Nutritional matters


in Oxford, Rants

Since I am being constantly criticized on all sides about my diet, I feel some response is in order. It’s not as though I enjoy eating little but bagels and beans and that there is some obvious and much healthier and more enjoyable solution that I am spurning due to masochistic urges. I am constrained in terms of time, access to equipment, access to foodstuffs, finances, and lack of knowledge.

Food here is a genuine conundrum. The nearest grocery store, Sainsbury’s, has a minimal selection of foods that are not pre-prepared. As Jonathan identified, there is a ‘take away culture’ in Britain, which would be fine with me if only the food being taken away was closer to being nutritionally balanced. The lack of raw materials doesn’t matter too much for me, in the end, as I have serious concerns about hygiene in the small and generally bitterly cold Library Court kitchen. Toasters, hot plates, or George Foreman style grills are strictly forbidden in college. I also have no pots or pans (though Margaret kindly got me some dishes), and relatively minimal amount of time that can be dedicated to cooking. The major alternative to eating bagels, cheese, beans, and a few pieces of fruit is to eat the college meals. Unfortunately, they are seriously awful – especially the vegetarian option. It is usually a wicked hot bowl of steaming animal fat, along with some limp noodles and bits of ground-up boiled vegetable.

Opting out of college meals gives me about three Pounds a day to spend on groceries. I’ve spent about £300 on groceries during the eleven weeks or so during which I have been here, so the £120 that I will get back for skipping a term’s worth of meals is not an amount to be snickered at. It would buy almost 60 cheese ploughman sandwiches, or almost 250 cans of Sainsbury’s baked beans: each of which, with a bit of mustard or hot sauce, would be more enjoyable than the few meals I ate in college.

The healthiest option would probably be to buy pots and pans, walk often to the Tesco on Cowley Road, buy vegetables, and brave the cold Library Court kitchen, with its dirty surfaces and strange smells, to cook them. This seems extremely unlikely to transpire. The next best option is to carry on mostly eating the pre-prepared foods at Sainsbury’s, but focus on the ones with a bit more nutritional value: paying the extra Pounds for their decent veggie soups and odd, individually packaged raw vegetables. All that can be bolstered, somewhat, through the acquisition of minerals from supplements: especially iron, since I eat virtually nothing that contains it in quantity. This, I am endeavoring to do. It would also be good to find some low cost eatery with high protein and vitamin content to its food. I shall continue seeking it. If I find one, I will make a point of eating there with something like bi-weekly regularity.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 7, 2005 at 10:44 pm

1. The covered market, open six days a week with delicatessens, a couple of fairly big fruit’n’veg stalls, and for those who trend that way a fish stall and several butchers?

2. Or the large Sainsburys a bit further away than the little one?

3. Marks and Spencers?

4. The Wednesday market in Gloucester Green?

Sarah P December 8, 2005 at 7:05 am

I used to frequent the large Sainsburys mostly & ate fairly well using staples of pasta, rice, tofu, chickpeas and assorted veg. The thing about food is that it gives a perfect time-money tradeoff: you spend time to make something good cheaply, or spend money to buy it pre-made (and usually less good). I’ve always preferred the former, especially when it can be made relaxing and/or social.
Anyway, get yerself a small pan, medium sized pan & a cheap wok and get cooking.

Sarah P December 8, 2005 at 7:08 am

By the way, did I mention that I was diagnosed as malnourished at the end of my first term at Oxford? After a term of lousy collegefood I got tired, pale, listless n my doctor sent me to a nutritionist. So, yeah, EAT PROPERLY!

Anonymous December 8, 2005 at 9:27 am

The big Sainsbury’s in Westgate Centre isn’t that bad – is it? I’d concur with the Gloucester Green Wednesday morning market, as well, since it’s not very expensive and generally pretty fresh.

Antonia December 11, 2005 at 10:43 pm

What about the Nosebag and Makan La on St Michael’s St, opposite the Union? I love the noodles, and you get a plateful for a fiver.

mpi December 11, 2005 at 10:55 pm

I’ve never been there, but I shall take a look.

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