Category Archives: diets

The small print is the most important ingredient on the label …

There are lots of reasons why Rocco’s mother should probably remember to take her reading glasses to Food-o-rama. Without them, she can just about drive the car there, negotiate her way across the carpark in a fairly basic manner and stumble through the sliding glass doors of the mall – and mostly, she can even tell which aisle she’s in. She knows her way around Food-o-rama well enough to almost locate the products she requires – and sometimes even gets it right. Last week however, she managed to get it wrong in rather an epic and spectacular display of misjudgement – and Rocco paid for it the next day. Indeed, Rocco’s hapless colleagues probably paid, too.

Rocco’s mother, who is definitely not renowned for Nigella-esque bursts of culinary activity (or mesmerising bosoms, even), decided to try a type of bottled coconut curry sauce in which to cook chicken. It looked delicious altogether and was – which is important – in an aesthetically pleasing jar. Obviously, there is far more to curry sauce than the illustration on the label – indeed, if Rocco’s mother was any kind of mother at all, she’d be making her own curry sauce with a million exotic spices ground lovingly with a pestle and mortar hewn from million-year-old volcanic rock. Rocco’s mother is not that kind of mother –  a fact which has been long established – and any foray into the kitchen is miraculous in itself. People are expected to show gratitude.

Rocco was prepared to show quite a bit of gratitude, because the curry smelt delicious as it simmered away – and Rocco was hungry.  He was happy his mother had made enough that there was some left over for him to take for lunch the next day. Goodo, and much anticipatory gnashing of teeth.

It became apparent to Rocco’s mother, as she sampled the first forkful, that she should not have gone there. The coconut curry was arsebreakingly evil – even the fumes entering the nostrils were ringing out a warning. Fumbling for her glasses, Rocco’s mother examined in detail the beautifully illustrated label on the jar, and discovered, in small print, ‘… with HOT peri peri’. Rocco’s mother did not have a clue of the meaning of peri peri. She did, however, have a working knowledge of the meaning of ‘hot’. It is a word she associates with water bottles, roast dinners and Alan Rickman. It is not a word she had ever considered in the same sentence as peri peri. Nevertheless, so it was written, and she felt it necessary to issue Rocco with a timid and somewhat embarrassed warning:

‘I don’t think we’re going to be able to eat this …’

Rocco and his mother sat with tears streaming down their faces and their nostrils twitching alarmingly. Rocco managed to finish his – though his mother was less enthusiastic about having her internal organs perforated, decimated and spat out at the other end. Both parties reached for tubs of fruche in order to put things to rights – and Rocco’s mother suggested Rocco may not wish, all things considered, to take the remains of the curry to work the next day.

Imagine her surprise the next morning on discovering the container of curry had been removed from the fridge and taken to Rocco’s place of employment – which, fortunately, is an open-walled timber mill. The thought of Rocco being cooped in a small, musty, air conditioned office was more than Rocco’s mother could bear thinking about. She thanked the Great Mother he was not performing brain surgery that day. She worried all morning about her son’s health – flinching each time she heard ambulance sirens, fire sirens – or even police sirens, as she considered excessive flatulence in the workplace could certainly constitute a crime against humanity.

In the middle of the afternoon, Rocco’s mother received a txt msg. ‘Thnx heaps – thr ws plastic in my lnch.’

There are lots of reasons why Rocco’s mother should wear her reading glasses whilst cooking. One of which is that, after snipping the plastic strip from the top of the noodle pouch, she would be able to ensure it went into the bin, rather than into the stir-fry. Rocco’s mother cannot comprehend how this happened – but consoled herself with the fact a strip of plastic probably would have done far less harm to her son’s digestive tract than the food in which it was lodged. As Rocco assured her his lunch was ‘nicer today than last night’, she saluted herself on having improved the recipe with her surprise ingredient inclusion. She may now patent a new range of curry sauces:

‘With HOT peri peri – and plastic strip.’

Rocco’s mother can almost hear Nigella wishing she’d thought of it first.



