’s tragic that asylum seekers are not allowed to work.