The food I eat is about as varied as my day-to-day life (it has to be, because they have to keep pace with one another). Some days I don’t eat a single meal at home – or off a plate! – which demands that I’m super-prepared, and other days I can spend all afternoon cooking dinner. Sometimes my shelf in our shared fridge overflows, with the carrots and courgettes getting all colonial, taking over the space reserved for my housemate’s food. Other days, the shelf is almost completely empty. Whatever happens though, regardless of how Old-Mother-Hubbard my fridge situation might get, there are a few things which are always on my shelf. They might not get me anywhere near a whole meal, but provided these five are present, and there are some tins in the cupboard, I know I won’t starve.
No matter how hectic (or how empty) my day might look, if I’m at home I like to always start it the same way – with a slice of zingy lemon in hot water. Beginning your day with lemon & hot water kick-starts and cleanses your digestive system, provides an instant burst of Vitamin C to get your immune system on top form, and chases away those toxins which threaten to disrupt skin, so the story goes. Whether it has any impact physiologically or not, I believe there’s something valuable about rituals and routines in the morning, and for me there’s no better way to start the day than sitting calmly in a patch of fresh morning sunshine, hugging a bright, clean-tasting hot water with sunny lemon slices. Plus, having lemons around means you’ve always got something to put on impromptu pancakes.
A year or so ago, I had a cold which quickly turned into a hacking, horrible cough. I’m not prone to illness of any kind, which means I’m not very good at self-help when I am poorly. My plan was to ignore the cough, until somebody – sick of being woken up in the night by my barking and rasping – forced me to try echinacea. And I do mean forced, a concentrated dose in a little bit of water is definitely an acquired taste. Apparently, the essence of this North American herb is packed full of chemicals to promote the body’s immune system and prevent inflammation. I’m certain it cured my cough, and since then I’ve always had a little bottle of this wonder-liquid in the fridge. Whenever I’m feeling a bit snuffly – or if somebody near me has been poorly, just for good measure – I put a few drops into my morning hot water & lemon, or add some to a smoothie. I’m even getting used to the weird, savoury-grass flavour.
When I was little, apples were the only fruit or vegetable I’d willingly eat. Peas were ok, at a push, and I could just about handle beans. Raisins kind of don’t count, but they were ok, too. I’m a grown up now, and very good at eating my greens, but apples remain one of my all time favourite foods. I feel weird if I haven’t had at least one a day. They’re portable, perfect for any time of day, amazing after a long run if you cut them into slices and spread the slices with nut butter, and recently, I’ve even read that their high-fibre and detoxifying nature means that they help your body use carbs more effectively, all while sorting out your liver. No wonder I always crave one the morning after too many gin & tonics and some late night chips.
4) Soya spread
After becoming a vegetarian early this year, I’ve become hyper aware of – and confused by – the dairy industry. As a result, I’m trying to cut down on the amount of dairy products that I consume. (Eugh, the word consume kind of freaks me out. It’s kind of appropriate though, because the meat & dairy industry kind of freaks me out too, and ‘consume’ is a very good word for what’s going on there.) However, butter is my vice. It’s my weakness. I love real, salty butter – preferably in a block. I spread it on crackers like cheese. I have been known to butter my toast while it’s hot, wait for it to cool and then butter it again, on top. It is best that we don’t know anything about my cholesterol levels. Anyway, I thought I’d never be able to quit butter. Enter, this PURE soya spread. It’s silky, just salty enough, and tastes really, really good on crackers. It’s not as good as butter, but I’m definitely warming to it.
5) Almond milk
It’s a similar deal with almond milk as it is with the soya spread. In my efforts to buy – and consume (!) – less dairy products, I’ve found myself using a lot of almond milk. And, unlike the soya spread, I’m totally convinced by it. Almond milk porridge is a new morning staple – it’s creamy, nutty and delicious – but it also works for everything else. Poured over granola, in a calming cup of rooibos tea or even – as proven in testing – as a substitute for cream in my new favourite vegan pesto pasta sauce.