I WAIT with trepidation as Pancake Tuesday approaches. It is still a tradition in our family to give up sweets for Lent; six weeks of agonising temptation and sacrifice, avoiding chocolate, sweets and cakes. I am ashamed to own up, I have never been successful yet. In all my years of trying, I have never lasted without chocolate for more than 10 days!

As with many cultures, periods of fast and abstinence were a part of our upbringing. We always ate ‘fish on Fridays,’ had to fast up to 12 hours before church on Sunday, and some days we were allowed only one meal. Friends from other backgrounds had other patterns to their diet.

To be honest, the days when we were fasting were not that much of a sacrifice. We looked forward to lots of favourite dishes: frittata made with potatoes, onions and herbs; pastone pie stuffed with sautéed greens; and pasta e patate, tomato, potato and pasta soup. On today’s menus these would be classed as vegetarian or vegan but actually, for us, they reflected the heritage of our Italian forebears.

I do admire people who follow restricted diets in order to address the overuse of our planet’s natural resources. I agree that we should take personal responsibility and reflect on what we consume. We should bear in mind that if we all choose to follow one extreme form of eating it is likely to put just as much strain on the environment than if we all follow different paths. Extremes of any kind are rarely the best solution.

Personally, I am a great believer in moderation in all things. A varied diet with less meat is probably for the best. I celebrate our local fish and enjoy dairy. I still cook the dishes of my youth but not necessarily on fast days! I am making a conscious effort to use more pulses and plenty of vegetables in my recipes.

After all, a little of what you fancy does you good. Even a sneaky bar of chocolate during Lent!