Horrid Nourishment by Misha Monaghan

Ugly food is not a concept I grew up with. I have mixed Scottish, Indian and Pakistani heritage so it was not unusual for me to be served up haggis bonbons, paya (trotters), any offal that could be procured and I have, on more than one occasion as a child, been tricked into eating cow brains by my grandfather who convinced me that what I was eating was scrambled eggs. I also grew up in a family where the aesthetic qualities of food were only commented on when one was discussing the way a dish should look at certain points in the cooking process. To add to this, from a very young age my grandfather would take me to halal butchers and abattoirs where I observed first-hand how the food that was such a pivotal part of my life ended up on the dinner table. A cardinal sin for my family was waste. My grandfather would come home with a whole lamb, which he then butchered theatrically and there was absolutely no question that every last inch of it would be eaten.What was not being eaten now would be frozen to be eaten later, a habitual family trait that has led to my inherent distrust of ice cream boxes in freezers, which in my house would be more likely to contain left over kheema (mince) than my favourite chocolate ice cream. I would not have had it any other way, though. I remember visiting a Malaysian friend’s home for dinner as a teenager and a fish head curry being placed in front of me. Thanks to my grandfather, I did not even bat an eyelid as my friend’s grandmother poked out the eyeball and put it on my plate explaining that it was the best part. I can confirm that it was.
Given this eclectic background, you can imagine the confusion I felt reading Ugly Food: Overlooked and Undercooked by Richard Horsey and Tim Wharton. Ugly food is the latest ‘hipster’ trend that seems, like a turmeric latte and the ‘discovery’ of avocados, to be somewhat culturally appropriated. Middle class men and women wearing their undersized beanie hats walking around fashionable areas such as Shoreditch, London, explaining how the world needs to eat more ugly vegetables for sustainability is something that I have personally witnessed many times. I, along with countless other people, can confirm that much of the world is eating ‘ugly’ food. Horsey and Wharton have written a book that sheds light on a wide array of issues that surround food consumption in Britain. Their perspective is that of two ivory tower academics who have developed a love for food through a lifetime of travel and new experiences.
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