From top restaurants to Greggs snacks, vegetables are on the rise. So why are we eating less of them we did 60 years ago?
You can tell the story of modern British food through our changing attitude to vegetables. Once, we were a people who ate our greens while grumbling about them. Then, we became people who spoke admiringly of butternut squash without necessarily eating it. Now, there are glimmers of a new Britain, where, strange to tell, vegetables are both eaten and enjoyed.
For those of us who have lived through these changes, it’s startling to realise just how far we have come from boiled swede and grey stringy beans. Food writer Sejal Sukhadwala remembers eating as a vegetarian at a London school in the 1980s. “They gave me the same meat and two veg as everyone else, only without the meat.” A typical lunch would be sulphurous cabbage and mash. School dinners were a shock compared to the meals Sukhadwala ate at home. Her mother, a Gujarati vegetarian, cooked okra and gourds bought from markets in Wembley and Southall. She seasoned them with coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder, and cooked them using many different methods. By contrast, the school dinner vegetables were always plain boiled and unseasoned, as if it would be foolish to squander salt or butter on a carrot.