The Duke - October 7, 2015

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I have to admit that, as I grow older, food is never far from my mind – or, indeed, my mouth.

With the approach of winter, things are only going to get worse. Out go salads (if they were actually ever in) and in come stews. Out goes yoghurt and in comes soup. And so on and so fork – so to speak.

When I left full-time employment on the Gazette almost three years ago, one of the things I promised myself was that I would spend more time cooking.

No more soft option impulsive takeaways, fewer meals out (because the title “former food page writer and restaurant critic” didn’t attract as many – ie none at all – free meals) and definitely no more late snacks after filing theatre reviews at midnight.

But alas, like New Year resolutions, it was a promise easier made than kept.

I’m relieved to discover I’m not alone, and it might even be a sign that I’m reverting to being young at heart.

The BBC’s Good Food magazine recently declared that young people (defined as 16 to 24-year-olds) shell out more money than any other age group on food – an average of £63.65 week, compared with a typical spend for all adults of £57.30.

I’m not going to quibble with the figures – though I’d doubt that in this part of the world too many teenagers have a spare £60+ sloshing around (unless pocket money has shot up).

Good Food presumably knows better than I do, and reckons it’s more down to them not being able to cook rather than not wanting to.

That same 16 to 24-year-olds know how to cook only four recipes from scratch – while know-it-all adults can muster up six. It’s a depressing figure – especially when it presumably includes boiling pasta and adding tinned sauce and grated cheese (well that’s one my six at least).

So they eat out in cafes or restaurants, or have takeaways and will doubtless be plagued by obesity and diabetes in their later years.

So what’s gone wrong? Well, the number of pupils taking a GCSE in home economics has dropped by 20 per cent since 2004. And if their mums (and, of course, dads) aren’t cooking meals, where are the apron string wearers my generation picked up its tips from?

I have to admit I hated school dinners, so I walked or cycled home at lunchtime and had something there. It wasn’t an option open to all, but it helped keep me fit, away from bullying – and fed.

By the time I left home I was adept in the kitchen. Nothing too fancy – I can still boil a mean potato – but nothing too fattening either.

I’ve been making up for it in recent years though. Part of the “problem” is the availability – and diversity – of takeaways and restaurants. When we moved to Poulton more than 40 years ago, the choice of takeaways was pretty much fish and chips or a Chinese. And home delivery was unheard of.

Pub food meant crisps or curled edge sandwiches chewier than a beer mat, and the few affordable restaurants usually chose to close just as hunger set in or the head waiter noticed your lack of a tie.

Now there’s all kinds of everything – all along the coast. And, at the risk of sounding hypocritical, it’s wonderful.

I don’t intend spending what’s left of my eating life slaving over a hot oven, and despite strenuous efforts I can’t talk The Manager into doing so either.

Wonder what we’ll have tonight? My money’s on an Indian. Delivered of course.

Are you read for a literary Super Thursday?

Still on the subject of food, did you know that, despite the nation’s inability to stand the heat of the kitchen, six out of the top 10 Tesco bestsellers are cookery books?

I only mention this because in the publishing world tomorrow is “Super Thursday” – the official start to Christmas (bah humbug) for booksellers.

Amazingly, it will see the publication of a staggering 503 new titles – more than twice as many as in an average week (and that’s still quite a lot).

That’s the good news. Well it is if you like, read, write, buy or sell books.

The less good news is that for every decent read (such as Bill Bryson’s eagerly anticipated The Road To Little Dribbling: More Notes From A Small Island) there’s a shelf load of celebrity memoirs and cookery titles (one step forward please Robbie Savage and Nigella Lawson) determined to make their way onto the nation’s Christmas shopping lists this year, and subsequently into the charity shops at some stage of 2016.

It’s good, though, that real books (you know, the hardback/paperback sort, not the squint at a screen variety) are making a comeback.

But why Thursday? To coincide with weekend newspaper reviews and supermarkets changing their displays, it seems.