I had never actually considered the emotional attachment I have to food until recently. I have cooked all my married life, enjoying moments of serious entertaining as well as cooking for family and friends on a more casual basis. I also love eating out and have been fortunate in visiting some exceptional establishments during the last fifty years.
But during these pandemic days I have had time to assess how and why I eat and what triggers certain reactions, such as the need for a G&T or a piece of chocolate. I used to think it was just a habit and I am sure some things are just that but there are definite triggers that have me mindlessly heading towards the cupboard.
I don’t binge eat or drink but I do have an emotional need where food is concerned. I am naturally shy but have learned to control the urge to hide or disappear into the background but how, in heavens name, did I manage to teach 11 to 18 year olds for 35 years! Lockdown has forced me to look at myself which I have found uncomfortable at times. I discovered I have spent years hiding behind the cooking and the social drinking because I could.
I am a good cook and love experimenting but I would never have wanted to be a chef. I would have loved to have been a food critic sampling superb cuisine in fine establishments, in an ideal world of course. Dreaming aside the reality is that I enjoy company and also cooking for people who like eating.
The last sixteen months or so have been such a change in lifestyle that initially I just cooked, baked and ate what the LSO and myself fancied. He put hardly any weight on and I ballooned but he is generally more active that me. So unfair I cried but he just had another beer and smiled enigmatically.
But I am two stone plus lighter and a bit less buddha shaped but need to come off the plateau I have settled on for the past week and address the situation sensibly. Food has always been a refuge for me whether I am preparing it or eating it and I guess it will always be like that so I need to watch portion sizes and find something to do when the 4 pm urge to eat chocolate arrives. Today I am writing this blog as a diversionary tactic. Tomorrow? Well tomorrow is another day, walking the dogs with the LSO could be a good plan.
In fact a daily plan is what I need, I will start that tomorrow.
It does seem that everything is a little out of kilter at the moment even the weather is strange, we are either swelteringly hot or being deluged by rain. It does make me feel a sense of discomfort that I cannot pin down. Perhaps this is the same for everyone and just a result of having been trapped in our homes for so long. We still cannot do much and are being told to continue socially distancing and not to go out too often, avoiding any crowded places so any ideas we may have had to head up to the coast or visit a market town are firmly knocked on the head. Not just because of crowd avoidance but what do we do if nature calls and we need to stop. There is nowhere open, we can’t just nip into a pub or cafe, even shops are loath to open their facilities for the public and if they did would I want to use them?
I’m seriously thinking that the only way to venture out is to purchase a full Harwell protection suit and a portable loo!
I still find myself planning baking days as a diversion to relieve the boredom of being trapped which isn’t helping my weight loss one tiny bit and food is just so comforting as long as it is laden with carbs and fat. Somehow a poached fish or grilled meat, a salad and new potatoes without butter doesn’t have the same impact or satisfaction and certainly not on a regular basis. I guess that’s why the HFLC diet with moderate protein is so good, added fat certainly does have the knack of creating much richer dishes with depth of flavour.
In the meanwhile our neighbour’s delicious potatoes have just come to an end and I was quietly relieved thinking now is the time to seriously look at dieting when the LSO came into the kitchen carrying a bag of newly dug Maris Peer from our other farmer friend who had planted his later. Oh dear, weak-will prevailed and plans have been partially shelved until these are finished. Hopefully by then the first of the plums will be ready and I can divert myself with jam making.
That will certainly guarantee the return of the stifling hot weather.
It’s Father’s Day soon and I found myself thinking of my own father who died quite suddenly at the age of eighty when I was only thirty six leaving me with a lot of unanswered questions. That is now thirty eight years ago and I still miss him. Our own children were very young, our daughter was six years old and her brother only two and life was pretty hectic. He would have loved seeing all his grandchildren grow up and would have been so very proud of them.
My father was born right at the beginning of the Edwardian era into a very Victorian family and he was the youngest of three children, his two older sisters were twins Betty and Maggie. There was almost eighteen years between my mother and father and I never knew my paternal Grandfather who died before I was born and only met his sisters and my grandmother for a very short time when I was young.
My father was a Merchant Seaman and worked as a Chief Engineer with the British India Steam Navigation Company from about 1917 to 1945 when he decided to leave the Navy for civilian life. I don’t think, looking back, that he was ever really comfortable with life away from the sea. He loved everthing about it and had a passion for Indian cuisine and became a good cook, introducing me to curries as a very small child. This was quite surprising given his background, as a child he’d been thoroughly spoilt and doted on by his mother and his sisters and in the Navy he even had a batman on board who did absolutely everything for him. But he loved India, it’s food and it’s culture and although he did sail to other countries that was his favourite destination.
