On the blog...
I’ve done my fair share of naming and shaming “Breakfast Biscuits”. In short, apart from the spelling and pronounciation of their name, they are too similar in all other aspects to an old fashioned Teddy Bear biscuit to justify being a meal replacement. High in sugar and with no guarantee of any added nutrients, it's best to save them for a snack, at best. It’s taken some time, but I’ve finally concocted a home made, SIMPLE alternative to these. I’ve called it a Breaky Bikkie so I can put my money where my mouth is and provide an alternative to these supermarket options, but it makes a great biscuit option for any time of day! Also, it is probably the easiest biscuit recipe you will ever find.
When we’re trying to live a better day, we’ve got to look at our diet. Sure exercise is vital- one of the only ways to increase our metabolism is to build lean muscle (sorry, detox teas). And we’ve got to sleep well- poor sleep wreaks havoc with the hormones that regulate our appetite. But, quite simply you 1. Can’t outrun bad diet and 2. Need a bucket load of nutrients to effectively run your body- way more than any amount of SkinnyMe Tea can give you.
Nutrition celebrities like Pete Evans (AKA Paleo Pete) and Sarah Wilson (AKA Ms. I Quit Sugar) have done a fantastic job at raising our awareness of the importance of knowing and caring about what we’re putting into our mouths, which is a great thing. They’ve taught us lots, like cavemen didn’t eat Maccas so we too shouldn’t eat it (regularly), but they’ve also confused the majority of us at the same time- they didn’t eat Protein Balls either, yet we’re supposed to?
Fat makes you fat. Sugar makes you fat. Carbs make you fat — or is that just refined carbs? But protein — that makes you muscly, yeah? Eating after 7pm makes you fat. Dairy foods — better avoid them, they’re full of fat. Detox teas — they burn fat. Right?
In a country where more than half of us are carrying excess body weight, we are awfully obsessed with the thing — and in particular, with avoiding fat. As a society, we’re constantly thinking and obsessing over what we eat. What’s more, we’re thinking about foods in terms of “macros” or nutrients such as fat and carbs, rather than thinking about foods as a whole. And it’s not working for us. So, pour yourself a (detox free) tea, add some milk (soy, skim, low fat or full fat — whichever you most enjoy), and let’s chew the fat…on fat.
Recently, I took a wander down the supermarket aisle to explore four jazzed up foods that most of us, myself included, have been left scratching our heads about. Are they worth their hype and did they live up to their nutrition claims? If you came down aisle 1 with me, hopefully you can now see straight through the marketers attempts to make us buy these products, but unfortunately those four products are not the only foods that have left the majority of us confused or misled. Hence, here we are, round two, with four more foods to unwrap metaphorically before we do so literally.
Put a group of people in a room together and there’s not a whole heap that the majority will agree on. Crunchy or soft tacos? Toilet paper scrunched or folded? Star Wars prequels – amazing or abysmal? However, through my thorough research of spending day in, day out, asking people what they do and don’t like to eat, I’ve come to a very scientific conclusion: Cheese makes the majority of people smile. Melt it on top of something, anything- delicious. It completes a salad, and is one of a few foods that effortlessly spans from entrée , to main, to dessert. Heck, Tim Minchin, one of a small selection of red haired/dreadlocked men I’d sell my firstborn for, wrote a song about it (my favourite line is “I cannot camen-bear it anymore, E-damm you, mon amour”). Yep, we go crazy for this high fat delight.