Looking cool in a penguin costume does not make you a literary giant …

If there isn’t already, there should be a law which states clearly and firmly that fit, healthy 21-year-old lads are not allowed to always be first on the WiiFit leaderboard. This is particularly pertinent when the WiiFit actually belongs to Rocco’s mother. She should be allowed to be best at something

The Hunter Gatherer gave Rocco’s mother the WiiFit for Christmas. The frightening part was that it wanted to weigh her. Naturellement, she thought NOT. Who in their right mind wants technology to tell them they are obese?  You could argue that machines don’t know everything – and Rocco’s mother did. Therefore, she closed her eyes while the machine did its worst, and didn’t ever click on the WEIGHT button. A little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing – and Rocco’s mother wanted to venture forth into 2009 without much knowledge at all. Especially the kind which might impede her prior knowledge regarding how excellent chocolate and sea-salt potato crisps taste. And icy cold iced coffee by the gallon. And we’re not talking the low-fat kind. Why would we?

Rocco’s mother made herself a nice little avatar person and had a few happy hours trying out the games and exercises. Her nice little person happily zipped into a fetching penguin suit to compete in Penguin Slide – and was doing very well at that, and several other things. Rocco’s mother found she had surprisingly good balance. Because of this, she stupidly bragged to Rocco. A bad mistake, because Rocco has a competitive nature – and being a surfer, scoffed at the fact his aging mater might consider she could out-balance him at anything. He was sure he could do better. In a penguin suit, even.

Rocco set about making himself an avatar. A very cool one indeed – with spiky hair, sunglasses and a lime green outfit. Rocco’s mother *sigh* had to admit it was the height of coolness. Surreptitiously, in edit mode, she removed the spectacles she’d given herself. After all, she only wears them for reading and there are no reading activities to compete in. The fact she could whup Rocco’s arse in a spelling bee is her own personal and heavily guarded secret.

Rocco’s avatar zipped itself into the penguin suit – and even looked cool thus attired. He flashed backwards and forwards on the iceberg with gay abandon – not falling off once. Rocco’s mother, on the other hand, spent a fair bit of time flailing in the water. And was too obese tired to leap elegantly to catch the prized red fish (10 points each).  At the end of his turn, Rocco’s penguin leaped and cheered and punched the air. He then took his place at the top of the leaderboard. By this time, Rocco’s mother had broken out a packet of biscuits and settled down to watch whilst he took away, one by one, her records for Table Tilt, Ski Slalom and Tightrope Walking. In fact, he had so many turns at Ski Slalom that Rocco’s mother dropped off the leaderboard completely and will possibly forever remain unranked.

‘Look at it this way,’ Rocco smugly assured her, ‘It will give you something to aim for!’ There actually was something his mother would have liked to have aimed for. But one doesn’t do that to one’s only son. No matter how great the provocation. It also rankles slightly that Rocco’s body fitness test placed him right in the middle of IDEAL. In fact, it then proceeded to tell him he should aim to gain three kilos. There was no facility for file sharing – or Rocco’s mother would have happily downloaded some of hers into his fatbox.

On a happier note, Rocco’s mother is top of the leaderboard in Jogging. This is because Rocco can’t be bothered doing that. It would be beyond his dignity to run on the spot for 10 minutes in the middle of the living room when he could reap greater rewards in far shorter time at other activities. Nor will he try the yoga poses. To be perfectly honest, Rocco’s mother hasn’t attempted these either. She will wait until the holidays are over and she has the house completely to herself in order to pose in private.

There is some light on the horizon, however, Flygirl and Roo will both be visiting towards the end of the month. Flygirl has her own WiiFit and a very active, sporty partner to compete with at home. Roo is a gym junkie and jogs for miles and miles. Rocco’s mother hopes these two will prove formidable foe. Watch out, Rocco – your time may almost be up.

And bear in mind, your mother will always be able to whup your arse in a spelling bee. No amount of looking dashing in a penguin suit will ever change that …


Puff pastry can make anybody feel like Nigella …

It’s no secret I hate cooking. The only good thing about sticky summer weather is that nobody really wants to eat anything. You can be sitting there at 9pm sponging perspiration from your face with your legs spreadeagled over the coffee table (a charming vista from almost any angle) and nobody’s likely to say, ‘How about some roast suckling pig and a dozen treacle dumplings (with custard).’ They’d sooner die. Not only do they lack the capacity to plough into such repast – they’re also well aware I’d have to kill them.

