Losing Weight: Who Knew Salmon Was Such A Traitor?

I was listening to a podcast with Clare Bowditch on Conversations this morning (about her book Your Own Kind Of Girl) and it made me question exactly why I’ve started another diet. Like her, I came to the conclusion a while ago that weight is unimportant (as long as it is within a healthy range and not affecting your health); that it’s what’s on the inside that counts; and that society needs to bloody well grow up and accept that most healthy women do not fit the skinny model stereotype promoted by magazines – hence the popularity of Celeste Barber.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash.com

In general, I manage to maintain my Reubenesque figure by compensating for my food and alcohol over-indulgences by working my butt off on walks and runs. However, the toll from Christmas this year has been grim and I’ve been sucked into a diet by the vanity of the old man who says he feels uncomfortable being overweight.

Imagine that?

Neither of us wants to get down to the sort of unrealistic weight that means that you start rocking in a corner when you think about a Magnum, but we’d like to lose the weight we’ve gained over the last two years – to avoid the slippery slope of unfair weight distribution that happens to so many people in middle age.

I blame our Christmas visitors for the last few kilos I’ve gained – skinny visitors who ate as much as us, exercised less, and still manage to remain thin. Also, any host knows how impossible it is to eat mindfully when you have guests in the house and you have to show off the enviable lifestyle of Australia (bushfires excluded). And in Sydney the food is as spectacular as the beaches. The day only starts after one of THE BEST BREAKFASTS in the world, followed by – as a result of our wonderfully diverse population – a veritable smorgasbord of international feasting to choose from over the rest of the day.

Worse, when you have guests (particularly at Christmas), any rules around drinking fly out the window. – so even though we weren’t officially on holiday, we were happy to use the rellies as an excuse for extra bevvies.

Hence, I find myself fitting a little too snugly into my size 14 clothes, and albeit that left to my own devices I would probably have continued to ignore the extra tire around my middle and hoped for the best once I get back into some sort of routine – When? – I am sadly married to a man obsessed with his weight.

So we’ve hooked up to an app called Easy diet diary which is basically a calorie counting tool that works like this: You put in your weight, height etc and tell it how much weight you want to lose and in how much time, and then it suggests a daily calorie intake to achieve your goal. Each day, you add in every morsel you eat, every drop of liquid you drink, and every kilometre you sweat – although I’m not counting calories burnt during exercise as that me permission to drink more.

It is unhealthily competitive and we are learning to be cunningly strategic – which is the only fun aspect of a diet – but it has given us something to talk about over the past few days i.e. like how f…ing hungry we are. And on a more serious note, we have started to think about what we put in my mouths, particularly when it comes to portion sizes. You can imagine my pain one morning when I had to put a large slice of watermelon back in the fridge because it meant I would have to forego a glass of wine that night.

And talking of wine, basically what feels like a mouthful of wine (100mls) equates to around 80cals, so on drinking days you really have to be careful about how many food calories you consume or switch to spirits which are generally kinder.

It’s amazing what you discover. I won’t bore you with the calorific content of every food faux-ami – i.e. foods we thought were healthy but turn out to be wickedly calorific – That’s right SALMON, I’m talking about you – but who knew that trail mix, coffee, and chocolate were so bloody fattening? Or that a shot of Cointreau is a whopping 91 calories?

Where the fun really comes in is seeing how much yoghurt or muesli you can squeeze into a quarter of a cup; or how many units of alcohol you can fit in without starving; and what you can eat with those precious six calories left at the end of the day – suffice it to say, I’m still trying to work out the value of a single M&M.

The experience has certainly been an education – one I won’t be repeating as soon as I get down to a svelte size 12 over the next week or so.

Mothers: Admit It, We Never Stop Worrying About Our Kids

Mothers, be careful with those little comments you drop into the conversation each time you see your adult kids (who have left home) and look like they haven’t eaten a square meal that month.

You know the type – How much fruit are you eating? ARE YOU EATING? You’re looking a bit pale, or How firm are your stools? The type that all of us mums just can’t help ourselves from asking.

Well, take my advice and shut the f..ck up, because those comments could come back to haunt you. Such is my fate since I foolishly peered into my son’s fridge and made an innocent comment about his beer diet.

‘Well, I was thinking…’ he replied the other night when he came around to ours for what looked like his first feed this month, (having obviously decided that this was the perfect window of opportunity for some long overdue Mum -manipulation), “that maybe you could deliver me a care package, once a week, for those difficult days leading up to pay day?’

‘What does a care package entail?’ I asked naively.

‘You know…a batch of Shepherd’s Pie, Bubble and Squeak – I’ll even eat your Lasagne if I have to. Something I can knock up easily myself…’ Ie. In his frying pan, which happens to be the only pan in his unit.

‘Perhaps you need to learn some money management,’ I replied wryly, fully aware of how he prioritises the half of his earnings that don’t go on rent.

‘Perhaps you need to remember that you were young once too,’ he reminded me with that twinkle in his eye that he knows makes me melt at the knees.

And he has got a point. I spent a considerable part of my twenties on the Marlboro and hot chip diet, and it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do in between my three jobs and nagging my husband (!). Of course I can sacrifice a few hours a week slaving away in the kitchen to make sure that my twenty-one year old little boy doesn’t waste away.

But just putting this out there – no one bought me care packages.

