A book worm and foodie, studying English Literature at the University of Glasgow, writing about food, books and travel while aspiring to be a writer.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Dinner for One: Cooking for Yourself as an Act of Self-Love.




My last few blogs have explored a few of the emotional issues that surround the simple act of eating. Food guilt, eating as a way to reward or punish your body and the positive control that cooking can afford us. So, now I want to steer my writing towards the application of these thought processes, pairing more food-positive musings with recipes that will hopefully demonstrate my words in a practical and delicious way.

Cooking is incredibly rewarding when you share the food you make. I adore cooking for my boyfriend, because he is so grateful that I take the time to make good food for us. When I visit home, I like to bake a cake or cook a meal for my family, to say thank you for letting me come and stay/drink their wine/that they haven't turned my room into a gym yet. I recently made a huge Indian meal for Calum's sister and her boyfriend, and knowing that we were all going to eat the food I was making over some drinks and good conversation meant that the day of preparation was almost as enjoyable as the evening itself. Similarly, when I visited my friend Lauren recently I made her and her boyfriend dinner in their kitchen, because I had a recipe I wanted to cook specifically for her (sweet potato mac'n'cheese, it's unreal) as well as to say thank you for letting me come and drool all over her cat.  Hell, if I have kids I'll probably love cooking for them too. Not because I want to fit into some dated, gendered 'Mum' role, but because I view food as a tangible means through which I can pass on my love to people. Cooking is a process as rewarding to me as it is to those who (I hope) enjoy my food and the intimacy of creating something which I tailor to nourish a particular person lets me know them, and myself, better.

However, I have in the past found this love of cooking for others to be dangerous. It is a very easy way to give up responsibility for yourself, in that once you have finished cooking that can signal the end of your involvement with the food. I find it easy to let others enjoy what I create, but sometimes don't take as much joy in the eating as I should, full up as it were on the satisfaction that I made someone happy. When my mind was still wrapped up in a warped view of eating, cooking tricked me into thinking I was nourishing myself through feeding other people, while I let myself starve. This is why now, when I feel myself slipping down the slope towards self-punishment again, I make sure I take the time to cook a meal just for me, alone.

Recently, my Mum bought me Ruby Tandoh's new cookbook, Flavour. A GBBO runner up, I didn't at first warm to Ruby's quiet but fiery personality when she was on TV, but always respected that she didn't change herself for the camera. Yet after reading her articles across various platforms, seeing her food-positive and life affirming views on Twitter and now reading her beautiful book, I find her to be someone I increasingly admire and relate to. I think her love of food stems very much from the same issues mine does, and in the introduction to Flavour she hits on several points that resonate strongly with me. To conclude the introduction, she says the following:

Learning to cook helped me to enjoy food again, it connected me with the people I care about and, most importantly, it taught me how to care for, love and nourish myself. Be your own best friend, cook yourself something special and eat what you want today.


This mantra that Tandoh describes is what I strive for when I cook for myself. When you're in the kitchen on your own, facing a night of your own company, it's easy to be lazy. While there is nothing wrong with a baked potato or getting a takeaway, I find that sometimes if my focus on food is directed inwardly, I can be overly scrutinising of calorie content or 'healthiness', or I neglect to care about eating good food together. That's why, selfish as it may seem, I now tend to make more of an effort to cook lovely food for myself than I do for anyone else. I set the table, light a candle and I want my food to be beautiful, delicious and something I am indulging my body and mind in. The process of cooking gives me the mental stimulation I need, but if the eating isn't as big a part of that joy then the experience is not complete. When I cook myself lunch I do it properly, listening to what my body needs and taking time to prepare it so I know it's as tasty as it can possibly be. It was the same when living alone: getting in the kitchen and sitting down to eat created a sense of community between my body and mind. Knowing that you can sustain and make yourself happy on your own is a powerful and important feeling, and nourishment is a big part of that. Now, when I have an evening to myself I am sure I don't revert to bad habits. I plan my meals, take time to buy ingredients and really enjoy them. Cooking for yourself should be as fun as cooking for others, if not more, because what is more indulgent than treating yourself? If we can't enjoy things as much on our own as we do with others I believe that speaks to a lack of self-love. I cook to reflect and sustain my personality and I am not less of a person on my own. Teaching myself to enjoy what I cook as much as I expect others to has done wonders for my self esteem and confidence and I don't think you're ever truly lonely if you enjoy your own company. One can be the loveliest number.

So, in this vein I wanted to end with a simple recipe that I love to cook for myself. As Calum doesn't eat fish, I take the chance to make it for myself when he isn't here, and my recipe for sweet chilli salmon noodles ticks all the boxes. It's easy, quick, beautiful, has fairly basic ingredients, is full of flavour and really delicious: a perfect dish to enjoy on your own soon.


