Outside as often as possible. The first sunshine and I'm out there. We have lots of seats in our small garden: there is a warm sheltered spot in the sun for breakfast, a shady spot for lunch, another table that catches the evening sun for dinner, and a picnic rug for when there are children with us. Indoors I love a pretty table - a flower in a jar, a paper napkin in a bright colour, a candle (even in daylight - something I noticed they do in Sweden and have always done since). Having a nice table is like paying homage to the food you are about to eat, like a grace in a way, and takes very little effort. Favourite music at dinner.
(I don't believe human beings were designed to listen to the world's bad news while eating a meal - indigestion guaranteed if you do! A bit crazy when you really think about it.)
John Naish in 'Enough' suggests you only eat in small restaurants because you are more likely to be served by people who really care about the food they make and states 'in clangingly loud trendy restaurants decibel-battered diners respond by eating faster (thus eating more) and drinking more alcohol. Restaurateurs love this because it speeds their tables' turnaround time.'
In winter and especially at Christmas I love to do 'over the top' candles and flowers - if you are lingering long over a meal and conversation there should be more to look at.
Two food books i am very tempted to add to my collection are 'Snowflakes and Schnapps' and 'Long Nights and Log Fires' - if the recipes are as good as the titles and the images. Have started to use Amazon's wish list - great idea, and with a birthday coming up....
If you could only keep one of your cookbooks which would it be? Do tell!
the shady spot for lunch
My favourite bit in Michael Pollan's book In Defence of Food is 'the great grandma rule': don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
He asks you to imagine rolling down the supermarket aisles with your great grandmother:
'You're standing together in front of the dairy cabinet. She picks up a package of Go-Gurt Portable Yoghurt tubes - and has no idea what this could possibly be. Is it a food or a toothpaste and, how exactly, do you introduce it into your body?'
He describes many 'edible, food like substances' available in the supermarket. For example 'cakelike cylinders with creamlike fillings called Twinkies that never grow stale. 'Don't eat anything incapable of rotting is another personal policy you might consider adopting' he sagely advises.
One ought not to laugh perhaps, but I found this hilarious!
He sums up his advice thus: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
I shall keep this book, and follow his advice. Definately one to be swallowed.
Little note: his writing is good. How is this for a poetic phrase - food should be 'closer to the centre of a well lived life'.
Nice rhythm? Alliteration? Laura will like it.
'Some books are meant to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.'
This nicely food related metaphor seems appropriate. Miss Blair, my strict, kind, old fashioned English teacher, had us read the essays of Francis Bacon (16thC blogger!), and I remembered this quotation from 'On Studies' 1561 (I didn't remember the title or the date - had to look them up).
I tend to devour books, rather greedily. So by the end of the evening I have tasted both of my new books and have enjoyed the flavours. They both made me laugh in bits, which is great - I don't want to get way too serious about this 'simple' thing!
'Enough' by John Naish is subtitled 'Breaking Free from a World of Excess' and is described in the Guardian as 'A cheerfully likeable manifesto for lifestyle change'. Now this appeals to me: 'cheerfully likeable' are unusual words to use of a manifesto, and when talking about global warming, overconsumption and the end of the world as we know it - 'eco lite' perhaps? I just invented that. Gosh.
(Forgive me but the doom and gloom and pending apocalypse approach doesn't work for me, it only makes me depressed and hopeless, and what good are depressed and hopeless people to the planet?)
It is a thought provoking read, and the extreme and utterly ridiculous examples he uses would make you cry if they didn't make you laugh first
In the chapter Enough Food he describes All You Can Eat restaurants as 'face crammers' and points out that 20 years ago we spent an average of 33 minutes over our evening meal, but now that figure is 14 minutes and 27 seconds (my italics). Who measures these things, and how? Apparently the average time to eat a meal in McDonalds is 11 minutes.
Eat enough, dine only in small restaurants, keep good company, get more daylight and don't make your kitchen too attractive are some of his recommendations - each in a paragraph or two with some unusual and amusing justifications.
It is one of those 'studies show that.....' books, with references and notes should you want to know more.
It's a good word 'enough'. I shall use it more. And the book is worth tasting........
