We just can’t eat meat ev­ery day, no mat­ter how good it tastes

RIVER COT­TAGE CHEF GILL MELLER TALKS TO LAU­REN TAY­LOR ABOUT SUS­TAIN­ABLE COOK­ING AND HOW WE ALL NEED A CHANGE IN AT­TI­TUDE

The Galloway News - - Food & Drink -

RE­CENT months have been a time of re­flec­tion in count­less ways, and for many of us, food has fac­tored in this. Since din­ing out op­tions sud­denly van­ished, you’ve prob­a­bly spent more time in the kitchen than ever be­fore, per­haps put a bit more thought into what’s in your fridge, and planned your less fre­quent food shops with greater aware­ness.

“I think events of re­cent months are go­ing to be an im­pe­tus for change, in all sorts of ways, but specif­i­cally in the way we live and eat and think about the nat­u­ral world,” says Gill Meller.

The chef and cook­ery writer, best known for his work with Hugh Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall at River Cot­tage, says: “Our out­look on food is chang­ing; how it’s pro­duced, how it’s grown, how we source it, what we pay for it. At least for peo­ple who en­joy cook­ing, they are ask­ing th­ese ques­tions more of­ten.”

Gill’s new cook­book – Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower: How To Cook With Veg­eta­bles And Other Plants – is a real cel­e­bra­tion of sea­sonal, home-grown veg­eta­bles and fruit. There’s no meat or fish but Gill prefers the term “veg-cen­tric” to veg­e­tar­ian.

Don’t think of it as be­ing about de­priv­ing your­self of any­thing though; it’s “nour­ish­ment for the body, nour­ish­ment for the mind, nour­ish­ment for the soul,” he says.

“I’ve al­ways been a big ad­vo­cate for sea­sonal cook­ing and noth­ing em­bod­ies sea­sonal cook­ing like cook­ing fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles, sal­ads and herbs,” Gill adds.

With 16 years at River Cot­tage un­der his belt as group head chef and cook­ery school teacher, Gill says Hugh has “mas­sively” in­flu­enced his own cook­ing de­vel­op­ment.

“He’s been a huge in­spi­ra­tion and the whole River Cot­tage ap­proach to food and cook­ing has in­flu­enced how I think about ev­ery­thing re­ally, to the point where our views and ethics and prin­ci­ples are one of the same.”

Gill’s book aims to get us to see the many pos­si­bil­i­ties with hum­ble home-grown fare, like pears, beet­root, to­ma­toes or new pota­toes – think ‘to­ma­toes in the hole’ (as op­posed to toad) or roast pears with shal­lots, bay, lemon and thyme. It’s about open­ing us up to in­gre­di­ents we might not have cooked with be­fore too, like sea kale, lo­vage and net­tles – be­cause when it comes to eat­ing more sus­tain­ably, buy­ing lo­cal is es­sen­tial.

“It’s easy to just think avoid­ing im­ported un­sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents won’t make a dif­fer­ence, but ac­tu­ally it will, be­cause in­stead of buy­ing those you’re go­ing to be buy­ing some­thing that’s per­haps been grown lo­cally, by a farmer in your own com­mu­nity. The money that you’re putting into that is be­ing in­vested back into the area and into the land – it’s like a rip­ple in a pond,” Gill ex­plains.

Like many peo­ple, he’s con­sciously cut down on his own meat consumptio­n. “I’ve slashed the amount of meat and fish-based pro­tein, we might only eat meat once a week now, on oc­ca­sion less than that.

“There’s no need to feast on rich meat when you’ve got ex­cit­ing in­vig­o­rat­ing, lively, colour­ful, crunchy, fan­tas­tic veg­eta­bles, at the peak of fresh­ness be­ing har­vested ev­ery­day.”

Be­sides, he says: “We can’t eat meat ev­ery­day, no mat­ter how good it tastes, be­cause our planet is not able to sus­tain that vol­ume of meat consumptio­n.”

He un­der­stands there are dif­fi­cul­ties for peo­ple strug­gling fi­nan­cially right now, and ad­vises stretch­ing to or­gan­i­cally pro­duced meat and dairy first where pos­si­ble, while at the same time cut­ting back on th­ese prod­ucts, which may then free up some money. It’s all part of a col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity to make de­mands on the food in­dus­try, each time we get our wal­lets out. ■ Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower:

How To Cook With Veg­eta­bles And Other Plants by Gill Meller, pho­tog­ra­phy by An­drew Mont­gomery, is pub­lished by Quadrille, priced £27. Avail­able now in hard­back and eBook.

Gill Meller

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