The Sustainable Development Commission in the UK has published the first ever official recommendation for a diet that is both healthy and good for the environment.It concludes that British consumers must reduce their consumption of intensively-produced meat and dairy products and processed foods.
What this means is that they should start eating:
a) More free range meats and dairy products;
b) And as these, in any case, cannot be produced in the quantities of current meat intake – move to veggies, preferably seasonal and field grown.
Of course, it helps the environment. But it will also help tackle the “growing crisis” (Guardian’s words not mine) of diet-related diseases spreading through the UK.
So far so good. But here’s why regulation may not be the best first-step strategy.
Having lived in UK, Holland, Denmark and Germany, I can certifiably say that nothing in the North European cuisines dares to be vegetarian and tasty. Either it is meat based and mouth watering, or vegetarian and tasteless. In restaurants and homes, the vegetarian component of a meal is limited to a leafy side dish – lacking nourishment, proteins and most importantly taste.
How do I know? Through Sid – who having come to a conclusion similar to SDC several years ago, courageously converted to vegetarianism. Since then, his meals outside have been largely limited to pasta salads at dinners at friends’, penne arabiata in regular restaurants and over-priced ratatouilles in fancy ones. (Our saving grace is that we are Indian – and can cook the range of tasty Indian vegetarian dishes at home. But if Sid was European, he would be screwed.)
But surely, Gordon Brown can’t expect the whole of Northern Europe to survive on penne arabiata and pasta salad.
So if the government really wants to encourage vegetarianism, here’s where it should begin: Hire Jamie Oliver to transform the English cuisine with vegetables and pulses in mind this time. Everything else can follow.
PS: And stop shaming smelly foods.