Why we turn to pasta in a crisis

In times of economic crisis, people crave more than ever the kind of safety and comfort you get from Italian cooking.

Staying in a hotel near Gatwick the other day, I went out to find some dinner. Having no idea which local restaurant to choose I opted for Italian. It seemed the safe choice and so it proved. The food was delicious.

Most of us in the same position would have done the same, I suspect. And not just in Britain. "Italian food eases pain for Swiss bankers," said a recent headline in the International Herald Tribune. The gnomes of Zurich, it seems, have deserted the town's Swiss restaurants, while the Italian ones continue to thrive.

"Yes, the bankers of this Swiss financial capital are in pain, and in surprising numbers are seeking comfort in Italian cuisine," said the article. "This sudden appetite for Italian dishes seems to arise from their potency as comfort food, and the comfort factor seems to have grown in importance as Swiss banks have felt the pinch of the financial crisis."

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Alexander Chancellor, in The Guardian, thinks this makes good sense. Italian food, after all, is reliable: "Italian cooks don't believe in experimentation but try to ensure that their dishes taste exactly as they always have." I think that's true. In times of economic crisis, people appreciate more than ever the kind of "dependability and continuity" you get from Italian cooking.

The rise of the 'poorgeoisie'

Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian has coined a name for rich people who don't want to seem rich: the poorgeoisie. They believe in inconspicuous consumption in finding ways of spending which make them look as if they haven't been spending.

"The poorgeois don't drive 4x4s or Maseratis, they don't wear suits (the idea!), they drop their aitches and speak in Estuary English even though they (quite possibly) went to Cheltenham Ladies or Ampleforth, work in creative jobs that mean you don't have to dress smartly for work, wear pricey handmade clothes that don't (unless you've got a real eye for detail) look pricey. They realise that to wave your wad at this juncture in history would be folly."

Sounds sensible to me, but Jeffries is not impressed. He's busy carving a bludgeoning stick "before the summer is through", he says, he will "be spreading pourgeois entrails on my vegetable plot as compost" but one wonders if this is just because he doesn't like anyone being rich. Does he really prefer people who flaunt it?

The Kinnocks' legendary thrift

Two people who don't flaunt it are Lord and Lady Kinnock. They've done very nicely, thank you, as the Daily Mail was quick to point out, being able nowadays to "live high on the hog" with their six publicly funded pensions. (Three of these, from Brussels, entitle them to £150,925 a year, equivalent to a pension pot of £4.4m.)

But they don't live high on the hog. In fact, they are "legendarily careful" with money. Locals in the Vale of Glamorgan talk of the time, for example, when Lord Kinnock was spotted "rummaging for bargains in a charity shop, while one friend observes drily: 'Never expect extravagance if you visit Neil and Glenys. That's not their style.'" I find this rather reassuring.

Tabloid money you have to admire Brown, he's a human rhino

Every decision Gordon Brown has taken since he and Blair arrived in Downing Street is "bonkers, stupid or just plain incorrect", says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun, and my life is in every way worse than it was then. But I have a "grudging respect" for the way Brown has "put his head down, sucked in the pain and stuck at it".

This week The Daily Telegraph said "I was a racist sexist whose time is over. The Daily Mail said my salary was to be 'slashed' from whatever figure they made up the week before." One of my hens even tried to bite my leg off. Compared to "the bucket of effluent being poured over Brown's head these are small things" even so, I entertained thoughts of moving to Devon and growing beans.

Not Brown. He's a human rhino, "refusing to be flayed by the pipsqueaks who were leaving his ship to save their own weedy, hopeless skins. I like that in a man." It does, however, mean another year of reckless spending, jaw-dropping madness and stratospheric taxes. "God help us."

Brown's closest ally, Ed Balls, is hatching a sensational plot to get rid of him, says the News of the World. The schools secretary has told a group of Labour MPs in the Commons dining room that "unless the polls show a miraculous recovery he will tell Mr Brown he must quit". Senior party figures say Balls is prepared to oust the PM at Labour's annual conference in September because he fears Labour could be heading for oblivion if Brown leads them into a general election.

Billions will have to be slashed off Whitehall's bloated budget, says The Sun, but the cuts mustn't fall on our frontline soldiers. "Our Boys and Girls already risk life and limb with barely adequate weapons, defences and ground and air cover." Any cuts must begin with "feather-bedded desk soldiers who stay far from the sound of gunfire in the plush Ministry of Defence", and from cancelling Eurofighters "built at eye-watering cost to fight far-off battles that may never happen".