Category Archives: Food and dieting

Let them eat cake!

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Having forgotten my good friend Mark`s birthday recently, last night I decided to make him a belated birthday cake.  I duly bought the ingredients for a Victoria sponge and beat and baked for the next hour or so.  When it was time to take it out of the oven, lots of the mixture had overflowed and was now glued hard to the oven floor.

I thought, never mind and lifted the cakes out of the oven. They looked rather nice.  After ten minutes I was ready to transfer them to a place to cool.  Unfortunately and in spite of greasing the cake tins liberally with butter, the sponges had stuck to the tins.  When I gently tried to prise them out with a knife they just fell apart in many light and airy heaps of brokenness.

I was disappointed and briefly contemplated making a trifle but then thought better of it and decided to make another cake in the morning and give the cake disaster to the birds.

When I got up this morning, inexplicably, the once light and airy cake had mysteriously altered and now weighed about two stone.  I don`t have any idea how this transformation has taken place and it poses many metaphysical questions for me…..  I took it outside to scatter over the garden for the birds and watched with interest as some crows and magpies alighted on the ground to eat their early morning feast.

One by one, the birds lay down on their backs and started rubbing their bellies with their feathery wings.  One of them has just knocked my kitchen door and asked if he could come in for a lie down and two others are currently on my grandson`s bike in the hall, pedalling away furiously.

I may shop buy and pretend I have cooked a cake for Mark, honestly Mark, if you read this, it`s worse than my home made cheese soup!       🙂

Taking Joyce for lunch.

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I arrived at my mother in law Joyce`s house at around eleven in the morning to take her out for the day.  “What would you like to do today?”  This was my usual question, always followed by her usual response, “I don`t know, you choose.”

“Well, is there anyone you`d like to visit?”

“Yes, I`d like to visit Jeannie and then I`d like to go for something to eat.”

Those few words `something to eat` always fill me with dread since going for something to eat with my mother in law is so fraught with obstacles to happiness and so instilled with indecision, it is generally a nightmare to manage.  However being a bit of a Buddhist and knowing that Buddha teaches us to surrender to the moment, that is what I did and we set off for Jeannie`s house.  Jeannie and Joyce are sisters.

Jeannie is a lovely woman, warm and huggable with a wicked sense of humour but when she and Joyce get together, they bicker like children so spending time with them can be rather draining.  We set off in the general direction of Wythall as Jean had said she would like to eat at The White Swan a favourite carvery of mine.  Joyce had said she would like to go there too.  We were about half way there when Joyce said,

“What is The White Swan anyway?”  And I said, “You know what it is Joyce, it`s a carvery, we`ve been there loads of times.”  Jeannie said quite a lot in the back of the car about fresh vegetables and how Joyce should eat fresh vegetables. 

Joyce said in rather a cross tone of voice, “Oh.  Well I I don`t want to eat at a carvery!”

“That`s alright,”  I said turning the car around, “we can eat at that little pub on the Redditch Road you both like so much, what`s it called, The Red Lion?”

We headed for the Red Lion but unfortunately there had been an accident resulting in a long tail back.  I turned the car around again and said,  “It`ll have to be The White Swan then I`m afraid or we`ll have a really long wait.”

Half way back Jeannie said,  “Why don`t we go to The Peacock, they have lovely fresh vegetables there.”   So I diverted the car again and drove them to The Peacock which is a really nice, traditional pub set in the Worcestershire countryside.  When we got there I said,  “You choose where to sit, I don`t mind,”  so they chose a table in the  back of the pub close to the balcony where the pretty French windows opened on to the lawn.

We started looking at the menu,  “Oooh,” said Jeannie,  “It`s a bit draughty! Are you sitting in a draught Joyce?”  “It`s alright Jean, I`ll put my coat around your shoulders,”  said Joyce. 

I said,  “Why don`t you find another seat where it isn`t draughty?”  I always expect them to change seats at least twice and when all three sisters including Lillian are together it can take up to forty five minutes just to get them settled while they argue the toss.

We ventured into the far recesses of the dining room and eventually they found a table they both liked.

