Week Forty Two – Fussy (again)

I know I have written about fussy eaters previously but a few things have happened recently to make me want to revisit the subject.

My brother in law visited with his partner and her children last week. I cooked a mushroom risotto for the adults and pasta in a tomato and garlic sauce for the kids. I made two dishes because the children don’t like mushrooms. They are lovely kids but between the three of them the list of things they don’t like is enormous. If I had to feed them on a regular basis I think I would replace the contents of my store cupboard with pasta and ready made pasta sauces (I think I finally realise why these vile concoctions sell: it isn’t that they are convenient it is that they are so bland even the fussiest of rugrats will eat them).

My brother-in-laws own ankle biter is a tad less fussy although his standard response to being told what he will be served is “I don’t like it”. He can be persuaded the try things though and once he has tasted things he can be surprising: he doesn’t like pasta but liked anchovies when I served them to him in a salad.

On Wednesday last week I was pointed to a piece of research from University College London on the effects of bribing children to eat vegetables they don’t like. It turns out that giving children a reward, even just praise, does make them eat their greens. Or at least less likely to hate them. I especially liked that the researchers (one of whom was my niece) thought about the effects of their research in the home. If you have both fussy and non fussy children social rewards will not create a sense of unfairness.

Of course the other method of getting children to eat food they don’t like is to make them sit at the table until they have cleared their plate. I have a feeling that this might be counter productive though as nobody has ever said to me “My parents sat me at the table and forced me to eat sprouts/swede/brocolli and now I love it.” I doubt the research needed to investigate would get past the ethic committee though.

Talking of fussy eaters brings me to Debbie. One day last week I made Ossobuco and, in homage to Polpetto, decided to make a saffron risotto to go with it. I put the ossobuco in the oven on a low heat before I went to work intending to cook the rice when I got home. Whilst at work it occurred to me that I had a packet of fregula pasta sitting in the cupboard. “Why not make a risotto type of thing with that?” I thought. When I got home I suggested it to Debbie who pulled one of her faces. So I made her a risotto and myself a, well, would it be called a pastotto?

Pasta made like risotto (portions are for a side dish)
1 dribble olive oil
1/2 Onion, diced
1 Stick celery, diced
50g dried pasta (a small type will work best)
1 Splosh of white wine
Hot Stock
1 Pinch saffron (three threads perhaps?)
Grated parmesan

Gently fry the onion and celery until soft then add the pasta and wine. Once the wine has been absorbed add the saffron and then the stock. When making risottos I tend to forgo the “add a bit, wait for it to be absorbed, add a bit more” method in favour of a brisk whisk at the end but as this is an unknown quantity I added the stock a little at a time. I was making a risotto along side this and I noticed that this took more liquid and cooking time. When the pasta is cooked to you liking stir through the cheese.

This is not the frog's spawn you are looking for

I suppose I could have used a rewards system to get Debbie to at least try it but, to be honest, I prefer to use bribes for other things.

This week I lost the half pound that I gained last week. I am currently vacillating between trying to reboot the diet or accepting that I will maintain until spring arrives.

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Week Forty One – Oops

I was talking to my daughter about having no ideas for this week’s post. “Why not talk about the excuses dieters use?”

I know all about excuses. The blog post I was going to write was going to start “I should not have decided to reboot the diet just after we had done the food shopping for two weeks and whilst we had guests staying with us” but then I realised that, whilst not quite of the “the dog ate my diet book” variety it was still just an excuse for putting on half a pound this week.

And I have no excuse. My son was staying with us and I decided to cook the food he likes and had been missing since he moved out. I could have made something different for Debbie and myself but I couldn’t be bothered. We had some lovely food but things like slow cooked pork belly probably are not high on the list of diet friendly foods.

At the weekend, after the Boy had gone home, Debbie’s mum and dad visited. I decided on Saturday to play with my molecular gastronomy set that I was given for Christmas Debbie bought me after I sulked when Santa missed it off my list.

I had a little bit of coffee liqueur left so I created coffee caviar by dissolving into it two grams of sodium alginate (you actually need to dissolve it soft water first then mix that with the alcohol) then dropping into a solution of calcium salt. I made a coffee cream by mixing a shot of espresso with some sugar and cream. If you don’t have the right toy equipment you can use a whisk to whip it. The coffee spheres are quite resilient and will not break when stirred through the cream. Of course when you eat this you have to forget you are on a diet.