Ingredients (to feed one) 


  • 1 salmon fillet
  • 5 tbsp of sweet chilli sauce
  • 3 tbsp of dark soy sauce
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of freshly grated ginger
  • 1 spring onion, sliced
  • A drizzle of vegetable oil, or chilli oil if you have it
  • A squeeze of lemon or orange juice
  • 1 finely chopped chilli (add as much as you like, depending on spice tolerance)
  • A handful of spinach leaves
  • 1 egg
  • A nest of egg noodles, or enough for one portion
  • A tbsp of chopped fresh coriander
  • A sachet of miso soup (optional)


Method
Preheat oven to 180 fan

  1. This recipe works best if you marinade the salmon in advance, so a few hours before you eat it, put the raw salmon fillet in a ziploc bag with 2 tbsps of the sweet chilli sauce, the soy sauce, garlic, chilli, ginger and lemon juice. Leave in the fridge to marinade for as long as you can before you cook the salmon. 
  2. When it comes to cooking time, tip the salmon and all it's marinade on to a double sheet of tin foil. Splash it with a drizzle of oil, then crimp the edges of the foil together so you have a sealed salmon package. Put on a baking tray and then bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes, or until the fish is flaky and cooked through.
  3. Towards the end of the salmon cooking time, maybe 5 minutes until it is done, boil a pan of water for the noodles. You will also need to put the egg in a pan of cold water and get it boiling. Egg noodles only take a few minutes to cook, so time it so that they will be done around the same time as the salmon. Similarly, you want to egg to be slightly soft boiled, and this will take a minute when the water is at a rolling boil. Once it is done run it under cold water to stop further cooking.
  4. Once the noodles are cooked, drain the water leaving about a tablespoon in with them. Keep them on the heat, and add the spinach, blanching it until it has wilted. Drain now if there is any excess liquid. To the noodles and the spinach, add the rest of the chilli sauce until the noodles are coated, as well as the spring onion. When the salmon is done, flake it away from the skin using a fork. Stir the fish as well as the chilli, ginger, garlic and any sauce left from the marinade through the noodles. 
  5. If you want to turn your noodles into a ramen bowl, now is the time to make the miso soup (by adding hot water to the sachet). Serve the noodles in a large bowl, garnishing with the chopped coriander, and pour the soup over, although they are just as delicious without it. Peel the cooked egg and half, serving on the side of the dish. 
While this dish can obviously be cooked for more than one, it brings me happiness when I am on my own, and I hope it can do the same for you. 

Lindsay x 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Dispelling the myth of Food Guilt.


One of the most perplexing things I wonder about when considering my relationship with food, is the guilt I sometimes feel after, or even during, eating. The feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach that follows a particularly large or indulgent meal totally ruins the pleasure of actually eating it, and all too often turns the delicious taste left in my mouth sour. This self-pitying food guilt I occasionally inflict on myself is not only incredibly self-indulgent in a masochistic, narcissistic way (I mean, talk about first world problems) but also borderline ridiculous and the more I think of it, the stupider it seems. I know I am not alone in this: myself and most of my friends have, at one point or another, muttered 'oh god, I shouldn't have eaten that/so much' and then punished themselves later by having a stingy dinner, or starving themselves altogether, despite having made the decision to order/buy/cook whatever they have just eaten in the first place. While people experience subjective food guilt to varying degrees, depending on their self-esteem, body issues or in my case, occasional batshit crazy rationality, I think it is time to address this puzzling negativity that too many of us perpetuate in ourselves.

I like to think of myself as a pretty smart person. Most of the time I have a grip on myself, my life and my thoughts. I'm often proud of my mind and the things it can produce and, as I have addressed in my previous blogs, am a cook who takes immense satisfaction from making delicious food. So, you would think that when I make a decision of which the outcome is certain, for instance, pressing 'order' on the Dominos' website, I would be prepared for and accepting of its results. Why then, does food occasionally seem to create a disconnect between my body and mind? Fast food websites do not make ordering from them overly simple. Scrolling through menus, selecting toppings and filling in your card details should, in theory, give you plenty of time to mull over your decision. 'Do I really want this pizza/curry/Chinese?' If yes, click checkout. If no, close the tab. More often then not though, whenever my meal has arrived after an agonising half-hour of subtly looking out my curtains to see if I can spot the delivery driver, I eat it and experience instant regret. No matter how much I enjoyed eating whatever it happened to be in the moment, my mind then turns on my body and the two have a fall out. It is as if my brain can't comprehend the satisfaction my body feels from eating something it deems 'bad' for me, despite the fact that it was actively involved in the decision to eat the food, and so a cycle of guilt and punishment ensues.

