People are always asking me the same questions:
1. “How did you get to be so dashing, talented and handsome, James?”
2. “I’m having a few friends over for cocktails and nibbles next week. Do you have any good suggestions for couscous?”
3. “What does a home economist do, exactly?”
The first two I can answer pretty easily:
1. Practice, practice and a really good moisturiser.
2. Yes, since you’re asking, and at this point I will either tell you some quick, tasty recipes, or point you in the direction of my new range of cookbooks – available from my website. My response very much depends on how many giddy gins I have consumed.
The final question is slightly tricker – an odd admission for a man who has chosen this as his profession, whose name is rarely written without the description “home economist” placed before or after it.
Believe me, I’ve been quizzed on this more times than I have cooked hot dinners (and that’s a lot), but it’s not something that is answered simply or quickly. To illustrate the point, I recently presented at a conference in Switzerland, during which I asked home economists from all corners of the globe to explain the job in thirty words or less. I have around a hundred of these and no two are the same.
Genuinely, I don’t have a pre-scripted explanation for this, a speech that I wheel out when the occasion demands it. I can, however, immediately tell you what a home economist is not.
It does not involve, as my former university flatmates were fond of commenting, making “wee dainty cakes and buns” all day long. My studies were a never-ending source of amusement to them, particularly the fact that I was one of two men taking the subject that year, but then they became decidedly more interested when I was concocting all sorts of exotic meals in the flat’s kitchen.
I’m not a chef, either. I don’t say this out of some misplaced snobbery, I say it because it’s an entirely different discipline to being a home economist. I suppose it’s like comparing a tree surgeon and a gardener – yes, they both work with the same materials, but the approach and purpose is not the same.
I’m off on a tangent again. If a chef is good at making waffles, maybe a home economist just waffles.
Well, let’s put it like this: in my opinion, if home economics was a recipe, it would involve a long list of ingredients, each of which must complement each other if it is to work well.
It’s quite academic, really: we’re interested in health, nutrition, household management, food science, consumerism, family studies… I could go on, but I fear by this point you may already be searching YouTube for videos of old ladies falling over.
In short, it’s up to me to take what the industry is offering and figure out ways to make it appealing to and useful for the consumer. That’s you, dear reader. So, if I wanted to pitch a new state of the art frying pan, would I present it in the same way to a family of five as to a single male student?
No, of course not.
At the heart of it, really, is my love of food. Tasty, wholesome, fresh, nutritious, delightful, warm, exciting food. The different forms that food takes and the tools we use to make it into those different forms.
That’s a small part of my job, but a part nonetheless. Hopefully, over the coming months, you can find out a lot more about what being a home economist entails.
Do stick around. Make yourself at home.
And by the way, couscous goes pretty well with chickpeas and mixed peppers. Serve with chicken strips cooked in a sticky sauce of equal parts Soy, Worcestershire and Sweet Chilli sauce.