Charlie Hebdo comments 13.1.15

Editor here. It’s been a thoughtful couple of days, following the vigil for the Charlie Hebdo journalists on Sunday night in Cardiff Bay. The French edition of the new issue is out tomorrow, in 3 million copies, no less.

I should probably say that this post is — atypically — not about food.

The Taster is not the most provocative of magazines, but its ethical position, although low-key, has informed it since it was literally a scribble on a restaurant napkin (what else). Most journalists feel the same commitment, to a greater or lesser degree, to whatever ideas their publications embody. Obviously, it seems fantastical to imagine we would ever be banned from running, say, the funny little “Notebook” in our last issue. This listed some of the foods banned by the Bible, and ended with an amusing exhortation to feast upon locusts, beetles and grasshoppers rather than (among others) lobster, rabbit pie or Parma ham. And yet, what else was this than — very gently (I have never met a Christian yet who declined oysters upon religious grounds) — poking fun at a popular religion?

It shows how much our society is riddled with an automatic assumption of freedom of speech. It pervades nearly everything we do, from posting on facebook to complaining about the local council, to getting up a petition for or against windmill farms or fox-hunting. I can’t imagine having to debate whether or not to run a joke about Biblical food bans; or about halal food bans; or about the animal cruelty debate about halal foods; or the insanity of Japanese whaling; or the sheer evil of some aspects of large-scale food production. And I am sure that every British journalist, no matter how niche or minority-view their readership, could come up with something similar.

Not for anything would I have missed Sunday’s vigil and the chance to pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo. Or else — as a journalist — there really isn’t much point in me writing anything at all. Even if it is just a recipe for rabbit pie.
Courage, mes braves.

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