In all truth, my lifelong love affair with bread was cut short at the age of 18. Buttery French toast and freshly baked croissants were quickly replaced by low-fat yogurt and gluten-free muesli. Needless to say, breakfast was no longer the joyous occasion it once was. The closest I got to bread – eagerly eyeing up my father’s plate as he tucked into a good, solid breakfast. I believed I was doing a marvellous job of staying healthy, little did I know the true meaning of ‘low fat.’
It all comes down to one thing. The media. The contemporary anti-gluten frenzies that appear splashed across the pages of Vogue, the TV shows and the health food pros, all dishing out certain idealisms. One in particular – bread is bad.
A meet-up with Andrew Hosegood, the brains behind Mange Tout – a venue renowned for producing decidedly delicious sandwiches, wraps and rolls, proved to be a wake-up call. ‘We’re no longer a culture of food appreciation; we’re a culture of convenience’ he tells me. Unlike France, Spain and Italy – countries that are truly passionate about food – we’re a nation more content on scoffing calcium propionate, chlorine dioxide, L-cysteine and amylase (just a few of the ingredients used to create a contemporary supermarket loaf). If these ingredients were placed side by side, without the disguise of the white slice, I for one wouldn’t dream of sipping on bleach, preservatives or any of the above ingredients for that matter!
It appears that our nation has been brainwashed. Our staple foodstuff is now nothing more than an industrial accomplishment. It’s a moneymaking machine for big time companies, allowing them to source products from factories as opposed to farms, where animals have been fed hormones to speed up their growth and general foodstuff has a list of ingredients longer than your right arm.
With the supermarket shelves now lined with ‘low-fat this’ and ‘reduced fat that’, fears of what not to eat and what’s good for you override the actual enjoyment of food, and for the last century we’ve been spasmodically spammed by an overload of fad diets. When in actual fact, the likes of an artisan loaf, created with passion using just four ingredients, is 100 times more healthy than that of the low-calorie sandwich dressed in pretty packaging that promises both great flavour and a great figure. In all truth, this sandwich was probably made in a factory ten days ago, and the only reason it looks so perfect is because it’s not ‘real’.
Andrew and his wife Abbie are a prime example of what good food can achieve. They’re both still exactly the same weight as they were 18 years ago and neither of them have touched processed food in this time. When you walk into Mange Tout, you’re safe in the knowledge that everything you see has been lovingly created on the day and it certainly won’t be there again tomorrow!
Alarm bells quickly begin to ring! The ’50 percent less fat’ cereal bar I was about to tuck into suddenly seems less appealing. And as I flip it over to examine the ingredients, I’m shocked! Aside from a catalogue of the most unnatural sounding names I’ve ever set eyes upon, it contains shellac! (For those of you wondering what this is, it’s the shiny stuff we adorn our nails with, the gloss we coat furniture in, oh, and apparently the yogurt glazed topping on my cereal bar). Our food is now corrupt. With so many fanciful words adorning the backs of packets, it hard to know what each and every ingredient consists of!
So what are Andrew’s tips – good honest food and nothing else, no supplements, no unprocessed foods and…gluten? Isn’t this the substance the media has banned us from? Our resident foodie quickly explains gluten is a fantastic source of protein crammed with fibre and vitamin B and unless your celiac, you have no reason not to indulge in foods enriched with this substance.
What happened to sitting down to a good hearty meal, enjoying the company of family and friends and indulging in good, honest food? Nowadays we’re lucky if we manage to catch a bite gone 9pm, where eagerly scoffing a ready meal in front of the TV, back hunched, head down becomes the norm.
I’m quickly reminded of a recent trip to France, not because the above sounds similar but because it’s so different. The French are one of the chicest societies I’ve ever come across. And aside from the beautiful clothes and perfectly made-up faces, one thing I noticed whilst there – everyone was brandishing a 26-inch baguette. Poking out of the top of a stylish rucksack, strapped to the back of a bike and posing as the centrepiece on the dining table. In this country, bread is made on the day to be eaten on the day, it doesn’t last for more than 24 hours and it certainly hasn’t been pumped with prosthetic ingredients to allow it to outlive this lifespan! (A rule strongly followed by Mange Tout) Yet to look at the French, a nation famed for fine wines, deli cheeses and artisan bread, they’re nowhere near obese. So why are we so scared of real honest food?
One thing Andrew’s taught me today? To embrace local, homemade produce. That bread isn’t bad and ‘real’ food is the key to a healthy lifestyle. You are what you eat, and I for one will bare this in mind. Instead of reaching for the low-fat ‘supposedly healthy’ foodstuffs, I’ll be popping Jersey made produce into my basket on the next shop. I want to know where my food comes from, what its been fed and how long its been sitting on the shelves. We’re a society that needs to learn to love food again and as Andrew believes, ‘a culture of food appreciation and not convenience.’