Urghhhh, I turned on the television the other evening and happened across a programme called Eating Well with Hemsley and Hemsley.
The sisters behind the eponymous title – Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley – are advocates of ‘clean eating’, the concept where you remove gluten, grain and refined sugar from your food. They produce meals that are ‘healthy, nutritious and delicious’ and, in the show, they included a recipe using a biodynamic egg, an idea that is worthy of a column all to itself.
Ignoring the fact that Melissa and Jasmine have plainly never shopped for their food in any place other than the swankiest deli that Primrose Hill can offer, what they were demonstrating was the enormous gap between those who can afford the time and money to buy and cook biodynamic eggs and those who don’t even own an oven.
The icing on that particular cake came when they bought a slice of beetroot and chocolate cake (gluten free) and, after one mouthful, the slightly more annoying Hemsley sister rubbed her stomach and declared it the ‘best cake ever’ because after one mouthful she didn’t need anymore.
I’m sorry, but in my world, if you take a bite of a cake and then push it away, that is not the ‘best cake ever.’
After the programme, I looked up the term ‘clean eating’ and found it defined as ‘not a diet, it’s a happy and healthy lifestyle.’ By removing gluten, grain and unrefined sugar from your diet, you will reduce bloating, have more energy and feel much better all round.
There are a few points to draw out here. The first is the belief that gluten is evil. One percent of people in this country have a gluten intolerance, which is a serious medical condition to be respected. A further five per cent have a certain level of gluten intolerance which is not as serious, but still causes the sufferer problems. For everyone else, if you eat a lot of gluten-containing products and feel a bit sluggish afterwards, you have probably overeaten. It is not actually the fault of the gluten.
The same goes for sugar. If you have just walked a ten mile stretch of the coastline, you might fancy a cake or a piece of chocolate and you will feel no ill effects. If you are munching your way through a box of Celebrations while lounging in front of the television, then you might experience that nauseous feeling that comes from a sugar rush.
Clean eating is a really unfortunate phrase coined by people like the Hemsleys. The food they advocate is lovely – fresh, green, simple – and I would happily eat it. But the implication is that clean eating is good anything else is dirty or bad and should be eradicated from your diet. How can anyone expect to have a healthy and happy attitude towards eating if they are forever judging food as good or bad?
I’m afraid the Hemsley sisters’ message has produced a counter reaction in me. I like to have my cake and eat it.