This downward spiral into food guilt is completely self-perpetuating. My decision to eat something 'bad' makes me feel increasingly negative and cruel towards my body. In turn, the negative mindset I find myself in means I care less about regaining my self-respect. I make more decisions that I know will end up in additional food guilt and self-loathing, therefore elongating the period of bad feeling. This experience isn't limited to just ordering takeaway food either. I have known myself to spend over an hour making the most delicious macaroni cheese from scratch, only to eat it and then spend the evening agonising over its calorie content. How ridiculous is that? To invest time, effort, money and love making something, to have the pleasure of enjoying it taken from you, by yourself. Only when thinking about this in depth recently, through my more self-reflective writing and efforts to be more self-loving, have I realised that this food guilt I sometimes feel is a myth, created by a brain that has been damaged by society's expectations. Therefore, it is also a feeling I can choose to completely overcome.

While some food is unhealthy, eating it occasionally for pleasure can only be good for your happiness. Furthermore, eating pizza once a fortnight will probably not have a huge effect on your figure, so me studying my stomach in the mirror after a meal, scanning for instant change is nothing short of deranged. Society condemns certain body shapes and the things, or foods associated with them. However, were we to just ignore this and have healthy relationships with our minds and bodies, occasionally indulging ourselves for pleasure would not be negative. To the contrary, it can actually make you feel pretty good. I am capable of thinking and making decisions for myself and the idea that societal tropes of appearance and healthy living can override a decision I made, with a guilt I don't believe in, is preposterous. The further irony is that when I accept that I have enjoyed something that wasn't very healthy, or maybe had too much cheese on it, I move on from that experience totally unscathed. Continuing to like myself, I fall back into normal healthy eating patterns rather than feeling guilty for days and life goes on. Pizza is delicious. Macaroni cheese is one of my favourite meals. If I want to eat them, I will, and I'll be damned if afterwards I feel anything other than happiness that I could allow myself to enjoy something. Sure, I'm not saying that I will be eating indulgence food every day and loving it, health is important too, but I'm tired of my brain sabotaging my stomach against its own will.

Homemade macaroni cheese, what's not to love? 

Deciding to stop partaking in food guilt makes enjoying food and liking yourself a lot easier. I also find that, personally, I am less likely to overeat indulgence food when it doesn't make me feel bad. If there is less stigma attached to it in my mind I can take or leave it, choosing to enjoy it only when I know I will get the most satisfaction. Getting away from this strange paradox of punishment and reward also means I like and respect myself a lot more. If I order a pizza, that's fine, just like it's fine if I eat really healthily for a week. While food guilt is something that is probably only the tip of the iceberg for a lot of people who suffer from eating related anxiety, addressing its ridiculousness can be the first step in overcoming it and moving towards self-acceptance. Being in control of our bodies and minds in a positive way is an agency we deserve on a primitive level. Eat pizza if you want, eat salad if you want, just make sure that whatever you do makes you happy just for you and you alone.

Lindsay x




Monday, 11 July 2016

Be your cake and eat it. (Part two)


When I was in my mid-teens I had a difficult relationship with food, and I'm sure that anyone who knows me now, or follows me on Instagram, will find that hard to believe. What started as a biological reaction to stress (my nerves are very closely tied to my digestion, a subject I may explore later if I'm feeling particularly disgusting) became a means of control. If I limited what I ate I had power. I liked the way it made me look and failed to recognise when I went beyond skinny and into 'at risk'. At the worst stage of my obsession, I would weigh myself three times before I went to school and not eat anything while I was there and away from the worried eyes of my family, all of this propagated by photoshopped images society pushed on my impressionable teenage mind. While that tricky time is water under the bridge now, dismissing it as a phase or insignificant would be foolish and I try my best to keep learning from it. On one occasion, my friend Chloe said to her mum that I 'wasn't a good eater' when I was around for dinner, and the title sticks in my head as the complete antithesis to the person I am today. I am a brilliant eater, in fact I prize it as one of my most impressive talents. When I am feeling particularly mean towards my figure I sometimes yearn for the time when I was seven stone, but remembering how miserable I was back then quickly puts those thoughts to rest.

The change came when I realised just how much thinking about not eating was dominating my life. I constantly monitored what I put in my body, how much I weighed and viewed my thinness as a trophy. I would look at a beautiful meal my mum put in front of me with dismay, not pleasure, and squandered the limited time I spent with my long distance boyfriend thinking about food and hating myself for any transgression. I may have looked good, by the standards of a dysmorphic and unrealistic society, but I was so unhappy that none of the very few benefits were worth it. Paradoxically, during this time I still loved to cook. I would bake cake after cake, loving the sensation of making something and seeing others enjoy it, but too often not partaking in it myself. This masochistic need to nourish others but deprive myself is a trope endlessly perpetuated by society: an image of a 1940s housewife providing for her husband while retaining an impossibly tiny waist and a set of shiny pearls springs to mind. However, my way of overturning this twisted relationship perpetuated by consumer culture was to see food for what it is; not an enemy but something good for me.

