Sustainable food swaps: I'm dreaming of a 'right' Christmas
17 December 2020
I’ll start with a confession. I bought goose fat for my Christmas roast potatoes. Because Christmas is a time for tradition and it’s what Mum used and it’s what her Mum used, and so on. The reason goose fat is good for roasting is because it will withstand high temperatures without burning so you end up with super-crispy potatoes. And everyone wants crispy roasties 😊. The ‘smoke point’ of butter is about 150 degrees centigrade. That’s why it burns so quickly in the frying pan. If you’re not careful your hoped for delicious meal ends up just tasting of “burned” and no-one wants that. Goose fat won’t burn until about 165. Lard (I’ll get to why this is important in a minute) has a smoke point of nearly 200 degrees. If you’ve ever had lard-fried chips (they used to be quite popular, especially from seaside chip shops but they’re rarer these days) you’ll know the difference this can make. So that’s the science behind why granny (and her granny, and her granny before her) used animal fat for Christmas dinner. There was a reason. But it’s no longer 1890 and maybe it’s time for new traditions.
Today we know we need to tread lightly on the world, and we have an alternative that’s more animal friendly and sustainable. Sunflower oil is entirely dairy free, has a smoke point that’s similar to lard, is palm oil free (good for the orangutans and rain forests), and is lower in saturated fats so, as well as being better for the animal kingdom, it’s better for you too! Crispy potatoes and no geese harmed in the process. Honestly, now I’ve bought the goose-fat I will use it. Throwing it away achieves nothing and it’s better to use it than waste it. But in the spirit of starting new traditions, I will make an effort to remember not to buy it next year.
Switching your cooking oil is just one fairly simple thing you can do this Christmas to reduce your impact on the world. Once you start looking, there are plenty of similar simple swaps you can make that really don’t make that much difference to you but can change your impact on the world. Here are some ideas to help you become a ‘reducetarian’ and no, I didn’t make that up – it’s a thing. It’s a name for the ‘happy medium’ people who want to reduce their meat and dairy intake but who aren’t ready to make a full switch to vegetarianism or veganism:
- Recipe planning calls for cream? Try Elmlea, it’s plant-based
- Want a chocolate treat? Try nut-based vegan chocolate
- This one’s more a summer BBQ swap maybe but try jackfruit instead of pulled pork
- Thinking of making a curry? Replace the meat with chickpeas.
- Want spaghetti bolognaise? Make a hearty alternative with lentils
- Making mince pies (it is Christmas after all)? Make sure the mincemeat is vegetarian (most mincemeat that is suet free will also be vegan but do check if that’s important for you) or make your own.
- Want custard with your Christmas pudding? Make with vegan milk and cornflour. No eggs required.
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Earlier this year, many members of the Primary Care Department backed the successful resolution to divest the University Endowment from fossil fuel companies. This is an important step towards mitigating the climate crisis, which is key to protecting the public health we all hold dear.