As I have said before, it is good to know that when I reach my target weight I will still be able to have blowout weeks without really putting on weight.

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Week Forty – Reboot

Christmas is a hard time for dieters. Debbie and I decided we would suspend the diet over the festive period partly because we felt like treating ourselves but also because we didn’t want to be awkward to cater for as we trotted around the country visiting friends and relatives. What we hadn’t counted on was that by not dieting we would realise what we were missing. Both of us this last week have found temptation hard to resist and following the diet harder.

I think also that a kind of fatigue as set in. We have been doing this for quite some while and, over time, strict adherence to the diet has been diluted to the stage where now, apart from still not using any butter in cooking, we aren’t really dieting at all. Okay we both make an effort to diet at lunch time but that can no more be classed as dieting than someone who doesn’t eat meat on Mondays can be called a vegetarian.

Whilst getting changed for swimming recently I caught a reflection of myself naked. It was not a pretty sight. There is no doubt that I still need to be on a diet. Therefore I am going to go back to basics and start the diet again doing red and green and orange days properly. As we move towards Spring hopefully it will be easier.

Having made the decision to restart the diet, this weekend we decided to have a blowout. In spite of this I still managed to lose three and a half pounds. I just hope the effects of a bad weekend aren’t delayed for a week.

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Week Thirty Nine – On The Side

Debbie has taken to referring to me as Sally. No, this isn’t the Sex Post I threatened several months ago. She calls me Sally because, when it comes to kitchen gadgets, I like it all on the side.

In Debbie’s ideal world the kitchen worktop would be an empty expanse of white formica (actually in Debbie’s ideal world it would be Italian marble but until we get around to doing the kitchen up she will have to make do with formica). The view from one wall to the other would be uninterrupted by gadgets as I would have put them away after every use. Unfortunately for Debbie I am the main user of the kitchen so, most of the time occasionally, what I say goes.

I have tried to argue that in our flat there is not enough room to put stuff away. I have, rather weakly, argued that if it wasn’t on the side I wouldn’t use it (I stopped using this one when I was asked why we had bought the gadget in the first place). I have now decided that my gadgets live on the side because I want them to.

Apart from the kettle and newly acquired coffee machine I actually only have three electrical appliances annoying Debbie on the work surface. The toaster and deep fat fryer have been put away as we are no longer buying bread or deep frying things so that leaves the blender, the spice/coffee grinder and the food mixer. The blender is used quite often for soups and sauces, the spice mill is used a lot as I buy all my spices whole rather than ready ground but I have to admit that the food mixer doesn’t get used that often. It does look nice on the side though!

The one thing I don’t have on the side or even in the flat is a microwave. This is partly because I am a cooking snob and partly because I have never really found a use for one in the kitchen. You can cook excellent rice in a microwave but it takes as long as it does to cook it on the hob. You can cook jacket potatoes in them but only if you really hate yourself would you want a microwaved spud instead of an oven baked one. My friend uses his to reheat cups of tea that have gone cold. I try to never let cups of tea go cold and anyway, as I drink it black, it doesn’t taste that bad cold.

We do have a microwave in the office at work however which I use everyday to heat my soup up.

This week I had a day where I had forgotten to make a soup the night before. I had a cooked chicken breast in the fridge along with some of Flavours of Spain’s excellent beef chorizo. So at 6.41 am I made this:

Ten Minute Microwave Soup (makes 2-3 servings)
1 Cooked chicken breast, sliced
100g Cured chorizo sliced
1 red chilli sliced
1 clove garlic chopped
1 Carrot cut into 2cm long julienne
Splash of soy sauce
Chicken stock

Put all of the ingredients into a microwavable bowl. Mix and microwave on full power for six minutes.
I called it ten minute soup because, assuming the chicken is cooked, it should only take ten minutes from start to finish. Of course as I made this at quarter to seven in the morning it had a few hours marinading in the fridge at work but I don’t think that actually did anything.

