|Latte enjoyed at Coffee scene, Battlefield, Glasgow|
I have been thinking recently about cafe culture in Glasgow. The Southside and West End of Glasgow are arguably the areas most densely populated with independent cafes, bars and restaurants. The city centre may have seen a recent spate of burger joints opening up but I think in general I prefer a quieter cafe with a big wide window and plenty of people watching potential.
In Madrid bars out with the 'trendy' areas were almost universally ugly. They functioned as cafes, as we would think of them, as well. The coffee drinking tradition there was much like it is in Italy - espresso ordered within seconds of entering the premises, drunk as often as not standing up at the bar. If you were alone you wouldn't loiter. It was functional. I missed Glasgow's cosy and comfortable coffee houses with table service and massive lattes. I know I drink far too much coffee. When I did Food Matters' 3-day detox in January, not being able to drink coffee for 72 hours - over a weekend! - was absolutely rubbish! It made me feel down and deprived. Probably some kind of comedown from caffeine. Drinking coffee is a joyful experience.
My issue with cafe culture is the abundance of bad food.
As a country it's fair to say we are addicted to sugar. And as obesity rates rise it's apparent that our love of cakes and biscuits is partly responsible. Our grandparents generation (I've been told) prided themselves on being good home bakers and offering guests to the home a selection that might have included fruit scones, coffee kisses, Victoria sponge, shortbread... That generation didn't have the problems with weight that we have now. I believe the answer lies in how we view these foods now. It is normal to eat cake, millionaires shortbread, muffins or giant cookies along with your latte on a daily basis. Normal and acceptable. We have lost the ability to treat these foods as 'occasional' and we eat them every day, sometimes several times. Cake has no nutritional value. That's a fact. In order to fight the obesity epidemic we should be encouraged to base all our food choices on what will give us maximum nutritional value. If you start to avoid foods that contain sugar you automatically start to eat healthier. I believe that cafes have a hugely powerful role to play in this. They could overhaul their cake counters and offer us an alternative. Fruit loaves made with wholemeal or coconut flours, sweetened with date syrup for example. Raw chocolate truffles made with dried fruit and beautiful nut butters. Healthy cakes, in other words. Some of the vegan food bloggers online have some incredible recipes that could inspire a new way to eat out. This Rawsome Vegan Life is one of my favourites at the moment.
Another idea could be to expand the options. Instead of offering just cakes, how about oatcakes and cheese, or humous and falafel, or banana and peanut butter on toast!
Gary Taubes and Robert Lustig are two Americans whose research into the link between sugar and obesity is phenomenal.
Here's a short video featuring Taubes titled: This one ingredient is the reason you are getting fat. He hits the nail on the head. The reason this information is not more widely known is probably down to our governments being in the stranglehold of the major food companies who are quite happy for us to eat ourselves into an early grave!
Thanks for reading!