So, anyway, call me a “Sad-Fuck-Of-A-Helicopter-Parent, but three Shepherds Pies were dutifully delivered to the next suburb on Saturday afternoon, along with step-by-step instructions for how to heat them up. Of course, the old man refused to have any part of what he calls my “pathetic enabling”, although he did mention that if there were any leftovers, he’d have one instead of salmon on our next fish night.

‘Where are my care packages,’ NC grumbled in a text when she sniffed signs of sibling favouritism from the city.

And so, it appears that the old man was right about one thing and wrong about another. He was wrong when he told me that no one really likes my home cooking – as was the dead fox outside our bins all those years ago that I have been reminded about after every one of my cooking fails. But he has been right all of those millions of times when he has said that I will never stop worrying about our kids.

Whereas, he appears to be coping quite admirably.

Can I Suggest Eating Mindfully This Christmas Rather Than Dieting?

Let’s make a pact and enforce a community embargo against dieting this Christmas.

I won’t be dieting. In fact, I will be eating all of the pigs-in-blanket, swigging the whole jug of brandy custard, and scoffing every one of the purple Quality Street!

In Joanna Nell’s book, The Single Ladies Of Jacaranda Village, her doctor advises 80-something Peggy not to diet, but rather to ‘start eating mindfully.’ He elaborates: ‘I want you to think about every single thing you put into your mouth. I want you to taste it as you chew and listen to your body so you can work out when you’ve had enough.’

Easier said than done, I know – particularly at Christmas and when you’ve been raised by a war baby. And yet, the words of Peggy’s doctor really do make sense. He wants her to think more carefully about her relationship with food along with other adjustments to her lifestyle that will help her maintain her weight, rather than increase it.

No one should be miserable or deny themselves at Christmas, but it’s important to recognize when you’re full, make smart choices about what you eat, and exercise.

I’ve been trying to find that balance for a while. In calorie-speak, I have learned that when if I want a wine or two at night, I need to sacrifice bad carbs (such as potatoes or rice) with my dinner; I know that drinking water during the day fills me up and that chewing my food more slowly helps me feel more satisfied. I am also aware that the first mouthful of food is like the first sip of wine – it’s always the best!

I suppose that what I have been doing unconsciously for a while is eating more mindfully. The “eating healthily” part is easy for me – I love healthy food – although portion control, not so much. But I have also pushed myself to incorporate exercise into my routine each day. I don’t go on the scales anymore – why, when there are still women being murdered and Trump to depress me? – so instead, I gauge my weight by how my clothes fit.

Sadly, gauging your weight by how your clothes fit is becoming an increasingly difficult exercise due to the way that women’s sizing works.

The other day I tried on a bikini top in Bonds. I do not have a large bust, but because I have always carried some extra weight had a wide back (and didn’t want to spoil my day quite so early on), I attempted to be realistic and opted first for a size Large… moved swiftly onto the Extra-Large… and then, instead of beating myself up about it (and cutting up the Extra-Large into tiny pieces and shoving them down the front of the lovely sales assistant’s dress), I walked out of that shop with my head held high.

Generally, I wear a size 12-14 in tops, and yet I couldn’t squeeze my puppies into an Extra-Large. How can that make sense when the average size of women in Australia is a size 16?

So what do we do? How do we cater for the range of different shapes and sizes that women come in, without encouraging obesity? The only solution that I can see is education. 

I’m no scientist, but I’m always surprised by how little most people understand about the risks associated with processed food, portion control, sugar and the way our metabolism slows down with age. And that’s without taking into account the emotional eaters and drinkers among us or those of us in menopause.

I stopped self-flagellating over bad eating days a while ago. Like everyone, I have shit to deal with. Some days I feel on top of the world and others I want to never leave the house, and even though food is not my natural go-to substitute for happiness or self-medication – I’m wino! – I am guilty of major blow-outs like everyone else.

However, I’ve changed the way I handle them, which has nothing to do with the fact that I feel invisible anyway, or because these days I give zero fucks about pretty much most things, or even the emergence (finally) of some middle-aged wisdom. The alternative to getting depressed about something that is pretty irrelevant in my life right now – even if the magazines try to convince us otherwise – is to try to think calmly and positively for a solution to reverse the damage – such as half wine-half water, a few more salads, or some brisker walks. 

I’m already looking forward to those brisk walks this Christmas.

Have you got any other tips to share about eating mindfully? 

Cooking For A Family Of Dietary Heathens

Anyone who is responsible for cooking the evening meal knows what a mindfuck it is. It takes a lot of preparation – you have to remember to defrost, to check you have all the ingredients and that there will be enough food to go around, and if you have kids like mine, one of the fuckers will tell you at the last minute that they are going out.

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Worse, if you’re a pushover like me you end up cooking an assortment of customized variations of the same meal to keep everyone happy. Add to that the issue of staying abreast of current dietary recommendations – which seem to change as quickly as Facebook privacy regulations – and it can make the responsibility an exhausting process.

I like to think I cook healthily and creatively but there are some food trends that not even I can contemplate. Take the green smoothie. As Generation Xer, hence brought up on bacon and eggs for breakfast, I am afraid that green sludge is that step too far for me. I maintain the cynicism of my toddler years when it comes to anything green, which is that it is not to be trusted.

Last weekend, I went on a girls weekend to celebrate my sister’s fortieth birthday, for which we hired a lovely apartment for two nights. As we planned to eat out in the evenings and self-cater for breakfast and lunch, our first stop on the weekend’s agenda was to the local supermarket for a communal shop for necessities.

