Nothing wrong with jam today

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The Independent Online
Man cannot live by bread alone, but add a scraping of margarine and a dollop of strawberry jam and he will probably live quite happily.

Or at least such was the case with seven-year-old Craig Flatman who survived cheerfully for three years eating nothing but jam butties with no noticeably bad side-effects.

He had eaten thousands of them, but his parents decided that jam tomorrow, jam yesterday and always jam today was bad for their son and took him to Great Ormond Street Hospital. There he was accepted on a six-month programme where he was "cured" of his eating disorder.

Eating disorder? Since when has a passion for bread and jam been bad for you? In reality, as it turns out, Craig's eating habits showed a nutritional maturity far beyond his years.

Tom Sanders, Professor of Nutrition and dietetics at King's College, London, analysed Craig's diet and found that it was providing him with most of what he needs: energy from carbohydrates, proteins, fat-soluble vitamins and essential sugar. And Craig is not alone. A study done in two German orphanages after the Second World War found that those who had lived on bread and butter remained healthy.

But the reason why Craig's story fascinated us all was because we were secretly jealous. As we munched on our limp cabbage and virtuously chewed our way through tofu we desperately wanted to be Craig Flatman - a boy with the courage of his convictions who didn't want to eat anything but jam butties, so he didn't.

There may be no love sincerer than the love of food but surely we've all had enough of the way huge industries bully us into eating the latest fad and fashion. Coriander. Sun-dried tomatoes. Rocket. It's so difficult remembering which one's acceptable at dinner parties and which one's passe. We follow Delia slavishly, panic in late-night supermarkets and end up with a wide range of foods and indigestion.

Well, the fascination with endless pills and potions, exotic fruits and vegetables can now be thrown aside. For those of us who are secret Craig Flatmans, there is hope. All you actually need to eat if you want to remain healthy is a round of Marmite sandwiches and an orange washed down with a glass of milk. It may sound a touch monotonous to the stubborn gourmet but according to Professor Sanders, it will mean you have all the essential nutrients you need.

Bread provides you with the carbohydrate energy plus vitamin B complex and vitamin E. Margarine supplies the fat-soluble vitamins and particularly vitamins A and D. Marmite is an excellent source of B12 while the orange gives you vitamin C and the milk gives you calcium.

Think what an easy life we will have living on sandwiches. No more agonising over what to serve your mother-in-law. No more endless slaving over a hot stove to produce a souffle when the damn thing still won't rise. And best of all hardly any washing-up. As Marie Antoinette should have said: Let them eat butties.