A CONSEQUENTIAL LUNCH
Written by Megan Hollyman
One evening during my recent family holiday, a seafood risotto brought a grown man to tears. The food itself was neither spectacular nor terrible; the reaction was due to a sudden burst of compassion.
It’s 2020 and we’ve all heard the horror stories of animal abuse in farms and factories across the world, the detrimental health effects of eating processed and poor quality meat, and the dire warnings of the havoc modern farming methods can wreak on local and global environmental systems. My decision to become vegetarian was a combination of these factors, alongside many more – and although my purpose here is not to manipulate anybody into a short-lived, guilt-induced vegetarian phase, there’s no escaping the fact that, in our age of commercialism, a choice as basic as what food we eat has consequences. As Spiderman (and presumably some others before him) once said, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Despite accounting for only 0.01% of Earth’s total biomass, or 2.5% of animal biomass1, the power the human race has over the planet, as a whole, is enormous. With livestock weighing in at 4% of animal biomass, almost twice as much as that of our own species, and more than the biomass of wild mammals and birds combined, it is clear that our eating habits are one area in which we do not use our power responsibly. I believe that a genuine appreciation for food allows consumers to evaluate, honestly and compassionately, the choices they make every time they eat - and that this in turn helps us to make more responsible choices.
I was fortunate enough to be raised in a household with a strong culinary ethos; my parents nurtured in our family a culture of respect for ingredients and suppliers (although I didn’t always appreciate this as a child, when told that I had to ‘eat what’s in front of me or nothing’) and stressed the importance of eating together as a family, which has led me to cherish mealtimes as a source of emotional, not just physical, sustenance.
Such is the basis of my food philosophy; but how to go about developing and realising your own food philosophy if you weren’t raised in a household where home cooking was the norm, family mealtimes a must, and access to high-quality fresh ingredients never an issue? How to run a thriving kitchen on a student budget, when there are two weeks worth of laundry to do, three assignments due tomorrow, your Tinder date’s already on their way and you promised you’d call your mum in the next ten minutes? I don’t actually have the answer to that particular question. But here are some suggestions that might come in handy:
Buy a recipe book – Pick a book focused on the type of food you particularly like. It’ll be invaluable in terms of inspiration and guidance, especially if you’re just starting to find your feet in the kitchen. Looking for recipes online just isn’t the same.
Stock up your store cupboard – shopping for ingredients and planning meals is waaay less of a chore if you only have to buy a couple of fresh items at a time. I make sure I always have plenty of beans, pulses and grains in the cupboard, as well as herbs and veg that lasts, like onions, garlic and carrots.
Plan ahead… but not too much – meal planning helps in selecting seasonal ingredients and reducing waste, both essential things to consider. However, I find the most enjoyable meals are the ones where I go to the shop and pick up whatever looks good at the time.
Consider a veg box subscription – suppliers like Oddbox and Riverford Farm offer deliveries of organic, seasonal, plastic-free produce on a flexible basis. They may not be as cheap budget supermarkets, but if you can, they’re worth investing in. Many offer different size boxes, and if you share one with flatmates it ends up being pretty economical! Have a look at what’s available here: https://inews.co.uk/ibuys/food-and-drink-ibuys/best-vegetable-delivery-boxes-organic-207879
Little and often – if you do still eat meat, try to reduce the quantity and increase the quality of the products you buy. Look for organic, locally reared meat… aside from anything it’ll taste better.
But most importantly… learn to love it. Eating well is an investment, in more than just the economic sense. By seeking out good food and eating compassionately, we are investing in our physical health, our local community, and the future of our planet.