The Right To Cook


Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 11.47.40

Meal timetable from a direct provision centre in Dublin

John McKenna, in The Guardian, writes:

Human rights ain’t what they used to be, it seems. When Denis O’Brien, the billionaire chairman of Digicel, was quoted recently in the Irish Times in March this year declaring that access to broadband was a “basic human right”, his declaration was accompanied by a call for “the international community to facilitate private sector roll-out of high-tech infrastructure”. So, basic human rights in the modern age come courtesy of profit-focused companies, allowing you to chat on Facebook with an Android system on your HTC smartphone via the Digicel network.

As with so many unexpected outcomes, I somehow doubt that this was how the original drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights saw things panning out, when they finally completed their work after two years of deliberations, back in 1948.

But let’s try to be positive about this development, because I rather like the idea that we can declare a new human right. And so, following on from O’Brien’s lead, I want to suggest the creation of a new one.

That human right is the right to cook.

Should cooking be a human right? (The Guardian)

Previously: Direct Inaction

Pic: Asylum Archive

Related: How asylum became a business (Carl O’Brien, Irish Times)

47 thoughts on “The Right To Cook

  1. Sam

    interesting article in this month’s national geographic on food poverty in US. interesting article (for once) in sunday indo on John Bruton saying that people will have to give up the social welfare they paid for (presumably so he and his cronies can nick it).

        1. ahjayzis

          Typical nouveau 17th century serf.

          Much like witch hunts, you conflating the abject injustice and unsustainability of our financial/political/social system with the people in charge of and getting filthy rich from the financial/political and social systems would be adorable if it wasn’t so backward. Away with you, knave!

  2. Jazzler

    That font jars with my preconceived notions of a direct provision centre, far too fancy.

    Comic sans with clip art of the deserving poor, now that’s what I would have imagined.

    Also, can anyone settle a question from the weekend, can people come and go from direct provision centres or are they just giant internment camps?

    1. Sidewinder

      They’ve got €19.10 worth of travel each week, assuming they spend every cent they have on travel.

  3. YourNan

    ah the Irish, always up for demos to bemoan about the human rights of people of thousands of miles away but for the people who starve and suffer in their own country, hardly a peep innit? Foreigners are cuter from afar.

      1. Sidewinder

        Neatly dodging the “suffer” point there. Sure as long as they aren’t actually starving that’s ok. Oh and three meals a day doesn’t mean you’re not malnourished. Something tells me the quality of the food ain’t the best.

  4. Slightly Bemused

    I should state at the outset that I work for an international development agency, but what I am about to say is my own opinion, not theirs. It is formed over many years working for several such agencies.

    Everywhere I have been, for many agencies, I have worked in displacement camps; whether refugees, whether internally displaced; whether from natural disaster or from conflict. From Somalia to Liberia, to the Philippines after the recent typhoon, and the Congo after volcanic eruptions.

    In all of those places, people demanded the ability to cook not just as a right, but as a basic form of affirmation of dignity. Being able to control when you ate, what you ate, and with whom, is vitally important. In such circumstances, a family meal becomes less about simple nutrition, but more about strengthening the ties of family (one that may already have been separated) and reaffirming our basic social instincts.

    This started when I first worked as a volunteer here in Cherry Orchard, when Ireland hosted Bosnian refugees in the old nurses’ quarters in what I guess now would be called a direct provision centre. Food was prepared centrally, and the same issues mentioned in this article were brought up. At the time, we were unable to allow self-catering even in communal sites (due mainly to the physical layout) but being able to provide a kettle and basic plates so the families could have a tea together went a long way to helping people feel more eased.

    In one camp (on the Macedonian borders with Kosovo in the late 1990s) a transit camp was set up, and all food provided was ready-to eat, with no cooking facilities. People stole the wooden tent pegs and boiled water in the plastic jerry cans (an inherently dangerous practice) in order to be able to recreate some semblance of their home culture. Again, a simple act of sharing safer stoves and kettles made a huge difference, not just to fire safety.

    Today, the agency I work for distributes fuel efficient stoves and kitchen sets to South Sudanese refugees to allow them the dignity of preparing their own food. And we don’t distribute food where possible, but have a system where people can buy their own – further increasing the control they have over their lives.

    I am not sure I would say cooking is a right, but I would agree that the ability to cook when and what you want, and to eat as a family, reflects the right to a life with dignity. And I would certainly agree that that comes before any right to broadband.

    1. Downtowntrain


      The documentary “The Missing Picture” gives a grim depiction of the dehumanising effect of controlling a people’s access to food. It was one the Khmer Rouge’s main tools in breaking the spirit and autonomy of the Cambodian people.

    2. Sidewinder

      Nice to have a qualified, experienced voice in the comments section for a change. Thank you.

  5. Baz

    The headline on today’s Irish Times tells me all I need to know about this manufactured pity industry..

    Meals served 3 times a day is fine by me and better than I’ve had at times in my life.

    Too many suckers in Ireland and too many cute hoors that know how to play them, but what do begrudging lefty under achieving self haters do? They rant about Dennis O’Brien.

    1. Sidewinder

      I’ll never cease to be amazed at how people qualify the misery of others according to their own previous misery. As though, because no-one helped you, no-one should help these people either.

      Shame on you.

  6. ahyeah

    I live in Ireland and the Irish love of the potato, and our cooking of it as a daily staple, is equal to the Japanese reverence for rice, or the Mexican reverence for corn. Any Irish restaurateur will tell you that if a dish of potatoes doesn’t arrive with the main courses, then Irish diners will look around anxiously. Where are the spuds?

      1. ahyeah


        And before this goes any further, just to clarify – not my words (!); that’s a cut-and-from the John McKenna article [].

        Just thought it was worth putting that particular paragraph out there, just in case anyone doubted whether he’s a fool or not.

    1. Nigel

      There’s a certain type of historical novel featuring sumptuous descriptions of meals, that can cause terrible unease in the reader,, as if something fundamentally important is missing, until they realise that they’re set before the potato was brought to Europe.

      Also, I don’t know if it’s a human right (broadband: not a human right O’Brien, you twerp) but people should be allowed the dignity of cooking their own food if at all possible.

      1. Sidewinder

        I think the above poster makes a good point about the right to dignity. Having no autonomy over your own nourishment is something a child endures, it should not be the case with an able adult.

  7. Hosannah in the Hiace

    The difference between a refugee centre in Somalia and Money? Those in Somalia aren’t chancers who arrived via another country

      1. Hosannah in the Hiace

        sometimes simple truths are the hardest to accept.

        you do know the international law whereby an asylum seeker has to apply at the first country?

        “international law! international law!” – usually a catch cry of liberal hand wringers

    1. Nigel

      Some people hate Ireland so much they break out in hives at the idea that other people might move here to live.

      1. WhoAreYa

        They know how hateful they try to make it for the rest of us so they have a point in fairness ;)

Comments are closed.