In hindsight, four mums on a food shop had the potential to end the weekend prematurely. As each of us manages our own homes and have, understandably, our own ideas when it comes to food, our interpretation of what constitutes ‘healthy’ was surprisingly different. My sister and the other two mums are still in the young children zone of parenting and as such are used to checking the ingredients and small print on all packaging with a fine toothcomb, hence we spent half an hour in the green juice section. While each of them Googled which was the grossest healthiest juice, I waited patiently and prayed that the one with the odd kiwi or apple thrown in for good measure would be enough to  pass their rigorous checks. Eventually, as it was my sister’s birthday, we let her choose the pond green juice, which contained something called Spirulina and smelled of poo.

If you believe everything you read, Spirulina is a blue-green alga and a super-food with loads of inspiring for health benefits, particularly for more senior folks like me because it can help lower our cholesterol,  prevent cancer, increase weight loss and reduce blood pressure without even trying. Which means, I suppose, that if my health anxiety gets a say, I will end up eating something that tastes like shit for the rest of my life.

Because, when it comes to the taste of this superfood – look online, where there are more articles about how to make it taste good than articles about its value to our body’s microbiome – it really does taste of shit. I imagine that it might be edible in a Vindaloo or Jungle Curry, but the general recommendation is that the best way to take it is in powder form – I suggest, up your nose.

Anyway, the following morning, I put on a brave face as I peered into our communal fridge in spite of the hangover from hell, silently cursing whoever ate the last piece of cheese and secretly praying that KFC had dropped a food parcel or something vaguely unhealthy to quell nausea and an unsettled stomach from the foot long Kransky sausage with all the trimmings that we devoured like animals the evening before, when our dietary concerns were compromised by alcohol.

Surprisingly, Spirulina did not meet my need-for-immediate-comfort brief, nor had it quenched the thirsts of my housemates if the line of green around the sink was anything to go by.

Healthy eating is not as straightforward as it looks when you cohabit with other people and I know this because I live with a couple of die-hard, meat-and-two-veg men. I am continually having to compromise my idealism when it comes to nutrition, and although I had thought that I had changed the three-year-old mentality of the old man when it comes to food, the other day he asked me when I was going to cook something nice after I had presented him with a plate of fresh, pan-fried Barramundi and roasted sweet potatoes in a Balsamic glaze.

I realize that the fight about how much red meat we have in our diets, or indeed what we eat, is an embarrassing first world problem to have, yet I fear it is a battle I am losing at home. Although dieticians have proved again and again that red meat is the devil’s food, I know that my son and husband would die happily (and quickly) if I rotated spag bol, Chilli Con Carne, and Shepherd’s pie through the week, and as a natural carnivore, my own willpower disappears as soon as those red juices begin to call to me from the pan. It appears that I can only keep my cavewoman/canine impulses that see me drooling in the face of a rare steak in check, as long as I don’t have to cook it or watch someone eat it in front of me.

 

So, do I?

Give in, and continue to clog their arteries slowly for a quiet life?

Endure the looks of disappointment and criticism leveled at me that forced me to add secret ingredients of Spirulina and dog food to the Chilli last Thursday?

Or, tell them to fuck off?

There’s A Sandwich Shortage In Australia

Far be it for me to take the spotlight away from Barnaby Joyce’s affair, however, Australia has a far bigger problem than a defunct political role model.

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It has a sandwich shortage.

 

When you drive through the state of NSW – that bit around Sydney and up to the Gold Coast – you will notice that the country is nothing like the way it is depicted in movies such as Mad Max ie. barren, soul-less, with kilometers of dirt, dust and cattle farms and serial killers that wait to hijack your combi the minute you step out of it for a pee. No, NSW is lush and green with beautiful beaches that must compete with some of the best in the world,

 

But long journeys are as boring AF, and what most of us tend to do when we’re bored is think about food.

 

In the UK, motorway cafes and petrol stations have remarketed themselves as fully stocked supermarkets that offer a variety of lunch options and snacks – they even sell wine. Whole aisles are dedicated to the sandwich, from the traditional egg and cress or chicken and mayo – my personal favorites – to the more exotic gourmet flavors handed down by their immigrant population. Even quinoa must have infiltrated the sandwich market at some level by now.

 

I bet that even Dean Moriarty, Jack Kerouac’s character in On The Road, found somewhere that made a decent sandwich, but in regional Australian, similar quests always seem to end in a hot pie with sauce (or “poie” as we pronounce it here) or a Maccas heart-attack fest. Mention a sandwich and the eyes of the locals glaze over – as though you just landed in one of North Korea’s practice missiles – which is kind of depressing when you think about the progress that has been made in diet and nutrition.

 

Far be it for me to knock the staple comfort food of my adopted country – I imagine that the steak pie has far more goodness in it than a super-sized Big Mac meal with a side of a chicken and cheeseburger and an Oreo sundae, which is Kurt’s lunch of choice after years of enforced healthy eating, but even with the dietary tweaks one makes on holiday, it is difficult to find anything healthy and tasty on the road.

 

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Admit it, you thought I was joking.

 

Sure, there are plenty of lollies, the sugar-fix of choice (if you can agree on whether to go sweet or sour) with six hours of barren landscape ahead of you, fights over playlists, bitching about the speed limit and which toilets to stop at. And there are plenty of (frankly) weird places to stop at in this vast country – Big Bananas, and cafes shaped like rocks where you sense that no one has ever heard of Netflix, (let alone dedicated their life to the sport of watching it), waxing or customer service, and where coffee is served via machines that all function slightly differently making you wish that IT was on the curriculum when you were at school – which all take on a heightened significance when you need to lift the tedium and pretense that there is any conversation left after twenty-five years of marriage.