At weigh in this week I had lost one and a half pounds. I have been swimming five mornings this week and, if it wasn’t for the indulgent weekend I would have expected to lose more. Still, a loss is a loss.

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Week Thirty Eight – Another Country

I have come to the conclusion that Norfolk, like the past, is a foreign country. They certainly do things differently there. This assertion is based on over thirty years of research which started when my brother moved there in the early eighties and continued when my sister moved there soon after and my mum followed a few years ago.

I do not now, nor have I ever, harboured any desires to relocate to Norfolk, even to be nearer to my beloved pies family.

Norfolk drivers seem to think the safe speed for a straight wide road is thirty whilst on a narrow country track with potholes and blind corners it is perfectly acceptable to attempt to go fast enough to escape Earth’s gravity. I have a sneaking suspicion that they think that the main beam on headlights reduces waste electrickery so they never use them when there is a car coming the other way when they put them on just to show the other driver.

Last November we got together for my mum’s birthday and went to a pub-restaurant near Stratton Strawless. I have always been a little wary of restaurants which do more than ten dishes per course. I worry that I might order something the chef has forgotten how to cook or which which has been languishing at the back of the freezer since the last brave soul ordered it. I worry that with all those dishes none of them will be mastered and that everything will be disappointing. At this pub the menu was written on a blackboard that covered one wall completely. I have looked on their website and they list over thirty main courses excluding specials. I will admit that other members of the party commented how nice it was to see lots of choice on a menu but they were vegetarians who are used to having a choice between hay and an omelette.

I saw that they had a venison cassoulet on the board which I had assumed would be like, well, a cassoulet with the duck replaced with venison. I had visions of some sort of Carcasonne meets Cromer fusion with East Anglian game mixed with Occitan flavours. I expected beans and unctuousness and crispy breadcrumbs. I got a game casserole. It was an ok game casserole but I have the feeling that someone thought “Hmm, I need to make this sound more exotic, what is French for casserole? I don’t know but cassoulet sounds similar so I’ll use that.” Maybe they even did some research and discovered that the French for casserole is casserole and decided it was just too mundane a word to describe such a dish. I think I would have been happier with the brown gloop I was served being called cassoulet had it contained more than one bean.

Just before Christmas we stocked the freezer with the idea that I would cook between Christmas and New Year. It turned out that I cooked one meal and the rest of the time we improvised meals from goodies we had lying around. This meant that the last week we have been eating meat we froze without the vegetables we bought to go with them. Last Wednesday I defrosted a loin of venison. I looked at what we had in the cupboard and fridge and came up with this:

Not Cassoulet (but more of a cassoulet than the one I had in Norfolk)
150g Bacon lardons or pancetta. If you are dieting you can remove most of the fat
2 Medium carrots finely diced
1 Onion finely diced
2 Sticks celery finely diced
2 Cloves garlic
1/2 tsp Dried thyme
1/2 tsp Dried rosemary
1 Bayleaf
1/2 Cabbage sliced
1 tin Haricot beans
1/2 Glass white wine
If I had had them I would have added a couple of Toulouse sausages
1 Venison loin

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F or gas mark 7). Fry the bacon in an oven proof pan until it starts to render what fat is left on it. Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic (leave it whole if you want) and sweat until starting to soften. Add the herbs and wine and bring to boil. Add the beans, cover with water and return to boil. Add the cabbage stir through then cover with a cartouche of greaseproof paper and lid and place in the oven.

Scatter salt and ground black pepper on a chopping board and roll the venison loin in it. Brown the loin all over in a frying pan and then transfer to the oven. Depending on the thickness roast it for around 15 minutes then remove from the oven, wrap in foil and rest it for another twenty minutes. Slice the venison and serve on a bed of the beans (if you left the garlic cloves whole give them a little mash and stir through now) .

The first time I made cassoulet at home it took over twelve hours (excluding the time it took to make the confit duck). I recently cheated and got it down to two hours but this took me forty five minutes from start to finish. As I said however this is not cassoulet.

As we were standing in line waiting to be weighed this evening Debbie and I were looking over our weekly history. We have not really lost any weight since September last year with a loss one week being met with a gain the next. We have had a very nice three months but now we need to knuckle down. I only lost a pound and a half this week but hopefully it is the start of a downward trend.

