Saturday, 31 May 2014

I Quit Sugar Once



Food Fads – I’ve Tried A few 

From my early teens I dabbled in many. A regimented life at a single sex boarding school soon made me realize what I put in my gob was the only real control I had. I have painfully boring diaries recording every morsel I consumed. I sampled every commercial kitchen delight and the contents of my tuck-box in the 3rd form, politely starved myself to 7 and a half stone in the 4th form, then let rip in the 5th  and 6th. 

If my girlfriends and I weren’t nipping out to the bike sheds for a post meal ciggy, with Anais Anais and tubes of Colgate wedged under the brown folds of our witches britches, we were making fudge on upturned irons and copious rounds of toast. We nicked bananas and dried the leaves amongst our shifts in the drying room, hoping to get a buzz when we scraped them and rolled them into banana-spliffs later on. I learnt a lot of things at boarding school and how to binge eat was one of them.

Lucky for me, I liked food too much to become one of the girls who continued to starve themselves well after their post 40 Hour Famine highs. The girls who’d turn up to the sanitorium for weighing, with rocks in their pockets and envelopes of hair.

Suffice to say, from 13 to 27 my body was a yoyo of the stretch mark inducing kind. 

During the school holidays my sister and I would tackle the diet-du-jour from the glossy pages of, bibles-of-promise Cosmopolitan and Cleo. We tried the Israeli Army Diet – two days of cheddar cheese, two days of apples and two days of grilled chicken.  I secretly supplemented my niggling hunger with chunks of fudge. The Grapefruit Diet was less regimented; you just had to eat one tooth enamel corroding orb of citrus before each meal. 

While we were losing a couple of pounds apiece and slowing our metabolisms down to that of a sluggish snail, we anointed ourselves in a Cosmo concoction of – cooking oil, malt vinegar and lemon juice, donned our homemade string bikinis and baked our better bodies brown. 

It didn’t stop there, I gave up bacon, even potatoes – they were starch and made you fat. A third of my dinner plate remained empty, as I tucked into mutton chops thick with crunchy yellow fat and boiled silverbeet, all washed with a glass and a half of full cream milk.

Post school, weekends of late night swooning at Graham Brazier and his leather clad pelvis at the Gluepot, was followed by group munchies. We stuffed ourselves to overflowing with packets of Cheezels, toffee pops and milky bar washed down with lime thick shakes. To make amends, I’d spend the next five days eating All Bran, Slimmers Yoghurt and the first ever trim milk.

Food is your friend I always tell my teenage daughters. But it wasn’t mine until I got to about 27 and stopped dieting for good. 

Nowadays quitting sugar is de rigueur. “I Quit sugar for Life: 148 Recipes & Meal Plans for Families and Solos”, by Sarah Wilson, is number 2 on the SST top ten food and drink books. Wilson has a point, white sugar is 50: glucose, and 50: fructose the purported health threatening baddy. 

I have a VERY sweet tooth so I haven’t been convinced that anything without good old refined white would taste of anything. Thanks to a little education over a steaming bowl of porridge made with oats, raisins a hint of cinnamon and almond milk, with my artist friend Marika I stand corrected.
Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com
If I can have my chocolate and eat it too I’m willing to try.  ****

Off home I trotted with Dr Libby’s Raw Chocolate Crackle recipe

Two days later I found cacao powder and cacao nibs staring at me like eager puppies as I perused the supermarket aisles. Ceres Organic - $13 a pop. 

The crunch in Raw Chocolate Crackle comes from dehydrated bulghur wheat groats (just spread out on a tray, bake on low for 75 mins and they'll be dry and crispy). For sweetness some nutritionists claim maple syrup is the best sugar substitute. I had none on hand so I used honey. To make RCC you'll need:

1 cup dehydrated bulghur wheat 
3/4 cup cacao powder
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 1/2 cup currants
3/4 cup coconut oil
3 Tsp Manuka honey (any honey will do)

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Gently melt coconut oil and honey over low heat, pour over buckwheat etc and mix in. Press into a 31cm/12inch lined baking tin and freeze to set.

Try not to pick - but you will, just like its rice bubble, cremelta and cocoa forebear the healthy crackle was sweet and chocolatety and gone in 24 hours, even without the fudge topping!

To make the topping you'll need:

8 Fresh Medjool dates
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup coconut oil
6 tablespoons cacao powder

Chop dates and almond meal in a food processor, move to bowl. Melt coconut oil, then cool. Add cacao powder to date mixture, then coconut oil. Roll up your sleeves and wash your hands then combine with your fingers. Finally, press evenly over crackle return to freezer. Chop into tasty morsels when set. Eat a little at a time if you can. It's better for you. (Dr Libby says, 'Buckwheat consumption has been linked to lowered levels of chlolesterol...is rich in magnesium and antioxidants').

Next we made, Better For you Afghans (Afghans are a chocolate biscuit in NZ, not very pc I know but we still bake em). This recipe used - raw sugar, brown rice flour and cacao nibs (warning do not eat nibs alone in a sneaky handful they taste like freeze dried dirt), as well as the customary cornflakes. The icing/frosting was made with 62% dark choc and coconut oil. The results – very moreish, the more icing the better.

With all the CACAO baking happily consumed in the name of research my sweet tooth tingled. What’s a girl to do but add her own recipe to the mix. 

Sunday Night Pud, SNP – one bowl of vanilla ice cream, drizzle over equal parts cacao nibs and cacao powder. Par excellence. For two nights in a row.

Suffice to say I’m BAD. I’m applaud those who really can give away white sugar and feel better for it. Moreover, I have been transformed and now that my scullery runneth over with expensive raw chocolate ingredients - I will bake better. 

