Tag Archives: Food

Xmas day must-haves

For me, the 25th of December is simply not complete without certain things:

1. Champagne & orange juice – for breakfast of course

 

2. Snoek pate or trout terrine with melba toast – always reminds me of my gran

3. Quality Street – the green triangle is my favourite favourite

 

4. Lamb, lamb and more lamb – with lots of garlic

 

5. Mince pies – the English are weird, but I love these

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Crackers – oh look, a sewing kit!

Too much meat? The 3-2-2 Principle.

When I was a kid my parents took us to a relatively smart restaurant. Well, it was a change from the Spur. Snails in garlic was on the menu. I was fascinated. Snails? You can eat them? How awesome!

“I want snails!” I said. My mother admonished me, “No, you won’t like them.” She had a point – how many 9 year olds will eat broccoli, nevermind snails? After promising to finish them no matter what, I got my snails. I’ve subsequently had far better ones, but those first squishy little buggers made me realise the world offers a myriad of flavours and textures.

"Eat me"

I adore everything about food. I love selecting it, preparing it, cooking it, serving it. I will try anything. I want to taste everything. I am a particularly omnivorous omnivore. If I don’t like something, I try it again a few years later to see if my tastebuds have changed their mind (it happens).

When the husband and I first started out, it was a particularly hellish time for the economy and the price of chicken and red meat went up dramatically. My mother bought me a vegetarian recipe book for Christmas, Pick of the Bunch by Lynn Bedford Hall, and we used it every night for six months. We’d occasionally have meat when we went to visit the parental units, but most of the time we were semi-vegetarians.

I learnt to cook hearty and delicious veggie food. I discovered the versatility of chickpeas and lentils, aromatic combinations of spices, a wide variety of mushrooms, and how filling brinjals can be. Even when we could afford meat more regularly, we still made plenty of vegetarian meals.

Veggie heaven

But a few weeks ago I noticed I was cooking meat virtually every night, usually chicken or pork, sometimes mince. I’d fallen into the “dinner isn’t a meal without meat” mindset.

Of course, it’s easier to just roast some potatoes and chicken and slap a salad together. Tasty and healthy vegetarian meals don’t necessarily take longer, they just require more thought. But that thought is what makes us omnivores.

Someone figured out a prickly artichoke is actually edible (not to mention the snails) precisely because there was a shortage of other foods. We also neglect fish, preferring to get a tuna sushi fix rather than prepare a piece of readily available hake at home. Add this to the environmental destruction wrought by industrial production of meat, and the planet is not thanking us.

"Ooh, yummy"

It’s just not natural to eat meat every night. It’s become too convenient and ubiquitous, it’s made us lazy. So I’ve decided to institute what I call “The 3-2-2 Principle”. I divide up the 7 nights of the week like this – 3 nights vegetarian, 2 nights meat, 2 nights fish. Eating well should be simple and sensible, not a restrictive or excessive minefield. Having a rough guideline makes that easier.

Of course there will be those late nights where a Woolworths lasagne is the only option, but then I add some steamed broccoli to it. There are always ways to get the balance right, if we just use our omnivorous brains.

No food please, I’m a woman!

A friend recently told me that 90% of the women she knows have “food issues”. “Food issues.” It’s such an all-encompassing term. When someone says, “Oh, she has serious food issues,” it could mean:

  • She was / is anorexic.
  • She was / is bulimic.
  • She won’t eat anything with sugar in it.
  • She won’t eat anything with fat in it.
  • She knows the pharmaceutical names for appetite suppressants.
  • She measures her thighs and hips every week.
  • She moans about her body.
  • She says she’s not really that thin.
  • She says she’s happy to be fat.
  • She only orders salad.
  • She only orders cheeseburgers.
  • She knows how many calories are in 50g of cheddar.
  • She’s tried more diets than Liz Taylor.

I know plenty of beautifully proportioned women who never truly enjoy a slice of chocolate cake. They berate themselves and plan torturous gym sessions to atone for every calorific bite. It’s like those “waiting for marriage” girls who lose their virginity on a drunken one-night stand. Oh the guilt! The shame! Did I really put that in my mouth last night?