Moving away from home was a positive step. Rather than regressing once more into bad habits I turned my controlled eating into a love of cooking. While my Mum is the best cook I know and definitely passed her passion and talent on to me, I had to take my nourishment into my own hands to truly love food again. Cooking was revolutionary. Selecting, buying, preparing and assembling ingredients made eating pleasurable and I still had the control I craved. Knowing exactly what I was putting together to make a meal left the power in my hands, but now I was enjoying the product. I put on weight and learned to love myself by learning to love what I was eating, because I was creating it. As a creative person, the act of making food is very therapeutic for me: refuge after a long day at work or from the stress of university. Importantly, cooking makes me very aware of what I'm putting into my body, but not in a negative way. 

Recently I watched a documentary on Netflix that explored the processed food industry, and a dietitian told viewers to eat macaroni cheese tonight if they felt like it. And a bacon cheeseburger, and apple pie, and cookies and ice-cream, on one condition: you had to cook everything from scratch, yourself. 'I guarantee you won't eat that cheeseburger, or the apple pie, or the cookies', he said, and he hit the nail on the head. While pizza is my favourite indulgence food, when I'm working I'll grab anything that's going for the sake of not starving, and sometimes there is just not enough time in the day, for the most part I eat healthily because I cook my meals myself. I'm by no stretch of the imagination a 'clean eater' and I think subscribing to that lifestyle is as damaging as any other obsession, but it's inevitable that when you make something from scratch you're more conscious of everything you put in it. Putting good stuff in my body makes me feel good. Fast food is wonderful and everything has its place, but personally I need to get the best from food to feel my best and the easiest way to do that is to make it yourself: you're less likely to overindulge and more likely to love what you eat. Nourishing our bodies means we can recreate a healthy, organic relationship with them, overcoming the unhealthy mindset society inflicts on us by dictating an ideal. Reclaiming food by creating it myself allowed me to reconnect with my body and view it once more it as a friend, not an assassin. Now I am much healthier, happier and while I will always have bad body days, I figure that's ok. I can go on a health kick if I want, or eat less snacks without going overboard. The stigma that once connected eating with ugliness in my mind is no longer there. I make the best macaroni cheese I've ever tasted and my cakes are great, but the most important thing is that I'm in control in a good way. No one can dictate to me how I should look, feel or what I should eat or cook apart from me, and now that I love myself once more the relationship between me and food is a good one. 

In part one of this blog I mentioned The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, where the protagonist eats a woman made out of cake, which she has baked, to reclaim her body and her identity. While I'm not suggesting that eating as a way of being in touch with the self need be so literal, (although I did bake heart shaped cakes so I'm sure there is some latent symbolism at play) I thought I would finish this blog off with a cake recipe in the spirit of Atwood and self love. Filled with lovely ingredients, this is my 'Special Carrot Cake', a recipe I used to bake back when I didn't want to eat the final product and one I enjoy much more now. It's easy to make and very delicious. I hope if you try baking it, it makes you happy. Thank you for reading. 



Special Carrot Cake

Ingredients (To make a large cake, double layered cake. Half the recipe for a batch of cupcakes.)
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees and grease and line two deep 20cm cake tins

For the cake: 
  • 300g plain flour
  • 300g soft light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 300ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g carrots, grated
  • 100g nuts of your choice (I use mixed unsalted nuts for the variety)
For the icing: (Again, half quantities for small cake/batch of cupcakes)
  • 300g icing sugar, sifted
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 125g cream cheese
Method
  1. Put the sugar, eggs and oil into an electric mixer (or use a hand blender) and mix with a paddle attachment until all the ingredients are combined. 
  2. Gradually add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla extract. Continue to mix slowly until well mixed. 
  3. Stir in the carrots and chopped nuts by hand, making sure they are evenly distributed in the mixture. Spoon the mixture into the cake tins and smooth. 
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the sponge is golden brown and bounces back when touched. Testing with a knife or skewer is also a good indicator, but as this is a moist cake it may not come out completely clean even when fully baked. Better to go on colour. 
  5. When done, let your cakes cool in the tins for ten minutes before turning out onto a wire cooling rack. Meanwhile, make the icing. 
  6. Beat the softened butter and the icing sugar carefully until well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go and stir until completely incorporated. Then beat until it is smooth, light and fluffy. 
  7. After your cakes have completely cooled, ice them. If making a big cake, sandwich the two layers together with icing and then decorate the top. If making cupcakes, dot some on the top and then smooth out with a knife. Decorate with more nuts and ground cinnamon. The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it is versatile enough to make lovely cupcakes or a large cake and both stay delicious and moist. I usually make half the quantities when in Glasgow so I don't end up throwing any out. 
Lindsay x 

*P.S: Just wanted to make clear that I don't think any type of body shape is bad, I am just referencing my own previous attitude to eating, which was unhealthy.* 

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Be your cake and eat it. (Part one)

On Sunday I returned from a lovely week long holiday on the Isle of Mull with my family and boyfriend. The time spent without sustainable wifi, with loved ones and in an isolated, empty part of the world are both the reason why I am slightly delayed in my writing and also in part its inspiration.

