We live in a world where we are downright spoilt for choice when it comes to dinner choices. It's as easy as rocking up to your local supermarket, browsing the chilled aisle and picking out an entire meal, including wine for a tenner. The most difficult part of the process is getting the correct oven temperature as the beautifully packaged ready meals slip in the oven to be heated for fifteen minutes before being wolfed down in front of Eastenders with the aforementioned bottle of plonk. We're like mindless eating zombies before we pack it in to bed and start all over again tomorrow. It's an easy life but the compromise for convenience is the unknown shit that is travelling through our gut.
Think about this the next time your tucking into a microwave lasagna
In fact research has determined that consumption of ready meals has increased over five times in the past forty years. Brits spend on average half an hour cooking every day which is less than half the time we spent in the 1980s and our most popular meal... a sandwich. Now whilst I am partial to the occasional sarnie, I wouldn't call it a meal... a snack at best. And it must include some form of bacon.
Although not much can be said for the fashion sense, at least we were eating proper meals
Meal time was an institution introduced to me by my wonderful nanny Ivy and something that I can honestly say that I have never compromised. I'm not trying to blow my own meat shack trumpet here but the only work that our microwave gets to do is heating up leftovers of our home cooked meals from the day previous. We don't waste nothing in this household and everything is made from scratch.
My earliest and fondest memories were visiting Nan with my Dad over the weekend and whatever time of the day she would insist that we could not leave until she cooked us an entire meal. We're talking about proper homemade chips with sausages, minced beef shortcrust patties, real roast dinner with beef dripping potatoes and always on special occasions we would be treated to NANNY IVY'S TRIFLE... good hearty, English man food. We always sat at a table and we always had a knife and fork.
Cuz, I know you're reading this and I'm sorry. I'm very very sorry. But this is Nan looking after her growing lads.
It's a shame that Nan is no longer with us any longer so I can quiz her on her own experience of learning to cook. She would have made an excellent interviewee about all things food. In fact, whilst making preparations to recreate the infamous NANNY IVY'S TRIFLE a war almost broke out between the family Whatsapp group.
I imagine Nan learnt to cook, as many others did of her era - through family recipes. We are talking about a generation who were bought up on war time rations where food was not to be wasted. In fact food was rationed in the UK for FOURTEEN YEARS starting in 1940 and ending in 1954.
The Brits were encouraged to provide their own food at home. The 'Dig for Victory' campaign started in October 1939 and called for every man and woman to keep an allotment and vegetable gardens with young bellies being filled with fresh produce turned into stews and inventive creations such as the Lord Woolton pie (a vegetable pie) and Potato Floodies cooked in meat drippings. Chickens, rabbits, goats and pigs were reared in town parks and gardens ready to keep the nation fed.
We now live in a world where we have been brainwashed into believing all sorts of nonsense being the means to weight loss and health. So how is it that during the war time efforts where it was encouraged to eat bread, butter, lard and meat drippings that the obesity epidemic that we are suffering with today was non existent? We are actually eating fewer calories as a fat nation today than our grand and even great grandparents. During World War Two rations were designed to give civilians 3,000 calories a day. Far more than today's Government recommended 2500 and 2000 calories for men and women respectively.
There are some lessons which can be learnt from Nanny Ivy's lifestyle and upbringing which are far simpler than paying a fortune for a complicated diet or splashing out a fortune on ingredients for a healthy and hearty meal. Whilst we’re certainly more educated in nutrition, the glaring contrast in our lifestyles is perhaps what needs to change for a simple approach to our health.
Back in the day it was commonplace to walk or cycle everywhere, and evenings would rarely be spent sat in front of the TV. They didn't have the luxury of snacking on hobnobs, cream cakes and crisps throughout the day, meal times had to equate to the amount of energy that was being used.
We can learn a lot from this, (my wife scoffs and insists that I include myself in this school of thought being a Michelangelo in the art of snacking). Being mindful of our snacking habits and enjoying the pleasures of the simple things like walking the dog can have a profound effect on our health with very little effort.
The philosophy that ‘food is thy medicine’ goes back to Hippocrates. Although some fancy produce was available during rationing on the black market, rationing amounts were topped up with whatever could be produced locally.
We can learn from this - when eating the food that is in season in your region, we can earn from the benefits of cleansing and healing for the season. For example, red grapes and blueberries, available in late summer and autumn, contain stilbenoid compounds that work with vitamin D to boost the immune system in preparation for the colder months ahead. Spring foods, such as leafy greens, are nutrient dense, giving us the energy we need for the New Year.
Although I appreciate that the days of Digging for Victory are long gone - ownership of an allotment these days is like gold dust when developers will build on land the size of a postage stamp, however there is a list of seasonal produce available from the National Trust website to load up your trolley on your next trip to Lidl.
Take a lesson from Nanny Ivy and ditch the microwave foods in favour of fresh home cooked meals. They don't even have to be extravagant to be tasty and flavourful, some of our favourite meals come fresh from the slow cooker packed full of fresh vegetables stewed slowly resulting in a meal that melts in your mouth. Many of our favourite meals are simply lots of chopped seasonal veg and fresh meats chucked in the slow cooker with some tasty herbs ready for our return from work. Or something quick and easy to cobble together when you're on the dog walk such as our WEEKNIGHT CHICKEN FAJITAS.
Chances are if you have stumbled across our foodie website that you already have an interest in food. But in case you're not, think of having cooking become your new hobby. Not only will your family learn from practicing your knife skills but you will benefit too. Research shows that taking up such a hobby produces the hormone serotonin which is responsible for influencing our mood and is secreted... providing a burst of positive energy.
Indulge in the mealtime resolution of our ancestors and sit at the table with the family. Switch off the tv and indulge in conversation. If there's one thing Nan taught me it's that eating at the table with family isn’t just about eating together, it was about bonding as a family. My extended family get together a handful of times a year and it without a doubt one of my favourite past times catching up on all things life and the Joe Rogan Podcast contents with my cousin.
It’s now the norm for families to eat separately, children eat in their bedrooms or families consume food at various times which is sad when hectic lives means that this can be a single moment in your day to spend together.
Not only this, sitting at the table and concentrating on eating means we are far more likely to be mindful about what and how much we are eating whilst we talk through daily events with our loved ones. We're much more likely to get the signals that we are full up than my example earlier of eating a takeaway whilst catching up on the Mitchell brothers newest escapades.