2013 – a round up

This time last year, I did a little round-up of 2012 which I’d entirely forgotten about until about 20 minutes ago.  It was interesting to re-read it a year down the line, so I’ve decided to do one for 2013, purely for selfish reasons.  A little diary if you will.

January was dominated by mice, specifically my insane fear of mice and multiple visits by the mouse exterminator dude.  It actually took many months before I stopped being completely on edge every time I heard a tiny, unexplained noise.  The fact that Ralphie and I are still friends after she traumatised me so badly by bringing that tiny, live mouse to me at the end of December 2012, is no small miracle.  To distract myself from the mice, I had a few fabulous meals out, most notably at Medlar, Zoilo (which I really love) and Bonedaddies.

February was relatively quiet.  I learned how to crochet, promptly forgot how to crochet and went to Silk Road in Camberwell twice.  I also threw a Pancake Day party (which MUST be repeated) and went to John Salt when the kitchen was still being run by Neil Rankin, and had one of my favourite dishes of the year – green chilli poussin – which he kindly told me how to make.

d455f-poussin

Where February was only a little quiet, March was positively sleepy.  I took my friend Shed to see the Royal Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House which was just incredible.  I also took my first of 3 trips up to Yorkshire to see my parents and have a bit of much needed down-time.

In April, I had one of my very favourite meals of the year at The Clove Club.  If you haven’t been yet, GO.  Go fast.  Shed and I indulged in a little more culture, this time it was Old Times at the Harold Pinter Theatre.  The play was weird.  We emerged into daylight feeling totally confused and headed over to Duck & Waffle in order to make sense of the world.  We ate far, FAR more than was strictly necessary (thanks Dan) and rolled home stuffed to the gills.  Also in April, Jordi and I brunched at Balthazar before seeing La Bayadere at the Royal Opera House  (SO MUCH CULTURE).  We then headed over to Shed’s for this pig.  It was DELICIOUS.

d7aa1-piglet

Hold the phone – April isn’t over yet.  MORE ballet, this time with my friend Andrew and my favourite ever ballet – Mayerling.   It was good, but I’d booked to see Johan Kobborg dance Crown Prince Rudolf and the git was injured.  So selfish.  I also ate twice at Polpo and had my first visit to FM Mangal in Camberwell.  Finally, I saw a hypnotherapist to see if he could fix my weight problem.  He couldn’t.  Judging by this recap, it’s not that surprising.

My mum came to visit at the beginning of May.  We went to Brockley Market, had dim sum at Hong Kong City in New Cross and I took her to The Clove Club which was almost as good the second time around.  I also went to Beagle in Hoxton which I really didn’t love.  I think I ordered badly as everyone else seemed to like it.  I also visited Honey & Co with my friend Janie and had a pudding-gasm from their cheesecake.  Seriously, LOOK AT IT:

cheesecake

May also saw my friend Jassy opening the cafe at Stepney City Farm and I volunteered to help out on the first day which was actually a lot of fun.  We celebrated that night at Bob Bob Ricard and, yes, we pushed the champagne button.  2013 saw Jassy and I start our own little cinema club and in May the film was The Look of Love.  For some reason, when I booked it, I was under the impression that we were going to see some sort of romcom.  I was rather surprised when, over our pre-cinema dinner at Elliot’s Cafe, Jassy informed me that I’d actually chosen a film about porn baron, Paul Raymond.  It transpired that the film was BRILLIANT.  The dinner, not so much, but it didn’t really matter.  At the end of May, I was invited to a Save the Children/River Cafe charity dinner to raise awareness of The Big IF campaign.  I wrote a little thing about it here.

In June, my stepdad came to visit.  We went to The 10 Cases and spied Nigel Farage (*shudder*.) The following night was the first of my many trips to Tozi and another of my favourite things I’ve eaten this year – their buffalo ricotta ravioli with black truffle is on another level.  I am reliably informed that @tehbus licked the plate clean when he visited.  Can you blame him when they look like this??!

ravioli

Being a massive knob, I couldn’t get over my Mayerling disappointment, so I went to see it again in May, this time to see Edward Watson as Rudolf.  It was incredible.  I cried.

