Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver attracted criticism recently over his claim that poor people “eat crap” because they “think in a different gear” to the middle classes.
His remarks were made in the context of figures revealing that poor children are twice as likely to become obese as rich children, and were themselves taken out of context. He had gone on to say, “what you see is parents who aren’t even thinking about five fruit and veg a day. They’re thinking about enough food for the day”.
When you are poor, as Oliver has suggested, you are far more concerned about where your next meal is coming from than you are about its nutritional value.
The fundamental problem, however, is not about class, nor about the way that poor people think. It is about the way food choices are presented to us all.
There is an unequal struggle for our attention between inexpensive, highly processed, easily accessible foods and good quality, healthy but more expensive food.
The processed food industry receives millions of pounds each year in subsidies. For example, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy subsidies has been the sugar multinational Tate & Lyle.
Then there are the indirect subsidies. The taxpayer foots the bill for the cost of cleaning up the pollution and other environmental damage “bad” food creators produce, as well as paying through our taxes for the NHS treatments for the problems their unhealthy products cause.
The majority of the poor are not avoiding healthy food because they prefer to eat “crap”. It is because this uneven contest between “bad” and “good” food often puts the latter beyond their budget.
It is possible, with political will and imagination, to alter the balance. If the cost of unhealthy foods reflected the true environmental cost of its production and the true health costs of its consumption, then it would become more expensive. And if the bloated subsidies given to the processed food industry were used instead to subsidise healthy, organic foods, I have no doubt that all consumers would change their eating and purchasing habits for the better.
On to the recipe.
Salads should not be a treat confined to the summer months. Throughout the year there are always seasonal ingredients that can be used together to make a delicious and nutritious salad.
The ingredients in this example may not seem an obvious grouping at first, but together they provide a fine example of culinary synergy: the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
beetroot, avocado and pink grapefruit salad
1 medium sized beetroot
1 avocado, sliced
1 pink grapefruit
100 g watercress
for the dressing
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
25 g cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, very finely chopped
1. Peel the grapefruit with a sharp knife, carefully removing both the peel and the white pith underneath. Next, slice into the grapefruit just inside the membranes to release each segment. It is best to do this over a bowl to catch any juice that is released.
2. Peel, then grate or spiralize the beetroot. Peel, halve and stone the avocado, then slice. Wash and rinse the watercress, removing any tough stems.
3. For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, cider vinegar, chopped rosemary, mustard and garlic until emulsified.
4. To serve, arrange the salad ingredients artistically on each plate. Drizzle over a generous amount of the dressing.