Western Morning News

From crowd-pleasers to fat-free rations on lockdown


AS reports suggest a famine of biblical proportion­s could strike the Third World during the current pandemic, it makes us realise, more than ever, how fortunate we are to still have food on the table.

And the current UK lockdown also brings into sharp focus just how spoiled we are in the First World to enjoy not only excellent locally-produced food but also exotic ingredient­s from around the world.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I stood firm when people started panic buying as they got wind of a likely lockdown. But, as I also admitted, I already had well-stocked cupboards that would see an inventive cook through months of low rations.

As a keen baker, I also had a supply of various flours, sugars and sweet and savoury flavouring­s.

And while I firmly believe supermarke­t delivery slots should be reserved for the elderly and vulnerable, we were lucky enough to already have a home delivery of fresh vegetables and an excellent butcher a stone’s throw from our house.

Family meals at the start of lockdown were fun. I had more time to cook and all the ingredient­s to turn out some crowd-pleasers. It was still wintry enough to enjoy some oldfashion­ed British food and apparently calories don’t count during lockdown.

Our food fest reached its climax on Easter weekend when we tucked into local lamb and vegetables, all accompanie­d by a little too much butter and chocolate.

My husband woke up on Easter Monday with a bad and familiar pain in his stomach. We didn’t need a doctor to diagnose the return of the gallstones which he had previously kept at bay by maintainin­g a low-fat diet. The wartime food we’d been tucking into wasn’t doing him any good.

A quick online consult with his GP confirmed that while normally his gall bladder might have been whipped out, that wasn’t going to happen while people were fighting for their lives against Covid-19. His best chance of survival was to switch to an extremely low-fat diet. Plain food, no butter. Definitely no more homemade cake and no more chocolate banana bread.

Thankfully after a week of lean chicken and vegetables, he’s starting to feel a bit better. And while roast potatoes and lamb are still off the menu, we can reintroduc­e some spice and flavouring­s to our diet.

But trying to reprise my repertoire of healthy dishes has reminded me just how ridiculous food has become in the First World. There’s not a single recipe that doesn’t call for some exotic ingredient; pea shoots, pickled ginger, mango, avocados, buttermilk. It’s just not as simple as rustling up a shepherd’s pie or bangers and mash.

Blues appear to suffer from – if we’re going to be anoraks about this – ‘over farming’

When once, I enjoyed sourcing odd ingredient­s in Plymouth’s various continenta­l supermarke­ts and didn’t mind nipping to the shop for a missing item to complete a recipe, that’s just not happening during lockdown.

So despite previously being quite particular about sticking to a recipe, our meals are now becoming a bit more inventive. And while they are still low fat, they aren’t tasting too bad, even if we have to replace avocados with parsnips. Best of all, we’re continuing our mission to not waste food, particular­ly during the pandemic.

I’m not sure “healthy meals for lockdown” will be a best seller but I’m wondering if it might have legs, particular­ly if I include a chapter on fat-free banana bread?

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