We all talk a good game about how to eat, what to eat, and the importance of preparing our own food from quality ingredients. The truth is that everyone faces the same dilemmas from time to time. Whether it's travel, working late, business lunches, social outings, or simply not being interested in cooking, there are many reasons that eating that home cooked meal may not always be possible.
I've decided to pose a series of questions to our members on a weekly basis on what gets them through these situations. You might be surprised at some of the answers and others might be exactly what you expected — either way, I'm hopeful that this will help you navigate your way through the myriad of awkward, inconvenient, or simply lazy situations you find yourself in.
Dr. Ayan Panja from St. Albans, United Kingdom
CA: Do you put much thought into where you eat out? Or do you simply go anywhere and try to make do with what's on the menu?
AP: A bit of both. We have favourite haunts in our home town. If I am booking somewhere for a meal I will definitely have looked at the menu. Most places will have something I can eat, but there are some places I would never eat at any more (mainly fast food outlets). On the flip side there are healthy food outlet chains (such as Pret, Planet Organic and Leon) which become welcome default places to eat if they are within a stone's throw and I am on the move.
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal in St. Albans?
AP: That's a hard one. I enjoy eating out and live in a small city so am always looking for a new gastronomic experience when places open. Lussmanns always do great locally sourced food and I have had many amazing meals there. Sometimes less is more in terms of food, so I will often order something simple like pan fried cod cheeks followed by an organic lamb salad. Restaurant meals are not just about the food. It's also about the company, the ambience and the service. I think we eat too quickly in the modern world and it is nice to eat unhurriedly with family and friends when out
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal outside of St. Albans?
AP: The Ledbury in Notting Hill, London. I have never had heritage tomatoes that good. The love and attention to detail that goes into the preparation was staggering and we have only ever been with very close friends. What was so special? Everything. Smoked walnuts buried under ground in wood for 3 weeks and brought to the table so we could smell the aroma, a crab starter to die for and roast pork treatment which was tender with perfectly cooked vegetables. The dessert we had on one occasion included baby strawberries which had been picked and brought over from France the day before.
A small sample of the Ledbury Menu — Photo Credit: @miukiktty
CA: For people with special diets, how do you suggest they talk with restaurant staff in order to get what they need?
AP: Make it very clear from outset if you have a food allergy. Restaurants in the UK should be aware of EU legislation passed in 2014 to make it mandatory to inform customers of a list of 14 potential food allergens. If you are not convinced about the restaurant's rigour, do not take the risk and eat elsewhere, especially if you have a severe allergy (e.g. to peanuts). Special diets are special for a reason. Food allergies can be fatal.
CA: Do you prepare an emergency meal when you travel? If so, what do you include?
AP: Not so much a meal but I often take a cold home made smoothie with me. It contains coconut yoghurt, turmeric, cinnamon, spinach, ginger, blueberries, celery, flaxseeds and linseeds. It's filling enough to skip a meal and I genuinely love the taste. I have one daily and it's my default emergency 'meal'.
CA: Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
AP: If you're talking about a five minute job, then an omelette never lets me down when I'm in a rush. 4 Clarence Court eggs, extra virgin olive oil, Himalayan salt, cracked black pepper, organic mushrooms, parmesan, basil , chilli flakes - done.
CA: In terms of food, what is your guilty pleasure?
AP: Dark chocolate. Always.
Dr. Ayan Panja is a career generalist, he has been a doctor for 18 years having qualified from the Imperial College School of Medicine. He is a GP partner in a busy city centre NHS surgery and is interested in the prevention of illness and chronic disease. He also provides second opinions, is a clinical assurance adviser to NHS.uk and a presenter (as seen on BBC News and BBC World News). His passion is to improve people's understanding of health face to face or via media, covering anything from allergies to Zika virus.