How I wish he was here, I have much I want to ask him but sadly he is long gone and my questions must go unanswered but he left me a great legacy. He really was a good man not perfect by any means but he had a strong set of values. He taught me that it is important to treat all people with respect, that everyone has something to give no matter who they are.
I can’t say I have always followed his advice but I have tried and mostly succeeded in keeping my own council rather than being unpleasant and I really do believe that people come into your life for a reason, some stay and some pass through as not all encounters are positive or necessarily good but they all give you experience.
I mean this in everything. Not that dreadfully boring expression of ‘everything in moderation’ that crops up frequently and is enough to send me looking for the gin bottle and pouring a hefty measure.
But I did discover this wonderful word ‘equilibrioception’ which when I looked it up said ‘a state of being balanced or in equilibrium’. It’s something that our politicians need to get to grips with and understand in order to do their jobs properly and with dignity (an oxymoron perhaps) which is definitely not happening at the moment. I can’t watch the news, listening to those dreadful, back-stabbing, self opinionated, pontificating people who at times become just thoroughly nasty and snide makes me angry. I’ve had enough of all that in my life from the AP. They all need to grow up and get on with what they should be doing and what they are paid to do and stop citing the public as their backing when in fact it’s a tiny fraction of the people who agree with their sanctimonious out-pourings.
But back to balance, the word even looks attractive especially when at the moment it is difficult to find balance in our present situation. I think most people are feeling a little demotivated and are just trying to make the best of their situation. But even in small things achieving equilibrium is possible and in truth a necessity to ensure that our seemingly endless lockdown doesn’t send us all mad.
In order to gain a better sense of balance, I am reducing the alcohol consumption,( no, I’m not falling over), I’m going to drink more water, not bake as much but think more of less carb laden meals. The latter isn’t hugely popular with the LSO or our farmer friend who loves his bi-weekly cake deliveries. I am also planning on sorting my studio out but at the moment it is just too humid and muggy and I’m not a huge fan of hot temperatures and have no desire to rush to the beach to battle sand in the sandwiches and hoardes of noisy families. I’ve never understood the lemming-like behaviour of driving to a crowded place, where you spend more time stuck in the car than at the destination then only to face the same returning home. But I guess everyone to their own: I just need to holiday somewhere chilly!
The LSO has started barbequeing again which is really good news for my diet and I am thinking of different salads to accompany these delights. Small downside though, another farmer friend sells his homegrown new potatoes from his gateway. This is a mere one hundred yards from us and they are delicious, gently steamed and served with a large knob of salted French butter.
Oh well, it’ll be a slow weight loss which according to our Doctor is the best way to do it and who ignores their Doctor’s advice?
A few days ago the LSO and I were sitting outside enjoying a glass of wine and the coolness of the evening air, gazing at the clouds and the shapes they formed in the sky. One particular cloud bore a resemblance to a large ethereal dragon and this made me think of a chimera, a mythical dragon-like creature with the tail ending in the head of a dragon or snake. The appearance of a chimera was considered an ill omen and a sign of natural disasters to come. Can this virus be a natural disaster? It’s certainly cutting a swathe through the world and sadly looks as if could be with us for the foreseeable future.
I cannot imagine what it will be like to socially distance all the time especially with our own family because hugs were always the order of the day and a natural part of our relationships with each other that both the LSO and I miss so much at the moment. But the more I read about this Coronavirus the more obvious it becomes that it will become part of our daily lives.
It has made me think much harder about losing weight because for the past eight weeks I have endeavoured to make our diet as interesting and as comforting as possible which has inevitably meant an increase in baking and an overload of carbs. The time spent preparing and cooking passes the time too which is another negative aspect of endless lockdown for people of our age, boredom. I have really struggled this week with the days, never quite sure when I wake up in the morning just what day it is. The only point of reference is the weekly shopping delivery on a Wednesday. I feel a bit like Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey who asked ‘What is a weekend’ and as for bank holidays, what on earth are they?
But I really do need to lose weight as I am beginning to feel and look like a Toby jug. So what is the answer apart from finding some will power because at the moment there is little to look forward to, just more of the same. It is always easier to diet if there is a goal, that is other than the loss of pounds at a weigh-in and at the moment life is pretty much lacking in that area.
