Monday, 3 November 2008

Growing Your Own - Possible But Stupid?!

Cards on the table - I'm not a great fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He's okay, I've got a couple of his cookbooks (Hubby likes the game recipes, I like his family cookbook) but I do find him a bit annoying.

He annoys me in the same way that Jamie Oliver does, who I actually like more than Hugh. I get tired of being hectored about expensive (and it is invariably more expensive than not) organic food by a couple of blokes who, though well intentioned, have no idea what it means to live as most ordinary people do; within the confines of tight budgets.

Sometimes, depending on my mood, I get fed up seeing their wonderful gardens, perfect set-ups and their license to print more money by extolling us to live as they do. Goodness, I could probably have a kitchen garden to rival Jamie's if I had such an expert gardener tending it.

I realise it's probably unusual in the gardening world not to love HFW, after all he's very enthusiastic about getting us to grow our own. I caught a bit of his River Cottage Autumn programme on Thursday night and was intrigued by the scheme allowing people to grow veggies in others' gardens for a share of the produce. It is, I think, something my very green village is in the process of setting up (that and apparently more allotments!) but was less enamoured with the squirrel stew, amongst other dishes, he was preparing.

By some coincidence I was also surfing at the same time (oh, I'm good at multi-tasking) and stumbled upon this article by critic AA Gill about River Cottage Autumn. I don't agree with everything he wrote but I did have a chuckle at this:
"His shows rely on the cosy repetition, the absence of surprises, the huggable sense that bad things happen only in cities, and that somewhere just off the M25 is a never-never happy valley where Hugh lives, surrounded by smiley, monosyllabic peasants who knit those appalling jerseys and turn slugs and stinging nettles into delicious fizzy pop."
Mr Gill also seems very anti-self sufficiency. I think he feels we should be concentrating on helping each other and not on helping ourselves. He even goes as far as to call it "small-minded, selfish, mean and ultimately fascist". Goodness, who knew trying to rely on big multi-nationals less and eschewing the rampant consumerism found today would engender such vitriol?

"Growing your own vegetables is a bit like making your own fridge or whittling a car. Possible, but stupid," according to Mr Gill.

Which doesn't make me angry but does make me sad. For poor old Mr Gill who looks likely never to feel the magic of growing plants from seed, never feed his family from his own hard graft instead of someone else's and will never experience that special feeling gardening, particularly veggies, can give you - empowerment.


  1. As usual, it's the extremes that get all the attention. Most of us are going to fall somewhere in the middle and we should just continue to enjoy our partially self-sufficient, less than perfect lives. There is nothing stupid about growing vegetables unless you don't enjoy it. As for Hugh and Jamie, it's all an illusion. They probably spend very little time doing their own gardens, they have people to do it all for them (who do you think does the washing up after making squirrel stew?). Their gardens may look perfect, but they are not real.

  2. I've never even heard of HFW, but all that you said made sense. Anyone can have an outstanding garden with an expert on staff. That is why I don't even like watching Martha's shows half the time. No ordinary homeowner is going to be able to live up to that. Growing your own veggies is satisfying for more than just the food, it is a satisfying past time one can take great pleasure and pride in it. btw, I bet many whittlers would disagree with Mr. Gill about whittling your own car. How cool would that be?

  3. Oh, I do agree. It's amazing how having a few staff makes it possible to have a seemingly-perfect life. My mental picture of my planned vegetable garden was far from the actual reality that it became. Its size and the constraints on my time mean that it has been pretty full of weeds (as well as the veg) all year, but we've still managed to eat from it very well. If I'd been growing on an allotment I'm sure I'd have been kicked off for having such an untidy plot.

    A. A. Gill? Anyone with a job title of 'critic' is hardly going to be caught doing anything as creative and magical as growing food, is he? ;-)

  4. I don't disagree with your post but I do often wonder when I see people ragging on "big multi-nationals" just why, precisely, it is better for a small business to receive your custom than a big one? They both employ human beings with families, mortgages and even gardens. In fact more jobs are created by the big firms than the small ones.