Pulling a Habit out of a Hat
Habits are magical things. No more so than with food.
We noticed a huge difference when we made pudding something for a special treat once or twice a week, rather than a nightly habit. If you want something sweet at the end of the meal, have a chocolate or two afterwards while you watch TV.
I recently realised that I was drinking a glass of wine or beer every night, unconsciously exceeding the recommended healthy drinking limits. As a result I have switched more than half my wine consumption at meals to sparkling water. I am fully expecting to have more energy and to lose weight as a result.
Similarly, my coffee consumption had crept up to four or five cups a day. I have now limited myself to two cups before 10am and then only rooibos and chamomile tea after that.
Its going well so far…
I am pleased that we persevered in putting weird and varied vegetables in front of our three boys as they were growing up. They will now try anything and, if they are out, will shun burgers and fried chicken in favour of healthy salads and wraps, because they now genuinely prefer them.
Sleight of Pans
One of the best things I ever learned was how to cook. I say that like I have achieved it, which is ridiculous. Like magic, cooking is one of those things where you are always learning new techniques, new presentations, new approaches.
I lost my fear of cooking thanks to a student newspaper article in my first year at college, then I was turbo-charged by Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef in the early nineties. I have never looked back.
Cooking your own food enables you to control your diet more. I heard an American doctor on YouTube a couple of weeks ago suggesting that the one thing that could solve America’s obesity problem was for everyone to cook their own food. “Eat whatever you like, just make sure you cook it yourself.” It sounds simplistic but I know what he means.
Improving with Thyme and Experience
My favourite way of cooking is to improvise, much like doing a close-up magic gig where I have a store of effects in my pockets and work out what I am going to use depending on the audience.
I look in the fridge and then cupboard to see what we have and then work out what I could make out of it. Granted, this takes some experience, trying things out, but you only get better with time. Or thyme.
I used to read Nigel Slater’s recipe books in bed(!) to get inspiration and ideas. Like watching a magic trick training video and then putting it away to develop my own routine without copying the demonstrator, I wanted to get the basic techniques and then put away the cook book and make the recipes my own.
We get an organic vegetable box once a week from Riverford and I love it, you are never quite sure what you are going to get and sometimes you get vegetables that you have never seen before. This makes you resourceful and adventurous in your cooking.
You can get much more interesting flavours out of vegetables than meat if you know how to cook them. I am not vegetarian but my approach is to make meat just one element of the meal, rather than the main feature.
To perform better, be like a discerning monk and choose your habits carefully.