 

We settled for a burger in the end. I couldn’t repeat the experience of last year when (finally) we found a café that was open and had a friendly staffer who had actually heard of the word “sandwich”, hadn’t run out of bread or only took cash. And it was only when I said the word “mayo” three times without a single glimmer of recognition of the abbreviated condiment, that all hope crumbled. When they (obviously) fertilized the egg, reared the bird and cooked it as we waited, my anxiety went into “abort mission” mode and the sandwich ended up in a bin down the street.

 

So we ended up at Maccas, again, and shared a portion of chips, one of those boring concessions to the aging process, where you allow yourself to stand on the edge of the pool of holiday-brazen-ness, but you only go in up to your waist. It’s a bitch getting old and realizing that you can’t ingest or imbibe whatever the fuck you want and that mental point system of calories in your head booms at you through a megaphone with “what the fuck are you thinking, you fat bitch?” every time you contemplate anything naughty but nice.

 

A full portion of chips is three glasses of wine to the muffin-top-challenged, so it’s a no-brainer, really.

Eating And Drinking Healthily In Middle Age To Maintain Your Body Weight

I’ve written a lot of posts about this topic in the past because let’s face it, girls, on a scale of stuff that still turns us on in middle age, (where sex with our husbands/partners is at one), food has to be at least a ten. The struggle is real. And to my horror, I recently discovered that there is sugar in fruit and wine – which is a bit rude, frankly – and a fact that has made rather a mockery of just about everything I have aspired to achieve over the past few years in my war on the muffin top.

 

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Sugar in fruit? Like, WTF!

 

The good news (this week) is that two glasses of red wine before bedtime is now good for us, according to the fat-busting scientists, which must mean that for those that are partial to a few more than two (due to mental health issues, say), that makes them virtually Roger Federer.

 

I gave up on traditional diets a long time ago, mainly because they don’t work, I can’t stick to them and they make me very dull and bad-tempered with a hunger only seen in Labradors and an irrational fixation on the breadbasket.

 

Fortunately, I am a moderation kind of girl, (Kettle Chips and cheese excluded – OBVS) and although I don’t deny myself any food groups really – except octopus because WTF and legs – I like to think that I choose wisely and healthily. I also try to balance my out my diet using a cutting-edge, self-developed point system that I stole from Weightwatchers designed for myself, that seems to work for me… sometimes – as in I don’t get the kind of hunger where all I can think about is eating other people’s leftovers in cafes and I can maintain focus on a sensible health target at this stage of my life – to maintain my drinking goals and weight at the same time.

 

Here are some of my tips:

 

If I have yogurt for brekkie, I won’t touch dairy for the rest of the day until my Snickers smoothie at bedtime.

 

If I blow out seriously on carbs, I limit myself to less than a bottle of wine that evening.

 

If I’ve starved myself with a steak and blue cheese salad for lunch, denied myself my morning tea toast and my afternoon snack of crackers and hummus, I allow myself an all-you-can-eat/all-you-can-drink week.

 

I only eat carbs when I’m hormonal, pre-menstrual, peri-menopausal, feeling fat, feeling unloved, feeling hungry, the kids hate me, or with wine.

 

You see – all pretty straightforward really. But let’s be honest, we all have those really shitty years when there’s been nothing on telly but sport for months, you’re fifty-two and still getting acne or your local restaurants decide to allow babies, and it’s hard to be virtuous all the time. Those days when all you want to do is crawl into bed with Pods on toast and an Amaretto on ice. And on those occasions – because remember, I said it’s about balance – I increase my exercise by searching out the furthest pub on Google maps and walking there AND BACK.

How To Show Restraint At The Inclusive Hotel Buffet Breakfast

fried-1789962_1920I’d never noticed before that skinny women only eat fruit at the hotel buffet breakfast, but since NC kindly (?) gave me my FitBit for Mothers Day, I’ve become much more conscious of the number of calories going into my body versus calories being burned.

 

Due to medical reasons pertaining to my mental health, I have to allocate a large percentage of my daily intake of calories to wine each day, so I need to watch carefully how much and what type of food I put into my mouth – especially with the added complications of middle-aged hormone fuckery. And possessing that level of control is not always easy on holiday where the ‘fuck it’ attitude kicks in the minute you step off the plane and all traces of accountability disappear.

 

The old man and I haven’t stayed in a hotel with inclusive breakfast for years (because…children), so this holiday has provided me with the biggest test on the food frontline since my last working lunch, when our boss used to provide enormous catered trays of sandwiches and cakes and I had to physically pinch the skin on my thighs to stop eating.

 

Since the early days of our marriage, the old man and I have maintained the same strategy when it comes to the hotel buffet breakfast – which is to eat as much as we can so we don’t have to pay for lunch. In hindsight, a strategy that rarely actually works.

 

It took me the first three days of this holiday to work out my buffet breakfast plan for the rest of the week, after a few false starts where all my self-coaching on the plane fell apart as soon as I approached the breakfast area and my natural mindset of Labrador set in. Most women will recognize that it is almost impossible to resist a line of FREE food that you haven’t had to either plan, cook or shop for – particularly one which offers a smorgasbord of food you normally deny yourself, the morning after that first night of holiday drinking – another of those traps you swear you won’t fall into until Happy Hour swings around at 4pm and the lure of half-price cocktails proves impossible to ignore.

