It could be the change in the seasons or just plain laziness but I have been languishing in something of a food rut lately. For a good few weeks I have always been eating the same quick, go-to recipes that are comforting and easy but not particularly healthy. There has been a lot of cheese and pasta and starchy carbs like bread and potatoes. I’ve been eating some fruits and vegetables, sure, but lots of chocolate and pastry too.
Food and I have a complicated relationship. I don’t think most obese people would say that they find food an easy topic. For me it’s the ultimate easy comfort – while some people drink or buy shoes I make toast, cheese sauces and bacon sandwiches, or buy things with salted caramel, chips or flaky pastry. I suspect that I could find a way to eat a different dish that involves potatoes and cheese for every meal in every day for a month.
I have phases with good intentions; I will halve my portions like a Frenchwoman, or I will eat a salad a day, or I will cut out chips but they rarely last. There always seems to be a reason to have one more treat and I am never driven to attempt an actual diet – life is too short to cut out some of its best bits.
Cooking programmes and books are like porn to me. In my fantasy life I will live down the road from Sophie Dahl and Hugh Fernley Whittingstall, whilst my next door neighbour will be Nigel Slater and I will visit Ina and Jeffrey Garten on my holidays. These are people who understand food and it has made me convinced that we would be great friends if we ever met.
Yet I know it’s not healthy. If I am going to live for another 40 years without illness, I need to take my health more seriously. I need to realise that the instantaneous, seductive pleasures of cheese and pastry should be occasional treats instead of daily occurrences. I need to eat smaller helpings of better foods.
So, this morning I dragged about 30 recipe books off the shelves (a workout if nothing else). I spent hours perusing page after mouth-watering page from all my favourite cooks. They too, it seems, share my love for the yummiest indulgent items but I was firm. I marked off only recipes which contain the healthier things. I know that diet should be about balance but I also know that I will always find a way to consume the less healthy stuff – that is my natural super-power – so I need to focus on good dishes.
To make sure that I stick to my intention, I then took my planning to a whole new level. I actually sat down with my diary to work out when I will be at home for meals this week and made a shopping list accordingly – based on virtuous recipes for the right number of meals. This way I hope to avoid having lots of food that needs eating up which leads me to cook a gargantuan feast for one and then eat it all to save on waste. I then went to the supermarket and stuck to my list. We’ll just have to wait and see if this is the start of something yummy and healthier.