LESS MEAT, MORE VEG / by Tim Hopgood

This week's coffee chat is with Rachel de Thample, Food Editor at Abel & Cole (the organic food box company) and author of 'Less Meat, More Veg'published by Kyle Cathie Limited. Rachel grew up in Texas eating steak for breakfast! She has been writing on food issues for over a decade and has worked in the kitchens of Marco Pierre White, Heston Blumenthal and Peter Gordon.

Q1. What did you dislike to eat as a child? I was a bit like my four-year-old son is now: odd and completely out of kilter with the likes of most children in the respect that I ate absolutely anything and everything. My mother made food an adventure. I remember her encouraging us to try frog's legs, snails, crab, cow testicles (called 'calf fries' in Texas)... My son's just like I was. He's always looking for something new and exciting to try. He's into castles and my husband told him that knights feast on wild boar so he keeps asking me to get some.

Q2. What was the first thing you learnt to cook, and who if anyone showed you how? The first thing I remember cooking (and totally messing up) is a classic American cookie: a little shortbread round that has a little chocolate (Hershey) kiss nestled on top. I was four and I suppose I hadn't mastered reading as I muddled the sugar and salt up. The cookie's got 1 tsp of sugar and about 1 cup of salt! They were inedible.

Q3. Of all the facts and figures on food unearthed in your book 'Less Meat, More Veg', which do think is the most surprising? What shocks me most is how much meat we're producing now compared to 50 years ago. In 1950, 1 million chickens were reared for food. We're now getting through more than 860 million chickens each year. That is really shocking to me, and upsetting because the only way that many chickens can be produced is to do it quickly (i.e. force them to grow at unnatural rates) and in cramped conditions. Worse, is that that all this extra meat we're producing has lower nutritional value. Well-reared meat offers so much more and that's the key message of my book.

Q4. Is it true that full-fat is where it's at? Certainly. It makes sense if you think about it: whole, full-fat milk is a wholefood. Just like a wholegrain - it hasn't had anything removed from it, therefore you're getting the balance that nature intended.

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Q5. Do you have plans for any more books? Yes! I'm playing with a few ideas at the moment and have a few proposals on the go. I'm also working on a few blogs: one about breadmaking and one about urban gardening. My goals for this year are to make all my own bread and to grow/rear my entire Christmas dinner.