Walking the walk – are you walking to school?

Why walking to school matters

Running wild

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October is ‘International Dodge Speeding Car on Narrow Lane’ and ‘Get Rained on While Wearing Grey Trousers Month’. Luckily, at the last minute the organisers pulled in a new marketing team and decided on the catchier name of International Walk to School Month.

Living close enough to school to walk there with your children is a fantastic opportunity. Even if you live too far, you can park safely ten minutes from the gate and make regular exercise part of your daily routine – benefiting both you and your children.

Walking also reduces the hideous congestion of vehicles that develops around school gates. This haphazard parking can leave residents feeling like they live in a badly regulated car park and children are at risk as they weave their way through the traffic.

Environmentally, walking is a no-brainer. Reducing the number of people on the school car run slashes carbon emissions and…

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Something to beef about

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Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I once ate a stone cold ‘roast’ dinner rather than complain in a restaurant. I have that terribly British affliction of too much politeness. It stops many of us making a fuss or asking questions unless something is really, really bad.

I’ve had to get over it recently, and become that demanding and slightly annoying customer. A recent volunteer role with the Soil Association involved discovering more about children’s food in restaurants. I was so shocked at some of the responses to my questions that since then I’ve made it my business to overcome my reserve and find out more about the food on offer.

Unless you are in a restaurant that makes a real selling point about their food sourcing, then the most uncomfortable question to ask is ‘Where does your meat come from?’. I’ve tried this in half a dozen smart eateries over the past month or so and it was awkward.

Either the waiting staff had no idea about the provenance of the meat, or they did, and sheepishly replied with a far flung location such as South America or Thailand.

It is evidently cheaper to raise and slaughter animals in Thailand, then fly the meat across the globe than it is to produce it here. Urm, does that reassure you about production methods and animal welfare abroad?

Many of us try to buy British when we shop for the Sunday roast or weekday Bolognese. A YouGov poll revealed that nearly 60% of UK consumers prefer to buy UK-sourced meat than imported meat. However, in some ready-meals and high street restaurants we are not given the choice. The meat is cheap, possibly mechanically reclaimed, unlikely to be free-range and from the other side of the planet. It’s this sort of situation that gave us horse meat lasagnes.

We’re too good at avoiding thinking about where our meat comes from. When you are out for a nice meal, it’s hard to be the difficult, fussy customer and we don’t like thinking about dead animals.  It should be the legal responsibility of businesses that we are trusting to feed us to make sourcing information easily available – then we can vote with our mouths.

This worked for eggs. Back in 2004 the European Commission made it obligatory to label eggs as coming from ‘caged hens’ which led to the growth of the free-range market and eventually the banning of battery chickens.

Every time we eat the cheapest imported meat we are messing up – we are failing to support our British farmers, neglecting animal welfare and risking filling our bodies with the nastiest form of protein.

A meal out should be a treat – not an exercise in interrogation of the waiting staff or blindly swallowing poor quality food. At the moment, the average high street caterer is relying on our ignorance. Until things change, I’m a restaurant vegetarian. I won’t give my money to supporting an unpleasant, cost-cutting industry.

First published in the EDP and EADT

Somewhere near you, a banana is in trouble.

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Somewhere, in a fruit bowl near you, a banana is in trouble. Eric the Bananaman is busy, so it’s down to you and only you to save the day. Yellow capes at the ready, pants on the outside; you are the Banana Hero.

The banana is one of the most wasted food items. That perfect moment between too green and brown and squidgy can be hard to achieve. It’s a big shame to waste them, especially as they come all the way from the Caribbean or South America. This staple fruit comes with quite a carbon footprint when compared to locally grown apples or pears.

So how can you save that past its best ‘nana from the bin? Read on…

  • If you have the luxury of time, then you can’t beat a banana loaf and you certainly can’t beat Mary Berry’s. This is a lovely recipe for kids to help with (mine do enjoy squishing the bananas by hand so extra clean paws are a must!) and they will love the results too. It uses two bananas, if you only have one then try this choc chip version.
  • If you have not a spare minute, so busy you might cry, haven’t even had a shower this morning, then this is your option. Simply peel and slice the banana, put in a little bag (one per banana) and freeze. Then when you want to make a quick sugar-free smoothie another less crazy day, your banana chunks will be ready. Try this healthy banana and strawberry smoothie (it works well without flaxseed and using cow’s milk too). Simply chuck the frozen banana chunks into the blender instead of the fresh ones. It will go super creamy and chill your smoothie to perfection.
  • For another frozen banana idea, it has to be the incredibly virtuous dairy and sugar-free banana ice-cream. All you need to do is food process the frozen bananas until smooth and creamy. This blog will talk you through it, as well as giving ideas for other flavours to add. The children will hoover it up and think it’s a naughty treat, although you could legitimately have it for breakfast.
  • If the banana has gone so far that it is beyond human consumption (this is often the case with the forgotten one in the bottom of a rucksack) then you can still save it from being wasted. Wildlife visiting your garden or balcony will be glad of the energy. Read here about creating an autumn feast for butterflies before they hibernate. Or, for a winter option, simply peel it and put it on the lawn. Blackbirds do enjoy a nice ripe banana.

Now, however busy you are, there is no excuse to chuck a banana in the bin. I’ll put my yellow cape away… until next time.