Med Diet: theory versus reality
Sunset in southern Spain, June 26, 2019
This week the temperature has soared (though fortunately, here on the coast, not to the levels of the interior) so it’s now hotter outside than inside when I’m enjoying my evening glass of wine. The river by my home has dried up, the grass is brown, and the bullfrogs have moved further up the mountain, their chorus having been replaced by cicadas. This means we are now truly into salad season, with the range of seasonal ripe ready vegetables making this an easy supper to prepare.
While doing my weekly shop I was in awe of the selections of tomatoes in the supermarket and as I inhaled their grassy sweet aroma I realised that I have never come across this kind of experience in a UK supermarket. No doubt just like you, I’m interested in eating good wholesome food for taste and better health. As a food researcher I’ve read copious academic studies on the subject and as the Mediterranean Diet is the one that comes out on top, while living in London I did my best to write about it and follow it. Moving to southern Spain it’s been a revelation, as I discover the difference between trying to emulate it compared to actually experiencing it.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no shortage of processed products in the supermarkets, but it’s the selection of seasonal fruit and veg that is so extraordinary that makes adopting a Med Diet so much easier here. Chilled slices of melons have become an essential in this heat, and I begin to understand that here there is no need for a heavy dessert at the end of a meal.
Of course, the timing of seasonal fruit and veg differs here to London; for example, the strawberry season starts in January and goes on until April. At present, alongside melons, oranges, apples and pears, which seem to be perennial, cherries rule as peaches, apricots, nectarines and the first figs begin to appear.
One particular dish that has fast become a firm favourite in this heat is my home-made hummus. It works fantastically well with cool cucumber, crunchy carrots and crisp pepper slices, a tastier alternative to salty snacks. My daughter-in-law in Australia shared the recipe with me and I’m sure she won’t mind me passing on the secret to amazingly creamy hummus: the tahini and lemon juice must be blended before adding the other ingredients. I love to also add roasted red peppers for a sweet smoky flavour.
Chickpeas are readily available here and very cheap, while legumes generally are an important part of the Med Diet, as they make for an affordable alternative to meat. I’m a huge advocate of legumes as they are a great plant protein filled with nutrients and fibre.
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