 

I’m being hard on myself. I did show some self-control in my choice of fruit as my starter, (rather than the huge bowl of Coco Pops I would normally berate Kurt for), before I headed for the full, cholesterol breakfast, finished off by toast, no Nutella, and washed down with three cups of Earl Grey.

 

Only four mini chocolate croissants made their way back to our room.

 

I’m not sure why we live this lie each hotel holiday that the buffet breakfast will suffice until dinner, because inevitably the ‘FEED ME!’ belly grumbles always kick in around 1pm as those first wafts of lunch make their way around the pool.

 

But today I demonstrated REAL restraint. I accepted that after three hours of hard work lying on a sunbed, I have a right to feel a little peckish around lunchtime, and I refuse to beat myself up about it. I am aware that lifestyle changes – particularly in regard to diets – need to be permanent, rather than half-hearted efforts here and there. And so I became a responsible eater this morning – mature enough to look beyond the sausages and potato croquettes, to think about the bigger picture of my health and weight beyond this week of testing temptation. And frankly, the bacon and eggs were enough.

 

 

Food Goals When You Work From Home

One of the main benefits to working from home, aside from the greater job security than that currently offered by the FBI, is the 24hr on-site cafeteria. 

I have instigated Google’s food policy in our house. They don’t allow their employees to be further than 200 feet from food at any time – a strategy that ‘inspires innovative thinking’ they believe, as well as a greater appreciation for food, in my experience. Particularly now, as we enter winter, and I’m cold and beginning to miss the luxuries of the modern office, (and in particular, ducted heating), and have turned to food for comfort.

Without the usual office time-wasting distractions of forming scrums around the coffee machine, bitching in the toilets, sending funny emails about the boss, kicking the photocopier and social media, food has become much more significant in my new working environment – perhaps too significant.

And the best part is there is no judgment.

There’s none of that pressure to take in the grossest, sludgiest green smoothies for breakfast; no need to hide my Nachos under my sprout salad sprinkled with caterpillar semen for lunch, which I then used to top up with Maccas when I was ‘doing the mail’. No, you see I can eat what the fuck I want to in my own home, and if suits my very busy schedule to eat ten smaller (hmmm!) meals per day, I have earned that right.

Even so, I have begun to see the potential pitfalls in this new partnership. The fifteen-pound weight gain (on average) of Google employees over their first year of employment, has been termed the Google 15, hence I haven’t got close to the scales in months. But I ask you, with no-one to have hour-long chitchats in the toilets to discuss current events, (the size of Jon Hamm’s penis, for example), how exactly is a girl supposed to fill the gaps in her concentration?

It has been said that the lack of physical contact with the outside world can be a disadvantage to those who work from home – research that I suspect was reported by someone who has either never worked from home or who actually likes people  – and I now see how that sense of isolation could lead to an eating disorder for the lonely writer. Chocolate chip cookies have been my support through several, highly stressful hours to deadline.

I’m lucky that I have been able to learn from the best when it comes to my WFGs (work food goals), my progress in which he will assess in my annual review. Because there has to be some biological reason that my husband, who also works from home, has to run 7ks a day to maintain his current weight.

He works at the other end of our house – the end with heating, (an issue that is escalating and as such has been added to the next team meeting agenda). His office, which doubles as a nap-pod and reading room – in fact, any room name he can invent to avoid me – is even closer to the evil magnetism of the kitchen and I hear him and his furtive rustlings in the pantry; the tell-tale timeout beeps from the fridge door.

The waft of melting butter on crumpets is all it takes to pull me out of my steely focus on work and straight into the cookie jar, a consistency which is certain to score me a 5 at my review, I hope.

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When Your Kids Selfishly Decide To Become Vegetarian

For the third time in her short life, NC has decided to give up meat and become a pescatarian.

 

tuna-576938_1280She is an environmental vegetarian which is apparently the practice of vegetarianism or veganism based on the indications that animal production, particularly by intensive farming, is environmentally unsustainable. Industrialised agriculture contributes on a “massive scale” to global warming, air pollution, land degradation, energy use, deforestation, and biodiversity declines. It is estimated that the livestock sector (including poultry) contributes to about 18 percent of global GHG emissions expressed as 100-year CO2 equivalents. According to Wikipedia.

 

As an aspiring climate scientist, who Mr Trump and Mr Turnball should be highly fearful of, NC feels it’s time to make a personal stand.

 

Which, while all well and good, (and myself and the old man count ourselves as supportive parents), it was predictably hard to prevent the eye roll  when she informed us about it and the telepathic question might have passed between us as to who would buy the bacon this time – a surefire way to persuade our daughter to stop being so selfish making mealtimes hell on earth to plan for.

 

Unfortunately, she seems more rigid about her principles this time.

 

I respect and value everyone’s choices in this world as long as it doesn’t affect me too much. I’m happy to go to vegetarian restaurants with my veggo friends – perhaps made easier because I’m quite partial to veggies in general as well as having certain somewhat embarrassing issues with red meat (see this post) – but I refuse to pay an arm and a leg for a piece of wild salmon or get the old man to fish for fresh tuna for our “picky pesky”.

 

Because although she eats fish, she will only eat certain types of fish now, and tuna, the lazy/cheapskate cook’s answer to getting fish down your kids’ necks, is off the menu completely.