My friend Jules, whose claim to fame is cooking ‘from scratch’, is quite astounded when I’m game enough to mention convenient things like fish fingers. I do it sometimes purposely when I feel she’s being too smug and needs stirring up. I have no doubt Jules makes her own fish fingers, forming hand-minced flaked flathead into artistic oceanic shapes with her bare hands and crumbing them. With crumbs made from scratch with … yes, bread. Probably home-baked and grated with her own toenails. Opening a frostbound box from the freezer department of Food-o-rama is probably as foreign to Jules as a working knowledge of what to do with a Brussels sprout is to me. Furthermore, I just don’t care. Some of us were put on this earth to nurture our families – and the rest of us weren’t.

There is something mind-numbingly boring about going to the supermarket anyway. Filling your trolley with vegetables, taking them home, nuking them – then scraping them from your children’s plates into the bin. If you took them straight home and binned them immediately, you could cut out the middle man completely. It must be the ‘guilty mother’ syndrome which keeps you battling away – so when the doctor tells you your family has scurvy and every nutritional deficiency known to man, you can say with complete honesty, ‘I tried giving them vegetables, sir … but they wouldn’t eat them!’ It sounds lame, but you’ll get away with it because it’s no longer legal to jam things into kids’ mouths and tape them shut.

I once remember cooking something – but it didn’t work. It’s tempting to try again when winter sets in and the aroma of the neighbours’ pot roast comes wafting through the kitchen window. Tendrils of gastronomic extravagance curling through the barren wastes of my non-productive kitchen. Sadly, the Hunter Gatherer sometimes thinks the aroma’s ours. He looks hopeful and asks what I’m cooking. I tell him to stand near the open window and breathe in. It’s called ‘passive eating’ – it’s inexpensive and you won’t gain weight. Our neighbours have no idea how many of their meals we’ve enjoyed by osmosis. If they cook something really hideous, we just close the window and the HG is forced to endure yet another dalliance with fish fingers.

A very convenient tool in the art of feeding your family is the knowledge nobody will ever let themselves starve. When they start making whimpering sounds, you point to the loaf of bread. Your only contribution to the scheme of things is to make sure there is a loaf of bread. The survival instinct will then take care of the rest. If you’re really fortunate, one of your offspring will discover they have a flair for cooking and will shove rudely past you to get to the spice rack. You may be lucky enough to get quite a few years’ mileage out of this before they leave home.

But the best invention since sliced bread (or any bread, really) is the packet of ready-rolled puff pastry sheets. You can wrap them around just about anything and people will be incredibly impressed. Just open a tin, bung it on the pastry, do a bit of artistic crimping … and voila! Your family thinks you’re Nigella. Not only that, you can use up those tins of Pal you don’t need anymore since WoofWoof moved down the street to where the dogs are spoiled rotten with home-made beefy numnums.

Necessity being the mother of invention, feeding the family need only be limited by your imagination. You will find you can fool almost all of the people most of the time with the pastry trick. I was telling Jules about it the other day and she refused to believe there would be any call for such a product. Fortunately for some of us, there most definitely is. Due to consumer demand, the packs of ready-rolled pastry now come in an economy pack of 10 sheets. Bliss on a stick, and bring on the dog bowl!

Eat your heart out, Nigella …


Days of milk and chemical enhancement …

            The Warrior Queen has been a bit peeved. She wants to know why you can’t get real food anymore. There were so many different types of milk on offer down at Food-o-rama, she didn’t feel qualified to make an intelligent decision.

            Manufacturers obviously wouldn’t know a cow from their elbow. It was either skim, trim, lite, brite, lo-fat, no-fat, soy, protein enriched, thigh-enhancing or joggers’ delite. What are you supposed to do? All you want is a drop of white stuff in your coffee –  is it too much to ask? Well, yes, actually. It either comes with everything taken out of it, or a whole lot of other stuff put in. You can’t just get it the way God intended, because that would look as if nobody had bothered. No matter how much trouble the poor old cow went to, trying to ensure a fresh, nutritious product – the human being has to get right in there, stuffing about with it.