And then we hit July.  Holy crapola, a mixed month.  It started really well.   I went to Peckham Bazaar for the first time, more Tozi-ing, more Honey & Co-ing and had another trip up to York, this time for my birthday.  Andrew took me to Quality Chop House, also for my birthday, and some other friends took me to the anniversary games at the Olympic Park which was just brilliant.  The next day marked one of the best bits of 2013: I became a godmother to my friend’s two gorgeous girls. In July I was also contacted by a family friend who is a dietitian and we spoke several times.  She turned my thinking about food on its head completely and I started to eat in a totally different way.  It was nothing short of a revelation and I started to lose weight for the first time ever without actually dieting.

And while all that was happening, something bad was going on inside me which I was trying very hard to ignore.  On the evening of my goddaughters’ baptism, I faced the fact that I had to do something about it and toddled off to A&E.  Assuming that I was in for a long wait, I took my kindle with me and was a little surprised, not to mention scared, to find that there was to be no waiting around for me.  Apparently chest pains = speedy service.  Apparently chest pains + dodgy blood tests = you, lady, are being admitted.  The possibility of this hadn’t occurred to me at all.  Luckily, my mum had rushed down from York, arriving at Lewisham Hospital at 11pm.  I nicked her nightie and ended up sitting on a ward for 5 days.  It was horrible.  And scary and emotional and upsetting and scary some more.

August and September sucked.  Having been diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis that led to pulmonary emboli, I spent most of it in and out of hospital having my blood checked.  Actually, I’m STILL doing that, nearly 6 months later.  I was told that I had to be very careful about what I ate because it can upset the medication I’m taking and I became totally paranoid about everything.  I stopped drinking, freaked out every time I saw a green leafy vegetable and sank into a deep depression.  I didn’t really see any of my friends at all, instead taking some time out from normal life to process everything that had happened.  It was a really awful, dark period of my life.

And then October happened.  I went home to York again.  My sister and her children were visiting from Australia and I had some lovely family time with them.  While in York, I was in hospital every single day because my blood just wouldn’t behave.  This was nothing new in itself, but it made me come to the realisation that my blood was never going to behave so I decided to let go of all my neuroses around food and start living again.  I started to drink again – in moderation  – and stop fearing broccoli.  I also made a decision which I’m pretty sure saved my sanity – to join the gym.  It was a strange decision, given that I’m just about the laziest bastard that you’ll ever meet, plus the medication that I’m (still) on drains me of my life force, leaving me in a little crumpled heap of exhaustion, but I knew that I needed to make some drastic changes to my life.  As shit as the DVT and PE have been, I’m actually one of the lucky ones.  I was given a warning.  Not everyone gets that.  I was made to take a real reality check and I realised that I had to start living my life a bit better.

With that realisation, the depression slowly lifted and I re-entered society in late November.  Hoorah!  I went to see Chase & Status at the O2 and had dinner at Briciole with friends.  The rest of the time I rested and swam, rested and swam.

pool

And so to December.  Work went crazy.  I lost the plot again through exhaustion.  I swam a bit, but not as much as I wanted to.  I ate schnitzel at Boopshi’s and octopus and some incredible crispy lamb belly at Peckham Bazaar.  My parents came to stay with me for Christmas and, after two days in two different A&Es (more chest pains which, luckily, aren’t caused by another PE) we celebrated with a brilliant meal at Alyn Williams at the Westbury.  Hands down, best meal of the year and the man himself came out to say hello (I blushed – SUCH a fangirl.  Thanks GC for a truly wonderful evening).  We went to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells followed by another meal at Peckham Bazaar (it’s really good, OK?)  Last night, I saw in the New Year with my parents, my sister and her partner and it was good.

