How can we create a better food culture in the UK?

camber beach

On our trip to Rye, we ventured over to Camber Beach a few times, excited about the prospect of warm late summer days of sand and surf. It definitely felt weird to be on the beach in England (I grew up with summer holidays visiting grandparents in Bahamas, so summers are permanently associated with lots of sun, sea and fish in my mind), but we loved every second of it. We might even head over to the beach in Cornwall next summer – how daring of us! 😊

The beach was packed both days we were there with lots of families taking advantage of the hot days before kids head back to school. I’ve been pondering how to write the next part of this blog post without judgement, so here goes. It was rather alarming to see how many very overweight toddlers, children and teenagers there were and what their parents were giving them to eat – lots of pop, sweets, cakes and crisps.

It got me thinking about food traditions, cooking and how we can teach our children to cook and eat in nourishing, tasty ways.

It’s no secret that food and nutrition education in England is patchy at best. Jamie Oliver’s programme Jamie’s School Dinners ten years ago put a spotlight on this and a follow up interview last year, he said that one of the reasons this initiative failed is that “in Britain, eating well and feeding your kid right and being aware about food is all considered very posh and middle class, but the reality is that in most of Europe some of the best food comes from the poorest communities.

This makes me really sad. Food and nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated or defined by class. There are amazing food traditions in European countries that are enjoyed by the rich and the poor. The Greek obsession with fresh ingredients and traditional Greek dishes immediately springs to mind.

In the same article, Jamie Oliver then goes on to say, “we need to make fresh food more affordable than processed food because the most at-risk people right now won’t be my kid or yours [speaking of lower income families]”.

And this is the heart of the issue. We have a class-based food culture that is creating an obesity time-bomb.

In England, cooking habits are seemingly not passed on through families like they are in Italy and France and cooking is generally seen as a chore rather than a pleasure. Without this essential skill, families start to over rely on cheap, processed food, ready meals and takeaways to feed themselves. This lack of food knowledge goes on and on through families – children don’t know where their food comes from, can’t identify fruit and vegetables and are overfed and undernourished.

I wish I was exaggerating.

Cooking and eating delicious, nourishing food is such a pleasure, and this pleasure needn’t have any class based connotations.

How can we get people to start taking a long term view on what they eat, realising that the benefits of spending money on fresh food that will make a few meals vs. buying takeaways each night. Enjoying the savings both financially and health wise in growing your own fruit and veg?

I don’t have the answers, but it seems like that part of the solution could be simple food and nutrition education for parents and children –  using so-called pester power in a positive way.

What do you think?

Stories I loved this week.

rye castle

How’s your week been? We have a very low-key weekend planned – a lot of cooking, hanging out, bike riding and family time. I’m really looking forward to it.

We’re also continuing our tradition of sampling the best brunch places in London. It’s a fun thing to do and a nice treat for the weekend. Any recommendations?

The complicated relationship women have with their Afro hair. I’m currently debating whether to go natural – it’s a big decision. (The Pool)

I just got this book – can’t wait to dive into more research into the microbiomes within us.

A wrenching first person account of a miscarriage. Honest and sad reading. (Refinery29)

I really want to make these cumin roasted potatoes. (Lucky Peach)

Great t-shirt. (& Other Stories)

Have you seen The Mask You Live In? I’ve just added it to my Netflix watch list.

Great advice on how to protect your wellness brand. (Well To Do)

How do you stay healthy when you drive everywhere?

62 miles to London

We’ve just spent a lovely three days in Rye, a small, whimsical city on the South Coast of England. We drove down from London for some sorely needed time to recharge our batteries and enjoy some family time in the dog days of summer.

It was nice to get out of London for a bit, explore a new area and be reminded that there is life outside the Big Smoke.

Having a car for our mini break gave me a different vision of what life might be like. We don’t have a car, so we walk or take public transport everywhere we need to get to in London.

There are positives, like the sheer convenience and ease of getting from one place to another.

And there are a lot of negatives. The environmental cost is a big one. Another big negative is the lack of exercise. When I compare my step count (yes, I do check this quite often in the Health app on my iPhone) for the last three days to the same time last week, the difference is breathtaking.  I try to get at least 10,000 steps / 5km a day – it’s arbitrary, but it works for me.

With a car, I’ve missed the latent exercise I seem to regularly fit in, from running for the bus, standing on the tube and walking up the stairs at work.

If you drive regularly, how do you fit in exercise? Is it something you have to schedule into your diary as a can’t miss appointment? A car might be in our future, as our lives get busier and I’m keen to make sure it doesn’t have a detrimental effect on our health.

Sweet Potato & Dukkah Crisps

sweet potato crisps

We’re into the dog days of summer and the weather has gotten exceptionally warm here in London. No complaints here – I adore hot weather and any opportunity to spend some time getting some vitamin D.

Happily, my enforced furlough at work has coincided with this heatwave and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen, playing around with new recipes and ingredients.

