School of Indian Cooking

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Over fed, over weight and over here

The recent UK news has been full of talk of poverty. Poverty means different things depending on where you are in the world. Of course the UK is far more wealthy than most countries but it doesn't make it any easier if for those living below (or just above) the Government's benchmark figure.

On average in the UK we spend about 12% of what the UN calls "private consumption expenditure", or dosh to you and I, on food. The rest goes on clothes, pub, the car etc. It's a figure that has decreased throughout the last century but you only need to consider how in poor countries today people may spend 70% or more on food to get a sense of what things were once like here.

According to the USDA us Brits spend less on food then Italians. Does that make us a wealthier nation? (Some might say so given the current state of their economy  though others might say ours is just less brittle). But never mind the quantity what about the quality? Apparently we eat four times as many potatoes  - which are cheap - while they spend more on fruit and veg. I'm a strong advocate of chips and gravy so have happily contributed to this spike in the data. But carbs are also cheaper so appeal to people with less dosh - filling and cheap.

But it's the calories, stupid. The UN recommends that humans need a daily intake of around 2100 calories - a target which bar a few is not even attained by low income countries. The States almost doubles that figure with an intake of 3,730 but in another twist Ireland, with it's per capita at the lower end of the rich country list, has an intake of of 3,837. Whereas very rich Japan has an intake of 2,900. Barring sumo wrestlers how many obese Japanese people do you come across? High fish and high veg intakes mark their diet while us Brits, Yanks and Irish all tuck into energy dense meat and dairy products. And a lot of it turned into processed, saturated, cheap products rich in carbs and easy to eat. Which is why this is where the obese people are.

The coalition government say we should be taking more personal responsibility for our diet while opponents argue that what and how we consume is being taking further out of our control by industry and clever marketing - you never get bogofs on fresh vegetables for example - check out Tesco's special offers as of this date below. Look closely and you'll spot the cucumber.

However there is a key argument which gets lost when talking about both obesity and poverty and that is reducing meat consumption. Certainly the 'V' word is seen as way too scary and tyranical. The fact that people have to call it Vegetarianism shows you how lost we are in this country. In India it's just eating! There's all sorts of reasons and excuses given for this but the fact remains that for both human health and that of the environment, meat and dairy is killing us.

So what to do? Get skilled. Keep an eye out for "Veggie Wednesdays" with discounted prices for   Beginners and Advanced Veggie Heaven courses.