Personal tastes

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I hear that Heston Blumenthal, he of TV and supermarket fame, is re—opening his Fat Duck restaurant with a twist. A team of assistants will research customers when they book so that diners are served individually tailored food. It’s not clear how this will be done – Google searches perhaps? – but leaves a slightly odd taste in the mouth. It’s simultaneously rather fun and monumentally creepy. Links with personalisation trend.

Weedy idea

Off to Amsterdam today to talk with some Dutch library folks, but continuing with the first chapter of my new book so highly engaged with what’s going on around me as I may be able to use it in some way. For example, today I was told to be careful because the escalator was coming to an end. Really. Do people not notice? Maybe if they fell off they’d be more observant next time?

Yesterday I was in London and came across a cafe with a sign in the window offering “weeds of nutritional significance.” I’m OK with this (it’s a little too fashionable for its own good, but I get the connections). However, the sign went on…”Weeds of nutritional significance, from Australia.” You mean they’ve flown some weeds from Australia to London so that people eating a sandwich can feel more connected to the land in an organic, bio-dynamic, slow food kind of way? And the fuel needed to fly those weeds 10,000 miles is what? If you’re going to eat weeds at least make them local.

‘Big Sugar’

A sneak peek at something from the new issue of What’s Next…

We’ve had Big Tobacco and Big Banks, so is it now time for Big Sugar? Sugar, alongside salt and fat are becoming political, not only because they are directly linked with a number of serious – and expensive – health issues, but because poor people trend to be fat and rich people tend not. In other words, fat is a class issue. In the UK people are, on average, three stone heavier than they were fifty years ago and this costs the NHS around five billion pounds annually to treat.

The usual explanation for this state of affairs is that the masses eat too much and don’t do enough exercise. They are greedy, lazy and ignorant and snack throughout the day. In other words, it’s their fault. But this view is now being challenged by those who argue that while it’s easily possible to avoid cigarettes and alcohol, it’s not quite so straightforward with sugar. Sugar, you see, is added to food and drink often without the knowledge of the consumer. Labelling is weak and the situation is compounded by the fact that the food industry, which has been removing fat from convenience foods since the late 1970s, has been adding sugar in various forms to make the low fat food taste more appetising. And according to the research, sugar in whatever form is highly addictive, fattening and could even be toxic.

High fructose corn syrup, developed from corn, is a particular villain and while it’s presence is usually labelled most people have no idea what it is let alone what it might be doing to them. Again, you can say that this is just ignorance on the part of consumers, but try to buy anything other than fresh fruit, vegetable, meat or fish (all increasingly expensive) from a supermarket. It’s difficult. As to specific links between sugar and obesity, it looks as though the problem could be that when the body is fed sugar it craves more sugar and this perhaps undermines the body’s in-built over-eating defences by undermining a hormone called leptin that regulates appetite. Fructose in particular is linked with liver toxicity and a host of chronic diseases ranging from diabetes to heart disease and cancers.

A fat tax aimed at the food companies (but perhaps aimed at individuals too?) might be the answer to this, at least in the sense of paying for the future trouble created, but clear public health messages and labelling would go a long way too.

Five Trends for the Future of Food









I’ve just been sent this. It’s a talk I did at the Barilla Centre for Food & Nutrition in Milan towards the end of last year and is about what, where and how we’ll eat in the year 2030.

The video runs just under 20- minutes (in English) and covers five key food trends. These are; 1) Speed, convenience & portability; 2) Seasonal, regional & slow; 3) Health & well-being versus indulgence; 4) Food history & “Noshtalgia”; 5) Science & Technology.

The Future of Food

I was in Milan yesterday speaking (and eating) at the 4th international forum on food and nutrition. If you are interested in what I had to say about eating in 2030 there is a short video here (20 minutes). Click on the second page of videos and you should find me. Highlight for me was lunch (with wine!) and a conversation with Ruth Oniang’o, a food scientist and ex-member of parliament in Kenya.

Before me was Lester Brown from the Earthwatch Institute (doom and gloom but he is right about a number of things in my view). Afterwards was an interesting panel discussion hosted by Alex Thomson (Channel 4 News) featuring Guido Barilla, President Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Franck Riboud, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Danone; Guy Wollaert, Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Coca-Cola; Claude Fischler, Research Director CNRS; Director Centre Edgar Morin; Antonia Trichopoulou, Director, World Health Organization Center for Nutrition at the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, School of Medicine, Athens University.

BTW, there’s a very good report on Eating in 2030: Trends and Perspectives available for free on the website. If you can’t find it just contact me and I’ll flick you a copy.

Finally, I must just comment on what a total pleasure it was to attend this event. It was well organised and the speakers were terrific. However, the stand out part had nothing really to do with the event. It was Italy. It was the people. They were so well mannered, slow polite, so well dressed. They like thinking. And they still eat lunch!!!