I always find myself at peace when walking outside, on my own or with someone I know very well. The sensation of absolute comfort, I realise, comes from the anonymity that these situations provide. When I am outside and not likely to see many people, and if when I do they are similarly bedraggled and decked out in a non-sexy waterproof, I don't really care about the impression I leave. On the other hand, my everyday life in the city means constant interaction with people, people, people, strangers or otherwise. Being under a constant societal gaze has more of an impact on me than it probably should: if I go about my day not feeling that I look my best I become shy, retiring and sometimes pissed off, desperate to get home and into my pyjamas ASAP even though I'm usually an outgoing person. The most ridiculous thing about this conundrum is I know that NO ONE CARES. No one is going to stop in the street and think 'my god look at that sweaty rushed mess of a person, her life must be a joke', because everyone is as deeply entrenched in their own bubble as I am. But this form of image-based social anxiety has got me thinking recently, particularly with regards to my focus on food. Consumer culture bombards us daily with advertising and social ideals, and this is at its most personal with regards to the body.

Diet pills, fast food, bikini adverts, clothing shops, beauty products, photoshopped front pages; even my short walk to work is choc-full of subtle subliminal messaging, telling me what sort of perfect form my life and body should take and what I need to buy in order to achieve that. Similarly, one scroll through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook provides endless images to compare ourselves to and, more disturbingly, the temptation to edit our pictures with filters and photoshop so we can 'compete' in the looks market.  Furthermore, the way we look at our bodies can be reduced to nothing less than symbolic cannibalism, and this is where it gets interesting.

I know many people (myself included) particularly women but also men, who look at their body with  shocking self criticism; 'my thighs are huge'; 'I have no waist'; 'I wish I had bigger boobs/a thigh gap/longer legs'. This reduction of the self to separate body parts is reminiscent of the dotted lines that are drawn on pigs or cows marking how they should be butchered: what shape and size the 'perfect cut' should be. Consumer culture goes so far that we view our own bodies as commodities to be devoured by others. This is why I only question myself when looking through the filter society has instilled in me, and am more at peace when away from its pressures. While I don't underestimate that many people want to look a certain way to feel good about themselves, that the 'certain way' is deemed as ideal in the first place is down to an image we are constantly sold, as blatantly marketed as branded sportswear and the lithe people who model them. I believe that one of the reasons people can become so obsessed by their bodies and by extension what they eat is that they care, deeply and disturbingly about how they relate to this image both in the mirror and under the gaze of others. Our image, how we look and what we choose to promote about ourselves in real life and on social media is all an impression created, manipulated and designed to be consumed, gobbled up by those who see it. Otherwise, why would we care about the shape of our thighs? Why would we edit pictures of ourselves and present someone who is to a certain extent untrue? With the exception of matters of health, most self loathing I encounter comes from an anxiety that we don't fit the mould, or come within the butcher's perfect dotted line.



While on holiday I read Margaret Atwood's crucial first novel, The Edible Woman. In the book, Atwood's protagonist Marian suffers from a subconscious anorexia, as her body rejects her mind's settling for a life of subordination and marriage by slowly limiting the food she can stomach. By the end of the novel, Marian cannot eat anything and her breaking point comes when she realises the person she has moulded herself into is not truly her, but someone to be consumed by her fiancé and society. Her retaliation to this is miraculously grotesque. She bakes a effigy of a woman out of cake, created for the sole purpose of being eaten. 'You look delicious,' she says to the cake, 'Very appetising. And that's what will happen to you; that's what you get for being food.' When her fiancé Peter shows up, she calls him out on his (albeit perhaps innocently unaware) bluff - '"You've been trying to destroy me, haven't you," she said. "You've been trying to assimilate me. But I've made you a substitute, something you'll like much better. This is what you really wanted all along isn't it? I'll get you a fork."' Peter, while obviously not wholly responsible for the expectations he harbours due to society, can nevertheless not stomach his tailor made woman. He leaves, and the real pièce de résistance comes when Marian takes the fork, suddenly hungry, and eats the cake herself. Symbolic cannibalism becomes a vehicle to restore self-control, rather than a cause of self hatred. The image of the woman eating the woman-cake, once more with an appetite, powerfully turns the consumed once more into the consumer and Marian retakes her agency and rejects society's measure of her through the trope of food.

