A recipe book for everyday of the year and a Food Trust that gives back-‘What’s For Dinner’? -by Romilla Arber

Working parents who are on a budget concerning time and money have increasingly opted for  ready-meals and fast-food to-go.  Sold the ‘you can have it all’ dream women have found juggling career and house hold chores near impossible. Food manufactures have known this and fed into this manic fast-paced era by giving us fast-food-to-go and seducing us with their photo-shopped images of food. 

However people are stirring from their mono-sodium malaise and awakening to the fact that in reality we don’t ‘want it all’ just enough to stay healthy and simple seems to be the new buzz word. By trying to ‘have it all’ the baby-boomer generation have also realised-somethings gotta give-that something has been our health. Disease has never been so prevalent in the western world. But this seems ironic as today we are more technically,industrially and medically advanced than ever. So what’s failing our health? A lack of simple fresh organic produce, less relaxation time & non media stimulation (ie TV,internet,computer) and less community spirit are the main issues.

But things are comming full circle and people are demanding healthier food choices and getting down and dirty in their own kitchens. They are rejecting the capitalist food industries ethos of quantity over quality. Movements like  ‘Slow Food’ and farmers co-operatives, Fair trade and The Soil Association are all getting a stronger following. The book featured in this review encompasses this belief, its not simply a cookery book for busy mums, on an ideological level it represents a much deeper cause, a movement away from the processed and back to the humble family kitchen. This I believe is the root of improving the nations health.

The aptly named book by Romilla Arber ‘Whats for Dinner?’ is a reflection of our move towards a slower healthier life and a focus on quality simple food forms. The book offers you 365 days of fast-healthy-food.Recipes you can russle up in the time you can say ”Big Mac ‘n’ fries”. Fast food can be healthy food too. 

‘What’s for Dinner?” is the essential cookery manual for 2012, divided into weekly sections with a menu and shopping list for each week of the year. Romilla felt that knowing what to cook is what puts off most people from going into the kitchen, rather than the actual act of cooking. She discovered that parents who relied on convenience food were less likely to pass on basic cookery skills to their children.

Each week starts with a time saving shopping list – a quick check list for everything needed from freezer, store cupboard or fridge. All recipes are easy to follow including tasty snacks and desserts. It makes pre-prepared meals a thing of the past and invites you to cook in your own home without the stress of endless planning and shopping. The key is the organized shopping lists that encourage you to buy multi-functional food types. Basically its about re-training our way of thinking and getting away from that modern tendency to always think things should be done for us. Yes shock of shocks you may have to wash and peel your own carrots ha ha ! But pardon the supermarket pun you will ‘taste the difference’ m! Romilla empowers you as a cook to really connect with food again and make you think about what you buy in the shops as opposed to shoving things mindlessly into the trolley and arriving home with nothing for a decent meal. Food needs a little planning, not hours slaving in the kitchen but with just a little pre-planning and thought you can make a healthy meal and save yourself a packet too!

Weekly menus are well balanced, healthy and nutritious. It is widely accepted that a diet combined with regular exercise is the key to a healthy existence. “What’s for Dinner?” reflects the wisdom that for a sustainable future we should not, as a nation, be eating meat everyday of the week. Consequently each week contains two vegetarian vegetable-based meals and one fish meal, while the rest of the week includes different meat dishes including old favourites such as Spaghetti Bolognaise and Shepherd’s Pie to Maldivian Chicken Curry and Spicy Sliced Lamb. However you can pick and choose as you wish. 

What’s more when you buy this book you can feel good doing it! All profits from the sale of “What’s for Dinner?” go to Romilla’s Food Education Trust. Romilla believes that as well as parents bearing a responsibility to introduce their children to the joy of home cooked food, schools could also be providing more old style home economic classes. The Food Education Trust will raise awareness of the importance of home cooking to families and educate both parents and children. Additional information can be found at www.whatsfordinner.org.uk and you can purchase the book from amazon.

As a Nutritional Coach and Wellness writer I am always pursuing new avenues to promote healthy eating and since having a child this has become a mission! Since discovering my son is Autistic the link between diet and mood has become ever more apparent to me. Simply put the relationship between your gut and your brain is direct and unquestionable-you are what you eat. The odd meal of fast-food won’t kill you (though ethically it is usually produced in appalling conditions using the cheapest meat cuts) however people are now relying on processed foods as their main food source and this is where the health problems have arisen.

Food habits start at a young age and simple home cooking skills are one of the best lessons you can learn in life. We need to go back to basics and re-discover the joys of food glorious food and have fun cooking at home. Under this sub-text I began researching on the subject of school dinners and if home economic still meant fairy cakes and flour fights….. Everyone remembers Jamie Oliver’s noble attempt to battle the suet loving dinner-ladies of the north, it was a great mission he set out upon but was like the nature of television fast,of the moment and gone in a flash. So what happened after he left? Did the schools return to there old ways and what about all the thousands of schools he didn’t visit?

Is there a national organisation that seeks to educate our young on healthy cooking? The answer is yes, the http://www.foodeducationtrust.com/ set up in 2008 by Romilla Arber focuses on educating adults & children on healthy eating and does this via fun and practical cooking lessons given by the founder and mum of 4 Romilla. I found out about Romilla after research led me to seek out an education outlet to help children learn about the joys of healthy eating and cooking. As a Nutritional Therapist I see children as the future of our new eating habits and want to educate them because they are our worlds hope. This research led me first to find the Food Education Trust and then discover the book ‘Whats For Dinner?’

Romilla is a woman after my own heart and recognised that many people were relying on convenience foods to feed their kids as they found alot of recipes too time consuming to fit into their busy working lives. A community based project is the best way to reach a large cross section of society and Romilla with 4 children all of school age used her local primary school as her starting point.

Press releases describe the Trusts mission statement as;

‘The Food Education Trust has devised a programme for children that ensures that they acquire as many useful skills as they can during their cooking sessions. This includes learning to follow recipes, learning about cooking terms, chopping, washing and preparing vegetables. The new kitchen facility means that the Moortown Primary children can now learn how to prepare and cook a nutritious meal, such as pasta with a fresh sauce, delicious stews and hearty soups. They will gain cookery skills for life, enabling them to cook healthy nutritious meals”.