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I Cooked Jeremy Corbyn's Marrow Recipe And Had Some Thoughts About The Labour Party

This is one man's quest to understand the Labour leadership crisis through the medium of vegetables.

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For some reason, one of Jeremy Corbyn's first actions after becoming Labour leader was to pose with a giant marrow.

Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Ever since then rarely has a day gone by where I haven't thought about this picture. There is no way a New Labour politician, closely stage-managed by his aides, would have decided to launch his first Labour conference as leader by posing with an absolutely enormous vegetable.

Yet Corbyn went for it. He knew it would cause trouble within the party. But he stuck to his guns.

In many respects, Corbyn's decision to pose with a marrow explains quite a lot about his time in charge of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Jonathan Brady / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Because even though Corbyn knew he shouldn't pose with the goddamn marrow, he did it anyway.

"I know I am going to be told off for for ever," he told the Observer at the time. “It is David Miliband and the banana all over again. [But] his [was a] pathetic little banana – and I have got a massive marrow."

"I grow them anyway – though it is bigger than the ones I grow. You have to leave just one on the plant and you get a bigger one."

And there was Corbyn's beautiful, simple statement, usually left unspoken by political leaders: “I love marrows."

This made a lot of sense. There is something fundamentally British about the marrow. It's a slow plodding vegetable but one with a certain decency about it. Then there is the great British tradition of men feeling content after growing a large marrow, a topic BuzzFeed has covered at length in the past.

It started to make sense. Jeremy Corbyn grows enormous marrows. He poses with enormous marrows. He is truly content with this arrangement.

Jeremy Corbyn is a marrow man.

This needed investigating.

Then I remembered something: Daniel Boffey, the journalist who interviewed Corbyn about the marrow back in September 2015, had tweeted a recipe for the Labour leader's favourite marrow recipe.

And here is Jeremy's face marrow recipe: half and scoop it. Add tomatoes,quorn,spice,herbs,olive oil. bake 1hour. Add feta as comes out.easy

Suddenly it all became clear: If I wanted to truly understand Corbyn's leadership, his mentality, and his handling of the Labour coup then I simply had to cook the marrow recipe. The vegetables would make everything clear and the limits of his power would become apparent. From the marrow would come truth.

I donned my "poundshop investigative journalism" coat and headed to ASDA. I needed a marrow.

Jim Waterson / BuzzFeed News

Now, I'll be honest, I was a bit jealous. BuzzFeed had built an incredibly successful viral food video brand and the politics team doesn't get a look-in.

I wanted pictures of my disembodied hands on our site, making delicious dishes. And the only way I was going to do it was by using Jeremy Corbyn's marrow recipe.

Also, I needed an excuse to write some increasingly terrible vegetable metaphors about the current state of the Labour party.

Splitting the marrow made it possible to scoop out the soft core that held the entire edifice together. Once removed we can replace it with something new.

We needed a new filling. Something to replace what had previously passed for the marrow's central core. This is where things became difficult.

Jim Waterson / BuzzFeed

Much as Corbyn became Labour leader without any frontbench experience, I've managed to live 27 years on this earth without much in the way of culinary skills. I'm not proud of it. It's just a fact.

And at this moment we were both sailing blind in very similar ways: He was trying to lead an opposition party with reluctant MPs during a moment of political crisis and while attempting to maintain his own grip on power; I was trying to cook a marrow recipe without really knowing what to do.

Still, on Corbyn's recommendation I bought a thing called quorn mince ("a healthy protein") and pushed on.

Into the frying pan went the quorn, alongside a bit of onion and some garlic! Like Corbyn in September 2015 I was optimistic and happy. This was going to be great! A doddle!

But then the reality hits. You've got a frying pan filled with dubious protein material. It looks terrible. It's a mess. You've got to clean up this mess.

Jim Waterson/BuzzFeed News

It's not really cooking. It's just a bit load of brown underheated sludge. And you're all out of options.

At this point I turned to the cardboard cutout of Gordon Brown that was lurking in the corner of the kitchen. It was clear he was delivering a stark warning.

Jim Waterson / BuzzFeed

The cardboard cutout of Gordon Brown didn't talk, obviously. But he did deliver a warning, starkly.

"The people's flag is deepest red," he starkly warned. "So add some bloody tomatoes."

The filling was complete. Like Labour, the old marrow had been hollowed out and the insides put in the bin. A new marrow was rising, filled with the goodness of quorn and vegetables and all lightly cooked!

An hour's cooking later we were nearly there.

Jim Waterson / BuzzFeed

Look, at this point I'll be honest: It wasn't going well.

What had started off an optimistic project to prove I could cook a marrow and discover the inner soul of the Labour party – and therefore the Corbyn project – had turned into an overlong extended mess.

My girlfriend was increasingly hungry and didn't understand why everything was taking so long. Frankly, she didn't really seem convinced that the future of the left in Britain could be revealed through cooking Jeremy Corbyn's recipes. What's more, the marrows themselves weren't really cooking.

The plan, which had seemed so simple at the start, was failing. People were in open rebellion.

Still, the revolution must go on, even when the oven timer is ringing. As per Corbyn's instructions, the marrow was removed from the oven and a bit of feta was sprinkled on the top.

The cutout of Gordon Brown joined us for the special occasion.

Jim Waterson / BuzzFeed

I also dug out a bottle of "Mililight", a beer the Conservative press office gave to journalists at their party conference a few years ago in the desperate hope that some of us would tweet photos of their joke at the expense of Ed Miliband. Most of us did.

But this was it. The moment of truth. The point at which it would become clear what was going on with Jeremy Corbyn's marrow recipe and therefore, hopefully, the Labour party. Reader, I began eating.

Jim Waterson / BuzzFeed

And it was pretty rubbish. Not terrible, not disgusting, just uninspiring and bland. It was cheap and filling but was never going to excite or inspire. This was a meal for people who don't like food, cooked by someone who can't really cook.

"It's so bland," complained my girlfriend who had put up with this quest which had essentially ruined our evening. "It's definitely not worth waiting 90 minutes for. It is an unsatisfactory dinner."

This was a disaster. The big promises I'd made about a new sort of cooking in our household had come to nothing. But there was hope. Like Corbyn's Labour party, nothing is unsalvageable.

"It's underseasoned," my girlfriend explained. "But I can't work out how much is Jeremy Corbyn's fault and how much is your fault."

And that was the crux of the matter: The basis of Jeremy Corbyn's solid, sturdy marrow recipe was fine. It is fundamentally a likeable and popular meal, something that fills a gap in the market and it distinctly British. People of all ages can enjoy it. It can mean many things to many people and be eaten in many contexts.

Admittedly, it's not great as things stand but it just needs a bit more work, some stronger spices and perhaps some red meat. It needs something to distinguish it from other recipes, a bit longer in the oven and maybe something nice to drink with it.

In short, the marrow needs people to work together to improve it. Maybe someone needs to consider the strategic direction of the recipe and make some tweaks. Ultimately, perhaps, I discovered it really needed someone in charge with proper experience of cooking who could give some advice on the special ingredients that would make it tasty. In short, it's not great as things stand but nor is it terrible.

There's a lot of room for optimism but it requires hard work and dedication.

And then, and only then, Jeremy Corbyn's marrow recipe could reach the audience it rightly deserves.

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at jim.waterson@buzzfeed.com.

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