Our capital city is awash with greasy fast food and fried chicken outlets. I have to admit I’ve never actually tried fried chicken; the smell alone has always put me off. Presented in a cardboard box, those greasy wings/legs/thighs are clearly not the limbs of cared-for-free-range-birds but their incarcerated, impoverished relations – the malnourished battery hen.
Colonel Sanders was the pioneer of fast food and the curse I refer to is twofold. The first is a personal grievance I have about the sheer number of chicken bones that litter the streets of London. Outside my house, on the walk to the tube, and – to my horror not so long ago I spied one being worn away - at the top of a tube escalator; like an angle grinder on a piece of wood until all that remained of the limb was a small heap of calcified bone dust……
The second concern I have is the clear and simple fact that fried chicken and other fast foods are, more often than not, cooked in hydrogenated vegetable oil – otherwise known as trans fat; an ingredient that the World Health Organisation declared toxic in 2009. If you are into reading food labels, look for the words ‘shortening’, ‘hydrogenated oils’ or ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’ which all mean trans fats. Here in the UK, trans fat use is not regulated and does not have to be declared, so you can never be 100 per cent sure whether it is in the foods you eat or not.
Trans fats are formed by the process of hydrogenation. This changes the structure of the oil, making it last longer therefore increasing shelf life, instantly beneficial to mass food manufactures. However, the unfamiliar structure of the altered fat is unrecognisable by our bodies and so trans fats clog up our arteries, contribute to ‘bad’ cholesterol and have a nutritional value of zero. Several countries have banned the use of trans fats but the UK is yet to follow suit. It seems like a no-brainer: introduce a ban on the use of hydrogenated oil. Sadly it’s not that simple as the food industry profits appear to be higher up the agenda than the health of our nation. If you feel like you want to act – sign the petition here.
Act locally by avoiding fast-food outlets, cheap takeaways and fried chicken shops. As a rule – if it stinks, step away. If you are seeking a chicken fix, London has a number of delicious, independent restaurants that do a fine range of free range birds.
Try Brazas, a friendly family run restaurant in Brixton with new venture Prima Donna recently opening in Brixton Village:
45 Tulse Hill
Tel: 020 8678 0697
Opening in September, North London residents can enjoy Chicken Shop in Kentish Town. It’s the latest venture by the Soho House chain.
There is also The Tramshed offering a simple menu of chicken or steak:
32 Rivington Street
Tel: 020 7749 0478
Not to mention Nandos – a firm favourite and feature on most high streets.