I’m not sure how I feel about 2014.  Last year I wrote this about 2013: “Ordinarily, I feel quite positive at New Year, feeling that the next year HAS to be better than the preceding year.  This year, I’m limiting my expectations.  I’m just going to hope that it isn’t any worse.”  Well, IT WAS.  Much worse.  But that HAS to mean that 2014 is going to be my year, right??

My only resolution is one that I’ve never had before: to be healthy.

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A little update

So you may have noticed that I let the weekly blog fall by the wayside.  There are a number of reasons for this, not least the fact that the whole raison d’être for it – to be accountable for what I was eating in the hope that it would make me eat better – simply didn’t work.  I lost no weight at all.

My last blog post was probably a bit of a cry for help, looking back on it.  I got a bit scared by how totally out of control I was and I couldn’t see any way out.  My cry for help worked.  I was contacted by an old family friend who had stumbled across my blog several months earlier when she was searching for a beef shin recipe.  As luck would have it, she is now a dietitian and offered to help me change my eating habits for good.  I spoke to her and she completely turned on its head everything I believed and understood about food.  I realised that I needed to completely change my eating habits if I wanted to eventually lose weight.  She told me that diets make you fat which I’ve heard a hundred times before, but suddenly I saw the truth in it, given that I’d been dieting for 5 years and had put on around 5 stone. My immediate goal wasn’t to lose any weight, but simply to not put any more on.  Over the following few weeks, I put into practise everything that we discussed – I started eating a small breakfast to kickstart my metabolism, I started snacking (something that I just didn’t do before), I upped my fruit and vegetable intake enormously and reduced my portion sizes, particularly of white carbs – and I found that without counting any calories or points, without really thinking that much about it or trying to lose weight, I lost about half a stone in 3 weeks.  Moreover, I was excited and happy and I felt really well and healthy.

Which was ironic, given what happened next.

hospital

The other reason that I’ve been rather quiet is that my health suddenly took a turn for the worse.  It turns out that if you have chest pains and shortness of breath for a couple of weeks, you probably shouldn’t ignore it – who knew?!  I did ignore it and ended up in A&E on a Sunday night nearly 5 weeks ago with my poor mother rushing down from Yorkshire in a blind panic.  After lots of X-rays and CT scans (ever had one? They make you feel like you’ve wet yourself) and blood tests, it turned out that I have multiple pulmonary embolisms (embolisms? embolis?? no idea) on both lungs, which probably resulted from a DVT, and I was really rather poorly.  I spent just under a week in hospital which was pretty miserable – days and days of getting nothing but bad and depressing news (repeatedly: “you could have died!” – yes, yes, I get it), being prodded, poked, injected and syringed several times a day from 6am until midnight, being fed absolutely god-awful food (the mashed potato tastes like FLOUR – how???) and getting next to no sleep.  Hospitals truly are not conducive to recovery.

Eventually, they decided that my blood was thin enough for it to be safe to leave hospital and I was sent home with a load of injections to self-administer (a very low point was overdosing on these and ending up back in A&E again) and very little other information.  I have to be on a blood thinner – warfarin – for at least 6 months which is utter pants.  It’s a horrible drug which reacts with absolutely everything including, importantly, Vitamin K rich foods which lower the drug’s effectiveness.  “What are Vitamin K rich foods?” you ask – well.  They’re the green leafy vegetables that I had been filling up half of my plate with just 1 week earlier.  The thing about Vitamin K is that it clots your blood and stops you from bleeding profusely, which is a great thing – for you.  For me, not so much.  I want thin, bleedy blood OR I MIGHT DIE (I was told today that it’s sick to joke about this…whevs.)

So having completely changed my eating habits and having increased my vegetable intake by a good 200%, suddenly I found myself freaking out if there was a lettuce leaf in my sandwich or a broccoli floret in my salad.  Like, ACTUAL MELTDOWN.

