Wednesday, 19 August 2009

"Grown for flavour"

Some years back this started to appear on labels attached to tomatoes sold in the UK. It begged the obvious question; what were they grown for before?

Witness Nigella and other admirable food lovers, if they are concerned with one thing above all else it's flavour and taste. They wallow in their senses of taste, smell and sight, in NL's case sound too; they trust their senses. Neurotic food faddism and enthusiasm for and knowledge of food don't go together.

If you're one of nature's cooks and seek to increase your skill, there will always come a point where any interest in 'nutrition' will have to bow to greater considerations such as the integrity of the ingredients, the balance of the dish, the elements of a meal; the flavours themselves. At the tipping points, one or the other has to go.

Nutrition enthusiasts are rarely great shakes in the kitchen. A lot of them hate and fear food. This is as pointless as it is deadening to the sensual nature of food.

When was the last time you examined a cookery book approvingly only to wonder whether it had been endorsed by a nutritionist? Nutritionists are not associated with excellence in the culinary arts. The ideological constraints of maximum 'nutrients' per calorie has not inspired great new dishes we are all desperate to try.

It helps to not to be unbalanced by the imperative to favour foods that you've invested with almost supernatural properties of goodness, rather than because you enjoy them and wish to create using the desire and inspiration that flows. Because they are good for you is no substitute.

Note the capacity most exploited by this is our capacity for greed. For what is greed if not the ability to eat things you neither desire, want nor need? To override your actual needs in favour of an ideological quest for a supreme and illusory state of health, requires similar techniques to those of people who go take "all you can eat" as a direct challenge to their potential.

As well as respect for food and the pleasure it can give, a liberation of the senses, a love for your fellow humans helps to draw out our interest in ingredients and raw materials. Misanthropic nonsense such as you cannot trust your body to regulate your food intake properly, if you do, it will choose 'rubbish' and kill you-because deep down you have a death wish. Doesn't. Those healthists who don't have this view seem in the minority, either because they are, or because they are quieter than those who are constricted, prissy and prudish about food. They (all genders) are today's versions of the pinched old maids of yore, sentenced to being terrified and restricted in life then angry and as bitter as hell at those who are trying to avoid that kind of fate.

There's talk of the horror of Big Food, but what I've been waiting for from those who push healthy eating, is a campaign for fruit and vegetables that actually smell and taste of something.

As a child, I was convinced I detested plums. Tasteless, insipid, yet managing an asinine sourness that underlined their unrewarding nature.

One day, whilst walking through my local market to the high street, I came across a glorious fragrant sweet smell that was so heavenly, I actually thought, in my dreamy state I was imagining it at first but it's insistence made me realise it was real. It was absolutely in my direction, and as I got closer I realised whatever it was, I must have some.

I'm sure you've guessed, it was plums, beautiful deep purple Victoria plums. They were the most divinely balanced mix of sweetness, and piquant sour I've ever tasted, and the fragrance. What angels would eat, if they existed.

I can say one of the best eating experiences of my life; ever. I don't think I'll ever be able to identify as a plum hater again, even if I never eat another one; they still had some left the next day, they were still marvellous, but had just passed the point of perfect ripeness.

How much encouragement would we need to eat veg and fruit, if we were lead by the nose? Tempted by this produce, how many of us would just buy it and try and think of/ find out what to do with/ put it in? Ah, we'll never know, because that's something to do with enjoyment and that our betters, don't want, unless you count their evident satisfaction in denying us the prospect of it.

Assailed by smells as well as colours, I think we'd let go of any obsession with perfectly shaped fruit and veg, that has probably been sold to us in lieu of the sensory deprivation of perfect looking fruit that smell and taste of nothing.

As it is, abstract exhortations to "eat veg" just tend to encourage a lot of waste from people buying out of duty rather than desire. It should be the job of nutritionists to identify and come up with ways of dealing with the reasons why we might not be so enthusiastic.

Alas, that would require different motivation from their usual ones, or they'd become exhausted by what they have to overcome internally.

IOW, they can't be bothered.

* Edited for clarity

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