Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Eating for Ireland

In France recently I was reminded of the old admonition to “have breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”.

Here in Ireland people tend to have a small breakfast, grab a sandwich for lunch and then eat a big plateful of whatever you’re having yourself, plus spuds, for dinner - before flopping down on the couch to watch tv for the night. Particularly those unfortunates who spend a couple of hours each day commuting to and from work.

The essential purpose of food is to provide fuel for the body to perform tasks. We’re running on close to empty during the day when we’re actually burning fuel, then we fill the tank in the evening when we go into couch potato mode. This allows time for the body to maximise the extraction and storage of fat from that heavy evening meal, as generally little or nothing is being burnt off through physical activity.

In France & Spain, breakfast tends to be coffee & bread/croissant, but lunch is a substantial meal and one which most people ensure they sit down and eat. Every city, town & village has a host of small restaurants to cater for this demand, and they all provide excellent value at lunchtime.

You’ll see the blackboard outside announcing today’s “Formule Midi” or “Menu del Dia”, usually a couple of courses for no more than €10 - €12. Dinner is often eaten much later in the evening and portions are usually smaller than those eaten at lunchtime. Hence, Paddy on holidays is often starving after dinner there as he’s just had the portion equivalent of a snack, instead of his usual large plate of grub at night.

The old “country “ habit of having your dinner in the middle of the day was our equivalent of eating in the continental way. Though sneered at now by our city sophisticates, who would regard it as peasant behaviour, it was a much healthier and logical approach to eating than our current lop-sided regime.

If we could repackage the old ways and invest them with a sense of Mediterranean/continental sophistication, it would be good for the general health of the country.

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