In desperation, I went to see a dietitian (not the lovely dietitian referred to above, just for the avoidance of doubt) about Vitamin K.  I’m fairly sure she was insane – when I told her that I wasn’t sufficiently organised (or, indeed, motivated enough) to get up earlier every morning to heat up food to take into work in a flask, she became faintly hysterical, telling me that if I’m not capable of being organised enough to heat up food in the morning, HOW ON EARTH AM I EVER GOING TO MANAGE A RELATIONSHIP AND HAVE CHILDREN???????!!!!!!  It was bizarre and not especially relevant…I think it’s safe to say that I will never see her again.  That said, she was fairly helpful on the Vitamin K thing and told me that I CAN eat it, I just have to eat the same amount every day.  Apparently I can also drink a bottle of wine if I want to, but I just have to make sure that I drink a bottle every  single day.   For the next six months.  Roll back a couple of years – no problemo!!  Unfortunately I’ve worked hard to cut down my drinking and drinking every day just isn’t going to work for me, so now I’m teetotal for the next six months, which sucks ass and effectively ruins my social life because I really am shallow enough to think that if I can’t drink, a good time cannot be had.

I’m also not really supposed to lose weight.  Or do sporadic exercise.  If I suddenly want to take up swimming…that’s right!  I have to do it EVERY DAY.  This is what I mean about warfarin being a little bitch – there can be no spontaneity in life.  Everything has to be the same, day in, day out and the blood monitoring is constant; I’m at hospital twice a week at the moment which is a nightmare and makes me tired and miserable.

It’s all quite overwhelming and I’m finding it all a bit of a struggle, but I’m getting there.  It’s still early days and there’s so much to get my head around and so many changes to make.  I have to be super organised (but yay – I’ll be prepared for having kids!!) and think about and plan everything.

For the first two weeks after I came out of hospital, I avoided Vitamin K foods completely because the internet is confusing and so Americanised (seriously – why can’t Americans WEIGH anything?  What’s with the obsession with CUPS?) and it’s just so hard to ensure that you really are eating the same amount every day.  With the help of a few twitter people (thanks here go to @applelisafood, @EvidenceMatters and real life friend @ginandcrumpets) I think I’ve got to the bottom of it and am nearly brave enough to start filling half of my plate with vegetables again.

So that’s where I’ve been.  And here I still am.  Phew.

 

Motivation

Years ago, when I managed to lose a lot of weight and became relatively slim, I got there because I had so much motivation and willpower.  Not dieting just wasn’t an option.  I could easily sit with a friend who was scarfing a huge burger and could resist their offer of a chip or two.  I could see The Bigger Picture which, ultimately, was happiness.  I worked really, really hard at it and the results were amazing – 3 stone in 4 months.

I’ve never been able to get back to this.  My life has changed dramatically since then.  For one reason or another, my network of friends is very different and my spare time now revolves around eating out in a way it just didn’t before.  It’s an easy excuse to make – So much temptation!  How do I diet when I’m always eating out! – but it doesn’t answer the problem with my motivation.

A huge part of the problem is that I’m all or nothing where dieting is concerned.  When I start dieting, it’s like I’m an inflated balloon, filled with good intentions and I do well for a while, but nobody has tied a knot in the bottom of the balloon to make it secure to keep all the goodness in.  I do one thing that’s not diet friendly and instead of looking at it as a tiny lapse, I let the balloon go and it loses all control, bouncing off everything, doing as much damage as it possibly can before it lands, deflated and miserable in a heap.

Since my Weight Watchers meeting was cancelled, I have spent the last three weeks over-eating to such an extent that it makes me hate myself.  I’ve eaten everything in sight – office doughnuts even when they’re a day old and hard, takeaways, so much toast with peanut butter, pasta pasta pasta, fat and filth.  I feel sluggish and disgusting.  I’m putting back on the weight that I’ve lost, my plus size clothes are becoming tight again and I have no energy.  Why do I do this?  It makes me so sad that I do it to myself time and time again.  And yes, the obvious and only answer is just to stop doing it…if only it were that simple.  I live alone, I feel very alone a lot of the time and I guess I feel like the hopes and dreams that I had a few years ago to meet someone and have a family have slipped away, so what’s the point in trying?

