We are witnessing a strange political contest here in the UK. The Conservative Party is in the process of electing a new leader, and the successful candidate will automatically become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
The voters in this election are a tiny, unrepresentative group. Demographically, they are predominantly white, male, well off, based in the south of England and with an average age approaching 60. They are, of course, also predominantly right wing activists with strongly held right wing views.
Each day of the month-long hustings period leading up to the vote, the two remaining candidates, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, seem determined to outdo each other through the ultraconservative promises they make to this closed electorate.
Earlier this week, for example, Boris Johnson railed against the “nanny state” and pledged what he called a “moratorium” on “stealth sin taxes”.
His clear target here was the so-called “sugar tax” introduced by the government last year after years of lobbying by health campaigners.
Mr Johnson appears to have conveniently forgotten that when he was mayor of London he himself introduced a 10 pence surcharge on sugary drinks for sale in City Hall.
However, the real, thinly camouflaged message to the Conservative party voters is that he believes that big business and the wealthy should not pay taxes that are then used to discourage people from harming themselves through what they do to their bodies (smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and so on).
People who do become ill as a result of falling prey to the many health-related pitfalls of modern life will end up being treated by the National Health Service (NHS). By the time they require treatment they will probably already have a diminished quality of life and are likely to require ongoing expensive treatment. This is not an efficient way to deal with preventable health problems, and it puts an increased strain on funding for the NHS.
But never mind, the ultraconservatives have an answer to that problem too – relieve the taxpayer of responsibility for the NHS. This will be achieved by outsourcing NHS services to the profit-making private sector and eventually ending the concept of a free health care system. Outsourcing of the NHS has been happening by “stealth” over the past nine years. During that period, billions of pounds worth of NHS services have been hived off to private sector companies (a number of which, coincidentally, happen to donate to the Conservative Party).
Mr Johnson’s proposed moratorium makes no sense in public health terms. Sugar taxes work – examples include those introduced in Mexico, Chile, Hungary, Poland and Thailand. These are showing that taxes on unhealthy foods do change behaviour and do lead to people making healthier choices. This in turn is likely to lead to better quality of life and so reduces the strain on our creaking health services.
With a quarter of the British population now classed as obese, Mr Johnson’s pledge to row back on the sugar tax would amount to a callous, cynical and retrograde step.
On to the recipe.
This soup is delicious, full of intoxicatingly fresh flavours. Putting strawberries into a gazpacho in place of tomatoes isn’t that strange – they are both fruits after all.
You will need to plan in advance to give the ingredients time to marinate together, but that apart it’s an incredible easy dish, with no cooking involved.
500 g organic strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
120 g organic cucumber, peeled, deseeded (use a melon baller or teaspoon) and roughly chopped
1 organic red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 banana shallots, finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
5-6 drops tabasco sauce
15 g basil leaves, roughly chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
500 ml vegetable stock, chilled
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the strawberries, cucumber, pepper, garlic, shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, tabasco, thyme sprigs and basil leaves in a large bowl. Stir to combine then cover the bowl and leave the flavours to infuse for at least a couple of hours, longer if possible.
2. Pour the vegetable stock into the infused strawberry, cucumber and pepper mixture and stir. Remove the thyme sprigs. Pour the mixture into a blender (you will need to do so in batches) and process until smooth. Chill the gazpacho until ready to serve, then remove from the refrigerator at least 15 minutes before serving.
4. To serve, pour the gazpacho into serving bowls and top with a little drizzle of olive oil and a grinding of black pepper.
Categories: dairy free, gluten free, raw, vegan, vegetarian
All the way across in Australia I have been absolutely aghast since I read about Boris Johnson’s current attitude in regard to the sugar tax in GB. Steve, you have written the best argument I have as yet seen against that to me almost criminal action versus his own people. As a doctor and a nutritionist I sadly know that this unfortunate way of being ‘hard’ to achieve the absolutely necessary may be the only method available. As you say it DOES work . Mr Everyman can be so ignorant and selfish left to his own devices. Not that our developing extreme right-wing thinking is proving to be far different. . .