Hey, I can do this!
Two books have arrived. Second hand from Amazon, but they look unread.
But before I go onto them, I should say something about The Harcombe Diet book, since it has helped me lose 4lbs in 5 days of eating bigger meals than I usually do! It is subtitled Stop Counting the Calories and Start Losing Weight. (Subtitles are popular have you noticed? I think I might subtitle my blog 'Staying Sane in a Mad World'.)
Zoe Harcombe's advice is to eat real food, good quality food, and plenty of it. She asserts that the mantra 'eat less, do more' is the cause of our problems with weight. Her answer is 'eat better, do whatever you like'. Eating less she says, doesn't make you lose weight, it makes you lose energy. If you eat real, healthy foods and your body sees that it is going to get regular, nutritious meals 3 times a day it won't have to store fat.......seems to work for me. The one biggest rule is don't eat processed food.
I find her arguments convincing - so I am on to phase 2 - less strict than phase 1, but still for weight loss, until your body reaches its natural weight. The three rules of phase 2 are: don't eat processed food, don't eat fats and carbohydrates at the same meal, and don't eat the foods you have cravings for (sugar for me).
There are recipes in the book, and we liked them so much we also bought the separate recipe book. Among our favourites is Moroccan mince, Carribean chicken and seafood curry.
It all feels right to me. I know it makes sense, and I feel less driven by cravings and more like I am just enjoying food in a sane way. Simplicity in other words.
The two new books are - In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan (no not Palin, Pollan) and Enough by John Naish. I'll probably have read them by tonight so will report back tomorrow....
Another day another star! Great food, no cravings. Making a cake for book group. We are reading, and are going to watch the video of, Julie and Julia - (Julie cooks every recipe in a classic french cookbook in a year). So in the spirit of the book and to honour the posh cake stand I got for Christmas, I decided to make Tarte au Pommes Classique with pate brisee sucree! I've always fancied making this, and as I'll be sharing it with 7 or 8 other people, I won't eat too much of it.
I am good at baking but never do it, because I am also good at eating too much of it. However I decided to ask for this lovely cake stand for Christmas and bake really special cakes, but only on really special occasions - birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas - occasions where they will be shared. So I can have the pleasure of making them, but won't get fat on them! Simple. And if I am only making them occasionally I can afford to use the very best ingredients.
Of course with the new insight that it's actually simpler to just do it 'by the book' I have bought exactly the ingredients in the recipe. I have always thought it easier to say 'Oh, salted butter won't make any difference' when the recipe says unsalted, or 'granulated sugar will do' when it says castor sugar. Of course it does 'do'. It is perfectly possible that this is how some new recipes are invented. But I wonder where this attitude of compromise and make do comes from.
Often it was a matter of money - cheaper ingredients were affordable. Convenience? Out at work, studying and with two children at home I couldn't take time off to go to town searching for the 'right' cake tin. Laziness? Sometimes. Inventiveness? I'd like to think so, but suspect an element of not playing by the rules, someone else's rules, or of inverted snobbery - 'What difference can it really make to use wild mushrooms instead of regular ones?'
But my point is that just reading the recipe, going and getting the right ingredients and equipment and doing what I am told is actually stress free and simple. No nagging voice in my head, thinking up arguments and justifications! Just do it. Keep it simple sweetheart....
I have lost 3lbs! More importantly I have lost some of the muffin top above my waist (what a very apt term!). Very encouraged - quick results are such a motivator for me. Am also encouraged by the delicious smell of seafood curry coming from the kitchen. Would love a glass of wine with it, but.... then I wouldn't get my gold star would I?
A bit groggy this morning, but it's not the diet - I'm usually groggy in the mornings. Boiled egg for breakfast, meat and a really tasty large salad for lunch (crisp bacon and lemon flavoured oil made it delicious).
Found a magazine article called Purge Your Hard Drive so, needing to simplify my computer clutter I am planning to sort that out. As ever though, it's not as simple as it sounds - (I think this may be a recurring theme - that nothing is as simple as it sounds) - as it deletes a lot of things and I have to view them first and be sure of what I am deleting. But I am learning, learning.....
