Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reformed Domestic Goddess

‘Domestic Goddess’. It sounds good yes? Thank you Nigella – for the aspiration you gave me to become a food loving, cake-baking, voluptous, sensual woman. For encouraging me to find my own, inner goddess – the very essense of my femininity and encouraging me to share it with my friends and family.
Now lets take a reality check – and what have we here?
Harassed Housewife? Oh dear. Can’t manage to lemon-ice forty five cup cakes for your childs birthday party? Didn’t have the right oven dish for that beef and guinness pie and had to stay up half the night scraping encrusted gravy off your oven door? Poor you. Maybe you’re better off just sticking to your ‘career’ and leaving the ‘goddess’ business to those of us who can handle it.
That self-satisfied bitch was me. I’m ashamed to admit it but up until relatively recently I was holding the whole “domestic goddess” thing together. I got about a year out of it. During a twelve month period I baked – and iced - birthday cakes, I ironed napkins, I made potato cakes while weekend guests sat at the kitchen table (arranged with mini-bouquets from my garden) and gazed adoringly at me buttering and spreading their traditional Irish breakfast fare with my very own, and most gob-smakingly impressive of all, apple jelly. Halycion days ladies – gone forever. Because, I have finally snapped and it is the apple jelly that has did it to me.
Brief backtrack. We have an inordinate number of apple trees in our back garden.
Last year we picked them all and I filled the freezer with crumbles and pies. So far, so reasonable Goddess. With the windfall apples and the over ripe that were too “bad” for crumbles, I made jars and jars of jelly. I got my own recipe going, everyone collected jars for me – I was getting texts from neighbouring counties saying “you still want jars?” Everyone loved my apple jelly. I made so much of it that people I know still have a pots of it from last September sitting in the doors of their fridges politely waiting for me to pop around and check if it needs replacing. The zenith of my jam success was when I was invited to supply the local café bookshop, The Big Read, who serve it with their morning scones. I was thrilled that now members of the actual, real-live public were sampling and enjoying the fruits of my labour. That fact alone surely elevated me beyond the realms of mere goddess into that of domestic genius. In the eyes of all, including myself I was just fantastic. How on earth did I have the time to do a job and make apple jelly for the local café? The answer to that question last year was a smile and a shrug. This year it is a howl that shivers through the twelve dozen empty jars sitting in my hallway; “I DON’T KNO-WWWW!”.
Last year – for some random reason apparantly beyond my control or understanding – I had the time and the inclination to boil, strain and pot jelly. This year I don’t have either. What I have is an enormous number of other people’s unwashed glassware cluttering up my hall and six bin-liners full of rotting apples stinking out my office and the constant stress-hum of somebody who while she is writing to a deadline/feeding her child/cleaning her kitchen feels that in fact what she should be doing is making apple jelly to sell through the local farmer’s market. I even upped the ante on myself by making a half-dozen pots of chutney which everyone agreed was wonderful and the Big Read have now ordered and are expecting to serve with their ploughmans. So this is where all this Domestic Goddess s*** has got me. There is no medal, no badge that brands you as one of Nigella’s special-ladies. She won’t be coming around to my house to congratulate me for ‘services to confiture’ or anything like that. All there is is pressure and expectation. Not from anyone else, you understand. Just me. I did this to myself. My husband doesn’t even eat jam. Whether it’s a takeaway or four course meal sweated over by his wife in low-cut evening frock – it’s all the same to him.
All I ever wanted to be in life was a writer and a mother. And having achieved both goals I have raised the posts and have added “Recognised Maker of Magnificent Jam” to the equation. This is the insanity of modern womanhood in action.

