Oh you are offal! But I love you

The Good Life Letter 

26th February 2016

  • Discover the secrets of a man left alone in the house
  • This is a remarkable change in eating habits
  • Here are the major benefits from eating a traditional cheap meat
Iíve been home alone this week as Lara has been away visiting various relatives and the kids have made themselves scarce Ė and I have much to tell you about as a result!

One of the joys of an empty house is the freedom to do exactly what I wanted, when I wanted and wherever I wanted.

So, my days began with a cup of tea in bed, a lunch of cold meat and pickles and the occasional trundle down to the local for a glass of falling down water.

Pure delight!

But one of the other benefits was the chance to properly indulge my food fantasies.

Much of what we eat as a family is the result of a compromise to ensure we only have to prepare one dish that all will eat.

As a result we have a fairly standard weekly diet based around tried and trusted recipes.

But on my own I am free to visit far flung parts of the cookbook and enjoy some of the dishes I have dreamt about for many a year.

First priority was a nice piece of blushing calves liver with fried onions and a rich port gravy.

Then some delicately tea smoked wood pigeon breasts served with a butter rich mash and steamed savoy cabbage.

Lastly a proper steak and kidney pudding, steamed in a muslin cloth and smothered in a deep dark gravy... and chips!

I have been eating my fill of some of the best of British foods.

Interestingly though I have spent a fraction of what I would have done and probably added a few extra inches to my waistline in the process.

Looking back over my home prepared goodies though I began to see that much of what I had fancied was offal.
This set me thinking about the way our tastes have changed over the years.

In my childhood we would have liver, kidney and even sweetbreads on a fairly regular basis, but now these meats have been on the decline.

The BBC agrees, our tastes have changed

In the week I chanced upon a recent survey conducted by one of the government departments (DEFRA) who looked at 150,000 households to find out what they were eating.

They then compared this with a similar study completed in 1974 and found that white bread, tinned peas and meat paste were losing ground whereas dried pasta, fresh fruit and chips were increasingly popular.

What was also obvious was that I am very much in the minority... nothing new there then!

Consumption of liver had dropped by 92%, from 36g per person in 1974 to a little under 3g in recent times.

I began to wonder why this might be the case Ė  as household budgets come under increased pressure you would have thought that thrift conscious buyers would seek out the bargain meats.

But once again the role played by our supermarkets, schools and TV cooking shows became obvious.

The shops no longer stock offal, preferring instead to offer frozen pizza, microwave pasta and chill cabinet reformed ham as budget meals instead of something more natural and substantial like liver or kidney.

Cooking skills are no longer taught in school and rarely practised at home so several generations of home makers donít have the skills to cook some of the most nutritional foods available.

Lastly the cooking shows extol the virtues of fancy meat cuts finished in exotic sauces rather than proper filling meals using the least expensive ingredients.

These are topics Iíve mentioned before and Iím not sure that itís a situation which is going to change any time soon.

It even looks like meat is fast becoming a dinner table outcast too.

The health fears that mean many families donít eat meat

Many people are vegetarian by choice, ethical considerations or health reasons and I have absolutely no issue with that.

Eating healthily without meat is perfectly possible and in many cases a much cheaper option.

However, I enjoy meat as part of my main meal of the day and would seriously miss it if I was forced to change.

A piece in The Times last week highlighted the fact that millions of families are dropping meat from their diet to some extent due to the recent health scares.

The consequences of the horsemeat scandal and the BSE crisis in the late 1980s have been added to by the World Health Organisation claiming meat was definitely cancer causing.

Or at least that was how some of the papers reported it.

What WHO actually said was that processed meats were carcinogenic and that red meat might be.

Given all of this it isnít hard to see why families would want to avoid potentially dangerous foods...

...or is there another reason for the change in buying and eating habits?

I think price might have something to do with it.

For instance between 2007 and 2014 the price of beef rose by 35 per cent and the quantity purchased dropped by 20 per cent; similar issues affect lamb with a 42 per cent increase in price and a 32 per cent sales drop.

So whilst this survey might indicate that families are switching away from meat for health grounds I donít think it is that simple Ė and besides the work was done by The Vegetarian Society, so they might have a vested interest in highlighting a perceived problem.

With Lara now back in control of the household I am back to making cottage pie, spaghetti bolognese and prawn stir fry...

...all good food but I did enjoy my little taste of food freedom whilst it lasted!

And it probably did me no harm either. The health benefits of eating liver are:

  • Natureís most concentrated source of vitamin A plus all of the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12.
  • One of our best sources of folic acid and the most usable form of iron.
  • Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; in particular liver is our best source of copper.
  • CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function.

I hope you get a chance to reacquaint with your childhood food memories, and get to enjoy them as much as I did.

Yours, as always


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