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on 10 July 2006
For those who care about what they eat this is a 'must read'. Joanna Blythman fairly lays in to trendy chefs, bemoans the disappearance of traditional British dishes, berates the supermarkets, criticises the 'no time to cook culture' and laments the disappearance of the dinner table and eating together. The message is eat as little processed food as possible; base your diet on home-cooked meals made from fresh ingredients.
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on 11 August 2006
For me one of the best ways of assessing the worth of a book, is to note how often I think or talk about it in the weeks that follow. Bad Food Britain certainly passes that test.

In a David and Goliath type conflict,Joanna Blythmann takes on the food factories and faddy "experts" who have shaped much of our thinking about what we eat. She presents us with fresh original thinking in punchy prose.

For parents a good second purchase is the author's book "The Food Our Children Eat" which has constructive suggestions for easy healthy meals.
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on 19 October 2012
I bought this book because I am very much interested in nutrition and what we should be eating in order to grow old gracefully and healthy! The first half of the book is rather disappointing, the author just rants about how bad food is in Britain and the negative attitude the British have towards food. Fair enough, I started traveling to Britain the same year this book was published so maybe things have changed but I have to say that I eat a lot better in Britain than in France where most restaurants are not good at all! There is this myth about French cuisine but it isn't anything else than a myth, believe me! Half way the book the author does start to address the subject more thoroughly and it actually gets to be quite interesting, therefore I give it 3 stars. There are also many misconceptions about food abroad: France, Holland, Portugal, etc. I think that the author has this idea that all food is bad in the UK and all food is great abroad which is not true! The Dutch, for example, don't have a good attitude towards food at all (I know what is going on quite well because I lived there for 16 years and all my three daughters still live there!). My daughters for example, think that cooking food is a waste of time and are happy enough to just buy something in a packet and heat it up or else to go out most days. They have never, ever cooked me a meal! The Dutch have always eaten sandwiches for lunch and a very simple evening meal which doesn't vary much from day to day. They used to cook it from scratch when I lived there though, but it was almost always the same. The Portuguese used to have an excellent cuisine but that too is gone. Nowadays the most important thing for a restaurant is to pay extremely low wages, therefore cooks are often foreigners who don't understand our cuisine at all! At home people don't have the time or the energy to cook and many of them will eat in front of the TV. Saying that Dutch children don't eat sweet is surely a joke! The Dutch are forever buying sweet for their children and even if you don't agree with it it is not easy to escape that culture!

The author's theories about eating low fat and avoiding saturated fats were maybe accurate in 2006 but we now know that this isn't correct! Telling people that the fault of their obesity and health problems lies solely with the industry is a bit exaggerated! Ok, they are to blame for a lot that is going on but we as adults also need to learn to make our choices! I make my own bread, my ice creams, cook most meals from scratch, etc, and I couldn't care less about how the industry wants to make money! It is true that it is sometimes difficult to know what they hide into the food so I will surely go wrong now and then but I still make my choices! As far as school meals go.... When my children were growing up there weren't any schools in Holland with cantinas. Parents were supposed to pick their children up and take them home to eat lunch, which was actually quite healthy not only because we knew what we fed them but also because they had a break away from school! Now we think that work goes above anything else... well... our choice I suppose? I could have had a lot more money but my children came first!

