Once, being ‘right on’ about your food and eating habits seemed to require a CND sticker, sandals and socks, and a fixation with brown rice and bowels. No longer. Being responsible about where and what we eat is now far more attractive. There’s nothing to give up and no uniform needed to display your social conscience. Informed choice is all that is required.
Create opened in August 2011. It is a light, bright, cosmopolitan city-centre eatery and the food is as sublime as you would expect under the guidance of Richard Walton-Allen, former executive head chef of Harvey Nicks. What isn’t smack-in-your-face, however, is that the restaurant is part of a social enterprise, working with the homeless, marginalised or vulnerable to give them a route back to work and, importantly, hope. It’s less a handout than a hand-up, providing life skills and the confidence to rejoin the mainstream. This is the first restaurant of its kind, but there are plans to roll out the model across the UK. Visit Food by Create.
Community Kitchen food stands
Move over burgers and kebabs: if you’re heading to a festival this summer, seek out the Community Kitchen. This innovative project runs food stands at festivals, shows and other outdoor events using locally sourced, fresh ingredients. So far, not so unusual – except that funds generated through the business are used to train and support others to run their own micro-enterprise food initiatives.
There are currently two festival menus. The South Asian one features chicken, lamb or vegetarian chappati kebabs, spicy pakoras and bhajis, and healthy vegetarian curries inspired by intriguing culinary traditions from around Pakistan. A bit nearer to home, you can tuck in to pints of crispy whitebait, skin-on fries, spicy fish and prawns, and salad wraps served with Shaggy Donkey Cyder. Visit Community Kitchen.
As an out and out fan of olive oil –with 12 bottles currently lurking in my kitchen cupboards – the recent headlines slandering the stuff have annoyed me but will never stop me buying and using it. I will admit, though, to a new love affair, and one that clocks up less on my carbon-footprint conscience. British Cold Pressed Culinary Rapeseed Oil is a fabulously healthy, home grown, pressed oil. It has a completely different taste from olive oil and, as with the latter, this is dependent on where it is grown.
The advantage of the oil, apart from its stonking rating on the Omega scale, is that it’s great for cooking with. It can be heated to very high temperatures without spoiling, which makes it incredibly versatile in the kitchen, for everything from salad dressing to deep-fries. Two of my current favourites are Borderfields and Wharfe Valley.
Here’s one to get a lot of backs up: veal. How on earth can there be any justification for eating these crated, light-deprived young animals, you might ask. And I would reply that I would rather eat my own eyeballs. But there are now other types of veal available, which are endorsed by the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF). The British Rose Veal is a light pink meat (unlike the white veal meat we are more used to, from calves fed the traditional low-iron diet and caged) and is now widely available throughout the UK. The cages are gone and the light is back.
The eating of British veal now means that 250,000 bull calves are no longer deemed as waste and needlessly shot at birth or exported to the Continent. No farmer wants to do either, so this new market is going some way to supporting them and the animals. Disagree? Only vegans need comment. Visit Alternative Meats.
Becoming a responsible fish eater may be confusing and time-consuming, but a world without fish is as unthinkable as a British high street without a chippy. We are rapidly heading in that direction, though. To make sure this doesn’t become a reality, we must support the fishing industry and continue to eat fish and seafood.
But which ones can we eat with a clear conscience? The lists change frequently as stocks of certain fish grow or decline, so keeping up to date becomes a challenge. Thankfully, there is reliable and accessible information on the Marine Conservation Society’s website. Look at its updated list before you go shopping, or take its handy fish guide with you. Visit Marine Conservation Society.