I don’t know how to fix this.  I’ve tried everything – fad diets, sensible diets, diets where a month’s worth of meals are delivered to my door, I’ve had dieting “buddies”, hypnotherapy…I just can’t make anything work.  I promised myself I wouldn’t be fat when I went to Australia last year, but I was enormous.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t have another fat summer and yet another one is bearing down on me when I won’t be able to go and sit in the sun with my friends because I’ll overheat in my black winter clothes which are the only clothes I own because they cover up the flabby flesh.

I don’t know how to fix this and it’s making me so unhappy.

Week 19

I have a bad habit that kicks in when I’ve had a good week and lost quite a bit of weight.  Instead of capitalising on it and pushing on through, I see it as an opportunity to have a bit of a lapse which is what I did on Friday and Saturday following my 5lb loss last week.  Luckily I managed to pull it back by behaving myself pretty well for the rest of the week, but it still puzzles me why I do it.

My excuse for misbehaving on Friday was partly down to the fact that I would have the rest of the week to make up for it and partly down to having no food in the flat – not that that couldn’t have been rectified by a quick trip to the supermarket.  But no, I decided to get takeaway instead.  I was better than normal though; I avoided salt and pepper squid (it nearly killed me) and went for a small portion of singapore noodles, grilled dumplings and prawn crackers.  As it turned out, I didn’t like it much and didn’t finish either the noodles or the prawn crackers.  Wasted opportunity.

noodles

On Saturday, I met Shed at Hyde Park and went to the Big IF rally.  It was actually a brilliant day – a gentle stroll through the park with little cups of ice-cream and then sitting in the sunshine listening to some pretty amazing people talk about what needs to be done to end world hunger.  The best bit, though, was this little dude:

dude

Big IF

We left Hyde Park and went to meet a friend of Shed’s for dinner at Leon.  I haven’t been to Leon in ages and very rarely have I been in the evening.  Their evening menu consists of everything they do during the daytime but put into proper dishes rather than cardboard boxes.  We ordered most of the things on the menu (we had a 40% off voucher) and it was actually pretty delicious.  The chilli chicken and the mackerel salad were really good and the baked fries were incredibly moreish.

leon

While there, we bumped into Danny of Food Urchin and his lovely wife Holly and proceeded to get quite merry, which resulted in this absolute gem.  Watch it.  It’s very, very funny.

I was hungover on Sunday and desperately wanted to eat the world.  God knows how, but I managed to stop myself.  Instead, I made spaghettini (you feel like you are getting so much more pasta for your points which is essential – pasta is so pointy) with prawns, lemon and samphire – 20 points in total which is pretty high, but it tasted good.

samphire

On Monday I picked up some sea bass and made fish parcels – so much food for only 12 points.

fish

On Tuesday I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and in need of comfort so I made n’duja pasta bake.  Because pasta is irritatingly high in points, I only used 75g and added a chicken breast to bulk it out.  Ordinarily, I would baulk at pasta with chicken (tantamount to putting prawns on a pizza – WRONG) but it worked.  What didn’t work was using reduced fat mozzarella – it melted into nothing and was a complete waste of time.  If I was doing it again, I’d probably just heat it through on the hob in the hope that the mozzarella would go stringy rather than disappear completely.  Or I’d leave the cheese out altogether.  This came to 19 points – it would have been 15 without the mozzarella.

nduja pasta

On Wednesday I popped over to see my friends and their brand spanking new baby.  I took them dinner – chicken and tarragon casserole from the freezer which we had with rice and extra vegetables.  Tom did a beautiful job on the presentation but I forgot to take a photo so here’s what it looked like the first time I made it. The casserole is 12 points and is worth every single one of them.

