I wanted to take a minute to consider the art of brown-ness. When I was a kid, the colour brown was always associated with things that were bad for you: dirt, mud, chocolate, grotty animals, all those things. Nowadays, it seems the browner something is the better, but of course this time we’re talking food – even in terms of chocolate, supposedly the browner the better, right? Dark, fruity 70% plus cocoa dark chocolate, broody brewed coffee grounds and burgundy wine (in moderation, of course), dried fruits like dates, prunes and sultanas, nuts, oats and whole grains.
I have to admit that I’ve taken to brown-ness with varying degrees of success. Brown rice is delicious in the right context, but golly does it take a long time to cook. Brown pasta, again, can be quite delicious with a spiced tomato sauce, but it doesn’t belong in a carbonara. Brown bread is the most frustrating of all; its lack of gluten making it exceedingly difficult to work into a palatable dough, though soda bread is delightful assuming you have buttermilk to hand. I usually end up compromising with a mixed seed and grain flour which is pretty satisfactory. After all, you don’t put THAT much effort into making your own bread of you can’t also get a little bit of white flour guilty pleasure out of it surely! Still, there are plenty of guilty brown food around, like creamy milk chocolate, cake, caramel, fudge, indulgent stews and pies, roast potatoes, just the thought is turning me off my brown rice!
Something you may not have realised about me is that my life at the moment is a constant battle between the desire to feel and look better, my love for foods that aren’t supposed to be great for you, the fantastic feeling after a day of eating well and getting some good exercise in and the guilt of giving in to a carby lunch, especially when it turns out to be disappointing and the soup I’d brought to the office gets wasted.
My conflict comes to an end, however, when I settle on that g word…guilt. I truly am sick to the back teeth of people making me feel guilty about food. Food shaming, I believe it has come to be known. It’s everywhere, from food blogs and recipe books, to tv and YouTube. And in my opinion, it’s gone too far. The final straw was when I opened a supermarket magazine to find a kale and quinoa recipe. Worsened only by one of my favourites, Rachel Khoo, she of the Parisian kitchen, delightfully humbling curvaceous figure fed by guilt-free feasting on buttery, cheesey treats, demonstrating how to make hazelnut and chocolate pots using bananas and avocados.
It’s gone far too far. Ok, Delicious Ella has a case for her free-from diet, but most people who have siezed gluten- and dairy-free have done so out of fear for their figures or because they’ve been shamed into eating a salad of pulses and micro greens in the office, instead of their usual ham, cheese and pickle. Enough is enough!
Let’s remember that we are descended from a generation who were brought up through wars and famines, with many meals consisting of potatoes, potatoes, and if they were lucky, a share in a rabbit one of their brothers hunted down in the next field. Before and after said wars and famines, there were hearty breakfasts, meat and two veg for lunch then tables heaving under the weight of pancakes and scones at tea time, all made with kilos of butter, unrefined sugar and white flour. Yet they were, for the most part, healthier than any of us are today. They appreciated the source of their food, they cooked with their hearts full of love and they played and walked for miles outside whenever they could.
We’ve lost something really important here, and it’s time to get that back.