food · Politics

Politics and Carrot Soup

So the general election is coming up and to be honest, who ever gets the job next surely can’t mess up quite as spectacularly as David Cameron et al. Can they? I haven’t met a single person who agrees with anything the coalition have done so far and yet here they are, appearing on any televised program that will have them, attempting to pander to us for votes. No Nick Clegg, appearing on The Last Leg won’t give you instant street cred and guaranteed votes because I’d hazard a guess that a large proportion of their viewers are students. And we know how you sold them up the swanny in return for being Cameron’s best mate, don’t we? So rather than battling in televised debates you can not possibly win, why not just hold your hands up (no, not in that way. Put DOWN the gun, dear readers) and say ‘it’s ok, we fucked up. Vote someone else in, we’re clearly not up to the job.’

I actually know nothing about politics. If you know me well this will not come as a massive shock to you. But what I do know is, that because of our current government, the teaching profession has got a hell of a lot harder, it takes more and more of our lives away from our families and gives very little in return. Midwives went on strike for the first time in 133 years.

I’ll let that one sink in.

Midwives. Went on strike. For the FIRST TIME in 133 years.

NHS staff; nurses, doctors, paramedics, porters; went on strike. They haven’t done that in 32 years. I’m 32 and in my lifetime I’ve been able to go to the hospital or the doctors and know as a solid, cast iron fact that there was someone there to treat me. The fact that for a few hours there wasn’t is a terrifying thought.

Between 2013 and 2014, 913,138 families were given three days’ food from a Trussel Trust Food Bank. These are not families who have spent all their money on fags and booze and have run out of cash for kebabs, as Benefits Street would have us believe. These are working families whose wages haven’t risen with the cost of living. These are families who, because of the ‘Bedroom Tax’, are losing money because the government says they don’t need three rooms for a family of 5. These are families who have one parent in the Armed Forces protecting our country and whose wages are so paltry they don’t even cover the bills, never mind food for their kids. These are families who once shopped in M&S but since the icy wind of austerity blew, their jobs have gone and so has the money and so they are forced to choose between heating and eating. That should never be a choice.

Ok, so this is hard and heavy reading for a Saturday night but what spurred me to write something slightly more serious than my eternal yearning for the 90s to make a comeback and for my ever-greying hair to return to its former 90s Sun-In-ed glory, was a recipe someone shared on Facebook by Jack Monroe.

I don’t mind admitting one little bit that I have a massive girl-crush on Jack Monroe. She’s a superhero in my book although she’d probably not thank me for the sentiment. She is one of life’s wonderful people who spend their time just doing their best. If you don’t know who Jack Monroe is I DEMAND that you stop reading right now and click over to her website

Wonderful, then I’ll continue. So now you know what I mean, right? She’s the very definition of girl power. Jack is a campaigner for those people who end up like she did not that long ago. She had a good job, she had a 20 month old son and she found herself not able to keep all those plates spinning; working shifts, having a baby, earning money, being a single mum; it was all too much. The pieces of her jigsaw didn’t quite fit and soon she was living off a food budget of £10 a week. £10 a week for her and her son. I can spend £10 in Starbucks on two lattes and some toast! Now she makes politicians listen to her. She makes TV researchers seek her out for debate programmes, she makes journalists write about her and what she believes in, simply by making enough noise and holding a mirror up to society and shouting ‘LOOK! This isn’t right!’
She’s also, judging by her blogs, a bloody good cook. In her words ‘I just cook stuff, eat stuff and write about stuff’ which sounds very humble for a girl who is making those who frequent Downing Street a bit sweaty under the collar while they tuck into their caviar. Which leads me very nicely onto carrot soup.

I saw this recipe for carrot and garlic soup, described as ‘the soup equivalent of a cuddle’, and thought it looked quite nice. I liked it even more when I discovered it cost a measly 26p per person to make so off I went for a can of chickpeas, some carrots and a butternut squash. No the recipe didn’t call for it and I bumped the cost up by and extra £1 but I really fancied a squash and I’m into trying to get my five a day shoehorned into my diet these days. I clearly should have read the recipe more carefully before I shopped because I needed cumin and didn’t have any, so instead decided to substitute for cayenne pepper.

It was then that I discovered that my cayenne has been the home and grave for a family of moths. Lord knows how they got in to that little sealed pot of pepper but as I stuck the end of a teaspoon in to levy out a pinch of spice, out came the crispy skeleton of a dead moth. I shook it a bit and unearthed another, and another and another and then I squealed like a girl and chucked it in the bin. Seriously, how?! All I can think of is that after making a Marie Rose sauce for a prawn cocktail one day I must have left the top of the cayenne off and moth decided to take a snooze in it and while she was in there, lay some eggs. I dread to think how many meals I’ve seasoned with moth legs since then.

Thankfully, the carrot soup was saved as I decided paprika was the way to go.

The soup was delicious, easy to make and, even with the addition of butternut squash, cheap. But I’m coming at this from the wrong direction. I’m bringing you this blog from my iPad, in the house that I own and that I can afford to heat. I’ve had a shower using all manner of reasonably expensive lotions and potions and yes, I ran out of conditioner but it’s ok because I’ve got another three bottles in the cupboard. I made my cheap soup in my kitchen, cooking on gas that I don’t have to think about twice when using. I even had a chai latte made using the expensive coffee machine my husband bought me for Christmas.
Actually, I retract my earlier statement. I’m not coming at this from the wrong direction. I’m coming at this from the direction everyone should be able to come from. One where we can eat and afford to heat our homes. Where we can choose if we want to smell like a banana or a mango when we’re in the shower. Where our children can watch a cartoon while playing with their toys and then be tucked up, warm and cosy in their beds knowing that they have a choice of what they want to eat for breakfast and that mum and dad can eat with them. Where making carrot soup is a choice, not a necessity.

So with this carrot-flavoured inspiration I have made my first New Year’s Resolution: to pay attention to politicians. Yes I know they talk utter bullshit most of the time but somewhere in the midst of all that bravado, bribery and bollocks there must be someone, somewhere talking a bit of sense. Someone who has experienced real problems, and I’m not talking a flat tyre on the Bentley, who thinks they have a shot at fixing them. Find me that guy, or girl, and I’ll vote for them.


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