After we had decided what we wanted, a nice little waitress came over and asked for our order.  One of the reasons why I don`t take Joyce for lunch very often is because she is so rude to staff, she speaks to them like they are flotsam and barely worthy of being flicked off  her lapel.  Take the last time I took her out, she snapped her finger and thumb at the barman and in a voice loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear demanded a clean wine glass, saying,  “This one is dirty I can smell it, don`t tell me it isn`t I`m not stupid!”  He was so polite and apologised even though he didn`t need to.  I wondered whether he took the glass around the back of the bar, spat in it gave it a wipe round with his sleeve and returned it to her with a smile.

Anyway, to continue;   “I want prawn cocktail,” she said to the waitress, “but I only like little prawns, I can`t eat the big ones, they make me feel ill, it`s something about the texture.”  “But you like crayfish tails,”  ventured Jeannie helpfully.  “Don`t tell me what I can and cannot eat Jean!”  said Joyce gritting her teeth and banging her little fists on the table.

“Thats alright madam,”  the waitress said in a placatory tone,  “Chef will make sure to use small prawns.”

I ordered breaded mushrooms with a blue cheese sauce, Jeannie had the prawns too which the waitress brought to our tables quite quickly.

“Those aren`t little prawns, I distinctly ordered little prawns,”  said Joyce. “Take it back.” Jean and I were tucking in by now.  My mushrooms were yummy.

The waitress apologised and enquired extremely politely what else my mother in law might like instead.  “I suppose I`ll have soup,” she said with an expression that would have shrivelled a slug at ten paces.  “Oh I think this is lovely!”  said Jeannie, shovelling in the prawns.  I ate Joyce`s cocktail. It was scrummy in a sharp, home made thousand island sauce served with rocket, my favourite.  The balance of flavours was just right.

The waitress brought over some soup, it was potato, cauliflower and cheesy soup with warmed crusty bread and butter.  Joyce took two sips and said, “It`s cold, I like my soup hot.  I`m not at all happy about this!”  And I said, “Let`s face it Joyce you`re not at all happy about anything very much.”

The atmosphere became thick enough to cut with one of the kitchen knives.  Seeing the look of shock on Joyce`s face that I had the audacity to speak to her in this way, I sighed and placing down my knife and fork said, “Why don`t we ask them to put it in the microwave?”  ” No it`s alright,”  she said sniffily and ate a few mouthfuls, like she was some sort of martyr and then pushed it aside.  Jeannie and I finished it, it was delicious.

For my main course I chose steak, well done, with chips, mushroom and vine tomatoes. Joyce had chosen rib of beef with mashed potato and green beans and Jeannie chose steak and ale pie with fresh vegetables.

Jean and I tucked in, our meal was great I really couldn`t fault it, the steak was cooked to perfection.  After demolishing the contents of her pie Jeannie picked up the pastry case and ate it with her fingers.  She was visibly enjoying her meal.

Joyce picked at her rib of beef, ate a bit, left the mash as it had horseradish in it and she doesn`t like horseradish, left her green beans, she doesn`t like green beans, so me and Jeannie shared what she had left.  The beef melted in our mouths, it was heavenly, the gravy was a meaty melody on our tongues, the mash divine.   Anything we couldn`t manage because we were so completely plodged, I wrapped up in tissue paper to take home for my lucky dog Alfie.

Joyce`s face maintained a thoroughly miserable expression as she attempted to put a dampener on the meal.  It didn`t work.

Before leaving we ordered coffee.  I walked to the bar and apologised for the rude behaviour of my mother in law, I told them they were quite at liberty to put a drop of Paraquat in her coffee.  They laughed a little nervously and assured me it was quite alright and that she was, “an old lady,” and old ladies get a bit kranky, I said,  “if ever I get like that in my old age I hope someone will shoot me.”

We drove home more or less in silence but I didn`t mind, I was so happily full I wouldn`t have to eat for a week!

Letter to Cherry at Jenny Craig.

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Dear Cherry Clarke,

You have such a food-y name it keeps tempting me to call you Cherry Cake.

