When I first heard rumours that Michael Gove was planning to go round the country with his environmental Gestapo, ripping out our wood-burning stoves in order to heal the planet, greenwash conservatism and reduce an imaginary 36,000 deaths a year, I must admit that a small part of me felt ever so slightly relieved. Of all the desirable accessories that I’ve coveted in my life, I don’t think any has quite disappointed me as much as the wood-burning stove now staring at me accusingly as I sit at my desk.
It looks very handsome and room-furnishing, as cast-iron stoves do. And when it gets going, it really does pump out lots of heat. But there’s a reason, you eventually realise, why western civilisation graduated from such 18th-century technology to central heating. One is easy and convenient; the other, a massive pain in the arse.
Do you like the meat in your hamburgers pink in the middle?
Look, I’m not judging you if you don’t. If you like your burgers tough, chewy, tasteless, sterile, then you go, girl!
All I’m saying is that for those of us in Nanny State Britain who like their burgers underdone properly (ie pink in the middle) these are difficult times.
There are loads of fancy burger joints opening up all over the country, but most chefs insist – quite belligerently in some cases – that they will not serve their meat cooked any less than medium because Health and Safety regulations forbid them from doing so.
Yes, yes, I appreciate that under-cooked minced beef can indeed harbour a variety of unpleasant bacteria; that when you consume this stuff, you are taking a risk.
But that surely is the blessing of being a grown up in a free country. You – not the state – decide what is and isn’t good for you. You make the trade-off – delicious, melt-in-the-mouth, unctuous pink minced steak v the risk of a bad tummy – not some finger-wagging bureaucrat. This is what freedom means: the ability to take calculated risks – risks which, by nature, will on occasion lead you to come unstuck. But that’s OK. Life’s like that. That’s the deal, for better or worse. No one gets out of here alive. But that’s no reason for us to stop doing everything that is fun while we’re waiting for the worst to happen.
This is why my favourite new Conservative is Liz Truss. She has just given a brilliant speech at the London School of Economics on the subject of liberty. And burgers.
Here is the relevant passage:
Or take burgers. I keep being told by excellent burger producers, whether it’s the Burger Shop in Hay-On-Wye or Bleecker Street in London, that there are strict restrictions against selling medium rare.
Why can’t I as a consumer decide, as I would be in most parts of the USA, or France?
Regulations against my tastes in burgers may see a little trivial, but they are symptomatic of a broader malaise.
Unnecessary red tape restricts business and consumer freedom, so I believe we should cut it wherever we can.