If Music Be the Food Of Love…
Twelfth Night‘s famous opening suggests that gorging on music will curb a person’s appetite for love. In much the same way, Shakespeare believed that overindulgence would satiate hunger and deter a person from eating more. In fact, Shakespeare’s plays are littered with references to food, often pertaining to virtue, or lack thereof.
I’m not so sure that we can judge a person’s inherent goodness by the foods they eat. Nor can we assess character based on their favourite dinner options. I am more of a believer in my maternal grandma’s old adage: a little bit of what you fancy does you good.
At the Dinner Table
The idea of nurturing people by feeding them is not a new one – for centuries, food has been a symbol of love. Culturally, it is fair to say that we place a lot of emphasis on food. Most Jewish festivals and celebrations revolve around family meals, with symbolic recipes for every point on the calendar.
Growing up, dinner time was always special in our house. We sat together, as a family, playing at Lord of the Flies inspired use of the salt cellar as our conch. Passing it round the table, we would take turns holding court and sharing news of our day.
Food for Thought
According to a recent study by Heinz, the average Brit spends a third of their waking hours thinking about food. Whether it is a desire to find healthy meal plans and overhaul our diets that motivates us, the need to impress a date with our culinary skills, or even the increasingly popular drive to become self-sufficient and do more home baking, we ponder about food.
Historically, I always thought there were two main types of people – those who live to eat and those who eat to live. I described myself as having fallen into the latter category, being happy to take or leave food. I will often go a whole day before realising that I have forgotten to eat. Sometimes I will make an active choice to work right through mealtimes, opting for tiny snacks to keep me going instead. All this, given my history with bowel disease, I suppose isn’t surprising.
It turns out, though, that it is not quite as straightforward as having an eat to live mentality. Food certainly isn’t my driving force, but I have come to realise that I do actually love food.
I love to cook, to bake, to feed, to provide and, most importantly, I love to indulge.
The issue is that, more often than not, food doesn’t love me, no matter what I eat. It creates a complex relationship, as you can imagine. The path of least resistance, particularly if I’m out on a long day working, is often to skip meals altogether. Frequent feelings of nausea and abdominal pain make it hard to envisage eating a lot of the time, not to mention the dietary restrictions I have lived with as my norm.
When you throw in my constant battle NOT to lose weight whilst trying to maintain some version of a healthy, balanced diet, perhaps you can begin to appreciate the love / hate relationship I have with food.
IBD and Diet
One thing I have learnt, is that there is not enough information out there about diet and IBD. Even after all these years, with all the advances in research, the information still seems to be very generalised and, often, inaccurate for a lot of people.
On the Crohn’s and Colitis UK’s website, there is an informative section about IBD and food, which contains some useful links to dieticians and tips for taking control and planning meals. Yet, as with everything, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Only recently, a close friend asked me for some dietary tips for her son while he was going through the process of investigation and diagnosis. I had to explain that there really are no hard or fast rules, but I could share what worked for me. It made me realise that I probably have a lot to say on the subject of food. Hence, this blogging category was born.
Having had my first allergic reaction at just 8 months old, I have always known both the instant effects and the slow-burn lasting impact food can have on my body.
How Have Things Changed?
Growing up in the eighties, when alternative diets simply didn’t exist, there was one brand of soya milk for ‘people like me’ to … ahem … enjoy. Called White Wave, it poured grey, came in a square carton no bigger than 9cm x 9cm and could only be purchased at independent health food stores, which were few and far between.
From then, to now, the dietary market is almost unrecognisable and supermarkets have their own value range of alternative plant milks. It really is an alternative foodie haven these days. My introduction to spelt bread whilst living in Los Angeles around 11 years ago, absolutely rocked my wheat free world.
It is an ever-growing market, with more and more products on the shelves every week. Or so it seems. The supermarkets have all brought out their own Free From ranges, with most of the big players – Heinz, Flora, Hellmans, Gu and Unilever to name but a few – introducing items into their range which suit all dietary needs.
As a little girl, mum was constantly advised to give me white bread and white pasta as they are low residue foods, meaning they place little strain on the digestive system to break them down.
That’s all well and good, unless you have been told you are allergic to the additives used to bleach the flour. Turning vegetarian in my late teens saw me stock up on lentils, beans, salad leaves and vegetables of all shapes and sizes. They became my store cupboard staples, and formed the basis of every meal I cooked.
At the age of 36, when I began to reintroduce food after the first 3 months with the tube, the dietician ordered me to cut fibre out of my diet completely. This totally threw me. As an obsessively healthy eater, I had to make a massive mental adjustment in order to gain control of my weight, restore my body to health and, ultimately, save my life.
It took me a long time to make my peace with that particular adjustment, eventually having to accept that it had become essential to carry high calorie, quick fix snacks. The kinds of foods I had spent years eating in such careful moderation.
Made With Love
In recent years, I have developed a passion for whiling away hours of insomnia with baking, replicating some of the tastiest treats with healthy (and sometimes not so healthy!) ingredients. Making things from scratch has always been a necessity for me, but it is one I count as a blessing. We know exactly what we are putting in our bodies because none of it is convenience or processed food.
In these posts, you will find my tried and tested recipes, mostly adjusted for my own speciality diet, but always easy to tweak and adapt yourselves. I will let you know what foods I know to be common trigger foods for IBD, and what are my fail-safe meals when I feel truly awful. Aside from that, I am open to requests…
Bon appétit and happy cooking!