Archive for the ‘Food’ Tag

Missing The Point For Food Politics

foodGill 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.

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The ‘Shut-up’ Diet

Datamonitor reports only 1 in 100 dieters is successful at permanently loosing weight. Now why does that not come as a surprise to most people, even the fat ones? Because it’s eating too much that makes you fat and diets are just short term stylish fads. If you want to loose weight shut your mouth before you feel full, take smaller portions, cut out sugar and stop grazing between meals.

If you want to get into shape, take exercise, use the stairs not the lift, walk down the road don’t take the car and go dig the garden. middle age spread is a myth. Middle age slothfulness and gluttony is a fact. But this is too simple for the fat farm industry and there is no money to be made from just telling people what to do.

To make money you need to sell something, be it a book, a magic pill or membership of a club. The diet industry is very good at all three it’s the effectiveness of these products that’s non existent.

The American Food Factory

Walking around down town USA its hard to think only 25% of Americans are obese. Fat people are everywhere. You regularly see individuals who are so big they have to use electric scooters to get around and young kids who must be several times their ideal weight. The cause, besides the individual’s propensity to over eat, is a diet of processed foods high in either fat or high-fructose corn syrup or both, and portion sizes that would feed a family for a week in most other parts of the world.

Supermarket shelves creak and bend under the weight of snack foods, confectionery and ready meals all sold in large or mega size packets. Cakes are smothered in butter cream, loaves of bread are several foot long and milk is sold by the gallon. Little space is set aside for fresh fruit and vegetables and what is available is limited to a few staples. Meat is sold as huge cuts often covered with sauces and flavourings. Many places are food deserts where there is little opportunity to eat healthy.

Eating out in America is an equally unhealthy habit for most people. The food is smothered with sweetened sauces and dressings, the portion sizes are huge and vegetables, other than potatoes in various forms, are a rarity. Drive down any main road and its restaurant, after fast food outlet, after ice cream shop, after coffee bar. There are good restaurants and there is good healthy food to eat, its just that too many people have lost the habit.

Only Mum’s Bread Pudding Will Do

They used to say you’ll never find anyone who can cook like your mother. With the supermarket shelves groaning under the weight of ready meals and processed foods that saying may no longer be true. However, in my case its very true. My mother was a good cook, nothing fancy, just all the basic British dishes executed with skill time and again. There are a number of things she used to cook that I will never eat again even though I have searched out many alternative recipes and tried different combinations of ingredients.

Her pastry was light, buttery and crisp, her sponge cakes were soft, golden and moist, her bread pudding was dark, spicy and full of fruit. In her teens she cooked for her family after her mother died and at the start of WW II she joined the WAAF to become a cook at RAF Stanmore. She learnt to make the most of the limited resources available although this was generally better than the rations the nation had available for civilians. She occasionally cooked for visiting American airmen who would arrive with their own rations of prime steak, fat chickens and bags of fruit, much to the envy of the English airmen.

My personal favourites were her puddings, particularly when made with suet. Spotted dick, apple dumplings, syrup sponge, treacle tart, lemon pudding, trifles and best of all Christmas pudding. Made in spring and left to mature for nine months, they were almost black, rich, very spicy and full of fruit. She had a silver threepenny piece that we would ceremoniously drop into the mixture as an added enticement. One year when the coin could not be found we added several small metal trinkets previously found in Christmas crackers. During the following Christmas meal we searched our dishes looking for the little silver prizes. None were found, we can only assume my father ate them.

Salt Of The Ego

Researchers in the US have said salt acts as an anti-depressant and the resultant feel good factor could be why we are addicted to a substance that, in excess, is linked to heart disease. The body needs about two grams of salt a day but the recommended daily intake is double that, and most people in Britain consume ten grams a day. The biggest contributor to this high level of intake being processed and snack foods. Even the TV chefs add copious amounts to their cooking claiming ‘it helps bring out the flavour’.

High salt intake is known to increase blood pressure, is considered as a risk factor for osteoporosis and is thought to be linked to stomach cancer. The taste buds can become accustom to high levels of salt, making food taste bland and starting a vicious circle of a continuing increasing salt intake. I firmly believe adding salt to food is unnecessary. In the vast majority of cases all it dose is make food taste salty. If you stop using salt completely you quickly regain the ability to taste food in its natural state.

I rarely add salt when cooking, and when I do its purpose is to balance the taste of an over sweet sauce. Until this winter there was a carton of sea salt in the larder that had probably been bought more than ten years ago, it was sprinkled on the front path to clear the ice. People who come for dinner never complain about the lack of seasoning and I never put the cruet on the dinning table. I want everyone to taste and comment on the food as I have created it, not adulterate it with salt and pepper.

Defending The Melting Melton

In October 2008 the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie gained protected geographical indication status. Only those pies raised (literally) in the market town are able to carry the world famous name. This protectionism has been going on in Europe for years. There are many foods and drinks that have had their origins protected through European law and spats against interlopers are common. In the UK we have been far less active and many local foods have become so ubiquitous as to be utterly meaningless.

Cheddar cheese, like many of our regional chesses can be made anywhere. The result has been a shift to the mass manufacturers whose prime concern is price and profit not quality. Local manufactures have suffered as a consequence and some lost forever. The protection of local products can be a significant boost to the rural economy. However they all depend on consumers making a deliberate choice to purchase these superior products and not the cheap supermarket imitations. It also depends on the way the government legislates on food matters.

There is often too much bureaucracy and not enough common sense in our food regulations which result in traditional British foods being lost because they do not comply with the preference for sterile processed products that are devoid of even the smallest risk and, as a consequence, are devoid of any true flavour other that that added by the manufacturers.