Archive for the ‘Food’ Category
Lord Stern, Chair of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, better known as The Climate Chief has called for everyone to turn vegetarian to halt climate change. He is concerned that the belching of cows and farting of pigs is a huge contributor to the world’s output of greenhouses gasses.
As a Lord I assume he has been around a bit and he has also visited plenty of restaurants, I wonder then how he squares his views with what you get offered in most restaurants across Europe, the US, New Zealand and Australia. Its meat and no veg, except for chips and the obligatory garnish of green salad. Unless you eat in a vegetarian restaurant, vegetables are rarer than good customer service in the UK.
I have no evidence to dispute his claims about the gaseous discharges from farm animals but his request must be one of the most futile of the whole climate change agenda. There is absolutely no way the world will voluntarily turn into lentil lovers even if we are encouraged by the application of all the potentially redundant cattle prods to our nether regions.
Advertising is probably the next most creative discipline next to the arts. Not only do you need to understand the human psyche you need to be able to create something interesting, informative and enticing that has a relatively short lifespan. In the 1970s, Britain led the advertising world with the work of Saatchi & Saatchi and WPP Group constantly breaking new ground.
Being such a creative industry one wonders how the government was persuaded to use the character of Homer Simpson to promote healthy eating. We all understand he is a caricature of multiple bad habits wrapped up in an iconic couch potato. Quite why we would be persuaded to change our habits just because Homer joins the lentil and yoghurt brigade is beyond me.
How can it be value for money to pay the necessary royalties to use the Simpson’s image before even spending money devising the content of the healthy eating campaign and producing the adverts. No doubt we will all have a good laugh at the antics of the yellow folk from Springfield as they turn away from fat and sugar but I doubt it will change anyone’s eating habits.
In some ways the death of Keith Floyd comes at no surprise in view of his life style, he certainly did not include the idea of restraint in his attitude to life. Watching his cooking programmes back in the mid to late 1980 was a real eye opener. His natural style of presenting and simple cooking which produced such wonderful results kept us all amused and encourage to try something new.
I never met the man but did come across his double running a small restaurant in Elat on the Israeli Red Sea coast. Smele’s Place served fresh, simply grilled dishes of local fish and meat with equally simple salads. The owner who was also a great drinker and womaniser would quickly a start to flirt with them in the most outrageous way, the younger they were the greater his efforts.
He claimed to be Keith’s brother who had left England to get away from his estranged wife who was bleeding his bank account dry. Whatever the truth he was as big and colourful as the real article and proved the world is in great need of more of these characters to brighten up our lives and debunk all the mystery and fads that surrounds cooking and food.
Eating in an American Restaurant has been likened to eating your way through a weeks food in a few hours. The size of the portions of food are legendary, each restaurant tries to out do the competition by offering a never ending supply of salad and bread on top of a portion size that would feed several people. Because its almost impossible to finish a meal, restaurants openly offer to pack up the leftovers in a doggy bag for the customer to take home. This is so normal the waiting staff will be very surprised when the offer is refused.
Now the supermarket chain Waitrose has urged customers to insist on taking home unfinished restaurant food and has even got chef and food writer Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to endorse the idea. I agree with the underlying argument that we should not be wasting food, but the answer is not doggy bags, its having more realistic portion sizes and, as a consequence, lower restaurant bills.
The problem is that the cost of food is generally less than 25% of the cost of the meal, so reducing the portion size has little impact on the total cost of the meal. Its also become a bit of a marketing ploy and used as a sign of good value. But its only good value if you wanted it in the first place. I’m sure most of what is taken home either ends up in the bin or the family pet, hardly a bargain. If Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall wants to endorse something along with his healthy diet and real food campaigns he should add moderation in portion sizes.
School dinner services have been struggling to comply with new rules on nutrition while keeping meals attractive to children. Meals have to provide defined levels of 14 nutrients while limiting sugar and fat content, and increasing dietary fibre. Now the school meals guru Jamie Oliver has told them not to butter bread for sandwiches but use a low fat spread or omit the it altogether.
This has raised the concern of the Dairy Council who rightly point out that most low fat spreads contain several man made compounds together with artificial colouring and preservatives. Its rather surprising that someone who derides the process food industry should proclaim its use in preference to butter which is an entirely natural product.
If you follow his cookery programmes he can often be seen to be liberally using salt, an entirely unnecessary addition to most foods, lots of olive oil, the consumption of fat in any form should be limited, and cream, well we need say no more about that one. He seems to be imposing a food regime which is not part of his own diet, a bit of a hypocrite who should start eating his own words and not forcing them the country’s children.
