It’s time to celebrate carbs in all their glory
Carbs are one of the major food groups, essential to a balanced diet and our
wellbeing – and we love them. So who decided to condemn carbohydrates
as a dreaded ‘guilty pleasure’? Laura Goodman appears for the defence.
The new potatoes are coming. Buttery little buried treasures, dug up for our salady pleasure, bringing with them hope, vitamin C and spring sunshine.
But if you’re anticipating that pleasure and you receive your vegetables in a parcel on your doorstep each week, you might need to check your order because one of the veg box companies sells its boxes with a potato-free option. There’s no carrot-free option or low-onion option. But the people have spoken, and the people do not necessarily want weekly potatoes, because the people simply cannot get through that many potatoes. Not when they’re only eating them on ‘cheat days’.
Potatoes. Fresh from the ground. Reserved as treats! This is where we are.
Wellness culture has convinced us we shouldn’t eat carbs and as a result we feel guilty about eating them. There are so many things to feel guilty about already. Carbs should not be one of them. They taste good, they make us feel good, and it’s a happy coincidence that they provide us with the energy we need to do things – plus they’re an important source of fibre.
The older I get, the more I feel that if I can’t have equal pay, a functioning government and a delivery driver who knocks before posting a ‘sorry we missed you’ slip, I’m going to be eating a lot of potato salad. Many regard this as a rebellious act, so perhaps I need to take a moment and remind us all what carbs actually are.
Every day you hear people talking about them as though they’re at best illicit substances and at worst intrinsically evil, like Voldemort or Boris Johnson – and with that reputation you’d be forgiven for being a little hazy when it come to the facts.
I recently heard some food professionals debating the inherent ‘badness’ of carbs and the example they seemed to be holding up for the purposes of their debate was ‘McDonald’s’.
Please, let me help: McDonald’s itself is not a carb. Many of the foods on the McDonald’s menu are carbs, but they do sell other things as well. Salad, even.
A carb or carbohydrate is a molecular compound that consists of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The definition has been extended in modern times to include foods that contain a lot of that compound – starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta. You know, the life-sustaining stuff that forms the foundation of many world cuisines. That is what carbs are. That is what your colleague is skipping when he says he’s ‘trying to be good’. Not palm oil or foie gras – but rice and potatoes.
I don’t believe in fads and I’m nervous about month-long wellness challenges, but while we’re out here trying to beat them, we may as well join them.
It’s time to celebrate Starch March! Let’s tuck into Al dente April, then launch swiftly into Grilled Cheese Sandwich May. Or, as I like to call it, life.
Go get those carbs. A veg box without potatoes is no veg box at all.
Laura Goodman is the author of Carbs (Quadrille £15)