Filling The Freezer

On Thursday I had some Very Good News and celebrated with Pilpel for lunch and champagne and the ballet in the evening.  I didn’t eat until 11:30pm which, with hindsigt, was too late.

pilpel

I only lost 0.5lb this week which I’m a bit disappointed with but isn’t terribly surprising – I really don’t think eating so late last night will have helped.  I’m also feeling extremely fed up as I’ve just found out that my Weight Watchers meeting has been cancelled, so I will have to go to a different one that is further away and on a Thursday, which isn’t nearly as convenient.  I really wish that I could trust myself to diet properly if I weighed myself, but this blog is evidence that that just doesn’t work.  Perhaps I should let my colleagues weigh me on a Friday…but I don’t think I could bear for them to know just how heavy I am.  Decisions, decisions…

Fish parcels

One of my very favourite things to cook when I’m dieting is fish parcels, yet I forget to do them at any other time.  I’m actually doing them a disservice – they’re not diet food, they’re basically delicious.  You can put pretty much anything in them that you like and they’re both tasty and really low in calories/fat/points – whichever way you’re counting, they’re good for you.

fish

Ingredients (serves 1)

White fish – I usually use cod loin or sea bass/bream

1 nest of egg noodles

½ red chilli, chopped finely

3 spring onions, cut into chunks on the diagonal

A teaspoon of finely chopped ginger

1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

Soy sauce (according to taste – I use about 1 tbsp)

1 tsp sesame oil

Lime segments

Vegetables – you can use pretty much anything but good ones are:

Tenderstem broccoli, blanched for 2 minutes

Asparagus, blanched for 2 minutes

Sugar snap peas or mange tout, sliced on the diagonal

Baby sweetcorn, halved lengthways

Pak choi or spinach

You will also need a piece of baking parchment, about 50cm long.

Boil the egg noodles for 5 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water.  Transfer to a bowl and mix with the sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil.  Stir in the spring onions, ginger and chopped red chilli and then turn out into the middle of a length of baking parchment.

Top with your vegetables and then lay the fish on top – if it’s still got its skin, lay it skin side up so you can peel it off easily once cooked (I don’t like soggy fish skin).  Pull all the sides of the baking parchment together to make an airtight parcel and pop it into the oven at 180c for about 20 minutes.

I’ve never managed to make this without the noodles sticking a little to the bottom of the parchment and the fish sticking a bit to the top (quite useful when its skin is still on as the skin will stick to the paper and you can just pick up the flesh) which means that it’s not the most beautiful of dishes when served, but god damn, it tastes good.  Serve with a couple of lime segments to squeeze over and a fun size bag of Maltesers for pudding.

fish1

Week 18

If I thought that last week was a game of two halves, it was nothing in comparison to this week.

Friday started off OK once I reassured myself that losing 1lb wasn’t so terrible.  That evening, the lovely folks at Plusixfive and Yum Bun were holding a bao pop-up at the latter’s Old Street shop.  I have seen countless Instagrammed photos of friends eating  ao and every time I’ve thought “I need to get me some of that bao action.”  I was right – bao is right up my street.  Steamed buns (actual bread – I assumed that the bun was made from something like tapioca flour but it’s wheat) filled with meat, salady things, herbs, chilli or hoisin sauce and a few crunchy bits…these really rocked my world.  From top to bottom, slow roasted pork belly with cucumber, spring onions and hoisin, ox cheek rendang with coriander and peanuts and vegetable popiah with some seriously hot chilli sauce.  You can’t really see the veggie one because I’d been over-enthusiastic and started eating it before I remembered to take a photo.

bao

On Saturday I was hungover and in need of some serious comfort.  I was faced with a bit of an empty fridge so I had to do a storecupboard dinner: Fuchsia Dunlop’s mapo tofu with rice and purple sprouting broccoli.  This is the second time I’ve made this and I upped the chilli level and it was so good – a brilliant combination of soft and bland with salty, chilli heat.  Delicious.

tofu

On Sunday I was up early and went down to Stepney City Farm to help my friend Jassy in her cafe.  While I wasn’t completely wild about the getting up early part, it turned out that there was a little bonus waiting for me: 3 freshly laid goose eggs.  I quickly snaffled one for £1.50 and squirrelled it away for later.