The supermarket aisles can be a scary place. Unless you have five spare hours up your sleeve, Google plus plenty of data on your phone, and an encyclopaedia, you can be forgiven for being confused by the continuous revolving door of food products being created, reformulated, relabelled and discontinued. Whilst only making a small dint in this knowledge, let’s explore four relatively new foods that may currently have you scratching your head about…
Ancient Grain oats
There’s been an interesting evolution over the decades- over the past couple of generations we’ve seen a move from mum’s home cooked meat and three veg to the expansion of supermarket shelves with countless brightly coloured packages with even more claims- claims that they will improve all aspects our health. Sugar-free, dairy free, wheat free- why are food products now making us fear foods? With their long lists of additives, preservatives, and ingredients you’d need a chemistry degree to understand, I consider many foods on supermarket shelves to be food-like products- distant relatives of the foods that once filled grandma's pantry. Recently, though, with the explosion of social media, the internet and (rightly or wrongly) celebrity nutrition gurus, there has been a movement back to “clean eating”- avoiding very processed, unnatural foods.
Food fads come and go. Fondue, cupcakes, heck even gelatin salads- at some point these were the flavour of the month (pun intended). And food fads are great- they bring a new food or recipe into our repertoire, giving us something to get excited over and try. Isn’t that what’s so great about food? These days, where there is more and more pressure to have our meals plated up to be “Instagram worthy” (and until Masterchef, who even said “plated up”?), in an age where every second person’s day on a plate is posted online, food fads are magnified. No longer is it enough to go over to Sally’s on Friday night to try out her new fondue set. These days, we’ll go to three cafes over a weekend and post our meals online to share either a. how healthy we’re being (hello, acai bowls), or b. prove we’re up with the latest trend (mmmm, cronuts. Or is it now cruffins?). Food fads have continued to come and go over the decades, but how we embrace these has slowly evolved. And this is not all bad- how lucky are we that we can discover new foods, recipes and a cafe’s latest menu at the click of a button? But there’s a side to food fads that we’re not so well informed on.
Bless my dad, but he, along with my grandmothers, are the reason I was a chubby kid. In my family, to show love, one fed others. Feeling sad? Let me make you a snack. Already had lunch? Well you’re at my house now so surely you’re ready for a second lunch. Too full to finish the meal I lovingly prepared? You may as well have stabbed me through the heart with your fork. Like in many cultures, in my house feeding people showed you cared.
In my grandparents case at least, this stemed from growing up in a war-torn country where a chicken dinner was a twice a year event and menus were dictated by what grew in the backyard. Sharing their limited food with others and giving people elaborate foods when they were so rare was a far greater sign of love than any Tiffany’s ring or rose bouquet. So the tradition continues today, when Easter presents are tubs of bocconcini and leaving Nonna’s house without at least four types of homemade/ homegrown produce is impossible. The only difference now is that our food supply is abundant, never ending, and we have access to any thing, any time. So the practice of using special or rare foods to welcome, love and care for others is a bit lost. Hot cross buns aren’t special when they’re available year round, dessert isn’t as cherished when it becomes the norm, and the concept of eating a big meal when there is an abundance of food becomes a daily occurrence- not one that helped humans adapt to the “famine or feast” periods throughout history.
This blog has been neglected of late. Blame it on a combination of work stress, learning how to live in a foreign city, and quite simply, a lack of ideas of what to blog on. Cue 2016, and apart from the stress of remembering to write “16” instead of “15” for the date, reflections on the who’s, what, when what’s and why of life filled my mind.
I realised it’s time to get back to what this blog is about. For me, it’s a celebration of cultures, of food, and of how people all over the world nourish themselves. So as new years reflections take place in between artistically turing the ‘5’ into a ‘6’, is there something you can learn from one of our sexily-accented neighbours?
Teachings from the French
Growing up, mum had some pretty strong beliefs, which, in the beauty of adult retrospect, have had their benefits. I now value the importance of breakfast before leaving the house and dirty shoes are instinctively removed before standing on carpet. However, one thing I refuse to agree with her on is Halloween. For a woman who decorates every nook and cranny of the house with Christmas decorations, Halloween is banned. Children who knock on doors are turned away and pumpkin decorations in shops are sternly frowned at. Something about refusing to honour a completely Unaustralian tradition that is American and should remain in America. But I love dress ups and chocolate and free things so for those three reasons we will agree to disagree.