            It doesn’t stop with milk, either. There’s the bread enigma. Not content with it being merely white or brown, you can now get it with hidden grains. Secretive ones, even. Grains you have when you don’t want anyone to know you’re having grains. Grains your kids can’t see, so they think they’re having bread that’s bad for them when you’re really fooling them into having something nutritious. Like grains. That’ll be 50c extra for the hidden goodness, please – and sucked in because you can’t prove whether you’re paying for anything extra at all!

            The WQ wants to trot down to the shop with her pail and have it filled straight from the udder. She wants to take her burlap bag and have them weigh out a pound of faggots and a few grams of broken biscuits. She wants to go home with a lump of cheese wrapped in muslin and stuck solidly under her armpit. Such were the halcyon days!

            It’s all becoming too complicated by far when you need a chemistry degree to go to Food-o-rama to choose ingredients for a simple family meal. What’s worse, most of the stuff we’re getting these days tastes like crap. That’s because chemicals taste like crap – and they’re supposed to – they’re medicine. Chemicals were not supposed to taste like roast beef. When you pump cows full of them, roast beef doesn’t taste like roast beef. But it’s supposedly immortal. You can keep it in your refrigerator forever. An eight-year-old cheeseburger found recently under the seat of a car still looked edible. Bully for it.

            Not satisfied with having destroyed the very essence of milk, bread and meat, there are people – thin people – employed to create smug little labels to stick on everything. If you check out the labels you can see exactly how many calories you’re going to pack on if you eat the whole box – which, let’s face it – was the general idea. Sometimes the amount of calories is thousands. The front of the pack says ‘Baked not Fried – 97% Fat Free’. It’s still thousands. This is something I really need to know.

            There is absolutely no enjoyment in a Mars Bar if you are forced to read first how it has 100% fat, 10 million calories and the potential to render you incapable of fitting into a bus seat unless the one beside you is unoccupied.

            There is no fun in having to read a list of numerals which indicate whether or not your children will trash the house and try to kill each other if they eat the product. Why not skip the additives in the first place? Who cares if the stuff won’t last until the middle of next year? Who wants to stare at a packet of bacon in the fridge for longer than a few weeks anyway?

            Nobody used to die from eating fresh food. They didn’t crawl the walls either. They didn’t need to fill themselves with prescription chemicals to override the effects of food additives. We were perfectly happy with a bit of botulism every now and then, and the odd attack of dysentery. Chickens were free to lay their eggs wherever they damn well pleased, in the sunshine, under trees, in the privacy of their own yard – and you didn’t have to pay extra for them having the pleasure.

            Eliza … where the devil is my burlap bag?



The holiday’s not over ‘til the fat lady sinks …

            Because he’s that kind of guy, the Hunter Gatherer once gave me three nights in Cairns for my birthday. After the initial excitement had  worn off, it occurred to me I had less than a week to drop 20 kilos – and other than amputating my legs with a buzzsaw there really wasn’t much I could do about it.

            Location is part of the problem here. For three nights in Alaska I could wrap myself in walrus blubber, put on a furry suit and drop little gems like; ‘Hard to imagine I’m wearing size 8 knickers under this lot, eh?’ Or with three nights at Uluru there’d at least be something bigger than me.

            But no – I get three nights in the fun and sun capital, where one day’s perfect, the next is obese. Have no fear, I thought. There’s big, colourful tent thingies to wear. And besides, I don’t need to go in the water if I don’t want to.

            ‘We can go snorkelling!’ said the HG gleefully. I should have punched him out. So there we were, in the fun and sun capital, fronting up to the booking office to go out to the reef. By helicopter.

            ‘What worries me,’ I said to the man behind the counter, ever mindful of personal safety and remembering recent events, ‘is being left behind out there.’ He sized me up. I had a feeling he was trying not to laugh.

‘I don’t think that’s likely, Madam.’ I should have punched HIM out. If I’d known what was coming next, I would have. ‘It’s a requirement,’ he continued, ‘that you provide your weight. For the helicopter pilot.’

