Kale smoothies, homemade nut butters, lots of self-denial: a clean-eating craze has swept the western world in recent years with questionable health claims and expensive ingredients. But do the detox divas deserve the backlash?
Im standing in the kitchen, staring at a blender full of brown sludge with my name on it. Expensive brown sludge at that: the worktop is scattered with about 20 worth of ingredients, all impeccably sourced and beautifully packaged, yet somehow they have combined to create something that looks like baby poo. Towering nearby, a pile of bright books mock my efforts: Clean Cakes, by Henrietta Inman; The Naked Diet by Tess Ward; Coconut Oil (Natures Perfect Ingredient) from Lucy Bee; Sarah Wilsons Simplicious; and, at the top, new books from the goddesses of the clean-eating movement Deliciously Ella Everyday by publishing phenomenon Ella Woodward, and Good + Simple from sisters Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley.
It strikes me, as I grimly scrape the sludge into a glass, that if you wanted a metaphor for the clean-eating craze that has swept the western world in recent years, you could do a lot worse than the kale and cacao smoothie in Woodwards new book. On the page, a tempting vibrant green; in reality, a dull beige disappointment. Should you have been lucky enough to have dodged the torrent of green juice and nut milk that has flooded the media since the turn of the decade, here is the skinny on clean eating: its not a diet, its a way of life a line you may remember from the Atkins, the 5:2 and just about every other fad diet that has been and gone. Unlike its predecessors, however, it doesnt come with a strict set of rules. Its adherents might advocate largely plant-based, minimally processed foods, but, as associate editor of Slate magazine LV Anderson perspicaciously observed, in practice clean eating can mean pretty much anything you want it to mean.