In professional kitchens all around the world “Fresh is Best” are words that are used as much as all the profanity thrown around. This is because any chef worth a damn is creating beautiful dishes from the best fresh ingredients they can get their hands on. Simply the fresher the ingredients the better. Now this is not to say that we do not need to dry age certain ingredients, ferment them, mature them or preserve them. Just that in the most basic form of cooking food, Fresh is most definitely best!!!!
In this article we are going to look into how our outlook on food consumption has changed, the way we are now far more engaged into what we are eating and where it has come from, the growth of vegetarianism and veganism among other dieting trends and if any one thing is best for you or if balance really is the key.
How food consumption has changed
Back in the day as we all like to say, before supermarkets and fast food vendors were so prominent in our day to day lives food used to have to be sourced fresh, ingredients collected carefully to make a dinner for your self and family. All our food was home made and most likely on the day we consumed it. Maybe we had left overs the next day but we cooked to feed ourselves, to fuel ourselves, to enable ourselves to continue to live. Food and water are the two most important ingredients for us to live besides oxygen. To think that all we need is food water and oxygen to live and we live in a world of unlimited possibilities, experiences and cuisines. One could never cook another meal ever again and be fed on almost every corner, does this benefit us, is this what we call progress or have we become so caught up in a world of capitalism, commodity and convenience that what we are consuming is actually detriment to our lives.
Without food, we wither away and die. By eating a clean and balanced diet of fresh foods cooked by ourselves we open up the doors for a long and healthy life. By eating junk, ready-made meals, fast food, we are actually damaging our bodies and potentially shortening our lives. We are eating more ready-made meals, fast food or just food prepared by others than ever.
Our lives are rushed, gone are the days of an hour lunch break. Most likely we eat on the move or not at all. We run out of the office to our nearest and dearest food vendor grab a quick bite and crack back on with work. We caffeinated and smoke cigarettes to curb hunger as we do not have time to relax and sit down and eat something good. The important things in our lives is now work, work and yeah you guessed it WORK! Even our children are being fed these foods. We can’t even make the time to cook a fresh meal for the most important people in our lives our family. When will we realise that the important things are to live actively and eat healthily.
I remember being a child and having my mum or dad feed me fresh cooked food almost every meal. Now, we are talking about simple balanced meals that were quick and easy to make. I remember cooking dinners for my family and friends or for the customers in the restaurants i have run over the years. All of which were prepared from fresh that day, made with love and care and passion with the knowledge that I knew every ingredient that went into the dish and there wasn’t an e number or preservative chemical to be found. Many of us are coming back around to this way of cooking as we become more aware of what’s in the food, we eat. Unfortunately for the masses, they are not becoming more aware. I see parents who cannot cook for themselves feeding their children pre-made microwave rubbish, children who won’t eat anything but french fries, adults who eat three fast food meals a day or eat nothing at all. Do we consider the way we consume food now as a positive progression from the years past or has the convenience and rushed pace of modern life caused us to forget what is really important especially with regard to our diets.
Farm To Table
As a professional chef naturally I have a real passion for food, over the years the phrase Farm To Table has become more and more prevalent. It basically refers to food coming straight from a local farm into the kitchen and then to the dinner table. It also usually refers to restaurants more than households but the phrase remains true for both.
Farm To Table has been huge in restaurants especially recently but can be traced back to the 60s and 70s. Many restaurants use it as a buzz word to excite customers and entice them in. Now this is not to say it hasn’t been abused over the years. Many have claimed the mantra and failed to live up to its expectations. Although, these spots tend to get found out quickly. It does cause some skepticism towards the establishments fully invested in the mantra.
Theoretically it is a no-brainer. The food is grown locally, by local farmers, it helps to build and sustain local economy, keeps money local and offers a change of products available as the seasons change. We in restaurants thrive to use seasonal produce and ingredients and that is why we change our menus as the seasons change.
