One of my life ambitions (along with being an extra on Midsomer Murders) is to cook my way through Nigella’s cookbooks. Her books, you see, are not just about the recipes, but the writing peppered with little pieces of what I like to call Nigellosophy. This extract from Cook, Eat, Repeat sums up many of the reasons why:
“If I could ban any phrase, it would, without doubt, be that overused, viscerally irritating, and far-from-innocent term itself, the Guilty Pleasure. I don’t think I actually groan out loud when I’m asked, every time I’m interviewed, ‘What are your guilty pleasures?’, but from deep within the cacophonous orchestra of my mind, the woodwind section starts up a searing wail, the cellos come in with their melancholy sob, only giving way to the brass section to end with the wah wah wah waah of the sad trombone. I may be smiling, but I’m keening on the inside.
My answer to that question is always the same, and while I worry that I repeat it so often it might be beginning to sound glib, I have to say that I feel it profoundly. And it is this: no one should feel guilty about what they eat, or the pleasure they get from eating; the only thing to feel guilty about (and even then I don’t recommend it) is the failure to be grateful for that pleasure…What I refuse to live with, categorically and essentially set myself against, is the erosion of pleasure by dint of turning it into a means of self-persecution.”Nigella Lawson, Cook, Eat, Repeat
In the same chapter, appropriately titled “Pleasures”, she talks about comfort eating:
“For me that conjures up an unhappy search for mind-numbing obliteration: food as narcotic; not food as a celebration of life.
The accepted notions of comfort eating and guilty pleasure, while different from one another, stem from the same Manichaean universe: a foodstuff is either good or bad; ditto the eater thereof. Thus people seek to deny themselves the tastes and textures they crave, and castigate themselves when they give in to temptation. From this comes the crippling sense of shame, which gives rise to the guilty pleasure. But truly, where is the pleasure when it provokes such shame or guilt?”Nigella Lawson, Cook, Eat, Repeat
I read something somewhere (sorry for the vagueness – I really should get in the habit of writing proper notes rather than relying on my menopausal brain to remember actual details) about how when we’re reaching for comfort food, we tend to go for the highly processed, high fat, high sugar hits. What we’re looking for is not necessarily taste or flavour, but rather that certain mouth feel. Food as a hug, almost. And there’s nothing wrong with that – unless it leads to the above-mentioned guilt or shame…but I’ll leave that there.
Anyways, Nigella goes onto talk about the time she posted a picture of her lunch – a sesame scattered bowl of broccoli and prawns – on Instagram and someone commented about how she was being “good” and surely she would have preferred to be eating cake. The answer to that was no – she was eating exactly what she wanted to be eating at that point in time – it was what she and her body were craving, and she exulted in it.
I get that, yet so often salads and vegetables are associated with punishment or deprivation. We say things like, ‘I’ve been bad so it’s salad for me this week.’ Yet, back in the days when overseas travel was on the cards, fresh vegetables were always what we’d rush to have in our first meal home. We craved them, we looked forward to them. Rather than a punishment, well-prepared fresh veggies are a pleasure.
It hasn’t always been that way. I remember gagging on Brussels sprouts when I was a kid, and the broad beans back when they used to get cooked in their bitter outer skins until they were a pale khaki instead of the bright spring green they should be. Then there was the pumpkin mash – don’t mention the pumpkin mash.
These days things are different and I embrace most things veg – I even love the sprouts (although still gag on pumpkin mash) – with okra being the only exception to that rule. We are, however, spoilt where we live and how we have access to so much great seasonal produce all year round.
We buy our lettuce leaves each week from Sue at the farmer’s market. Not only are they so freshly picked that they actually last a couple of weeks in the fridge, but they taste so good I once said (quite fancifully) that they tasted as though they’d been flown in on the wings of a fairy. My husband laughed at me, but it’s true – they taste that good.
It’s like the tomatoes that come from the man at Noosa Reds. I defy any other tomato in the world to taste as good as these tomatoes. I crave them and eat them like I’d eat an apple. Eaten in the sun on excellent sourdough bread with fresh curd from the man at Gympie Goat’s Cheese, it’s hard to imagine a more indulgent breakfast.
The skies have been (mostly) blue over the last week and the days warmer – spring is on the way. With the warmer weather, I’m craving green food and looking forward to spring veg such as asparagus and broad beans. I can make a meal out of podded broad beans with a little pancetta, olive oil and good bread. As for fresh asparagus dipped into soft boiled eggs… heaven. Rather than deprivation and punishment, it actually feels quite indulgent and luxurious to enjoy the best of the season in this way.
Recipe of the week
This week’s recipe of the week is this tomato and red pepper salad (main pic). It comes from Claudia Rodin’s new book “Med”. I had it one night last week as a side to steak (I really wanted seared tuna, but wasn’t able to get it), and then another night I “melted” anchovies into olive oil, added the leftover tomato/capsicum salad and some sliced black olives and tossed it through spaghetti. The photo isn’t great, but oh my goodness it was tasty.
I had the last of it for lunch with some fresh herbs sprinkled over the top. One dish, three ways. Winning.
On the exercise front, in addition to my weekday 5 at 5 (5kms at 5am), I did 2 strength sessions with my totally stunning training buddies aka cheerleaders. I also tried a HIIT session and a boxing session to up the cardio a bit. Both were online (Get Fit With Rick) and certainly had my heart beating faster.
Okay, hit me up with your fave salads and dressings…