 

Such limitations have had ramifications for the House Bitch who can be somewhat of a prima donna and is freaking the fuck out because he plans the meals, does the food shopping and occasionally pretends to cook. And for a man who finds Spaghetti Bolognese a stretch of his culinary skills, food without meat is a real conundrum.

 

In fairness to NC, she has offered to cook more often now and has produced several interesting vegetarian meals over the past weeks, which included a spaghetti dish where the only other ingredient was wilted spinach. As you can imagine, the boys raved about it, rubbing their tummies with glee and satiation until the minute NC turned her back and they ran to the fridge in search of protein.

 

She seems to be fairing quite well on what is effectively a cheese and egg diet and I’ve only seen any sign of her principles cracking once, when we came together for our traditional kebab night on Thursday. The smell and sight of those juicy beef slices dripping from the edges of our pitta bread, while falafel crumbled pathetically from her own, produced a look on her face akin to that of most of the world when Trump won the presidency. Disappointment at how much political choice can truly suck.

Teens Eating Salad, Working Ovens and Medals for Outstanding Parenting Achievement

There’s major cause for celebration in the new house this week, firstly because the oven is still working after Kurt cremated a pizza in it at 4am on Sunday morning, forgot about it, went to bed and if not for the old man’s remarkable sense of smell, (or weak bladder), none of us might be here to tell the tale.

 

Added to which, for the first time EVER, my kids both asked for salad for dinner last night.

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If anyone had asked me about my ambitions as a young mother, I’m ashamed to admit that I might have sobbed, ‘that my kids would eat something healthy.’

 

Rest assured, I’m not making such a big deal about this leap into the realms of successful parenting because I truly believe that my my kids are any fussier about food than other kids, and they do have a vague excuse for their lack of culinary adventure after all, because salad wasn’t exactly a core food in the UK where they spent their formative years, and where comfort foods such as carbs and even mushy peas take on a much greater appeal in front of a burning fire.

 

‘Salad’ compliments the warmer climes such as the climate we have here in Sydney, when in theory one’s appetite is less rabid and one should feel the need to hydrate far more often – both of which habits my body refuses to adapt to. Healthy, lighter foods such as watermelon and Pimms are much more enticing here under the heat of the sun, and although my two still wince at the sight of a tomato and retch at the odour of an olive, between them they now consume most variations of salad.

 

And that means I can tick one achievement off my ‘parenting’ checklist, even if it has taken me twenty-two years to reach this pinnacle of success.

 

I can see myself now at work tomorrow when I’m making small talk with my clients and I subtly drop into the conversation with appropriately smug voice, ‘by the way, my kids eat salad.’ 

 

So this is for all you young mums out there, suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from years of angrily pureeing veggies with your hand blender, then concealing them in mashed potato, before spitting into the concoction for good measure. For those of you who have torn your hair out because your kids gagged on their lettuce and regurgitated their radishes, let me restore your faith, because they will change as they grow up… in some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse.

 

Which is why today I will embrace this small moment of success. We have an oven that still works and the kids like Rocket, one of the five fruit and veg I am told they need daily to develop into proper people. As it turns out, the Coriander Kurt accidentally added to his salad because he thought its leaves looked interesting and because he also believed it would be as tasteless as the other lettuce, meant he didn’t follow through on the salad after all, but I refuse to feel defeated.

 

One step closer…

Vintage Cooking: Could Devilled Eggs Really Be Making A Come Back?

Friends came around to dinner this weekend. Since we moved to the apartment we entertain less and to be honest I was feeling out of practice when it comes to cooking for the masses from our matchbox of kitchen. IMG_2840

 

When I researched what to cook on the Internet – keywords being “easy” and “quick” – I noticed a distinct return to the sort of food we used to dish up in the eighties, and it made me feel strangely melancholic because it was towards the end of that decade that I first began hosting dinner parties; around the time I first considered myself a grown up, I suppose. Needless to say, I’ve regressed since then. In those days we didn’t worry about carbs and calories and felt no shame about chucking a vat of Lasagna, Coq au Vin or Moussaka on the middle of the table.

 

I got away with a posh Mac and Cheese once, although I did gentrify it with some bacon, leeks and a sprinkling of paprika.

 

Reinventing Coq au Vin this weekend crossed my mind, but the old man poo-pooed it, so instead I opted for a new recipe, some slow-cooked lamb shanks, which turned out to be another cooking disaster to add to my extensive list. After three hours of cooking we needed a hammer and chisel to get the meat off the bone.

 

Fortunately they were good friends and The Princess has been in bone-heaven ever since and completely forgotten about when I forgot her sixth birthday.

 

One of the recipes I spotted on the Internet that appears to be making a comeback is “Devilled Eggs”, which made me realize just how far we’ve come with food over the past thirty years.

 

IMG_2842There are obviously a lot of eighties recipes that seriously prompt the bile to rush straight to the back of my throat – “Stuffed Marrow Rings”, anyone? – but I still can’t part with this Hamlyn cookbook from that period. I dip into it for old family favourites like Refrigerator Cake – which the kids always insist on for their birthdays – and bread and butter pudding. Most of the recipes are far more conducive to the cooler UK climate rather than the one we live in now – even though we persist with turkey and gravy on Christmas Day, because I believe in maintaining your culture even if it does mean filling your belly with hot, crispy roast potatoes in a sweltering thirty-five degree heat.