This all sounds great and I assure you it is, as always though there is of course a BUT! With the introduction of so many large franchise corner shops and supermarkets our local farm shops, local markets, corner shops, butchers, bakers and fish mongers are disappearing at a rate of knots. Now its all about having everything under one roof, having everything as cheap as possible and with a shelf life that is as long as possible. Convenience is the way now rather than the best food for us, if you only knew the wastage involved in these supermarkets. The products have to look generic, taste generic each and every time. These big supermarkets claim a certain amount of farm to table but it is plain to see once you start reading the labels of the products they carry just how tampered with all their ingredients are.
I do not know if we will ever be able to get back to a point where the majority of our food is farm to table. I will make an effort to source my ingredients from local markets, farmers, small local shops, local butchers and bakers in order to provide the best food both in my home and in my restaurants.
The Rise Of Veganism
Vegans are on the rise. What was once a hipster go to is now a full-blown movement of people swearing off all animal products. Veganism has grown 500% since 2014 in the US, was up by 400% in Portugal in 2017 and has risen by 360% over the past 10 year in the United Kingdom. These are just a few places around the world. What is plain to see is that veganism is on the rise. Veganism is set to be the biggest food trend of 2018. We are already seeing vegan cafes, pizzerias and ice cream shops. Many restaurants are going full vegan or at least making a huge effort to have vegan dishes on their menu to allow this new trend to be a part of their business going forward. It is true in this world in this day and age there is a way to create almost any dish vegan. There are vegan based ingredients that can be sourced now to replace pretty much any traditional animal products. I mean who knew that you could make meringue out of the chick pea water in a can of chick peas. Crazy stuff.
We even have raw veganism now which is a diet based on no animal products and of which nothing is cooked past 48 degrees Celsius or 118 degrees Fahrenheit. There are lots of vegan alternatives in the raw world although in my experience they are mainly for desserts. Some I have sampled have been quite delicious some not so good, but I guess it all comes down to your pallet and also the same can be said of any dish meat based or plant based. The main reasons most specify for going vegan or even vegetarian is the health benefits. Meat consumption can be negative to the environment, as well as having negative effects on health. It is becoming more apparent that a plant based diet is far more healthy that a meat based one. Plant based proteins are better for your heart than animal based proteins. We have seen some dairy producers simply stop providing animal based dairy products and have switched purely to plant based dairies. Huge movements are being made in the vegan world and they are only set to increase.
For me the aim has always been to eat a balanced diet. Nothing has to be off limits so long as there is balance. A balanced diet consists of eating the correct proportions of all the different food groups. Carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Eating a balanced diet will allow the body to function at its correct level. In order to eat a balanced diet one must consume a variety of things but as a basic rule fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and lean proteins such a chicken, fish and leaner cuts of beef, pork and lamb are what you are looking for in your diet.
The importance of a balanced diet cannot be overlooked. It enables your body and particularly your organs and tissues to function correctly. A balanced diet allows you to eat anything and everything as long as there is moderation. The benefits are that you feel better, stronger, have more energy, your mood is improved and most importantly you are less likely to fall ill, contract diseases and infections. Generally you will perform better in all scenarios with a balanced diet fueling you. This all sounds far better than what could catch up with you if you don’t have a good diet, Heart disease, diabetes, strokes and cancer.
This further ties in to the statement Fresh Is Best. Making your own meals from fresh ingredients enables you to easily achieve a balanced diet, you know exactly what is going into all your meals and in to your body.
Eating Has Changed
There is no doubt about it our eating habits have changed and will continue to change as the world we live in changes. The trends of the world will reflect the trends of the masses. What we are seeing now though is people becoming more aware, questioning trends more, researching rather than just believing what is being put in front of them. Gone are the days of ignorant bliss. We now know what’s healthy and what’s not and its very much in the public eye. We have access to any and all information at the click of a button to find out the truths for ourselves.
We may be coming full circle. Back to the days of cooking all our meals fresh ourselves but for different reasons. Originally there was no alternative. Now there are a million convenient alternatives but the convenience is being questioned. The truth is coming out about what we are putting into our bodies by using this convenience and we don’t like it. So now we are going back to preparing all our meals, knowing what we are eating because convenience is anything but convenient for our bodies. Fresh Is Best ladies and gentlemen!!!!