Out Damn Sugar! Out I Say!

Sugar is the new evil. What a revelation! Every day there is a press article revealing some new disease, some new side-effect or some new and sinister ill that sugar has wrought. Yet who in the world could not, by now, know that sugar is not good for you, makes you fat, rots your teeth, gives you diabetes etc?

Just as everyone is aware that burgers, chips and pizza should be consumed in moderation, so we know it is the same for sugary products. Strangely, though, knowing these things is not enough. You have to care that sugar and fat are unhealthy to do anything about them, too.

Eradicating sugary and fatty foods from your life is tedious beyond belief. You have to watch others consuming slabs of cake, portions of chips, ice creams or creamy desserts whilst sipping black coffees or nibbling on a lettuce leaf. You have to sustain this regime for what seems years. You may not ever slip from a religious observance of ‘no sugar, no fat’.

It is never enough to undertake vast amounts of exercise; to run miles each day, leap around aerobically, swim, dance and lift weights. Sugar will still be bad. It will, at best, rot your teeth.

As a child I was not denied sugar, neither was I obese, although during my teens I did have so many teeth filled [with lethal amalgam consisting of, amongst other substances, mercury] I was like a walking barometer and you could almost tell when a storm was coming by staring into my open mouth. The fillings were not a result of decay. No, they were the outcome of a rush of enthusiasm by my national health dentist who was, at that time, paid handsomely for each filling he could complete, regardless of need. That this is now needing to be expensively addressed has been described in a previous post.

My mother’s problem with her very young children was not how to keep them on the straight and narrow of dietary goodness. It was how to feed us enough of anything. We were like a small clutch of baby birds reaching our beaks to the sky and squawking, ‘feed us!’

My father grew a lot of vegetables in our sprawling garden. There were hens at the end of it, obligingly providing eggs; [unlucky ones, on occasions would also provide the Sunday roast]. The odds and ends of discarded fruit from my uncle’s market greengrocer stall provided us with treats, although we were never allowed to consume a banana without an accompanying slice of bread and butter. We were always given a ‘pudding’-usually something carb-laden such as rice pudding [we fought over the toffee-like skin that clung to the sides of the dish], suet apple pudding or jam roly-poly. These starch fests were to fill us up. We were not chubby children.

So what went wrong? I can only guess at the answer, but I’d say affluence is the culprit, along with too many options, but you can’t turn the clock back, nor would you want to; so it’s back to coffee and lettuce leaves…

To Eat Meat or not to Eat Meat, that is today’s question.

                Whilst the news that beefburgers are to be grown for our consumption is not really a surprise I was unable to suppress a grimace at the thought of such comestibles. Since developing countries are now demanding the quantities of meat that we are used to, supply will not be able to keep up with demand. Presumably folk in the developing countries that are craving this meat will then become prey to the diseases that scoffing big lumps of meat on a frequent basis allegedly causes the rest of us, the time honoured over-consumers of flesh.

                If I sound like a rampant vegetarian I confess that I am not. Meat is something I do not want to give up. I like nothing more than tender steak, fragrant roast lamb and crispy pork. But I also like fish and I am happy with vegetarian fare, provided-and this is the crux of the matter-it is not some nebulous, bland substance masquerading as meat. The vegetarian sections of supermarkets are crammed full of such fabrications; veggie burgers, vegetarian sausages, hot dogs, chicken-style pies, cottage pie, schnitzels, chicken-style nuggets. Why?

                If you would be a vegetarian, why do you want meat-style products?

                In our house we do a fair amount of cooking from scratch-probably more than most. I believe that to eat healthily as a vegetarian a great deal of culinary expertise is required. You have to ensure the protein elements of the meal-not easy if there is to be variety. You have to concoct tasty, nutritious items from nuts, beans or pulses. If you do not undertake these time-consuming practises you will be stuck on an escalator of cheese pizza, cheese pasta, cheese nachos, jacket potato with cheese and veggie burgers-not especially healthy fare, but there are limits to fast food options of the veggie kind.

                I suppose it all comes down to the reasons for vegetarianism. For some it may be a simple aversion to the taste or texture of meat. Fair enough! For others it may be a protest against the horrors perpetrated against cute, furry animals. And for a third group, it is the fact that the world could be fed adequately if the land taken to raise beef, lamb, pork, chicken etc were used to grow crops. This, to me is the most powerful reason for vegetarianism.

                But surely we would all fare better if we took a third way. We humans are omnivores.

noun

  • an animal or person that eats a variety of food of both plant and animal origin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                The clue is in the word variety. I’m not prepared to conjure cunning treats from ‘tofu’ or make mouthwatering meals from pretend mince, OR eat meat made in a petri dish. If you’re going to make a vegetarian meal-use vegetables!

                That’s all. I’m off to the supermarket.

The Way the Garden Grows

                Every year at about this time I marvel at a bizarre phenomenon that occurs in the garden to the rear of our house. It expands. It definitely becomes larger each spring. I don’t understand the reason for this event-especially as the boundaries of the property do not appear to move, nevertheless every area, feature, pathway, patio, border, lawn, pond and structure has grown. I know this principally because it all takes hours longer and produces more aching muscles than the previous year and the year before that.

                I like to think I’ve got the measure of our garden. After seventeen years of designing, redesigning, trying out plants, failing, digging, planting, weeding, chopping, trimming, mowing, pruning, staking, composting and the rest I am under the illusory impression I have the better of the beast, but the reality is I haven’t got it under control at all.

                During the May holiday weekend, along with everyone else, I made my annual pilgrimage to the garden centre, a visit which never fails to provoke a feeling of optimistic fantasy. I trail around the stands of bright, bushy perennials with my trolley, scrutinising their labels and picturing them in the border; a riot of dazzling colour bursting forth and wowing the neighbours as they peer jealously over the fence, or eliciting exclamations of ecstasy from visitors. I fill the trolley. I bear the trophies home in a rush of excited enthusiasm. I set to, identifying a location, soaking the plant, preparing the planting hole, adding the compost, ladling in the food granules, settling the roots in, refilling, firming and watering. I go out each day to check.

                But it is the garden that has the last laugh. It cannot be fooled. It grows what it wants to grow, its favourite diet consisting of robust ‘self-comers’ that seed with effortless abandon or send out subterranean wires of roots that pop up anywhere and everywhere, resisting wind, frost, slugs and drought regardless. Thus I have a garden brimming with Aquilegia, Montbretia, bluebells and spiderwort-all very pleasant and worthy of their place in moderation.

                Here we are battling strong, coastal winds, salt laden air, poor, sandy soil and droughts. Once I had more time to devote to growing things I developed ambitions to grow things to eat. Knowing how unsupportive the soil is I persuaded Husband to build some raised beds, explaining that we-[I]- could fill them with rich, organic compost. The first year I was inspired to sow a wide variety of vegetables, including beetroot, asparagus, potatoes, runner beans and onions. Success was limited. The beetroot never grew beyond miniature, the asparagus failed to rear its head and the onions remained in stubborn infancy long past the time when it should have grown up.

                I still dabble with vegetables, but in a limited way. I seem to be able to produce tomatoes [provided there is any sunshine], spinach seems to quite like our gaff, and most herbs are tough enough to cope. There is only one problem though; we are almost always away in September, when  we should be enjoying the harvest. Let me see-travel or tomatoes? Fortunately there are others around to see they aren’t wasted!