So far there have only been a couple of shortish periods in my life when I’ve not been what my sister generously refers to as ‘bountiful’! I’m basically a greedy glutton and that particular gene considerably overrules the few I possess in the vanity department. I like to try to look nice of course, but not as much as I like butter, or potatoes, or crispy fried squid, or seared rib-eye dripping in lustrous béarnaise sauce. Or toast. Or cheese on toast. Or cheese. You get the picture.
These things make me happier than the feeling I get when I think I’m looking ok. Kate Moss was once quoted as saying “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels”. Well I’m sorry Miss Moss but I BEG to differ. She needs to re-think her choice of restaurant, or maybe she’s just a really crap orderer? I am great at ordering, upgrading with a side dish here and an extra course there, but I still suffer from food envy and am always the last to come to a decision, hanging on until the absolute final moment after everyone else has chosen.
And I just love menus. I devour them! Whilst some people spend their time surfing the net to keep up with the football results, lust after expensive clothes, or check out luxury hotels in exotic destinations, I gorge myself on menus. I used to check the River Cafe daily and drool over the new Chez Panisse when it published each week – a few minutes spent choosing my fantasy lunch is something I find very therapeutic; my version of meditation. It’s my little pleasure like others would instead have a quick fridge-raid, 10 minutes in front of the tv with a cuppa or hiding in the loo with a newspaper for some peace and quiet, or a bit of online shopping. A simple treat.
Voracious reading of menus is also doubtlessly far more inspiring than looking at recipe books, although I do a lot of that too (particular latest recommendation: Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood – a brilliant set of simple recipes for fish, sauces and sides), but menus are a much more concentrated and stimulating source of ideas. And much like reading the novel is far superior to watching the movie, a menu allows your imagination to run wild, to design the dish in your head as you fantasise about its finer details, unfuddled by preconceptions.
So to get back to the topic in hand, my general principle has always been to never, in any way, restrict what I consume – so the only factors that have kept me slim in the past have been poverty (usually when travelling alone and living off dried noodles), increased physical activity (sporadic), or heartbreak (thankfully rare). And as my real travelling days were over at least a decade ago and I’m now far too cynical for romantic anguish, I am suffering the consequences of my free-for-all lifestyle which I can credit with having made me very happy over the years, but now, alas, having also made me very very ‘bountiful’. So since I gave up full-time work and therefore cannot afford yet another new wardrobe in yet another new size, I have chosen to fit back into my last size following the allegedly enlightened (but the jury’s still out) path of Dr. Pierre Dukan.
Last Monday I began the first of 4 phases, which I have calculated, if I follow all 4 properly, will take me 11 months to complete. OH. MY. BLOODY. GOD. Pray for me my lovers for this is going to possibly be just a little bit tough!
This first phase is called ‘Attack’, designed to shock my lazy, chubby body into something or other, to be honest I’m not quite sure what, but actually I’m not finding it too bad yet. I am allowed pretty much only pure protein and very low or zero fat dairy produce. No vegetables or fruit, in fact no fruit at all till I’m thin again and after that only 1 portion a day but not cherries, bananas or raisins. Beats me why he picks on those 3!
So this week I have had eggs every day for breakfast with either lean ham or smoked salmon. Scrambling eggs without butter though feels almost EVIL so I’m preferring to soft boil or poach them and smother them with Maldon salt which is actually quite yummy with a bit of ham. Lunch is tougher – more ham but no eggs. Cold chicken. Non-fat cream cheese (actually just extra low-fat philly as I don’t think non-fat exists this side of the pond and quite right too!), but this is sooo boring and a tin of tuna on its own tends to make you just a teensy bit depressed.
Supper’s been ok. I cheated on Monday by having rocket which is not officially allowed, beneath a huge pile of rare barbecued sirloin with herby (zero fat) greek yoghurt for lubrication and lots of salt and lemon of course. And another night an asian vibe chicken dish of quickly dry-fried strips of breast meat with garlic, ginger, shallot, chilli and then steamed in a shallow pool of soy and mirin. This was actually really tasty and as you can have herbs I chucked in a bucket load of mint, coriander and basil at the end with some fresh lime juice. You couldn’t tell it was fat-free but you could definitely notice the missing pile of rice or noodles!
The Easter weekend was tricky to say the least and I spent most of my time avoiding chocolate, dodging yorkshire puddings, and smiling sweetly and saying ‘yuk’ quietly to myself whilst nibbling on some cold leftover chicken as everyone else tucked into an Easter Monday afternoon feast of toasted crumpets, hot cross buns and Cornish cream tea. In fact, just typing this, I realise I’m a LEGEND for resisting that lot! On Saturday we took the water taxi to Rock for supper at ‘Nathan Outlaw’s Seafood & Grill’ and although I only chose things I was allowed (with the exception of just a teeny smidgen of oil in the dressing) I think I ended up with the best dishes on the menu and it was a fantastic meal; a plate of utterly perfect Porthilly oysters with shallot vinegar followed by a beautifully grilled whole bream with parsley, lemon and garlic dressing – the flavourings infused into the warm green oil with a couple of delicious cloves of confit garlic. I did not in any way salivate over, in fact I barely even glanced at my sisters bowl of fat, triple-cooked, light and crispy, fluffy, delectable looking chips. Honest.
The weekend had started well with my ‘alternative’ Easter egg gift of a basket of glorious duck eggs from the farm shop nestled on a bed of herbs and lilac flowers from the garden. Beautiful, encouraging and inspirational. And above all, edible!
Anyway I’m getting a bit more inventive now with the limited seasonings I have at my disposable; last night’s supper was homemade turkey thigh burgers flavoured with spring onion, shallot, garlic, chilli and ginger, then cooked on the barbie and served with a few leaves, some fresh coriander and basil, and tzatziki loaded with mint. From tomorrow we move into the ‘Cruise Phase’ and can add vegetables and salad to our protein bounty which will make life much more palatable. Obviously no starch, fat or baked goods (DUH), but you know what – I just weighed in and have lost half a stone in 9 days so I think I’ll stick with it and maybe, just maybe, I will slightly less resemble a Beryl Cook figure on my body-board this summer. Kids, it might soon be safe to go to the beach again!