WHEN we order a delivery from the nearest Waitrose we usually select the company’s Food magazine because it’s free to loyalty card holders. Mere mortals have to fork out £3.75.
On the evidence of the March edition, it should be Waitrose paying the readers. This once-interesting publication, beautifully designed and full of interesting ideas, has turned into a wimmin-dominated wokefest.
First clue to the sisterhood takeover is on the front cover. Across it is the legend: ‘Introducing . . . the 10 most influential women in food right now.’
I suppose it’s just possible that this is to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, but it doesn’t say so.
On page 3 is a piece by editor Jessica Gunn complaining that women do the lion’s share of kitchen work ‘yet in the professional food arena men dominate. Just six per cent of the world’s top restaurants are led by women. Gender equality in food has a way to go. But while men have most of the glory jobs, women are carving out a new space: one where food, drink, skills and knowledge are being used not just to create good things to eat, but to do good. Turn to page 47 to read about ten extraordinary women using food to make the world a better place.’
Alongside Gunn’s broadside are pictures and biogs of four contributors to the magazine. All lasses? You bet.
On the next page is a list of Waitrose Food staff. From editor Gunn down to lowly sub-editor Dinny Gollop (no, I’m not making this up) there are 15 names, all female.
It’s only when you get to the business director and group account director that you find the names Jeffrey Bird and James Hedley. Well, you can’t have the ladies bothering their pretty little heads with facts and figures.
So far as I can tell, all but one item in the magazine was written by a woman. There is a profile of one Elizabeth Kolawole Johnson who migrated to the UK from Nigeria in 2010 and now works as a chief support officer at the social enterprise Migrateful.
‘Founded in 2017 by Jess Thompson, Migrateful is a cookery school staffed by migrant, asylum-seeker and refugee chefs across London, Bristol, Brighton (of course), Canterbury and Margate, as well as online.’
After negotiating a raft of mainly unappetising recipes, many of them vegan, we reach page 47, where the multi-racial ‘ten most influential women’ have been selected by a panel of seven women. After that list comes another six ‘women to watch’.
Next up is female chef Esra Muslu providing a feast for Ramadan. ‘Gathering family and friends brings joy to Turkish-born Esra, especially during Ramadan, from 22 March.’
Something goes wrong on page 69, when the name Stuart Heritage appears alongside his wife Robyn Wilder in a feature about breakfast in bed. Surely they could have found a gay couple? Must try harder.
There are, however, some ground-breaking headlines including ‘5 ways with pointed cabbage’. A piece about wine is titled ‘Grape expectations’; about Mother’s Day ‘Mum’s the word’ and about the allium family ‘Know your onions’. It’s a good job there’s nothing about cats or we’d be seeing ‘Just purrfect’ for the trillionth time.
The last word goes to Jennifer Saunders, described as ‘the actor and comedian’, in a piece about the contents of her pantry. A gem of a headline in the ‘pretentious, moi?’ pantheon reads as follows: ‘I feel distressed if this pesto is not in my cupboard.’ A worthy rival to Robyn Wilder’s: ‘Cut me and I bleed miniature pots of artisan preserves.’
The great mystery is why in its wisdom the Waitrose management thinks all this rubbish would appeal to its overwhelmingly white, middle-class, non-luvvie, non-leftie, non-feminist clientele? Or am I missing something here?