Gill Fine, Director of Consumer Choice and Dietary Health at the Food Standards Agency, has posted a short comment on the blog of the Agency’s chief scientist Andrew Wadge, about the recent report on organic food, which had itself been commissioned by the same agency. Its of no surprise that she claims all food in the UK is safe even non organic food which has been produced with the aid of pesticides. These chemicals are strictly controlled in the UK and the residuals on the food we buy are carefully monitored so they don’t exceed safe levels.
It was clear from the very narrow scope of the research it was aimed at confirming something many people already suspected, organic food has no nutritional benefits over non-organic food. What the report entirely avoided was any assessment of the importance of land stewardship and the environmental impact of different farming practices. As has been said by many people responding to this pointless report, going organic is about caring for the environment and the land on which the food is grown.
If the FSA wants to ensure the quality and security of our food supply it should consider the whole of the production cycle and its impact on the environment. Many modern food production methods are unsustainable in the long term, requiring greater and greater chemical interventions to keep up production levels. This is the area that needs researching, but that would risk the anger of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which remains under the influence of the powerful farming lobby.
One of the luxuries of getting old is being able to occasionally indulge in foods from your youth, although those around you may look on them with some disgust. Bread features large in these culinary delights having been a staple and affordable food at a time when money was in short supply. Bread and scrape (beef dripping) was the ultimate treat, particularly the layer of rich brown jelly that lay under the creamy soft beef fat, even my father would indulge in this treat.
Second on the list was the sugar sandwich, yes bread, butter and crunchy granulated sugar. You must remember that as kids in the 50s sweets were a treat not an everyday thing and we were much more active than now so the impact of empty calories and saturated fats were minimal. The final sandwich on the menu is the ketchup sarnie. A simple concoction that even found fame in the Daily Mirror strip cartoon The Perishers. The skill of the ketchup sarnie was to eat one without leaving red marks on hands, face, clothing, furniture or the person standing next to you.
From late April to the end of May each year we could adopt a more healthy approach to eating with the rhubarb dip. A freshly pulled stick of rhubarb and an egg cup filled with caster sugar. The thin immature sticks are best as they are less stringy. The end of the rhubarb is dipped in the sugar and then bitten off. The acidic juicy stem blended with the sweet sugar in a burst of flavour that I can remember to this day.
My mother was a consummate pastry maker and pudding cook. A meal is not complete without a pudding, and memories of steamed syrup sponge, jam roly-poly and apple dumpling made with suet crust pastry remain as strong as ever.
My favourite is Sussex Pond Pudding, simple to make but totally delicious. A greased bowl is lined with suet pastry, filled with brown sugar and a whole lemon and topped with a pastry lid. As it cooks in the steamer the lemon bursts and spreads lemon juice all over the inside of the pastry case. When you cut into the pudding, the mixture of brown sugar and lemon juice runs our and the pastry is crisp on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. Wonderful. In fact I think its time for a little pudding love.
An allotment has become the must have accessory for the modern family. Where DIY once ruled the Sunday morning in suburbia its now Grow Your Own that has become the creed and the Allotment the place of worship. After a considerable effort by a group of dedicated enthusiasts our Parish Council was forced into providing a plot of land for the eager horticulturists. Six years later half the original allotment holders are still tilling the soil, some plots have been through several hands as individuals find the task of GYO too difficult, but all are being used and a small waiting list remains.
My father introduced me to the pleasures of growing your own food when he took on a plot in the late 60s. We were both new to vegetable growing and learnt together that nature needs a lot of help if you are to eat what you grow. Pests, diseases, drought, vandalism and the quality of the soil all need to be understood before success can be achieved. As any old gardener will tell you, work with nature and she will be your friend and feed you, fight with nature and she will be your enemy and you’ll starve.
At the moment I’m picking sugar snap peas, strawberries, wild rocket and cabbages; and by the end of the month there will be new potatoes, tomatoes, gooseberries and carrots. In fact this year the choice and quantities are less than normal as a long spring holiday coincided with the peak sowing and planting season, thus I’m about six weeks behind. Last year we went for over ten months without needing to buy any vegetables, all very satisfying.
Among my mother’s wide range of cooking skills was a biscuit called the melting moment. Made from porridge oats they have a soft, flaky texture that truly melted in the mouth. As a child I could have eaten a whole batch at one sitting, particularly when taken still warm from the baking tray.
Home baking, be it cakes or biscuits, was a common occurrence in most households in the 1950s and early 1960s. Teatime comprised a selection of sandwiches, a few items of salad, a tin of salmon or corned beef and something freshly baked. Having been a cook in the WRAC, my mother was particularly skilled and meals were big and wholesome.
The recipe, which I think originally came from a box of Scotts Porridge Oats, was lost many years ago, and although she tried to recreate my childhood favourite on several occasions they never quite came close. I have also searched many recipe books and found dozens of versions, I have never found one to match the luxuriant treat of my youth.