A taste of the good life


I’m 27 and pre-diabetic. I’m not extremely fat, nor my diet is generally extremely unhealthy. I could do with less pain and more movement, and in a moment of panic I have bought “Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox” in a charity shop. It turns out that I can’t imagine my whole life without wine, ever. When Tomi Ajay wrote in her Threads piece on Naturism that “the idea of spending an eternity surrounded by ‘nudist vegans’ is some people’s idea of hell, not heaven” she must have been thinking of me, even if we’ve never met before. That’s only second to spending it on Oxford Circus on a Saturday at 6pm, trying to take the tube.

I have a history of eating disorders and can hugely sympathise with the points made by another writer in the same magazine: “we are all too keen to fast when our waist lines are in question, but not when it is purely our of love for God or to draw near to Him”. My relationship with food has always been messed up. What I have given up for Lent was comfort food and comfort binge watching TV. It’s very easy to rely on things that cushion the pain rather than confronting the root cause and even worse, stepping out in faith and saying “enough is enough. I can’t do it. God, you take care of it. I just can’t”.

On my journey to accept that food is an inevitable part of life, that we are body and spirit and too much Plato leads to Gnosticism, I have learnt to enjoy food. I enjoy it more when I make it and when I share it. It suits my inner stereotypical Italian Jewish mother. My Italian grandmother would always have a cake ready for any visitors showing up unannounced, and a kettle to pop on the stove for tea come 10 minutes to 5pm. There is something homely about food.

Now my most used Instagram hashtag is likely “foodie”, and in this spirit I have tagged along to an event organised by The Bloggers Hangout, where I have had the pleasure to discover new brands and products.
There is a risk hidden in having a passion for food: not all food is made equal.
Catholic Social Teaching places a huge emphasis on care for creation and solidarity, and this practical dimension of living our faith is echoed across all Christian denominations. And the marvellous thing is that it’s reaching further than Christians alone. It’s like it deeply connects to what it means to be human


My three favourite brands from those I discovered on Monday night all have an open ethical dimension.

Snact. makes delicious Fruit Jerky snack bags from fruit that doesn’t hit the mark for selling in our shops. It’s a huge amount of perfectly good produce, and it’s frankly a disgrace that this happens in 2016. The product is 100% fruit, vegan, gluten free, with no additives or preservatives, less than 65 kcal per bag AND made in the UK so you have no excuse not to stock up and carry one in your bag at all times. Embrace Snactivism (sic.) {if you are interested, and I hope you are, there are more info about food waste on the website}. I know I will pack up for my exams session coming next month, and maybe even for cheeky late night food cravings while in Cumbria for Faith in Work.
To my huge surprise since I don’t usually do mango, my favourite flavour was Apple and Mango. Luckily for you they sell a Taster Pack which works well for those who love variety too, it’s a fiver for 6 packages and you get 2 for each of the currently available flavours. If you think the selection is too limited get buying, the more they grow the more they can offer us!

Jake’s Boost caught my attention and my heart at their slogan: “Fighting childhood food poverty one jar at a time”. The product, however, is unique and amazing. They produce a spread with 10 different nuts and seeds which has a lovely taste, especially coupled with dried apple like in their snack pack. The spread is not sweet, and the apple really gives it a kick. I’d say you should stack up on the snack packs but honestly it’s just so good you’d be eating three in a row. They are never going to stay in the pantry for long.
While the products aren’t 100% fair-trade and organic due to understandable cost issues (they give their profits away!) as well as sourcing ones, they don’t use palm oil, and after a good chat I know they really wish it was practically possible to be already perfectly ethical. Rather than use loopholes to keep a marketing image immaculate they are upfront and honest about it, and that deserves our utmost respect.

Just Bee seems like a natural complement to the snacks above. They make honey enriched spring water and are on a mission to raise awareness of the important role of bees in our eco-system and global economy, and have us all take steps to save them. They too give away a percentage of their profits to fulfil this mission, as well as sending you free seeds to plant to do your bit {you just have to request them on the website, I’ve got mine at the event!}. The drinks are lovely, 100% natural, no artificial sweeteners or added sugar (so they are under 50 kcal) but sweet enough to quiet the cravings of people with a sweet tooth, while being packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Other brands that were present at the event include the student’s lifesaver Modo, a cold pressed juice with matcha tea. If you aren’t as into Japanese food as I am, or have never had a matcha chiller at Eat. because the name sounded weird and you wanted to try something new {you haven’t lived!}, you’d better look it up. Another potential exam sessions lifesaver is Biotiful Dairy‘s range of Kefir smoothies. I’m not a morning person and I am not showing up at a 10am exam having had breakfast unless I have it on the go or in the bag to eat/drink in the 15 minutes prior to the start time. In fact, they are sold in Planet Organic which means you can pick one up on the way to campus if you are in Bloomsbury like me.
Since snacks make up the bulk of the average student’s diet come April {mine, at least, going back to the “not that unhealthy diet” earlier on…}, I was pleased to try some of the foods from Chika’s range. First of all I love plantain, and anything that includes plantain. However, my favourite option was the peanuts. Hand roasted on a fire and absolutely delicious without anything but a little salt added to it. They’re like the best peanuts I have ever had. And like my top 3 choices, they have a social impact and are committed to the education of children. I didn’t know at the time, and all I have tried now just tastes even better!
More peanuts were at the show thanks to Pic’s peanut butter, a NZ brand that offers no salt peanut butter which surprised me for how nice it was. If you’re on the hunt for artisanal peanut butter, this is definitely a contender, and it has been voted the best available {but for the sake of honesty I haven’t tried many others as I’ve been a faithful Whole Earth buyer so far, so I can’t make such an absolute statement based only on my experience}.

Something as far away as possible from peanuts is Drink Me Chai‘s Chai Latte range. Instant to make for those of us who have no time to waste brewing things, because we are not the countess of Grantham and we have things to do, but full of flavour and most importantly the blend of spices is very balanced. Not too much cinnamon. I love chai latte but I find myself unable to have it because most brands I’ve tried before seem to have just poured the whole bag of cinnamon in it by accident. I don’t like smelling and tasting like a bad quality Christmas pudding thank you very much. I’m really intrigued by the chocolate one, being the huge chocolate fan that I am.
Speaking of which, I’m now on my last two brands. Both of them selling celebratory products for when the exam session is over: luxurious chocolates and mead. The Cocoa Den makes the most unbelievable things, and one of the flavours for the truffles is Coffee Martini. It’s just unbelievably lush, with really velvety and smooth dark chocolate, strong coffee and martini. What more could one want?!
Mead Ho makes low alcohol mead. If you’re like me and like to dress up in medieval dresses and watch re-enactments of battles from The Chronicle of Narnia and/or The Lord Of The Rings you probably know already what it is. If you aren’t such a massive geek, or a Medieval historian, or a modern pagan you may have never heard of it. It’s another tasty drink made with honey, which has a really long tradition in Northern Europe, and if you like cider you’ll love it.

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