Review: The Food Programme BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 Food ProgrammeA Special (Food) Relationship (Mon, 21 Nov 11) Available as a podcast for a limited time

“Mark Bittman, chief food writer at the New York Times, journeys to the UK to see what he can learn from campaigning chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver and Arthur Potts Dawson.”

Not something I normally follow, BBC Radio 4’s rather earnest, self-congratulatory, middle-class sop for the food trendy is typically a little too rich for me. However, this special show, triggered by NYT food writer Bittman’s research trip to the UK departed the usual track, focusing on the food campaigners influencing both commercial practices and public policy.

Bittman had covered Jamie Oliver’s healthy eating campaign, transplanted from the UK to the US, where he met with an intense level of vitriol. Inspired by that campaign and aware of the lead Oliver and others had set, Bittman tapped the BBC for contacts with Oliver and fellow campaigner HF-W which Radio 4 then recorded.

We got insights into the thinking of the two ‘TV chefs’ plus commentary from Dawson on setting up a food supermarket co-operative.

Bittman gave an objective and erudite picture of state-side campaigning, as one would expect from the NYT’s food lead, while the British contributors gave scathing assessments of both public policy and the prevailing commercial practices of supermarkets.

A well-cooked dish of staple radio, seasoned with some different voices, lifted out of the everyday menu. Might I interest you in some more clichés for dessert? AJS

Radio 4 The Food Programme
“Provenance and pleasure, history and health – Radio 4’s weekly look at food. Making sense of food, from the kitchen and canteen, to the farm and factory. We place food in its historical and cultural context; call to account policy makers and industry decision makers; and celebrate the sheer pleasure of good food.”

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