I WILL eat less sugar and use coconut oil instead of butter. And like Goldilocks I will eat porridge every morning for breakfast and I don’t need to explain why that’s good for me. 

**** If you can't think what to bake next, hop on over to #tastytuesdays and try this  Greek Almond Cake In Spiced Syrup  @ honestmum.com
Warning: it contains sugar!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Losing Our Minds





It’s feels like running downhill full tilt as a child when you leave the high energy of a Writers & Readers Festival then begin a three day father-sit, only your untrained young legs do not brake you at the bottom of the grassy slope, so you fall with outstretched hands. FOOSH. Into the nettle patch below. Not that my Dad is prickly he is completely mellow in the world that is now his. Dementia is a bastard and I hope I don’t get it. It looks lonely and confusing when you’re on the outside looking in.

I’ve read somewhere that it’s not necessarily hereditary.

However, while I’m caring for my Dad I eat fish twice a day and do more aerobic exercise than I’ve done since I attended Les Mills in a nasty turquoise leotard (which was actually a pair of togs) and attempted a do the grape-vine to Everybody-Dance-Now. Jazzergetics aside getting your heart rate up and over resting 3 times a week along with turmeric, kale, cinnamon and omega 3 are my Alzheimer preventatives du jour.

Dad’s house sits on the edge of a cliff over Leigh harbour bordered by neatly trimmed paspalum grass on a pohutakawa edged reserve. A series of steps and scoria filled boardwalks drop to the left through a steep gulley lush with native bush and chirpy tuis. I do-the-stairs first thing while Dad does his solitary walk to the store to buy the Herald.

I like running incognito, under the calm canopy of karaka leaves. I fold my arms under my boobs by way of a sports bra and run up then walk down. Three sets, increased daily to six by the third day. Back and forth back and forth. When I’m sweaty and barely breathing I dash home, change into my togs and drive to the beach for a salty dip. The cool down is instant and pleasant. Body parts do not numb. I do a Nana swim with my head above water. Breaststroke up and back-kicking on the return. It’s mid-May and winter after all.

Over three days Dad and I fall into an easy silence, reading together on the verandah. I look out regularly towards little Barrier (whose silhouette looks like Queen Victoria in repose if you look closely). Dad focuses on the latest printed murder and mayhem, tutting and sighing at the good bits.

Every morning he sets off on his second walk to check the post box. Sometimes he buys the newspaper again. I tag along uninvited. His is a solitary routine. I slow my pace to his, by folding my hands behind my back, taking staggered steps and bird watching.

Dad shuffles more than six months ago, more stooped, scuffing the toes of his worn out boat shoes, his legs a deep tan his feet sockless. It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was the child running after his striding 6ft 2 frame crying,  ‘Dad wait for me, wait for me.’ The song Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast ringing in my ears. Even though we’re now 80 and 50 apiece.

Back home we sit in the sun and read some more.

‘I wonder what the poor people are doing today,’ says Dad, staring out to sea.

‘Where did that saying come from?’ I ask, but he doesn’t remember.

Dementia is akin to losing small parts of a person little by little. Though it can be surprising what histories are still sharp. I brought a pile of old photos to jog his memory into conversations about my childhood. I showed too many. I’ll never do it again. The images were obviously confusing. Some sort of test. He did perk up over a photo of a cat. He’s always loved cats.

Afterwards he said, ‘Do you have any grandchildren yet?’

‘Not yet Dad,’ I said. (My children are 11, 13 & 15).

In the evenings as Dad sat on the sofa and read and re-read, I’d prepare dinner. Used to a noisy household I found the void deafening. I didn’t want him to hear me slosh gin into a glass then the grinch of the screw top as I added tonic so I put on some music. In Classical Mood – Reflections seemed apt.

‘Oh it’s Bach in a g-string,’ noted Dad reading, from the cd cover.

Go Bach.  I was thrilled to hear him hum occasionally and see him tap his long fingers on the sofa arm. At one point he rotated both ankles like you might on a long distance flight. Sofa dancing.

I finished US author A Homes’, May We Be Forgiven sitting beside Dad on the next glorious 18 degree day. Tuis warbled and solo gannets buzz the cliff tops. In this book Harold the protagonist collects an assortment of people into his family when he’s charged with the care of his brother’s children after the murder of their mother (by their father btw). These people become his knew family as he and the children try to come to grips with their situation. An elderly couple, Cy and Madeline are part of the motley-crew when their daughter abandons them.

On the page Cy and Madeline are easy care, they’re funny and cute with great one liners. You cannot smell their old person smell, nor see their unwashed white hair turn from yellow to dirt brown. If they pee with the door open throughout the day it doesn’t say. Cy no doubt has long spidery hairs growing from his ears and nose and eyebrows but Homes keeps stum on that too. If only being elderly was like that - the sad lonely frustrating bits edited out.

It would have been simpler to let Dad go about his business on his own. To be hurt and offended by not being included. But I’m the grown up now. I butt in. Organize. Make chat.

On the last night I take him out to dinner. Dad loves an occasion. He goes to take a shower and change his shirt.The door of the upstairs bathroom is left ajar. The water runs, the shower door opens. He’s talking to himself again. He can’t find his towel. Clatter of door. Mumble mumble.

‘Ohhh fuck it,’ he says.

It’s the first time I’ve EVER heard my Dad use the f-word. I sit in his cream armchair beside his table with its reading lamp, his little green diary littered with odd random pencil scribbles and his pile of Economists and I smile really hoping it’s not the last. 

(Statistics: In 2010, 35.6 million people had dementia worldwide, that number is estimated to nearly double every 20 years.)
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