egg1

Goose eggs are equivalent to about 3 chicken eggs and are more similar to them than they are to duck eggs.  As I trotted home from a brilliant day at the farm, I planned what to do with it and realised that I could only do one thing – mega fried egg.  I picked up some potatoes to make some leek and potato cakes (my new favourite thing) and had an absolutely awesome dinner all within my points.  Happy days.

egg2

On Monday I was tired and grumpy.  I didn’t manage to plan anything very well so ended up only eating 6 points before I got home in the evening.  This meant that I was left with lots and lots and lots going spare and yet my dinner was pretty saintly; roasted butternut squash, prosciutto, leaves and pecorino.  I bumped up my points with some Walkers French Fries and a couple of fun size bags of Maltesers, but still came in at 10 points under my daily allowance.

salad

I’ve been craving steak badly.  Tuesday’s dinner was a butler’s steak from the East London Steak Company with diet chips (parboiled and then tossed in 1 tbsp oil and baked), garlic mushrooms and broccoli, and it was delicious.

steak

On Wednesday, the naughty part of my week kicked in when my stepdad came to stay becuase he had a conference in London.  I’ve wanted to go to The 10 Cases ever since my boozehound friend Donald recommended it and thought that this would be a perfect opportunity.  Mike and I started with a glass of champagne, and moved onto a delicious bottle of riesling.  I had soft shell crab (amazing) followed by pork belly and mash which, after behaving myself pretty well for a couple of weeks, I found very rich and didn’t quite finish.  It was delicious though and I absolutely loved the restaurant.  It was a gorgeous evening and the whole of the front of the restaurant was opened up; it felt like we were on holiday.  Bliss.

crab

On Thursday we went out again, this time I suggested going to Tozi in Victoria.  Tozi opened very recently and serves cicchetti; small plates of Italian food.  We shared several small plates, the best of which I forgot to photograph, but included buffalo ricotta ravioli with truffle (I nearly cried it was so good), ox cheek with wild mushrooms and baccala mantecato, which is rehydrated salt cod whipped up with oil in the way that you’d make mayonnaise, to make a sort of whipped, moussey cod deliciousness (recipe on Food Stories blog here).  Other delicious things included calamari, bruschetta and, shown below, swordfish with caponata, burrata with Mediterranean vegetables and sorbets – coconut, passionfruit and lemon & basil.

Tozi

It’s safe to say that I absolutely loved Tozi.  I know that a lot of people are getting a little tired of the small plate thing, but I love it.  It’s a brilliant opportunity to try lots of different things and, most importantly, it negates the possibility of food envy!  The food last night was seriously good and pretty reasonably priced.  If I wasn’t such a miserable cow and I didn’t go out of my way to avoid celebrating my birthday, I’d definitely be celebrating it here.  My new favourite place.

I really thought that the last two nights may have screwed up any chance I had of losing any weight this week, but Tozi really wasn’t too bad – the portions were small enough that even a 50% share in something deep fried wasn’t a huge amount of bad food, so it was relatively diet friendly.  The 10 Cases wasn’t diet friendly in any way, but I’ve been so good for the rest of the week, including eating incredibly low point salads for lunch, that it’s all balanced itself out a bit.  I lost 5 lbs this week which is incredibly pleasing and has made up for last week’s slow start.  Hooray!

 

Enough Food For Everyone IF…

I feel like I need to start this post by acknowledging how out of place it will seem on this blog.  Broken down, this blog is really about the fact that I eat too much food; it’s about the fact that I’m a glutton who has too much access to some of the most incredible food in the world.  It’s also about my (failed) attempts to eat less and stop being so greedy and fat.

So…yes.  It’s certainly a strange place to be writing something about world hunger, but I went to an event last week which was put on by Save the Children in conjunction with Emily O’Hare and Danny Bohan, Head Sommelier and Head Chef respectively at The River Cafe.  The event, #foodiesvhunger, was to tell food bloggers about the “Enough Food For Everyone IF” campaign.  Apparently, 1 in 8 people in the world is hungry, yet there is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone.  Two million children die every year because they are hungry.  If I’ve done the maths right, that’s 1 child every 20 seconds.

