Radio Four’s The Food Programme


Syrian Bakeries

The World Food Programme supplies ingredients to support the running of Syria’s bakeries.

Today I want to pay tribute to one of the most intelligent radio programmes on the airwaves, Radio 4’s The Food Programme. It has been going as long as I can remember and it tackles pretty much all aspects of food including the political. It informs, it educates, it delights and without fanfare it also investigates ethical and scientific questions around food. What is good for us? Who can afford to eat what is good for us? Who is making our lives better through their attempts at more ethical farming? Which small businesses are winning prizes for their new foods? The foods may be cheese or beer or biscuits. Quality and innovation and integrity are championed by this splendid programme.

Recently there have been two TFPs on the food of the Syrian people affected by conflict. Despite bringing the suffering of that war-torn country much closer and making it more personal, these programmes yet contrived to include the uplifting face of our own humanity. I was especially moved by the interview with the lady who had taken her small family caravan from the UK to Calais and from its limited facilities now feeds hundreds of refugees every day. On TFP website you will see pictures of her undertaking. Thanks to The Food Programme I learned how such food as reaches Syria succeeds in doing so but I also understood something about  the attacks on aid convoys and how people can starve surrounded by fields of healthy crops – a tragic conundrum that I had not understood at all. There is no hand-wringing here but real respect and fellow-feeling for the people and the aid-workers because food is something we all have a relationship with. When we hear that Syrian bakeries have had to close for want of flour and firewood we can relate to that. Bread is a cornerstone of our diet as it is of theirs.

The Food Programme has a venerable history and I shall come back to it to share with you the pleasures of its archive. For today just let me add that when a controversial subject is explored there is very little finger-wagging because they let the facts speak for themselves. Most often in the external world the facts do not arrange themselves so simply that blame falls squarely and conveniently on one party but if that does happen Dan Saladino and Sheila Dillon assume we are all intelligent enough to notice for ourselves. For me this beats being hit over the head with the interviewer’s opinion hands down. (Today and World At One, please note!)

Tomorrow the recipe is for bread. For today the recipe is to offer ourselves and others some of the warmth and respect in our hearts, even when we know we have not done our best and to refuse to indulge the finger-wagging part. As one of my wise sons said to me, ‘People know when they’ve messed up, Mum. You don’t need to tell them.’ Spot on.



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