            Slight problem looms on the horizon. Found the bathroom scales drowned in the bath one morning many years prior, and hadn’t been able to weigh myself since. Actually, I liked the scales that way. They were so rusted up they never managed to creak past 40 kilos. But I digress.

            I pulled my stomach and cheeks in while the nice man made a few brave guesses. It would have been less embarrassing to give birth with the Iranian Army watching.

            Anyway, we front up the next morning at the helipad. The nice pilot gets out, opens up the back and starts removing ballast. More stomach-and-cheek sucking-in, to no avail. There’s nowhere to suck it into.

            We managed to get out there without the nice pilot’s helicopter plunging into the briny because I’d had a happy winter in the company of potato crisps and Whitman’s soft centres – and we had a happy afternoon feasting on seafood and other stuff before HG brings up the snorkelling again.

            Well, I had to admit the water looked pretty good. Warm, blue and inviting. Couldn’t find any walrus blubber to pack under the lifejacket – but no matter. Borrowed a pair of HG’s board shorts to pull over the worst bits, and in I went.

            The water was packed with neat little Japanese people gliding gracefully around. And me. Not gliding – floundering. I don’t know how anyone breathes through those pathetic little tubes. It was beyond me. In my mind’s eye I could see my lungs, thrusting in vain against the fat as I tried to draw breath.

            Once home, there were three options.

1.      Diet. (And make my life a bloody misery – not likely!)

2.      Amputate my legs with a buzzsaw.

3.      Book the next holiday – to Alaska.

Yeah … bring on the walrus blubber and the furry snowsuit. And the size 8 knickers to wear underneath …



Dodging the molecules …

            That which is lost will invariably be found – and not always by the one who lost it. A case in point – fat.

            People lose fat every day. They literally work their butts off doing it. They do not consider for one cotton-pickin’ minute where it goes when they lose it. They have absolutely no consideration whatsoever for those of us upon whom it falls.

            Somewhere out there, intangible in the atmosphere, are fat globules on the move. Transparent, invisible and downright deadly. They’ve been banished from the tummies and buttocks of those who pound the pavements and shun Sara Lee, and are, even as we speak, winging their way sanctimoniously toward those of us lying back on our banana lounges with our contented, dimpled thighs supporting trays of Chicken Delight and Whitman’s boxes with only the hard centres left.

            How does the fat know where to attach for maximum effect? Simple. It doesn’t pick a moving target. This is why people exercise – not because they’re burning up calories, but because they’re dodging fat molecules. Always remember – fat molecules don’t land on the person jogging past Krispy Kreme – they land on the person staring wistfully in the window deciding whether they could put away half a dozen glazed before lunch.

            Non-smokers get riled all the time about passive smoking. They don’t like it when a passerby blows smoke in their faces or fills a public place with noxious fumes. It’s probably never occurred to them the amount of fat they accumulate when a thin person trots by. Smokers with diseases sue tobacco companies after they’ve made themselves ill. Fat people should be able to sue Cadbury’s or the smug, stick-insect woman next door in the size 8 hotpants.

            Because fat is such a problem to so many of us, scientists are kept frantically busy working on ways to create fatless fats. The day will come when fat is no longer fat and we can all be thin. Hooray! Human nature being what it is, when thin is easily attainable and everyone has it, it will probably no longer be desirable. In the meantime, society delights in giving us handy hints and guidelines on how to cope if we happen to be one of those upon whom other people’s unwanted fat molecules descend.

            . Don’t wear wide horizontal stripes. You will look like the grand staircase at Tara. People will walk up the front of you and down the other side.

            . Don’t hang around with thin people. It will make you look worse. It will also put you in a prime position for inadvertent fat-catching. Make sure all your friends are equal-to or greater-than.

            . Don’t EVER be sucked into trying things on in changing rooms. They do something with the mirrors. When you walk in, you actually feel quite attractive, albeit in a fat sort of way. By the time you walk out you’ll be wondering why you bothered heaving your sorry carcass out of bed that morning and taking a breath. (Why do they do this? If mirrors were flattering, it stands to reason they’d sell more stuff.)