 

I’m no food snob – if anything I’m more against the newfound need for small portions and perfectionism in the kitchen that we’re continually indoctrinated with, and I remain a staunch fan of the simplicity of the egg – particularly now that scientists have undone the Fatwa for eating them, which means that after my twenty-year purge I’m able to make up for lost time on scramblies and omlettes – but as with stuffed tomatoes and stuffed peppers, stuffed eggs do reek slightly of grandma’s bedroom.

 

Perhaps current food trends like ‘deconstruction’, smashed food, foams and smears etc will go out of fashion in the same way stuffed tomatoes and eggs did and then we’ll start heralding back to the recipes of bygone years and make it a trend to go vintage. To be fair, there’s a soft place in my heart for the stuffed tomato, because it was the first recipe with more than two ingredients that I learned to cook in my home economics class in school.

 

These days, I pimp my Bread and Butter Pudding with raspberries and white chocolate to bring it up to millennium standards, although in truth it’s because the kids gag on sultanas. I shall be cooking Shepherds Pie at my next dinner party.

Why I’ll Never Be A Good Cook

e2e2de800ad56d879c5de0e59c3b423aI always won the ‘progress’ prize at school – never the ‘outrageously gifted’ or abundance of academic and sports prizes that the beautiful head girl with the double-barrelled name won – the girl that all of us boarders had a secret crush on, because she was not only gifted, but surprisingly nice.

 

No, mine was always the prize for trying hard.

 

And deep down it was galling, not because I needed to win first prize to buff up my self-esteem because I’ve always been quite easy on myself, found it easy to convince myself that trying my best is what’s important, but deep down I knew that my dad’s chest would have inflated with pride to know that he had a ‘winner’ for a daughter.

 

It might also have given him with some justification for the fees.

 

I’ve grown up a bit since then and realised that you can’t be great at something just by wishing for it, or trying hard; that talent and ability actually count for quite a bit in the real world.

 

And that is the sad realisation I’ve been forced to come to recently with cooking.

 

You see, I’ve got this shelf of lovely, glossy recipe books that tempt me on a daily basis to do a ‘Gwyneth’ and knock up something perfect that everyone will hate me for; that trick me into believing that I can make something wonderful if I go all Disney and simply believe…

 

In fact, so keen am I to impress the family with my culinary skills, I’ve even managed to adapt to the Borrower-size limitations of the tiniest kitchen that isn’t part of a caravan – yet still nothing goes right.

 

Because you wouldn’t believe the things that can go wrong in my kitchen.

 

I mean, how hard can it be to follow a recipe? I hear myself shout at Masterchef almost every evening. It’s not like I’m trying to make Anna’s Mess or a Croquembouche with all seventy-four fucking instructions and a limited amount of time to knock them up in. I stick to simple, Nigella/Jamie home-style, throw-it-all-together cooking. Yet even that evades me.

 

I’ve never shaken off the reputation I got ten years ago when I made some new, exciting dish, threw the leftovers in the bin, and found a dead fox by the side of it the following morning.

 

After much deliberation I’ve decided that here’s where it all goes horribly pear-shaped:

 

The essential ingredient that I always forget and have to go without or replace with something nothing like it. It’s one of the fundamental reasons for my cooking ‘fails’, and one I’ve found can alter the outcome of a recipe quite dramatically, especially because my first rule of cooking is that a recipe should never have more than six ingredients in the first place. I always have the wrong flour, the wrong sugar, or in the heat of the moment I used the ‘close as’ approach eg. when I substitute a lime for a lemon, syrup for honey…

 

I never have the right equipment. Take the banana and peanut butter muffins I made last week, when I couldn’t be arsed to mash up the banana, then realised that I probably should and used a soup blender to crush them, filing down the inside of the plastic mixing bowl at the same time, so Kurt ended up with a shard of plastic in his mouth.

 

I always think I can improvise. I added potato to a curry last night, which was some kind of mutant potato that had the die-hard properties of a cockroach and refused to soften even after a desperate blasting in the microwave.

 

Timing – I’m a bit of a ‘wing it’ person, forget to put on the timer and still convince myself that five minutes here or there won’t make a difference. It does.

 

Instructions – Who knew that every instruction was important? I miss out certain instructions in the recipe’s method when I think they’re unnecessary, not time-efficient or I’ve already lost interest.

 

I’m a bit sketchy on my cooking techniques and believe that ‘stirring’ is fundamentally ‘stirring’.

 

I get distracted, because I pride myself on being a great multi-tasker – which I am – in any other location than the kitchen and in any other situation than cooking.

 

 

And Now For Some Food Porn From London

IMG_2121The old man lost weight while we were away – which is obviously grounds for divorce – and as far as I can see there can be no biological culprit of this inequality, other than my old friend menopause.

Because we ate mostly the same quantity of food while we were away – if you don’t count that afternoon tea I scoffed with my tiniest girlfriend who managed to put away almost three tiers of cakes as well as vats of bubbly and still looked enviably Hobbit-like the next day – BITCH!  He also drank a fuck-load of bitter and became particularly partial to the Magnums my dad had foolishly left in his freezer. He’s SO out of the will.

 

LIFE’S SO UNFAIR!

 

Since we’ve been home, the scales flinch every time I go near them, and I’ve decided that Sunday night is bad enough without that added level of pain. And if I’m honest with mysef, the extra kilos were probably worth the two weeks of gluttony enjoyed in a capital city not usually known for its gourmet food fare.