Have never put strawberries in gazpacho which I do love . . .truly must try once winter ends hereabouts . . .
Many thanks Eha. Politics at present – not just here in the UK, but across the world – is showing us that values we had almost taken for granted are being dismantled before our eyes. This is happening on our generation’s watch and we have a duty to call it out and challenge it. Steve x
Excellent post. Frightening to see what’s going on in the UK. Bring on the strawberry gazpacho.
Thank you Peggy 🙂 x
As a citizen of the United States, I feel your disgust all too well. The parallels are many. I can only hope the current insanity goes out of fashion the way the gung-ho support for the war in Iraq did.
In any case, that strawberry gazpacho sounds mighty intriguing, and much more appetizing than picturing B. Johnson’s repulsive face. Thanks, and hang in there.
Thank you for your comments. There are indeed worrying parallels. We cannot allow the world to descend into populist-driven mayhem and chaos, especially at a time when we most need to pull together. Steve 🙂
I’ll stick to your delicious sounding gazpacho, Steve. I love your recipes.
I generally stay away from opinions I disagree with, because there’s no debating alternate views these days. But I do have to ask why you deride white middle aged males. Not all are well off. Not all those who are well off are white. Privileged? You didn’t mention it but that’s the mantra these days, I’m sure you would have come to it. I’m just thankful that those (white) Greek Australians who came to my country and set up fish and chips shops and did well for themselves so their children could study hard and do even better, didn’t know they were setting themselves up to be privileged. Leonardo Da Vinci would have been mortified to understand that he wasn’t being inclusive, especially when he reached the ‘pale, male and stale’ phase of his life. Why no white middle aged female conservatives? UnPC? And if conservatives are a tiny representative voice, why worry about the outcomes? We used to say ‘live and let live.’ I’m sorry to say that I don’t hear it any more.
Sugar is poison, I know it. But I believe that it’s better to educate adults so they can do the right thing by their children. Raising other people’s children is arrogant.
Hi Mary. Thank you for your kind comments about my recipes.
I am always receptive to alternative viewpoints, and happy to debate with those who hold them. It is not healthy for political discourse to be so polarised as it is often these days.
I must, however, correct your impression that I was deriding white middle aged males (I am one after all). I was describing the membership profile of the UK Conservative party, to show how unrepresentative a group it is, and to explain why the two candidates for the Prime Ministership are making increasingly extremist promises in order to win the contest. There is every reason to worry about the outcome of such a contest because the rest of us, who don’t get to vote and who find some of these policy promises abhorrent, will be subjected to them.
In my view, it makes much more sense to use some taxation to encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles than it does to wait until they become chronically ill and then have to spend larger amounts of taxes treating them.
It’s not about arrogance, it’s about recognising that modern society, with all its junk food and misleading advertising, encourages people to make poor lifestyle decisions that harm not just themselves but society as a whole. Steve x
My gazpacho at first had a weird hue of green…I added freeze dried strawberries to make it more pink. But it turned into a nice shade of tan😗…not sure where I went wrong. It’s chilling in the fridge now…hope it tastes good! I love your blog btw… I live in the states. Thank you for your insights.
Hi Tricia. Hmmm…. Mine – as you can see from the photograph – came out a light pinkish shade, not dissimilar to the colour of a tomato soup. I wonder, did you peel the cucumber? Despite the colour I also hope you find it tastes good! Thank you so much for following the blog, and for your kind comments. Steve 🙂
I made your soup yesterday to take to a shared-courses dinner party and it was very well received by all and invoked comments such as ‘What a unique flavour’. And – it turned out the same colour as yours!
By the way I still make your Christmas Cranberry and Parsnip Nut Roasts fairly frequently. One of your best inventions.
Hi Malcolm. I’m pleased to hear the gazpacho turned out OK! Yes, I was very pleased with the vegan Christmas dinner too, and I’m delighted to hear you’re still making it. Steve