I could say a lot more about this book as I filled it with question marks but it would get rather boring for anyone reading the review, so I will stop here! Buy this book cheap if you are interested in its contents or else don't buy it at all, there are better books out there, I'm sure!
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on 19 July 2014
I am loving this book and agree totally with what Joanna says about the need to cook proper food from scratch rather than buy packets of ready meals. I am now 75, so retired long ago, but even when I was working full time and seeing my son only at weekends - he was at Westminster School and my husband had died leaving me a widow at 41, I always cooked proper food for myself in the evening. I have never owned a microwave, but have a huge number of useful kitchen gadgets which speed up food preparation. One secret of healthy eating is to have a well stocked veg drawer and plenty of fruit in your fruit bowl. If you do that and also have some decent protein around - if not meat, then cheese or eggs, you can always cook something nutritious, and there are such things as oven timers or slow cooks which enable you to prepare casseroles to be ready to eat in the evening when you are home again. Good cooking is very easy and need not take an age. The trick is to have some kind of plan about what you are going to cook. Cooking is creative and fun!!!
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on 21 April 2015
I found this excellent book nearly impossible to put down. Ms Blythman expertly takes apart what is thought of as 'British cuisine' and finds there really isn't one; we eat Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican dishes, to name but a few, with little nowadays in the way of traditional British fare. Where our 'national cuisine' should be, we find fast food, takeaways and a plethora of sweet, fatty and salty snacks that the food industry has foisted upon us and got us hooked on. No wonder our collective health is cause for concern; we are way down the European league tables for healthy eating in just about every respect. The author gives vent to her disgust at the British lacklustre attitude to our meals at almost every turn, making for an extremely lively as well as information-packed read.
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on 5 July 2006
Bad Food Britain is not only, punchy and entertaining, but also highly informative. It should be required reading for all and be available free on the Health Service as it would dramatically improve the nation's health! Blythman's basic message is "Eat as little processed food as possible". She explains with alarming statistics, how much harm we are all doing ourselves by not eating more fresh food, preferably bought from local shops and markets.We should enjoy food more. Read the book and follow her advice!
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on 20 June 2006
There are some important points made in this book, but there's no real constructive suggestions about could be done. It's true that children are not taught how to cook at school and this is a national disgrace, along with reheated rubbish for school dinners, vending machines and burger bars in leisure centres and a Food Standards Agency which does nothing to encourage good local small scale food production.

But it's the comments about why we don't cook that really get to me. According to the book the average working week is 31.8 hours - well firstly that equates work to paid work, ignoring all the other stuff we do, and secondly that believes the fiction that contracted hours relate in any way to actual hours. I routinely work ten or more hours in excess of my contracted hours and so do my colleagues - if we didn't we'd get sidelined and eventually pushed out of the firm. We don't take lunch breaks, hence the "sandwich at the desk" culture, despite officially having an hour.

When one in three children is part of a lone parent family, and we're working this hard just to pay the mortgage and for childcare, it's pretty difficult to come home and rustle up a meal from scratch, let alone shop for it on the way home from a non-existent local greengrocer, butcher and fishmonger. So we contract out food preparation to school kitchens and to childminders and au pairs (who don't know one end of a cooker from the other, whatever Ms Blythman may think of European attitudes to food preparation). There are more fundamental things to look at than just how lazy and unaware we are.
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on 27 September 2011
Again another one I picked up, I spent a good month trolling through these books, and they all say the same thing - pay attention to what your supermarkets are doing to your body, your health, your environment and don't be hood-winked into sleep walking into obesity, and poor health choice. It does make you think twice about popping down to the local supermarket - we have since swapped to local farmers markets, veg box schemes, co-operative markets and we are growing our own. We eat less, more healthy and have a lot more energy and money for other activities.
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on 4 December 2012
An interesting read. The author laments the fact that, in her view, most Brits don't seem to place a high priority on thinking about the food they buy and eat . She makes lots of comparisons with attitudes in other European countries but there is little discussion about how people on low incomes and in difficult circumstances might realistically be enabled to improve their diet.
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on 11 September 2006
This book is good at telling us what the problem is, and there's no doubt that this is a problem. The issue, which is not restricted to the UK only (other northern European countries have problems too) is that we aren't interested in food, and see it as a means to an end, rather than an activity and joy in its own right. I don't think that is going to change. It's very ingrained into our culture. Let's not fret about that too much.

The issue is about how we get people to care a little more about what they eat, and how people need to understand that a lot of the stuff they buy is pretty badly made. British people like convenience, so any successful solution must involve ease. Simple as that. I think the author doesn't acknowledge that, but rather laments about how the Italians and French eat so well (they do), and how, ideally, we need to adopt a similar culture.

The author is right to look at schools meals. This is something that can be fixed. Education too, where school children are taught some basic cooking skills.

It's a good book, but doesn't go far enough to give us realistic and workable solutions.
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