Friday, May 13, 2011

annoying diets. again

The whole diet thing reached a new low point for me with the launch in an English newspaper of the No Diet Diet. This is the diet that means that you don’t have to go on a diet to do-it. Diets, according to the No Diet Diet, make you fat so that the best thing you can do it if you want to lose weight is simply not go on a diet. Which is where the No Diet Diet comes in. Eating too much is not just a bad habit in itself, they say, but a culmination of all of your bad habits combined. So that if you stop watching too much TV/ picking your toenails/ shouting at your children – like the archetypical nacho-chomping MacDonald’s-frequenting trailer park white trash diet books assume all overweight people to be – then you will automatically eat less.
It made sense to me. I once spent four whole days of my life on an extreme supplements diet that shall, for legal reasons, remain nameless. First I shelled out rather a lot of money in the chemists on powdered sachets and bars wrapped in sparse white plastic that made them look like something one might get on a prison spaceship. Then I spent a week stocking up my body for the oncoming famine – gaining four pounds. The four days, which I lasted on this diet, rank among the four worst consecutive days of my life. And trust me. Without slipping into self-pitying memoir, I have had some pretty bad days. The gloopy drinks tasted like MacDonald’s milkshakes laced with a tablespoon of salt. The “bar” smelt and tasted, quite literally, of dried animal dung. No, I have never eaten dried dung but – frankly – I would be more likely to than eat one of those diet bars again. In those four, painful, mental days all I did was lose the four pounds I had put on the week before.
It was due to this experience that the No Diet Diet seemed like such a thoroughly good idea. All I had to do was buy this English newspaper seven consecutive days in a row to get the “next stage” – then stop watching so much TV, go for a little fifteen minute walk every day and I’d be thin in no time. “Good news,” I said to my friend Helen who came around to help me finish the last of the Christmas Pannatone, “we can go on a diet without even going on a diet!” and I waved the No Diet Diet in front of her face. “Clever eh?” “Genius,” she said, a tad sarcastically for my liking, “show me that…” and she grabbed the pamphlet off me. “What a load of old nonsense,” she said, (except she didn’t use the word nonsense).“Eat less, exercise more – now where’s that cake I was promised?”
She is right of course. I am so bored with thinking about my weight. I am so bored writing about it, talking about it, caring about it. There is nothing about weight loss, weight gain, wobbly thighs, cellulite, exercising, not exercising, the guilt-guzzle-guilt-guzzle cycle that does not bore me to the very core of my being. All I can hope is that before I hit fifty, I will become so bored by the issue of being a thinner more lovely version of myself (why, why, why do I still care!) that I will stop being so obsessed with what I do and do not eat that I will give up on the whole thing entirely. Then I might actually lose some weight. Or not care about it, which, frankly, amounts to one in the same thing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

the deep fat frier - just in time for summer

Just in time for my high cholesterol diagnosis, it has finally happened. I have succumbed to my husband’s request for a deep fat fryer. Now it is sitting on my worktop, dwarfing all the posh accessories and generally emanating an aura of menance. “Deep fried bread and butter pudding,” I said to my mother in a ‘family style restaurant’ in a suburban mall on my last trip with her to America. “That’s appalling. No wonder so many American’s are obese,” I said, stuffing the final mouthful with same monstrosity and wondering if, as it was the last day of our holiday, I could feasibly justify inhaling my son’s leftover knickerbocker glory when I’d finished.
Of course, I didn’t want a deep-fat fryer. It was his idea. “We’ll use it for tempura,” I said, as we unwrapped it from it’s box and sat the fat, white monstrosity on the worktop, “and onion baajis. We’ll have Japanese and Indian themed dinner parties. Yes that’s what it’s for. It’s not just for chips. ”
No. Not just chips. It’s not like I’ll feel like eating deep-fried frozen food for dinner every night. That would be awful. I’m a ‘salad’ person. Fried food. Yuk. I much prefer salads – yum – freshly picked salads at this time of year, what could be nicer?
Well, home made chip butties in white bread slathered in butter for a start, accompanied by a cup of tea you can stand a spoon in with a generous splash of full-fat milk and two spoons of sugar. Fresh fruit for dessert? I don’t bloody think so – pass me a Magnum.
Maybe I am just a girl who does not know when to stop, but I think that men and women eat differently and it is just not fair. Before I got married I just did not own a frying pan and never ever had chocolate in the house. Then I got married and having aquired a husband and clearly caring somewhat less about being thin, I began to buy biscuits so that my husband could enjoy one with his cup of tea. And like every man in the country, two days later when he goes to the biscuit tin looking for another, single biscuit with his after dinner cuppa, he finds they have gone. Down his wife’s gullet, en mass, in one sitting in a frenzied sugar attack for no other reason than they were just there! My husband wanted a deep fat fryer because he would like to eat home-made chips occassionally, a dozen perhaps once a week, as an accompaniment to a nice chop. He is a civilised eater and he can be trusted with one. I cannot. Rather in the same way that I cannot be trusted to shop sensibly in Marks & Spencers or walk through the Lidl ‘sweet things’ aisle without throwing myself arms-apread onto a display of hydrogenated-fat bars and grabbing them by the armload into my trolley. What does not help people like me is the misinformation that gets bandied around about food. The most henious of these is that chocolate contains anti-oxidants which are good for you. There I am in my larder ¾ of a way through a catering sized bar of Green&Blacks reassuring myself that, in actual fact, I am eating spinach. Not so. Apparantly. What would be infinitely more useful would be if somebody could identify the societal dysfunction that has resulted in so many people being obsessed with food and teach us how not to be weird around it in schools before our obesity problem reaches American proportions and we start deep fat frying our puddings. Except that would be Jamie Oliver and he is too annoying. Alright then - lets have a blanket ban on chips. And chocolate. And husbands who can, infuriatingly, eat them in moderation.