            . Don’t ever let anyone see you eating anything. They’ll immediately assume you got that way through greed. We all know this is not a fact.

These smug, condescending points are supposed to make us feel we are lesser  human beings – just because we are more. And something else which has recently come to my notice is the way certain little words have become attached to labels on clothing. Words such as PLUS, EXTRA and ALL WOMAN. Terrific. This is so larger people can have choices like ordinary people. Why don’t they just come right out and put HUGE-UM, BOOMBAH and BARGEARSE?

            And it’s our own fault. For acting like we’re ashamed of ourselves instead of embracing our wobbly bits and showing them off to all and sundry at every opportunity. I have every intention of going out and buying the biggest, brightest tent I can lay my hands on – with stripes wider than zebra crossings in colours never intended to appear together in the same spectrum.

            But I probably won’t. I’m too scared of having footprints going up the front and down the back …



Our operators are standing by to take your call …

            Home shopping is the revolutionary new thing. It appears there’s not much you can’t do from the safety of your recliner rocker.

            Just this morning I could have changed my life forever. I could have removed my unwanted hair, lost my unwanted flesh – and still had time before lunch to put some decorative little triangular plastic corner shelves up all over my house to hold my knick-knacks and potted ferns. Or my personal favourite – stayed on the sofa and had a bit of a hoot.

            You can’t help laughing, really, because all this is taken so seriously. The women demonstrating the products have never had hair or flesh problems. Nor do they have homes enhanced by little triangular shelves. They have a limited script consisting of condescending dialogue such as, ‘That’s right, Bert – imagine never having to wax again!’ Bert looks thrilled as he imagines it. You can tell waxing has been causing him considerable grief and he is champing at the bit to get his hands on the product in the privacy of his dressing room.

            The Hair Removal System (a razor), promises it will remove the hair forever. In which case, what’s to stop you sending it back after one go and getting your money back? Different hairs, however, must grow instead. From different follicles. Therefore, you will need the razor for the rest of your life, so it’s just as well it has a guarantee which will see you into your grave. When you are old enough not to give a sod about hairy legs and plaited armpits, you can have a go at your newly-acquired moustache and attempt a bit of a poke at your bristly nostrils.

            The Weight Removal System is equally enthralling. By ordering a handful of pills and a revolutionary booklet, I too will look like the woman who is holding the tablets. The small print on the bottom of the screen assures me, ‘when combined with a low fat diet and plenty of exercise, you will lose weight on this program’. This is a bit of a shocker, really. Tim Tams and Big Macs, when combined with a low fat diet and plenty of exercise, will no doubt give the same result. The small print fails to mention this. Neither does it mention the side effects if you happen to eat the booklet.

            The Say-Goodbye-to-your-Empty-and-Unattractive-Corner System consists of three beige plastic triangles. When you twist something underneath, small prongs dig into your walls. It’s just what you’ve always wanted, really – small prong-holes in your corners. Because you can easily move the shelves around at will (as helpfully demonstrated by the hair-free, flab-free smiling woman), you’ll probably have more prong-holes than a sinner in Hades before you’ve given up finding a satisfactory combination and hurled the offensive plastic crap into the potting shed.

            The product which caused the most mirth, however, was the Buzz Away Your Flab System, which is a belt you can wear discreetly under your clothing. The voiceover assures you it is SO attractive you can wear it OVER your clothing if you so desire. As you would – the battery pack merely looks like designer chic. The gist of it is, if you let your tum hang out if gives you a bit of a buzz. This is a gentle reminder to pull your fat back in. If you don’t, presumably it just keeps right on buzzing. This would do me fine, thank you very much. Very relaxing altogether, and where do you put the batteries? The best part is, your colleagues have no idea you are doing it. They wonder why the building is shaking and your keyboard has vibrated its way off your desk – but apart from that, they remain relatively unperturbed. Until you pass out from lack of oxygen.

            It makes you wonder what will be on offer next, really. Not that I give a rat’s. I’m just worried my knick-knacks will keep dropping off the edges of my little plastic shelves because my Buzz Away Your Flab System is turned up to maximum capacity.

            Anyway, I can’t be arsed getting out of my chair to order anything.