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Weeks Thirty Six and Seven – Celebrations

We decided before the Christmas holidays began that we would not be following the diet over the festivities. We kidded ourselves that it was because we were visiting friends and family and it would be unfair to expect them to cater to the diet but basically it was because we wanted to eat and drink whatever we desired.

And eat and drink whatever we desired we did.

Our wedding anniversary is just before Christmas and this year we went for a meal at Pearl. We both love it there but I think going when I had a cold may have been a mistake as I didn’t really appreciate the flavours.

Luckily by the time I arrived in Eccles a few days later I was in a better position to appreciate Salford’s best Chinese restaurant. And the fish and chips I treated myself to the next day.

As we spent a lot of time driving between friends and relatives I didn’t drink as much as I would have if we had stayed at home but the pressure of all those sweet and savoury treats meant that the pair of slightly too small trousers I bought on Christmas Eve with a view to shrinking into became a a pair of painfully small trousers.

In the break before New Year’s Eve we ventured into London and finally went to Bob Bob Ricard. It was here, while Debbie played with the “press for champagne” button, that I had the best drink I have had in a long time; the Pink Rhubarb Gin and Tonic. It is baby pink and served in a small martini glass and is, to coin a phrase, a very girlie drink but it is delicious. Until I saw the trio of crème brulee on the desert menu I seriously considered having an extra one as dessert.

The New Year was welcomed in with a bottle of bubbly and a hot Bray’s Cottage pork pie which was a thing of wonder.

All of which indulgence meant that I was not shocked to find I had put on half a stone at tonight’s weigh in. In my defence I would point out that it was over three weeks. What did shock me was that Debbie only gained two and a half pounds. I thought she was matching me in naughtiness but I think she must have been dieting when I wasn’t looking

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Week Thirty Five – Fashion

The weigh in this week was snowed off so I can kid myself that any weight I gain between now and the New Year will be due entirely to overindulgence at Christmas.

The hampers are almost finished. The kitchen is covered in a thin film of stickiness as drips from various liqueurs splashed as they were being filtered. All that I need to do now is make an industrial quantity of pistachio brittle but this year I worked out that ready shelled nuts are cheaper and easier.

A couple of weeks age Debbie discovered a pair of jeans that had been discarded on the way up lurking at the back of the wardrobe. They were two sizes smaller than the ones I had been wearing which were becoming a little baggy. Actually I was starting to worry that they would be mistaken for a clown trousers although maybe belonging to a sombre clown who was only wearing black until something darker was discovered. Even with a belt I was struggling to hold them up.

I have been loathe to go out and buy new clothes as the way I see it I will either put the weight back on again or carry on losing until I hit target. In an ideal world I would be able to shrink my clothes with my body but I have recently admitted that I am going to have to buy some smaller clothes.

I have never been a great one for fashion. In the nineties I did briefly have a mullet but it was deeply unfashionable even then. In fact I have always been a dead end for fashion. When I moved in with my first wife I found her in tears as she unpacked one of my bags. She had discovered a t-shirt which I had cut the arms off in (in her words) “a desperate attempt to be trendy and fit in”. I think she was crying because she felt sorry for me although it could have been that she realised what she had let herself in for.

I could list further fashion faux pas but it would be too traumatic both for me and my reader.

Until recently my wardrobe consisted of fourteen pairs of black socks, fourteen black t-shirts, fourteen pairs of black underpants and several pairs of bright yellow jeans. Nope, I lie, the jeans are black too. Over the summer Debbie bought me some dark coloured short sleeved shirts but in general my clothes tend toward the noir. And of course as I lose weight it looks more and more as if I accidentally put on a black tent as I got dressed in the dark.

One of the problems with being a fat male is there are no highstreet shops selling outsize men’s clothes. Once your waist gets above forty eight inches you are relegated to shopping on the internet. The fact that there are lots of “big man” clothing retailers on the internet shows that there is a market but I have no idea where the customers went before the start of the online era. I can’t remember the last time I went into a clothes shop to buy for myself and now I am just about able to I am strangely looking forward to it.

I have been giving lots of thought to how I will dress when I can wear what I want. I have no fixed ideas but I can be sure of one thing: it won’t be black.

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