Last week, I tried the Beetroot Crisps recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book, It’s All Easy. It wasn’t successful for me, so I made my own twist on the recipe. I knew it was successful when I got a text from M telling me they were ‘the bomb’. 😊

sliced sweet potatoes with dukkah

What you need:

2 large sweet potatoes, washed. (don’t bother peeling them – the skin has loads of nutrients!)

4 tbsp dukkah spice blend

4 tbsp olive oil

Sea salt

A mandoline

sweet potato crisps just out of the oven

How to make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 175C.
  2. Place your mandoline over a small bowl and use it to make circles of sweet potato. Slice up both sweet potatoes.
  3. Use a baking brush and brush 1 tbsp of olive oil over a large baking tray.
  4. Place the sweet potato circles on the tray, making sure they are evenly spaced and don’t overlap.
  5. Brush 1 tbsp olive oil over the sweet potatoes, making sure they only have a light coating. Too much olive oil and the sweet potatoes won’t crisp up.
  6. Take 2 tbsp of the dukkah spice blend and sprinkle it over the sweet potatoes.
  7. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over the sweet potatoes.
  8. Place the tray into the top shelf of the oven for ten minutes.
  9. After ten minutes, move the tray to bottom shelf of the oven.
  10. Take the tray out of the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a bowl and repeat steps 3-10 with the rest of the ingredients.

Enjoy!

Stories I loved this week.

wildflowers

 

How’s your week been? We’re planning a fun weekend, mainly geared towards pre-birthday celebrations for J.

He’s turning three (3!) and I think we’re more excited than he is. We’ve got a trip to Whipsnade planned for Saturday and then a trip to see a working Thomas The Tank Engine train on Sunday. J is going to love it and I can’t wait to see his reaction.

WINONA FOREVER. (NY Mag)

Have you gotten into the Olympics yet? It’s taken me awhile, but I’m there. I’ve been devouring articles and think pieces about the athletes and events. Something that consistently irritates me is the intertwining of female athleticism and femininity. Why do we need to be reassured about their femininity? (The Atlantic)

We’re currently in throes of tackling a very specific fear of monsters with little J and we’re focused on not amplifying the fear – tricky when it’s 3am and you have a crying child on your hands. (The Cut)

I love the sound of this summer gazpacho, especially on these hot August days in London. (Bon Appetit)

Could you cut out all food with added sugar? (Self)

And what about all the sugar in fruit. Wrongly demonised, the sugar spike from whole fruit is modulated by the fibre and phytonutrients in the fruit. (Nutrition Facts)

I love this so much. Reminds you that the way your loved ones (especially your children!) is so different from the way you see yourself. (Cup of Jo)

 

Motherhood right now.

bear and thomas

My little boy turns 3 in two weeks. 3!

I know what motherhood is with a baby. It’s a steep learning curve, moments where you’ve never loved anyone this much and in this way before, indescribable exhaustion, a new sense of self as a woman, wife and mother.

And then all of sudden they’re no longer babies and want nothing to do with babyhood.

I’m now learning that life with a little boy toddler is joyful, heart stopping and exasperating in equal measure. But that’s motherhood.

croquet

It’s those moments where they test the boundaries, along with your patience.

The moments where they strain to assert their independence in the most amazing ways (Mama, I will get it. Mama, I will put my shoes on. Mama, I will put the alarm on(!)).

The moments where their total lack of fear and sense of danger send your heart into your throat.

And those little, sweet moments that make everything worth it. When they give you an unprompted thank you, an unprompted kiss. When they turn to you and say, “Mama, I love you so much, I like you so much.”

sleeping J

Stories I loved this week.

wembley stadium

I got my exam results this week and I’m officially out of my funk! Without fully realising it, I’ve been really stressed out about getting my results back and it’s had a knock-on effect on other parts of my life. When I got my mark and saw that I had passed (with flying colours!), it felt like a weight off my shoulders.

And now the weekend’s here and I’m looking forward to pottering about, heading to a few children’s birthday parties with little J (he’s almost 3 and he has a fabulous social life!) and checking out Soho Farmhouse with some friends. Here’s hoping we have some great weather too!

I have been really getting into using my pressure cooker this week and I’m really enjoying going through Nom Nom Paleo’s pressure cooker recipes. The Instant Pot really is a game-changer!

It’s amazing what Olympic / professional athletes eat and utterly unsurprising they gain so much weight in the off-season. (Bon Appetit)

More reasons why breast milk is amazing. There are compounds (human milk oligosaccharides) in it that were previously thought to be indigestible, now known to there specifically to good bacteria in the baby’s gut. So cool. (The New Yorker)

Is your gut making you sick? (The Guardian)

How community supported agriculture is becoming messy in the US. (New York Times)

I really want to try this earl-grey glazed salmon. (Hemsley + Hemsley)

6 things you need to know about marketing yourself as a practitioner. (Dr. Jill Carnahan)