Sunday, 18 January 2015

Food allergy/intolerance/etc- WHATEVER!

When I was growing up in the 60s/70s, I cannot recall a single classmate who had a food intolerance or allergy. My contemporaries scoffed everything in sight and memories of childhood birthday parties and teenage Barbeques included food and lots of it. The only difference I can fathom between the life then and the so-called allergies that seemingly everyone suffers from now, would be this: in those days families ate together - the main meal  of the day was consumed in the evening when the head of the household had returned from work and the children's homework was finished. The meal was invariably prepared by the mother and together the family would catch up on the day's events and almost always, the meal would end with an argument about who would wash the dishes. On Sundays, the roast with all the trimmings was a much anticipated feast and as the children got older, everyone chipped in with the preparation of the meal.

This week the subject of food and diseases mysteriously disappearing after a radical shift in diet was all the rage in the press. I find the born-again-food-obsessives to be a bit of a joke, really. Essentially food obsessives are those who never ate properly and used to survive on a diet of processed food and snacks. All of a sudden, when their bodies start to object to the abuse, these food-obsessives finally learn how to eat properly, write a book about  it and become lifestyle gurus. They would have us spend hundreds of pounds on ingredients, condiments and seasonings, plus dedicate hours every day to the preparation of dehydrated raw food recipes or brownies in anything but name. That's all well and good but I often argue that human beings evolved eating really simple seasonal food. When our ancestors weren't dragging women by the hair into a cave after consuming half a raw dinosaur, they were roasting a piece of meat and snacking on berries and nuts (to give them energy to chase women and hunt). Food consumption is about time and place and budget. In the UK, we have a long history of eating gruel (cereal boiled into a sludge that is actually very healthy) and washed down with beer while snacking on oysters. Oysters used to be very cheap hence their popularity. Beer was safer to drink than water and again, gruel was cheap but nourishing the latter being vitally important in order to survive cold temperatures.

I eat a very simple diet. I love fancy French food but on a day-to-day basis, I eat like a peasant. Slow cooked meat and vegetables, casseroles that I make in bulk and freeze- easy, bland and very nourishing. And if it isn't in season, I don't eat it. This is my small homage to nature and the universe- to respect the cycle and rhythm in the natural world. My reasoning for eating the way I do is this: I'm middle-aged and I would rather have good health than loads of money in the bank. Both my parents spent years lingering in bad health before they died. I am determined not to go down that road and therefore keep myself as healthy as I can but I don't obsess about it. I eat chocolate after a proper meal. I drink wine every day but never have more than two glasses. I love cognac after supper. I refuse to be faddish about food and permit me to say to all celebrity chefs out there:  food is not entertainment. Food is about life and love. I cook for people I love. I cook to live. And be happy.

This is what I cooked and ate last week:

Shepherd's Pie with Brussels Sprouts (stale Camembert cheese made a nice topping):

 Chicken Livers with Cavalo Nero and Bacon:
Mutton Stew and Boiled Rice:

Sausages with Puy Lentils:

Spatzle with Sauerkraut:

Beef Stew with Chips and Sprouts:

Photos copyright SvD.

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