It sometimes feels like an exhausting uphill battle deciding what to eat. Taking wheat, sugar and high GI carbohydrates from your diet banishes pretty much any form of ready to eat snack or café food. It’s not like you starve though. Fruit, nuts, cheese, home-made crackers, cookies and cakes and whatever is left over from last nights dinner makes for the perfect snack. It just feels a battle between the devils food and the heavenly kind. And we all have a little devil in us, right?
Just as translating E numbers in the supermarket was all the rage for whole food lovers in the 1980s, counting carbs, sugar, fats and gluten content is today’s health conscious game. But all this forensic examination of what you eat is exhausting and takes the fun out of food, pitching good foods against bad and rousing your inner demons to poke fun at your neurosis. It’s enough to send a girl running to the bakery to gorge on crusty white bread and custard slices.
Our neolithic ancestors feasted when food when it was available because their survival depended on it and they never knew when the next famine was on the horizon. Our survival instincts have yet to recalibrate for the plentiful food supply in the modern developed world leading us to graze almost constantly on whatever passes our way. Unless of course you are seeking an alternative source of nourishment which means you have to look a little harder and walk a little further or better still bring your own supplies. All of which takes some of the spontaneity and adventure out of eating out.
Cooking from scratch at home means that you can concoct whatever you like although I find trying to replicate bread, pastry and other tasty treats with alternative ingredients always leads to disappointment and profound dissatisfaction. It’s not hard to see why people moved to using wheat flour and sugar in such quantities because they have magical properties that other ingredients just don’t have. Not unlike trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. So it is back to basics in the kitchen again and learning to appreciate other alternatives and acquire the taste for nuttier, earthier and more robust textures.
Inspired by a recent lunch date with a fellow blogger I baked up a loaf of rye bread which is an ancient grain most people northern Europe used to bake with for centuries until wheat took over as the flour of choice. And what a success it was although my first bake could probably have done with another few minutes to seal the real deal. It was deeply satisfying to knock the food devil off his pedestal and settle in for a slice of bread that doesn’t disintegrate when you spread it with butter and you can enjoy without the addictive effect that has you reaching for the bread knife within seconds and back down the path to dietary hell.
As an occasional treat this rye bread will take pride of place at our table and keep the food devils at bay. And as soon as I have mastered the art of flour less cake baking, almond pastry and sugarless jam making we’ll be all set for enjoying a full-blown traditional yet guiltless English tea.