This idea, that of both being your cake and eating it, is what I will explore in the second leg of this blog, coming soon. Alongside a cake recipe (of course) I will discuss how food can overturn what consumer society has taken from us. Nourishing our bodies in a healthy manner should be a positive way to look after and love yourself, not a trip into guilt-ridden angst. By recognising how our consumed image makes us alter what we in turn consume, literally, we can use food as a means to change the way we view ourselves and others. Our bodies should not be labelled as pre-judged chunks of meat, and from my experience forming a positive relationship with food can be an excellent way to stop butchering our self-esteem. 

Lindsay x 

Friday, 17 June 2016

Are we what we eat? A new kind of 'research' into personal food writing.

I'm always worried that when I get to September I'm going to feel like I wasted Summer. Those four months of non-study time are always set up in my head as time that I'm going to DO something. However, I have yet again been too lazy/busy to organise any kind of internship, and while I am working nearly full time at the moment, I want to make sure at least some of my spare time is occupied in doing something that will be useful to me when I return to studying.

After nearly a solid month of rejecting socialising, normal eating habits and even ignoring my own family when they came to stay in order to sit in my kitchen and pour over sticky notes, my obsessive studying paid off and I earned exam results I was extremely happy with. For me, ever the over-achiever who is oddly competitive with myself, that means the pressure is on for my final year, where the one big difference will be the dissertation. Now that dissertation advisors have been allocated and proposals approved, I feel 'safe' enough to begin what I'm hoping will turn into my summer project and double as a lighthearted strain of dissertation research. My dissertation, roughly, is going to investigate how writing about food becomes writing about the self. Having had a varying personal relationship with food, transforming myself from struggling with a borderline eating disorder into the ardent food lover I now am (albeit still with some body issues), the way people relate to something which, at the end of the day, simply keeps us alive has always fascinated me. Especially in today's world, where social media and popular culture pressure us to look certain ways and be in ultimate control of our bodies, while at the same time plastering Facebook feeds with videos of ridiculous cheese or chocolate covered indulgence foods, only to then make us feel bad with unattainable Instagram posts of avocado flowers and chia bowls. While I don't yet have specific texts or themes to focus on, I thought that starting with a personal study would be a valuable and enjoyable place to start getting in the right frame of mind, and I plan on using my blog as a vehicle to do so.

I want to know why, some days, we can look at ourselves in the mirror and as a result of what we see, evaluate everything that passes our lips not in terms of deliciousness and nutrition, but by measure of calories and self-loathing. At the same time, I personally find that when in life I have a lot on my plate, cooking and putting food on my actual plate becomes a kind of solace and escapism from everyday pressures. Furthermore, I believe that food is something that it is possible to have a deep rooted personal relationship with: some dishes or tastes can remind you of particular people or transport you back to a moment in time. Even the ceremony of eating can carry so much higher meaning, be that sitting down at a table with your family or relaxing in front of the T.V with a bowl of pasta, grabbing a rushed and unloved sandwich or taking the time to plan a meal. Chefs and restauranteurs view food as an expression of the self, and I think the same stands in my kitchen at home. So, my plan is that alongside relevant reading to see how literature presents the food-human relationship, I want to explore how my own food writing is about more than just knowing where to get the best burger or being able to cook a recipe. How and why does nourishment become about more than getting from day to day without starving? I would like to think that there is a reason, other than my greed, why I think about what I'm going to make for dinner as soon as I wake up. 

While I'm not sure exactly what form this 'research' is going to take, I think I will still blog about the food I cook and eat in the main. For readers who do just want to know what I'm eating to either recreate it or go to that restaurant, don't worry, there will still be plenty of that. However, I'm going to try and dig a bit deeper, looking into my personal regard for food and why I started writing about it in the first place. Whether that takes the form of explaining the origins of my favourite foods in more detail or just making my writing a bit more reflective, we will see. I'm aiming to simply start considering why food means so much to me and has become such an oddly large part of the identity I ascribe myself. 'Food lover' means more to me that just enjoying the taste of things, and that is what I want to investigate. My thinking is that the format of my blog will provide adequate pressure to keep going, and hopefully some of you will find my summer project to be interesting reading. I am not expecting to come up with any ground breaking revelations about humankind, but even just actively engaging with the subject of food and the self will hopefully be useful.

I would love to hear from anyone who has a personal experience or opinion about what I'm going to try and do. Any theories on why you love or hate certain foods, or even what the ceremony of eating is to you would be really interesting, so please feel free to share them with me. I'm not setting a deadline for my next post, as I want to really think about how best to approach this new vein of writing, but any suggestions or questions people would find it interesting if I addressed would be appreciated. For now though, I am going to go and eat a fish finger sandwich for lunch, which I know will make me feel just like a child. 

