Sugar-coating the pill
I WAS RECENTLY WATCHING The Men Who Made Us Fat, an excellent series on BBC TV about how politicians, policies and food companies shaped the world we find ourselves in – which is all rather obese, according to the programme. It’s tough, because junk food and heavily processed food are designed to make you want to continually consume their product. It can be hard to feel full and the urge to continue snacking is strong. But the experts seemed to agree that incredibly large portions of fizzy drinks, too much snacking on the wrong kinds of foods, and massive portions are what’s distorting the western worlds’ waistlines.
As they pointed out, fat became vilified as the real evil during the 1970s, but sugar was overlooked, mainly because the sugar lobbies – much like tobacco once upon a time – were politically important.
What ended up happening was that public policy in the US shifted to put the blame on foods that contained fat, while overlooking sugar. Massive food companies built entire new ranges of products that promised to be fat-free – implying that ridding fat from your diet would eliminate weight gain. But, of course, when you remove all traces of fat from a product that is naturally fatty – then you are left with something unpleasant in flavour and texture that can only be helped by massive additions of sugar, and often salt. The sad thing was – and still is – that people overlook the bad stuff that goes into fat-free food because they are lulled into thinking that fat-free food is healthy. It’s a conundrum that leaves consumers very confused. I am not suggesting that we should all go on a binge of eating fat, but logic and food science tell us that by eliminating all traces of fat, something else has to be put back in, and it’s not usually good for you.
The recipes in this column are varied: sometimes they are for special occasions or family dinners, sometimes they are recipes for every day eating – and therefore leaning towards healthy rather than rich. Hopefully there’s a bit of balance in there. But sometimes you need recipes that are bona fide good for you and worth trying to get everyone to eat.
Cold soups are not great in winter. And fresh juices can be a chore. But this recipe is both a cold soup and a juice, and actually works in winter or summer. This recipe is close enough to a soup served in Cornucopia, the vegetarian restaurant on Wicklow Street in Dublin that always serves wholesome food. They do two great raw soups there, one of which is similar to my concoction here. I probably could have asked them for the recipe – but I felt I had to go it alone and figure it out, and it’s not bad at all.
The almond and fruit bars don’t get as brilliantly chewy as commercial varieties do, but they taste great and are made with a jar of almond butter, which health experts prefer to peanuts butter. Meridian does a good range of nut butters and is usually found in health food stores and good food shops. A bit of agave syrup adds some sweetness, and no – I’m not being disingenuous. Agave is still a form of sugar. It’s just a bit more natural and has a slightly (and I mean slightly) better effect on blood sugar than say, white caster sugar. And remember that these oat bars – while good for you – are full of fats, albeit good ones. So, moderation is necessary. But please do enjoy. Sensibly.