Anyone for lardy cake?

Britain's obsession with stodgy puds is under threat. Gayle Wade looks at how our nation's diet has changed over the years.

A VERY un-British heat wave, when we all risk melting into unsightly puddles of our own sweat, hardly seems the time to discuss steamed puddings, but last week it was revealed that many of the stodgy, lard-laden desserts of yesteryear are threatened with extinction.

Lardy cake (lard, white bread dough, currents and sugar, baked), spotted dick (suet, flour, sugar and currants, steamed) or Kentish Pudding Pie (rice pudding in pastry) were unknown to many under-25s.

Even if they knew of them, they probably wouldn't want to eat them in these days when fat in food is considered little better than poison.

In the days when a substantial pudding followed the main meal of the day, people needed great slabs of calories to fuel an active life. Children played outdoors, they ran around and chased each other just for fun, kicked balls or played hopscotch. They cycled and probably walked a mile or two to school and back every day.

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Their parents walked to work and led more active, physical lives at work and at home than we do now.

These days, a low fat yoghurt or a piece of fruit is about all we can allow ourselves. Rice pudding only comes in the form of tiny, pre-packed portions from which as many calories as possible have been extracted.

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The survey's other revelation for today's diners was that people used to eat those bits of animals - like their heads and their insides - that we try to forget about.

Brawn (boil half a pig's head, strain off bones and gristle, and allow to set to a delicious meaty jelly), Bath chaps (marinated pig's cheeks, slow cooked then thinly sliced to fry in breadcrumbs) or tripe (gelatinous sheets of honeycombed fat) and onions are no longer among the thrifty housewife's recipes.

Not long ago, I saw skeletal food fascist Gillian McKeith reduce someone to a snivelling heap, retching in a corner by pointing out that hot dog sausages probably contain bits of pig's snout or ears. Why is that worse than eating a slice off a cow's bottom (rump steak)?

Personally, I think that if we are going to eat animals at all, it's a bit precious to confine ourselves just to the leanest bits of muscle and despise the rest of the carcase. The American Indians used to believe that, if you had to kill an animal, it was only respectful to use every part of it that you could.

On a similar train of thought, a farmer and a butcher in Suffolk recently arranged an open day to “show [people] what happens to their food before it reaches the dinner plate.” And no, it didn't involve a trip to an abattoir, as I first imagined.

Visitors saw cows in byres and were told about different cuts of meat, as well as sampling some that the butcher had cooked. Calf's foot, anyone?

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