Lindsay x 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Book Review: I Love Dick, and a recipe for Avocado Baked Eggs

That the last time I wrote this blog was back in November, is telling of the fact that I find writing to be something that's hard to get back into once stopped for a while. Throughout the year I have written many essays, but once you settle into an academic tone where you use words like 'elucidate' and focus on things like Shakespeare's use of Ovid in his drama, coming back to writing in a colloquial, approachable and entertaining way is always harder than I think.
This is, perhaps, the reason why when I stop blogging for a while I find it an increasingly daunting prospect, and the realm of restaurant reviews and recipes that I used to write with ease seems almost impregnable. However, while my third year at university was the hardest and most rewarding time of my life thus far (I have already read over fifty texts this year and it's only June), it is now scarily over, leaving the time that used to be filled with revision and reading confusingly empty. I have found the readjustment to life without studying geekily difficult and summer seems to have become a limbo-time, where I don't get to do my one 'me' thing. While I can’t complain about the lack of essay-stress, or more time to do things with my boyfriend, I feel like I need something to fill the space and give me purpose. So I thought there would never be a better time to throw myself back into writing what I used to enjoy so much, to both keep my hand in and fill my time when I'm not working with something more rewarding than watching Netflix, as well as reclaiming something that is just mine, aside from the series of fantasy books I am indulging in. I am returned, with a slightly updated blog and probably a slightly different take on things.

I was struggling to come up with ideas as to what I should write about for my first re-entry. A simple restaurant review didn't seem 'special' enough to announce my return to blogging, so instead I wanted to write about a book which I recently read that had great impact on me (see, I really CAN’T get away from those bloody essays). That book is I Love Dick, by Chris Kraus. Now I can hear the sniggers from those of you that haven't read the book, and maybe a knowing chuckle from those of you who have, but I Love Dick is not a work to be laughed at. Written in 1997, I Love Dick was one of the books on my reading list for American Literature since 1900, set by the formidably great tutor Jane Goldman. The book is a powerful and confusing melt of fiction and fact, with real life ‘characters’ and a plot that really happened, but Kraus refuses to define her text and therefore the emotions she depicts within it as either made up or a one-off case study. 

A must-read for my feminist bookworm pals, (and everyone else to be honest) Kraus doesn’t reduce herself to fill the role of a typical female character, overcome with lust and at the mercy of the man, ‘Dick’, with whom she is infatuated. Instead, Kraus harnesses her female emotion and makes it a force to be reckoned with. Turning the regular gender-roles in fiction on their head, particularly in confessional fiction in which men are seen as ‘revolutionary’ for divulging their emotion yet women are seen as desperate and pitiful, she writes a series of letters to Dick. She plays him, unwittingly, in a game, and the reader sees him transformed from subject to object, as ‘Dear Dick’ becomes ‘Dear Diary’.  Kraus reduces the male object of her affection into a means for her to express herself, as so many men do in their treatment of female characters. Given the real-life basis of the ‘plot’, Kraus delivers the final blow to Dick by publishing her ‘novel’, therefore defining Dick exactly how she wants as we see him become an artistic entity, governed by the author. 