 

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Camden Market, innit?

 

So while the jet lag continues to mess with my thought processes, and in particular with an contemplation I have about writing anything meaningful, I thought I’d indulge you in some food porn from our trip, because the food was Poldark good, if you know what I’m saying…and I’m sure any Brits out there most certainly will.

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Meals that were stand out were not necessarily the most expensive – take the falafel kebab I demolished at Camden Market or the Tuna Salads from Pret A Manger that became our staple lunch in an effort to save money and calories, but it was the diversity of food we tried that made it so memorable. That’s the great thing about holidays – how all your usual disciplines float away in a sea of ‘don’t care’ petulance once you look at a menu.

IMG_2026There was the hangover food, which after classier nights was usually a croissant or two, posing in front of one of the trendy bread shop/cafes, dotted down the Kings Road.

And then there were the not so classy mornings when we had both lost the will to live and only animal fat would reach the spot, courtesy of a good old-fashioned ‘that’s what Statins are for’ English breakfast.IMG_2117

 

 

The dinner at the wedding of the year was pretty special and included this wonderful dessert which I had two of because (sadly!) my brother was so nervous about his speech, he couldn’t eat a thing. I might have also had his beef and lobster!

 

And talking of cakes, can you believe I freaking well MADE these macaroons at a cooking class with my sister? Although if you speak to her she will say that these perfectly round ones were in fact her batch because me and piping bags…well, let’s just say that we’re not the best of friends. But I won’t give too much away about that day because I have to dedicate an entire post at some point to our cooking class and how we finally managed to make our Chef smile…at us, rather than with us. IMG_2142

Seared tuna is my current foody passion and I managed to source ocean loads on this trip – this school came from a little French restaurant in Earls Court.

 

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But the repas extraordinaire has to go to the tapas we shared with my brother and his family at a little place in Chelsea called Tendido Cero. Of course I knew it would be a memorable experience as soon as I saw the art work …IMG_2180But even that much promise didn’t prepare me for the quality of the food. Even traditional favourites such as Patatas Pravas were pimped into these tempting bites of potato encrusted deliciousness with the mayo and tomato sauce inside.

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Patatas Bravas, if you please…

 

The Gambas Al Ajillo were frankly sex on a plate, as was the Tortilla Patata and I haven’t even got photos of the lamb because by that point the old man was giving me that ‘put your phone away’ look, which was the most succulent, young meat I’ve tasted since my twenties.

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Garlic Prawns!

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Tortilla Patata

 

 

Entitled Gen Y And ‘No Dinner For Me, Thanks!’

It’s such a relief to reach Friday night and know that it’s take-out tonight.

 

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We’re going through this stage with Kurt and NC at the moment, as they transition between wanting to live at home and us wanting them to fly the nest, where we’re never quite sure how many we’re cooking for. All we can hope, is that their decision not to partake of the family meal symbolises the next step in their journey to full independence, which will ultimately push them out of the free parenting vessel.

 

I’m not insinuating that our offspring are thoughtless, selfish or ENTITLED, it’s just that they’ve never had to think about anyone but themselves.

 

Some days the whole family appears at the dinner table – (Who am I kidding? Collect their meals from the kitchen to eat off trays in their rooms) – typically when there is fuck all in the fridge to get anyone’s digestive juices flowing, and only a Happy Potter spell could conjure up a Masterchef masterpiece – Other days it’s just the two of us.

 

On more days than we’d like, the kids decide to eat at home along with every starving, waif and stray student from Newtown, all desperate for a taste of home cooking, and we’re supposed to become the parenting version of Jesus and turn some tiny bowl of out-of-date leftovers into a feast.

 

Long gone are the days when the family used to squish side by side, dubiously content on the sofa, hot food burning our laps, to catch up on the latest episode of The Project together. The traditional event of eating as a family has long been replaced by this new system more fitting to our entitled progeny, that we call, ‘no dinner for me, thanks,’ or what I like to call, ‘taking the fucking piss’, that usually manifests itself about five minutes before we dish up.

 

It’s the old man I feel sorry for, because since he took on the very important role of primary cook – except for those scary days after his latest drama queen kitchen meltdown (he finds cooking stressful, apparently) when I have to step in and rescue the situation – he’s the one that gets fucked over.

 

Having said that, I have to micro-manage any new recipe so thoroughly, I may as well cook the damn thing myself.

 

With more cash in their pockets these days (because what’s the point in saving for a deposit for a unit, derr?), a mature taste for international cuisine and a fine selection of affordable take-out on offer in the hood, Gen Y now weigh up their options after a hard day grafting at further education, and it’s dependent on the appeal of the food on the menu at home.

 

Kurt would prefer to eat toast and Marmite any day rather than salmon (wild or not), and NC needs her daily five portions of vegetables to maintain her brain power, so the old man’s staple meal of meat and rice just doesn’t cut it, and is more often than not replaced by some lavish veggie stir fry from the local Thai.

 

Which is fine, when our bundles of joy are thoughtful enough to give us some notice. Not so fine when we roast a chook big enough to feed the suburb and it turns out that there are only two of us eating, plus one rather over-nourished dog who no longer complies with her ‘small breed’ categorisation.

 

Even more frustratingly painful for the old man, (and something that could lead to his fifth mid-life crisis in as many years), is that this system is not budget-conscious, something he has been working hard to perfect since he took over the role of house bitch.

 

And lest we dare forget the saying: Happy husband, happy shopping