When I first contacted Jenny Craig I spoke to a colleague of yours called David.  He has a lovely voice, a very engaging voice and sounded ever so like Dermot O`leary.   On the other hand Cherry, you sound exactly like Lenora Crichlow who plays Annie in Being Human.  This has led me to ponder whether I have in fact been having a conversation with 2 actors who are gaining experience for a forthcoming TV reality show but in any event a week ago persuaded by your lovely voice, I decided to join the Jenny Craig diet plan.

I wouldn`t normally fork out for a ready prepared diet as they are very expensive.  This one is usually on offer at £11 a day or £301 a month which is way too much money for me to afford.  At the moment though it is being offered at half price for the first month, so for just over a fiver a day they deliver to your door a months` supply of breakfast, lunch, dinner and loads of snacks.   I think that`s pretty competitive.  If I stroll over to ASDA near where I work to buy just my lunch, you can guarantee I`ll spend more than a fiver.

Anyway, I was full of enthusiasm and very excited when two large boxes arrived at my house packed with all sorts of goodies.   I began the diet last Wednesday and for the first two or three days I was doing really well.  Of course you already know that Cherry as you are my consultant and telephoned me on day 2 to see if everything was OK and it was…..  at that point I felt really committed to sticking to the plan.

And then we hit the weekend.    On Friday night `committment` got tucked away somewhere inside my head where I had also neatly stored `enthusiasm,` alongside `application`.   I briefly reflected that if I took some exercise it would distract me from thinking about food, so I did, me and the dog walked to the offie and bought a bottle of California Soft and Fruity which was very nice.

By Saturday morning I was positively slathering at the mouth for something with fat in it so I ate several pieces of toasted rye bread laden thick with butter and marmite, a soft boiled drippy egg (delicious) and three chunks of extremely sharp Cheddar cheese.

Later, when my  ex-old man woke up and sat down in the kitchen for his morning cuppa, I pointed out in an accusatory sort of a way that he had previously said he would cook me a balti.  Tony is a particularly gifted cook, people travel from afar to taste his curries.  He looked puzzled,  “I thought you were on your diet,”  he said.   “Bugger the diet,”  I replied.  That evening he presented me with the most mouth wateringly delicious minced lamb and prawn balti cooked lovingly with butter, spices, chilli and creamed coconut, every spoonful was a spoonful of balti heaven.  The home made naan breads were pretty spectacular too.

Yesterday evening my lovely daughter Becky called round with all the grandchildren.  Beck and I sat in the kitchen chatting and laughing recounting our day and telling stories and jokes to one another over several generous glasses of Chablis.  As we talked, so the grandchildren gradually rifled through my Jenny Craig boxes and noshed away most of the crisp and biscuit snacks, several tubs of Jenny Craig pot noodle, two portions of  Jenny Craig lasagne, some Jenny Craig chicken and potatoes and a Jenny Craig Moroccan style chick pea tagine.   There are five grandchildren so the boxes have been heavily plundered and are hugely diminished, it`s a tragedy!  I should mention it was shortly after their feast that one or other of the two youngest managed to pull down the curtains in the living room and when I enquired which one of them had done it, they turned their sweet little faces to me and said, “we don`t know which one of us did it nanny.”   Must have been the sugar rush from the extremely moreish Jenny Craig chocolate chip cereal bars.

Anyway Cherry, really, I`m serious!  My enthusiasm for the plan waned very rapidly although the food is undeniably delicious.  My theory is that it is such a low fat diet, the effect it has on me is to make me crave chunks of meat and cheese and slices of chicken pie swimming in thick gravy but Cherry, I want you to know as my temporary life coach and mentor, this is nothing to do with you and it`s not your fault.   I do not doubt the plan, it`s a great plan for those who can stick to it, it`s just that I can`t.   No matter how much you energetically and convincingly try to persuade me to stay on the straight and narrow, I`m afraid it isn`t going to work.  I`ve fallen off the wagon, I`ve strayed along the path to ruin, I`m on the road to no-where baby!  But by gum I`m having such a good time getting there……

I`m just off to bed now with a few midnight snacks.

Best wishes,

Nelly.