Learning To Love Cooking and Eating

How’s your relationship with food?

Mine’s been a life time of ups and downs. I’ve gone from battling allergies as a child along with fussy eating, to trying out every kind of omission in my ‘diet’.

And ugh, that word – ‘diet’.

I was raised on basic peasant goodness, some of which didn’t agree with me or I didn’t like – homemade yoghurt and sauerkraut. Oh yowzer I hear everyone shout, fermented food is good for you!

It is for me, now. But around fifty to forty years ago it wasn’t.

As a teenager I learnt to manipulate the art of eating. I was a flakey, moody kinda teen who soon discovered they were polycystic and felt ruled by their hormones.

This hormonal hold was stronger than my resolve, and I went in to my 20’s spending a lot of time in endocrinology, treated, investigated. I maintained good weight though throughout.

Then I slid. Now in my 50’s, and three years post-MI, having lost weight, I’m back to battling with eating food – loving it that is, the weight has absolutely stayed off. I knew I had to tackle this mind/body thing though.

It’s as simple as this, I think. I’m not sure I understand how to love food, or my body.

I accept there have been all kinds of trials in my life from early years, but I don’t like being beaten by food. I acknowledge that the relationship my mother had with my step father and his treatment of her, angered me throughout my childhood and into my adult life. I became a woman whose mission was to rescue women and children from that experience.

My mother’s way of dealing with his beastly words and behaviour was to care relentlessly and this was through cooking sometimes. I on the other hand, was all for poisoning the mad bastard! (Therein lies a good tale of crime to write!).

But I found Italy (again) and started to believe there was an answer in there, somewhere, so I read and read all things Italian.

After seeing a tweet by chef Jack Munro about how Nigella’s book How To Eat transformed her eating and relationship with food I decided to get it out of the library.

It’s one big book filled predominantly with words, which surprised me. I always saw Nigella Lawson as a tv cook who lured people in to watching her programmes with her dulcet voice, as she happily scoffed leftovers of her recipes at midnight.

By eck, the chef can write!

I’ve poured over the book during the last few weeks and soaked in her words, her love for cooking and eating.

Just one quote here from the Low Fat chapter (which is brilliant), there are many I could pull out from the pages:

‘I don’t disparage the shallow concerns of the ordinarily vain, which, after all, I share. What I hate is all this new-age voodoo about eating, the notion that foods are either harmful or healing, that a good diet makes a good person and that the person is necessarily lean, limber, toned and fit. Quite apart from anything else, I don’t see the muscular morality argument. Why should a concern for your physical health be seen as a sign as virtue? Such a view seems to me in danger of fusing Nazism (with its ideological cult of physical perfection) and Puritanism (with its horror of the flesh and belief in salvation through denial.)’

There’s more of course, much more, in this book that is meaningful, healing and full of love about food – a healthy kind of love. Nigella took what was good from her childhood and put it out there. She has also shared her bad times too. We can do both, I believe and come out on top.

 

Festive Rice Pudding for a Fairy Tale Feast

Sunday morning and I haven’t made a rice pudding yet. I have been mulling over the ingredients, starting with searching out various recipes around the world. Yes, rice pudding is global!

We often dismiss this dessert as a humble dish, but certain ingredients will make a pudding incredibly more-ish.

My mother’s version was simply to simmer it on the hob in full fat milk, then add sugar if needed, at the table. Nanna would bake hers, including knobs of butter – everyone seems to agree that the skin is best!

Today I will make a Festive Rice Pudding for a Fairy Tale Feast with

 unsweetened almond milk – 6 cups to 1 cup of rice

chopped dates, dried figs would be nice too – no need for sugar

vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest

butter

A dash of Chambord black raspberry liqueur

It will be baked for two hours low heat.

I am anticipating a festive aroma!

The most decadent version was served to me in the Highlands of Scotland. A Lady Claire MacDonald recipe laden with cream and butter!

Persian interpretations are perhaps the most famous – one recipe has milk, one does not. Rose water and cardamon are added, then the dish is adorned with rose petals, almonds and more. See Shir Berenj and Sholeh Zard https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/331999803767086537/

I found another recipe on instagram from Chile with the naughty addition of condensed milk (okay once a year!) Rick Stein has share the Mexican version on his latest jaunt. And please let’s not forget honey, which is made for this sweet dessert.

My culinary reading for the festive season is Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles.

Other books on the coffee table include:

Marco Polo – from Venice to Xanadau

Norse Mythology

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Plus a couple in the fantasy and magic realism genres arriving in the post soon.

I intend to watch international films throughout winter – the real, the magical.

Links:

Rick Stein’s recipe from Mexico:

https://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/recipes/mexican-rice-pudding-with-honeycomb

Nigel Slater:

https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008260194/the-christmas-chronicles/

fairy tale feast

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa

I don’t need very much at all this year, if anything. But it has come to my attention that you seem to not know what I like lately. Here’s a list of ayes and nays, I know your team take the time to read people’s blogs.

When it comes to booze, only a good red wine will do, nothing else, but I’d rather a darned fine olive oil.

I like dark chocolate cherry liqueurs at this time of year, salt-free pistachios, hazelnuts, brazil nuts. In fact a bag of nuts in shells is fine. I put them in a bowl along with a nutcracker, which has been in the family since the 1960’s.

Dried figs and dates – yum!  I can cook with dried fruit, as well as for nibbling on. No cheeses, sweets, general chocolates.

Have checked the spice cupboard and we could do with star anise, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves and saffron, peppercorns.

Please don’t bring pickles and chutneys, I’m pernickety about vegetable matter in jars!

spices