Another simple decision. I am wanting to buy lots of inexpensive books from Amazon, but rather than go through the mental anguish of 'Should I buy it or could I get it at the library/do I really need it/should I check the charity shops first/maybe I could just do without this one.....' I shall set myself a modest budget for the next month and order the ones I want to look at further. Buying books is historically for me a 'treat' and of course one can't treat oneself to the things one wants all the time (this is a whole other story I can see). I love the 'look inside' feature on Amazon, and the reader reviews can be really helpful too.
I shall also ask around friends to see if any of them sell books online - that could help fund the next month's books. Is this simple? Yes.
I avoided going to something at the village hall because I didn't think I'd be able to resist all the gorgeous home baking! But there is a nice simplicity to deciding to stay home. Like when it snows, or you've got a temperature, no choice is sometimes good.
Woke full of optimism and determination. Had bacon and egg for breakfast. Can this be right? Yes, it is right. Tea without milk - I'm going to do it by the book this time. I put a smiley face on my chart! (there are smiley faces on this computer somewhere, but I can't be bothered looking for them right now).
If I can work out how not to pay postage of £2.75 on each book that costs 1p on Amazon I am going to order piles of books for my 'research'. I'm allowed! Hurrah!
I did think as I was doing my morning things - 'Is there a simpler way to do this?' and the most frequent answer to myself was 'Yes, just do it now'. So I did - I wrote the congratulations card while the breakfast cooked, found the address, stamped it, and posted it while I was out. That's the kind of little job that tends to sit around for days with me. And niggles me......there were others - I am amazed at how often my inner voice says 'Oh, I could just do that later' and then comes up with justifications about why later will be better - 'After all there's no hurry', 'No one is waiting for it', 'I don't have to push myself, do I', 'I can take it easy for an hour'. Actually I can take it easier in my head, if I just do it now.
SIMPLE. DONE. NO STRESS.
10.30pm and it looks like I have earned my gold star!
It is usually about now that I crave something sweet. As it is I am still pleasantly full from a good dinner - cod baked with olive oil and parsley and stir fried veg. Lunch was a big Chef's Salad. Didn't feel the need to snack.
Am off to stick the star on my chart which is hidden inside a cupboard - I am a bit embarassed at what it takes to get me to eat healthily! Better a carrot than a stick though - more fun.
Did some research into books which may be useful. Looked up 'simple food' and liked the sound of Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers and was tempted, especially as I saw it on a buy one cookbook get one half price offer. Then I asked 'What's simplest?' Well of course the simplest thing is to use the book I've got and love! Work it for all it's worth (but I'm not going to do a Julie and Julia on it).
There are many unused cookbooks on my shelves and little space. Buying two because one is half price isn't really such a good idea when I think about it, when I don't actually want two.
I am always on about loving simplicity, and having just come across the phrase 'stunt genre' in the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, it occurred to me I could do my own 'stunt' with SIMPLICITY.
I shall start with simple food. Or eating simply. Or simply eat.
A few months ago I came across the Zoe Harcombe diet. I thought it made a lot of sense, tried it, it worked - I lost weight, felt good, looked better, didn't find it difficult, didn't feel hungry or (big problem for me) crave sugar. This is it, I thought.
I have found the book. Eating will now be simple. Bought the recipe book. Barry agreed the recipes were delicious, and was happy to cook them. So what is the problem?
I indulged a little, then a lot.
Today I have decided to go for it again. it suddenly seemed simpler just to do it than to go on beating myself up about it! And listening to that nagging voice in my head!
So tomorrow 24 March I start on the 5 day Phase One.
When I waken I shall reread that bit of the book and make a shopping list. (I have bought a little packet of gold stars, and smiley faces and will make a chart for myself. I feel really silly doing this, but it also makes me giggle.) I actually remember the feeling of getting a star on my page in primary school, aged five. I can't in my mind's eye see the teacher, but I can see the hand, at about my eye level, reaching for the stars and I held my breathe while the hand selected coloured (nice), silver (pleased) or GOLD! I was SO thrilled! What an easy pupil I must have been to try with all my little heart for a star on my page....