One of the spin-offs from losing over five years of our lives looking after the AP was that we both lost interest in the activities and hobbies that had become part of our retirement. The LSO has done well to start his lino printing up again. I used to draw and paint, not particularly well but I enjoyed it and I am trying to get back to spending time sketching to begin with because my studio has become a storeroom and needs clearing out. Once some slightly cooler weather comes, next week, I must persuade the LSO to give me a hand. I will have to send him in as the advance guard because spiders have taken up residence in there and I have a real horror of these mostly harmless creatures.
So it is a case of watch this space, by the time I write again my studio should be up and running and perhaps the weight-loss will have begun.
Some things are just inevitable and no matter how much you hope something won’t happen it does and it will. The local practice has put out a letter of warning saying that we have been behind the the rest of the country up until now but finally the village has some cases of Covid-19 appearing in the community.
It was going to arrive but I think we all hoped in our hearts that we might have managed to avoid it. Certainly some of the younger members of the community have been ignoring social distancing probably because they think they are bomb-proof as well as some of the older locals. Inevitably the warm sunshine is difficult to ignore and many have chosen to sit out during the more balmy days on the banks of the river that runs through the village. Sadly it’s understandable but not sensible. It really will be a case of watch this space now.
The village is close knit and there are many extended families. Most of the local people tend to live and work close to where they were born and brought up which I guess is quite common in a farming community. The village community is pretty well divided evenly between locals and newcomers and generally it works. But the village people are sub-divided into the farmers and those who work in other industries many of which have a connection to farming. Very few of the young people move on or go into higher education preferring to just follow in the family footsteps.
This does make them a bit insular and they really do believe it will never happen to them but we now have patches of the virus springing up all over the area. The lovely sunny weather does make this lockdown more difficult to endure for a great many people who have been used to heading for the coast or out to restaurants and pubs at weekends and Bank Holidays. But we just have to hope that common sense rules.
In the meanwhile I am beginning to look like a cross between Worsel Gummidge and the Weebles. My hair is getting longer by the day and the cooking regime is definitely not Keto or low carb with my willpower firmly out the window but I have enjoyed resurrecting recipes I cooked when the children were small such as quiches, cheese scones and the good old Victoria sandwich cake. We even ate homemade scampi in a light, crisp tempura batter the other evening and it was delicious with a side of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and baked in the oven and small new potatoes.
But I know I must get my head around losing some weight so after a very short discussion with the LSO we decided to reduce portion sizes for starters. No sudden moves, its bad enough waking up wondering what day it is without adding to the stress of worrying about what is right to eat. One of the problems with this lockdown is the need to have a focus in the day and for us it is the morning coffee with a slice of cake or a biscuit, a lunch that is not too demanding then the evening meal preceded by a G&T or two for me and a beer or two for the LSO and then wine with the food.
I managed to forget the afternoon cup of tea with a scone or a piece of fruit cake. Oh dear no wonder I am expanding.
Hope. There are so many meanings for that small four-lettered word. It can mean something that you want to happen; it can be a feeling that good things are coming or you can be given hope. As a verb it can mean to strive for or wish for something in the future. At the moment all we can hope for is an end to this pandemic and hope that the world will be a better place for everyone.
In the meanwhile I find myself dwelling on the need to keep to a sensible diet mostly because I don’t want to see the LSO having to open the double doors to get me outside when this is all over. The diet has to have some special features because these are unprecedented times. For instance I need to bake but why do I need to bake? I guess it’s a way of coping with adversity and it is a very therapeutic exercise from the preparation through to the cooking and then the end product also the LSO loves eating them so I feel I have fulfilled some of my wifely duties. Inevitably I need to sample these luscious morsels, just to test them of course but that is never going to be a useful addition to a weight loss diet.
I have always loved cookery books and have rather a large collection which tends to spread around the house but I can read them like others read a magazine. Cooking is alchemy and I enjoy sampling foods and flavours from around the world and on top of that it really is fun. My kitchen cupboards are full of spices, flavourings and sauces for all manner of different dishes and my latest book by Yottam Ottolengi is just a joy. I find cooking a calming exercise and even get enormous pleasure from seeing the colours of a mirepoix of vegetables sautéing in a pan. My first thought of the day is usually what will we eat today and I can spend happy hours reading recipes and trawling the internet if the books don’t help.
That of course, brings me back to the beginning of this post, the inevitable need to hope that I will find a balance with food and enjoyment that answers all the problems that occur during this lockdown.