Thoughts on… Respecting the process of putting a meal on the table


baked beans on Town Mill toast

Last night I made steak and mushroom pie for the two of us. It took me four hours, from making the pastry until it actually made it to the table. Four bloody hours!

There are tons of other things I could have been doing, and a whole list-full of stuff I probably should have been doing, but I decided to make a pie. And then, when we finally sat down to eat it, with some steamed veg, homemade oven chips  and a bottle of wine, I realised that this was more than just a pie. I’d put a lot of love into this pie and it wasn’t something to be wolfed down in two minutes flat just so we could get back to watching the Antiques Roadshow. This was more than  just a meal. It was Sunday night after all – a time to gird one’s loins for the week ahead. A time to take time, enjoy the four-hour pie, and really taste it. This was food as much more than just fuel; it was a pie that commanded our respect.

So we sat there, respecting the pie but eating it at the same time, and the more I thought about it the more I realised how little we respect ourselves when we eat pop-it-in-and-ping ready meals and, quite possibly, how little we respect whomever pings it for us, the places which sell it and even the people who work there.

Convenience foods, like convenience stores, I would argue, are breeding convenient emotions. If the meal you are eating took 5 minutes from fridge to table via the microwave, just how much love did that take? And not much respect either, I would guess. If you are eating trash, or feeding others with meals with very little nutritional value, what does that say about how much you care?

And don’t start giving me a hard time about people needing to save time, or feed huge families, or count every penny. I’m not suggesting you need to harvest and serve your own caviar at every meal in order to show how much you care for your family or respect your food. It could simply be beans on toast that you are dishing up, but if you make your own you get to stir in a bit of love at the same time. This is what ‘taste the difference’ is really about.

Now it’s your turn to have a go. Here’s our recipe for Town Mill Bakery baked beans:

What goes in: 1 head of celery, 3 Spanish or medium onions, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 x 2.5kg tins of tomatoes, 4 tbsps of molasses, 2 tbsps Worcester sauce, a pinch of salt and pepper, 500g brown sugar, 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda, and 1.5kg of dried haricot beans.

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water with the bicarb. Then boil until soft, for between 1-2 hours. Finely chop the celery, onion and garlic and sweat them in a covered pan. When soft, cover with water and bring to the boil, then liquidise. Add the tomatoes and liquidise again. Add the seasonings and cooked beans. And you’re done.

This makes Town Mill quantities of baked beans, so adjust the amount of ingredients to make less, or just make this whole big batch, freeze portions and then reheat when needed.


7 Responses to “Thoughts on… Respecting the process of putting a meal on the table”

  1. Just spent 6 days in Lyme Regis and visited your bakery twice for breakfast. The one thing I like about holidays is having time to cook, having time to put love into a meal that you’re cooking for others. We had a fishpie last night which doesn’t quite take 4 hours to make 😉 but is elaborate nonetheless, but you feel you put something on the table that you care for.
    At work at lunchtime, for an hour, you regularly hear the sound of forks pricking holes in the cellophane on top of a ready meal. It took me several months to work out what that sound was, as I just don’t like eating ready meals and never have them. I’d rather heat up a tin of chopped tomatoes and add some garlic and olives to go over some pasta – just as fast and much more enjoyable.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog, and please keep the bakery just as it is – it’s so uniquely different.

  2. ‘Taking the time’ to do things is very important. Too much of our present lives is taken up by processes aimed at reducing the ‘time taken’, so to speak. Consequently, I derive much more pleasure in actually sowing the seeds which evolve into the vegetables which become part of some of the wonderful ‘creations’ finding their way onto our table at mealtimes.
    Clive, your “respecting the process” blog reminded me of some of the corporate pitches we worked on directly/indirectly together; especially your attention to detail and unique tangential thinking – nice one.
    We’ll try & drop in to the TM Bakery at some stage – south coast ‘roadtrip’ planned for sometime next year – it’d be nice to reconnect over a ‘crust’ or two & a glass of wine. Cheers.

  3. 5 Susan Turner

    Absolutely love the blog, I can almost hear your voice as I read your words and it makes me want to just get in the car and come for a looooong breakfast and eat every crumb:)

  4. How i would love to visit your bakery and Lyme Regis. in the meantime, may i have your recipe for steak and mushroom pie?Thank you, L Sharp

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