Musings: food

March 29, 2008 rooroo

I finally caved in and ordered Gourmet Nutrition. The international shipping price made me wince a little, however I acknowledged the pathway to pleasure often involves some degree of pain. I wouldn’t normally order a cookery book since our bookshelf is loaded with books that our chef-flatmate has, but after seeing pictures from Swigg’s blog, I knew that this book would feature largely in the kitchen.

I have mostly had a good relationship with food. Having seen a friend successfully recover from anorexia nervosa, it made me appreciate this even more. I grew up with my mother and my grandparents (who moved in with us after my father died). My granny [or Nonna, as I call her] is a post-war Italian. She lives to feed people. I recall their stories from wartime Italy; when times were tough, my paternal great-grandmother had 1 potato to feed a family of 10 (it was made into a watery soup), to this day I cannot fathom what everyone went through.

As a household, we weren’t a particularly rich one, but not on the breadline either. My grandmother, through generations of teaching could make delicious, healthy meals from very little, and often the cheapest cuts. We often grew vegetables in the garden, and I always enjoyed walking back into the house with an armful of vegetables, earthy and fresh (and of course, be told off for getting mud on the pristine kitchen floor). In the summer we would cook batches of plums and make preserves from the berries. Years after my grandparents moved out, my mum remarried and I flew the nest to go to university, I can still come home to be told to take home whatever has been growing in season. I always look forward to the summer months, where I’m handed over dozens of tomatoes and runner beans.

The period of time where my eating habits took a bit of a tumble came during my A levels. Revision would start at 8am, and would sometimes finish at 1am (masochistic much?) and every 20 minutes,  I couldn’t help but take a break. That break would involve invading the kitchen cupboard. Bread, pasta, noodles, chocolate, I was in carbtastic heaven/hell, depending on which way you look at it. Compounded by huge amounts of stress, satisfaction didn’t last very long, and I was again drawn to the kitchen cupboard again. By the time I had finished my A levels, nothing in my wardrobe would fit. That summer, I took a trip to Italy and bike riding with a mediterranean diet helped to shift a lot of the body fat I had gained.

I then started university and the food in student halls was off putting enough for me to start making my own meals (a vegetarian friend of mine was served a baked potato as her main, with new potatoes as the side vegetable) and living in central London came with the added lure of eating out. I did lose a little body fat, however I wasn’t entirely happy with how I looked, so I joined the student gym. I was prescribed a diet of lots of cardio (moderate pace) and a few isolation weight exercises with low weights/high reps. I paid for a year’s membership, and after seeing no results (!) I stopped going after a couple of months.

I’d say I only started eating properly again after I met my boyfriend. I was surprised at how an indivdual could eat so few refined carbohydrates, and I started switching all my white products (white bread, white rice, white pasta, white flour – I know, how racist) to brown. I had expected the change from white to brown pasta to be the hardest, having been raised on white pasta all my life, however, I was surprised to find how easy it was, especially as the robust texture could take heavier sauces. After some research and lots of time later, I evolved to eat 5/6 meals a day, as balanced as possible.

My tastes have changed a little. I try to stick to a range of 90% good eating, with the remaining 10% being whatever I want. However, I find I’m much more decadent with the latter. I don’t just want to walk into a corner shop and pick out a couple of chocolate bars like I used to. I want to go into a specialist chocolate shop and take in the fresh, dark chocolate smell. I want to see the small, handmade chocolates proudly on display and hear the charming little ‘click’ when I break some dark chocolate squares. My personal favourites are the zagora ganache from La Maison Du Chocolat: think a small dark chocolate square with an infusion of mint; real mint, not sugary plastic mint. I keep a small bag in my bedside draw and help myself to one over some bedtime reading (currently: Club Cultures by Sarah Thornton).

I wait in anticipation and impatience for the book to arrive. I have my eye on the granola recipie and fruit crumble. Hurry hurry hurry.

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