My friend Brie, who is a campaigner for Save the Children, has just returned from Ethiopia where she met people who had either been helped by Save the Children or were on a waiting list to be helped.  Zenebu Meresa (below) is 22, divorced and has a 10 year old daughter.  Zenebu had another daughter but when the baby became sick and needed food to survive, Zenebu was unable to provide it.  Her baby died when she was 18 months old.  Zenebu is on the waiting list to receive 5 sheep and training in sheep rearing, but until she gets them, she and her daughter survive on, at best, 2 meals of ugali per day.

zenebu

Photo credit Jiro Ose/Save the Children

Brie also met Abadit, shown below, who is a widow with 7 children.  Up until two years ago, Abadit struggled to feed her children; they ate 2 meals a day made up of cereals with no protein or vegetables.  She had a small plot of land which she was unable to maintain on her own so she couldn’t grow anything on it.  Two years ago, Save the Children gave Abadit a dairy cow and training in animal husbandry.  She now has 2 pregnant dairy cows and makes milk and butter which she sells.  From the income from the milk and butter, she can now employ men to work her land and she now grows vegetables and grains.  Her children are no longer hungry.

Abadit

Photo credit Jiro Ose/Save the Children

While Brie was telling us about the people she had met, we were invited to try the ugali.  Ugali is maize meal mixed with water.  It is pure carbohydrate and has pretty much no nutritional value, yet it is what many people survive on.  I can honestly say that I have never tasted anything before that tasted of absolutely nothing.  Water has more flavour than ugali.  It was a very stark reminder of how lucky I am.

ugali

So, Save the Children is doing some amazing work by providing people with the means to generate an income and make their own food, but the simple fact is that they can’t give everyone a cow or sheep – it’s just not possible.  And that’s where the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign comes in.  Sarah excitedly told us that with the G8 summit taking place in a couple of weeks’ time (which the UK is hosting) we are the closest we’ve ever been to ending world hunger.  She outlined the 4 main issues that the campaign is tackling, in short:-

  1. Aid – the UK has committed to spending 0.7% of its gross national income on life-saving aid.  The campaign wants the UK to put pressure on the other G8 nations to put more into life-saving aid.
  2. Land – big companies are forcing poor farmers off their land and are growing crops for fuel rather than food, leaving millions hungry.
  3. Tax – close the loopholes that stop big corporations from paying the tax that they owe in poor nations and enable the countries to support their farmers to grow enough food to feed everyone.
  4. Transparency – apparently there are corrupt practices between governments and companies which, ultimately, lead to children going hungry.

On Saturday 8 June, a week before the G8 Summit, David Cameron is hosting a Hunger Summit in London.  While it’s going on, the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign is holding an event in Hyde Park called the Big IF to raise awareness and make some noise, to show people that world hunger can end IF changes are made.

I sat down to an incredible meal which included probably the best prosciutto I’ve ever tasted, a beautiful tomato and pecorino risotto, rabbit with borlotti beans and a ridiculously decadent chocolate nemesis cake and drank delicious champagne and wines and reflected on how lucky I am to not have to worry about where the next meal will come from, let alone whether there will even be a next meal.

I’m guilty of having become desensitised to the global hunger situation.  Over the years, we have been exposed to so many pictures of small children with distended stomachs caused by malnutrition, that it ceases to make an impact.  This new campaign is stepping away from that and presenting the facts: that we can end world hunger and that, right now, we’re in a better position than ever to do so.

So go forth and spread the word!  If you’re at a loose end on Saturday, sign up and go down to Hyde Park and lend some people power.  Volunteer to help make and plant spinning flowers (the symbol of the Big IF event) on Thursday 6 June or Friday 7 June here.  Otherwise get tweeting #BigIF and #IFCampaign – get it trending to get people talking.

Wouldn’t it be an incredible thing if we could bring an end to world hunger in our lifetimes?