And that’s where the problem lies — food is pleasure and puritanical nations have taught people that pleasure is sinful.

“Ja, well, it’s easy for you.” Huh?

Michael Pollan’s book In Defense Of Food brilliantly explores how this has led to obsessively weird ideas about eating (fish oil-enriched bread anyone?) His advice: “Eat food. Not too much, mostly plants.” And by food he means real food, not meal replacement shakes or frozen diet “country-style” lasagne.

Obviously I am not too big or too thin. I’m healthy. But if I had a fat-free yoghurt for every time a woman commented on how lucky I was, I could stock the dairy aisle at Woolworths.

And I am lucky, not because I have some magical Usain Bolt metabolism, but because my mother taught me “everything in moderation”. She also said “go play with the traffic”, which obviously lead to a love of the outdoors.

You are not an air-conditioner or a washing machine.

It’s also a question of listening to your body. Many women regard themselves externally, like engine units that need an instruction manual to refuel. Do not attempt to repair, move or reinstall this body on your own. Consult the latest health fad or diet book for detailed meal plans. Warning: Do not eat carbohydrates after 7pm.

They never just sit still and think, “What do I actually feel like?” For all the talk about “women’s intuition”, we seem very technically minded when it comes to the instinctive act of eating.

Sometimes I feel like having a slab of Lindt chocolate. Sometimes I feel like going for a long walk. Sometimes I feel like having roast chicken. But I never feel like eating a protein bar.

Be kind. Unwind.

After overcoming so much to get where we are today, why are we still so hard on ourselves and our bodies? It’s tragic that women can lead nations and corporations, but they still can’t have pasta Alfredo for dinner (or they eat everyone else’s pasta Alfredo for dinner).

It’s time to throw away the user manual approach to eating. Be sensible, not gluttonous. Enjoy your food, eat a little butter instead of lots of margarine. Most importantly, be kind to yourself — you deserve the pleasure.

*This post originally appeared on Mail & Guardian Thought Leader.

Broccoli, sex & the office microwave

I recently came across these hilarious office kitchen notes. And it seems that the modern office has become more and more like a polite university residence. Some colleagues even spit in each other’s food (okay, a polite UFS residence then).

passive_aggressive_office_kitchen_notes_09

It’s not surprising really. You didn’t choose to be in a confined space with these people everyday. It’s like an involuntary group marriage, except people are having more sex.

“I love the way you do Powerpoint”

Now I’m all for forbidden nookie, but indulging in an office ‘romance’ is the height of hormonal stupidity. Even the term is a complete misnomer. What’s so romantic about having sex in a cubicle?

Oh sure, fluttering eyelashes over the watercooler and making excuses to be in meetings together is all well and fine. Until the IT guy sees you fondling each other in the boardroom. It’s so… tacky.

And then the inevitable break-up happens. Assets are split (“I get the red stapler!”), territory is divided (“You take the stairs!”), and your cubicle becomes an unpleasant reminder of happier times. As the saying goes, “Don’t shit where you eat.”

“Who ate my cheese?”

Even if you do manage to keep your hands off the interns, they might not keep their hands off your food.

Office fridge theft is the ultimate co-worker betrayal. Suspicion reigns. Elaborate revenge fantasies are formulated featuring cyanide and vanilla yoghurt. Outraged emails are dispatched with ominous warnings (“I know who you are and I’ll be watching you”).

Whatever happened to the humble sandwich?

Then there’s the person who cooks broccoli or tuna bake leftovers in the communal microwave. It wafts down the corridors until the entire office is gagging, except the offending party.

Another person’s food is like another person’s farts – the smell might seem fine to them but it doesn’t to anybody else.

Sustenance and procreation rules

Those basic human motivators, food and sex, take on new dimensions in the office. They elicit the most visceral of responses in us, twisted by the forced civility of our working environment. It all reeks (ha) of some bizarre 1950s social experiment. But I just want to know who’s cooking that damn broccoli.