January 3, 2019 6:56 am Leave your thoughts
Bad news for lovers of 1970s party food – vol-au-vents have been given a special mention in the naughty section of the government’s Obesity List. Traditionally stuffed with cold chicken and mushroom (though a quick google comes up with spiced egg and coriander, or smoked trout and asparagus, as alternative modern-day fillings), puff-pastry vol-au-vents are apparently a notable part of the reason why over 60% of British adults are now overweight or obese.
‘How reassuring’, notes a letter-writer to The Telegraph, ‘to find that the Government has identified the real source of obesity’. He goes on to suggest that in his home county of Lincolnshire, vol-au-vents are not a very common foodstuff. I’d suggest he’s just going to the wrong kind of parties.
But, let’s face it, it’s not just vol-au-vents that are the issue here. In fact, they’re really just a side-dish on the table of the nanny state. Public Health England, a government agency that works to ‘protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing’ has proposed calorie limits on a whole variety of foodstuffs sold in supermarkets, restaurants and cafes.
Caps on calories are proposed in a number of categories, including ready meals and sandwiches. For ready meals, the limit is a startlingly precise 544 calories, with sandwiches and salads permitted to breach this, up to 550 calories. Restaurant main courses have (another very specific) limit of 951 calories, while pizzas are permitted a whopping 1,040. The humble vol-au-vent will be restricted to 134.
What does a Pret a Manger Posh Cheddar and Pickle Baguette, a Waitrose Ham and Mushroom Tagliatelle and a Zizzi’s Duck Arrosot have in common? Answer: they’ll all be off the table, come the new regime: the Posh Baguette overreaches itself at 621 calories; the tagliatelle comes in a fraction over its allowance, at 585 calories; and the Zizzi dish is way out of bounds, at 1,067 calories.
It’s my party and I’ll eat vol-au-vents if I want to
It’s not necessarily the kind of news people want to hear over the festive period, where party food and endless leftover roast potatoes come to seem like standard parts of our diet. But the downtime of the festive period is also, possibly, the perfect opportunity to have a little think about it all.
It certainly allowed time for a number of holidaying officials to express their horror at the proposals. Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, said (through a mouthful of Boxing Day leftovers) that the health body should simply ‘leave us alone’ and stop ‘lecturing the public’. Her main fear is apparently that additional regulation will result in higher food prices. The Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs likewise heavily criticised the plans.
People who don’t like being told what to eat (and when to stop) also came out in force. This shouldn’t have surprised Public Health England – a survey commissioned by the body itself in the previous month had found that the British public feel that the greatest responsibility for tackling obesity should lie with individuals, rather than the government or the food industry.
‘It is difficult to believe’ said one online commentator to The Telegraph, ‘that any reasonably intelligent adult in this country is incapable of working it out for themselves.’
Other dissenting voices considered the ‘spurious accuracy’ of the calorie limits, noting that the rate at which we burn calories varies widely, depending on our sex, age and level of activity. Put simply, some people require significantly more vol-au-vents than others.
The guidelines remain voluntary until 2024. By then, a 1970s party will be seriously retro anyway, and the government hopes that the targets will have been hit. Final recommendations are due to be published later on this year, following further consultations.
How will it affect Naturally Good Food customers?
We expect Naturally Good Food customers to be wholly unmoved by this move. We’ve no idea how many vol-au-vents are generally consumed by our customers, but we do know that we only sell food to people who have an overwhelmingly sensible approach to their diets. We sell proper, nourishing, nutritious foodstuffs, most of which come under the heading ‘wholefoods’. A diet based on these will fill you up and give you the best possible health outcomes (to quote officialdom) – and is highly unlikely to make you obese.
Many of our customers are proficient home-cooks, many times more likely to make their own tagliatelle than to buy it in a ready meal. But when our customers do go out for a meal, we suspect that they want that meal to be a proper meal: something substantial, delicious and perhaps just a little bit more calorific than usual. For this reason, it’s worth even the most sensible and skinny of us keeping an eye on government guidelines.
Meanwhile, in preparation for 2024, can we recommend a close cousin of the vol-au-vent: the slightly smaller bouchee? Gluttons may, of course, simply decide to have two of them…calorie limits, Public Health England, vol au vent, Wholefoods
This post was written by Yzanne