Food Education Trust

Cooking with Conscience

December 2011

A new year and a resolution made to restart my blog. Food with all its related issues is just too interesting a subject to leave to other people.

Since last writing a blog I have published my second book “What’s for Dinner? Second Helpings”. I am very pleased with the finished product and we, as a family are just about to go into our second year of using it as the basis of our weekly meals, pretty much to the exclusion of every other cookbook. It is too tempting to turn to its pages at the start of a busy week when planning the meals. I did make some cookbook purchases last year as we all know that a new cookbook is hard to resist. I particularly like Hanne Risgaard’s “Homebaked”, which is full of Nordic bread recipes that I have not come across before. So often now the satisfaction in a new cookbook is derived from finding new, accessible recipes. I have in the last few years taken to buying second hand copies of old cookbooks as they occasionally feel more innovatory than a lot of the books published today.

My plans for the year ahead include writing some new recipes for the summer. I want to concentrate on cooking with a conscience. By this I mean being aware that what we eat and how we eat has a huge impact on our environment. Deciding, as a nation, to eat less meat would have a marked effect on climate change. We do not have the space to keep growing so much food to feed the animals we eat. The weather last summer and then the rain we have had in the UK this autumn serves to remind us how dependent the quality of our future diet is on our climate. Cooking with a conscience also means planning our meals in the home so that food waste can be reduced. Just yesterday a report published by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers estimated that the world wastes half of the food it produces. Most of this food waste occurs before produce enters our homes but we can have an impact on this by telling our food suppliers that we like ugly fruit. We care how food tastes not how the vegetables, we predominantly chop up anyway, look on the plate. Cooking with a conscience also means recognising what is good for you and your family to eat. Recently a set of my recipes were analysed by a nutritionist for a magazine and broken down by fat value, saturated fat value and calories. I was pleasantly surprised that 9 out of the 10 recipes featured in the article had calories of about 320 and saturated fat values of 2g or so. The reason I was surprised was that I don’t pay attention to these values when I am writing my recipes. I think that if you eat a balanced diet and turn your back on processed food you naturally consume foods that don’t contain large amounts of fat or sugars. Cooking with a conscience does not have to be time consuming. It does take some time but given that eating is one of the most important things we do in a day we do need to move away from the notion that food has to be a convenience. If we want to live long and healthy lives and ensure that our children do, then we have to accept that feeding ourselves needs to move higher on our list of priorities.

On a lighter note we have had our first flurry of snow in the south of England and the weather has turned colder in general. Comfort food is still what we tend to want to eat in the evenings. Tuck into plenty of winter vegetables as well to keep coughs and colds at bay. I am sure there will be 20 scientists who will rubbish that theory but when it comes to food I prefer to put my faith in the old wives tales of our grandmothers that have passed down through the generations and who in turn put their faith in eating seasonally and in harmony with nature.