Whilst this is a very brief summary of what I think to be Kraus’ aim, the actual content of the book is brilliantly funny, sad and revolutionary. The brutality of the lengths she has to go to in order to assert her power within her own life and art, reducing another person as she goes to get dominance, shows just how difficult it can be for women to get the inherent respect in literature that is more often than not a given for men. She states at one point, ‘I'm moved in writing to be irrepressible. Writing to you seems like some holy cause, cause there's not enough female irrepressibility written down. I've fused my silence and repression with the entire female gender's silence and repression. I think the sheer fact of women talking, being, paradoxical, inexplicable, flip, self-destructive but above all else public is the most revolutionary thing in the world’. I would say that anyone who is interested in female irrepressibility, in both life and literature, should definitely read I Love Dick. I recently met Chris, and knowing that the short, softly spoken woman standing in front of me was so transformative and strong was inspirational and life affirming. Kraus shows everyone, of either gender, that the boundaries in life and art are easy to transgress, and the product of her doing so is amazing.

~~~

Academic book-spiel over, I thought I would include a simple, easy recipe to finish off. For me, food, reading and self-love are inextricably linked, as anyone who knows me will probably be all too aware. So this is a recipe for my avocado baked eggs, which are healthy but indulgent and, most importantly, delicious. 

Ingredients (serves one)

·      2 eggs
·      1 avocado
·      Salt/pepper
·      Dukkah seasoning (a sprinkle)
·       Tsp butter

Method

·      Preheat your oven to 180C. In either a small ovenproof dish, or two ramekins, place the knob of butter and melt in the oven for a minute until fully melted.
·      Cut up your avocado into strips. This can be done as messily as you like, there are no prizes for neatness here and I definitely don't expect any ridiculous avocado roses. Then, crack the eggs into your dish, and arrange the avocado in the raw egg white. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and dukkah, an Egyptian blend of spices, seeds and nuts (which you can buy in Tesco) to create a delicious smoky flavour.
·      Place the dish in the oven for around ten minutes or until the egg white has solidified. Eat straight away, with a side of toast.



This recipe is irresistibly easy and delicious, not to mention very instagramable. By cooking the avocado you create a smoky flavour, which is almost meat-like and very different from the raw taste. Combined with the eggs and the spices, this makes for a surprisingly quick and satisfying lunch. You can customise the recipe by adding some smoked salmon, wilted spinach or, to make it really indulgent, double cream, however the original is plenty flavoursome. 



Lindsay x


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Review; Lunch at The Left Bank and Glasgow's Best Chilli.

The amount of time that has passed since I last blogged is almost inexcusable. Almost, apart from the fact that now that I'm in third year, I have started what I like to think of as 'adult' university. Adult university is big, scary and really hard. In the time it has taken me to adjust to the heavier workload and higher expectations, both my own and those of others, my little blog took a back seat. I'm also trying to do more extracurricular writing; the university paper and other blogging platforms,  building a 'portfolio' if you will. But hey, it's important not to forget where you came from.
So, my blog refuses to be ignored (nobody puts bloggy in the corner... SORRY) and so I am back, writing about all of my food adventures, as well as anything else that happens to be of interest in my relatively uninteresting life.

Last weekend, Calum and I visited the breathtaking city of Prague. However, since my last blog was a travel piece about the Outer Hebrides, I don't want to bore you with more tales of my gallivanting just yet. Instead, I'm going to do a restaurant review, of a place I recently ate at and loved.

I turned twenty about a month ago, and to celebrate the end of my teenage years my friend Lauren and I went to The Left Bank, on Gibson Street. I had never been before, but it's a place which I always see mentioned by the hordes of Glaswegian foodies I follow on Twitter and Instagram. The restaurant's recent win of the Glasgow chilli cook-off sealed the deal, and off we went.
Pretty wallpaper at The Left Bank
Tantalisingly close to Glasgow University campus, The Left Bank looks pretty unassuming from the outside and I have walked past it a few times without realising. On the inside, the chic understatement continues and the minimal, charming decor creates an inviting, laid-back and classy atmosphere. This relaxed, homely vibe extends itself to the menu, where the ethos is local ingredients and home cooking, given a refreshingly modern and vibrant twist.

Aperol Spritz and Rose Lemonade Spritzer
The bar has an impressive cocktail menu. I opted for my favourite, an Aperol Spritz, which was perfectly made. Lauren went for a delicious non-alcoholic option, and had the homemade rose lemonade spritzer, also delicious.
In terms of food, there are a few different options for your dining pleasure.
They offer brunch in the morning all week, which I definitely need to try soon as it gets wonderful reviews. The fusion of scottish classics, like porridge or eggs mornay, with the more unorthodox Lebanese breakfast or Huevos Mexicanos mean that there really is something to suit any palate. With everything on the breakfast menu coming in at under eight pounds, the competitive West-End prices mean it is not to be overlooked.
Lauren and I were there for lunch, where you have two menu choices; either the lunch menu, available on Monday to Friday from 12-5, or the all day mains menu, also served from midday.

The lunch menu has a selection of wraps, ciabattas or salads, all coming in at under £6, and fillings include North Sea Haddock fish fingers, bhajis, and homemade hummus with harissa and dukkah. Yum. The all day mains are slightly more expensive, although not as pricey as the evening menu. Choosing between the delicious looking burgers, the fish and chips, the mussels cooked in Vietnamese broth or the Goan chicken curry was incredibly tough. Not often do you find a restaurant that has such a variety of food, all influenced by different places, yet all made with the same quality ingredients. It is the kind of menu which makes choosing your meal a non-choice; you know everything will be superb, so you resign yourself to coming back and trying everything else some other time, life is tough.

For me though, it had to be this chilli I had heard so much about.
Now, chilli con carne is a dish I cook often for myself at home, so I rarely order it out because I can do a damn good job of it myself. For The Left Bank I made an exception, and I'm very glad I did.
The chilli is made of both beef brisket and pulled pork, combining the two meats in a way that both lightens and adds depth to the dish. It is topped with molten cheese, which acts as a lid, keeping in all the delicious warmth and spice. The homemade tortilla chips, artfully skewered in the middle of the plate are paprika-y and smoky, and make the best cutlery to scoop up the chilli and sour cream. Finally, even the rice was a cut above, delicately spiced and complementary.
Lauren had been before and so insisted that we order a side of the Ayrshire chips in rosemary salt, which come with an amazing spiced mayonnaise and did not disappoint. I highly recommend indulgently mopping your plate with them.
Glasgow's best Chilli
The chilli came in at £8.95, and is definitely worth the money for the quality and effort that is obviously put into the dish. My only (tiny) qualm would be that the portion was a little on the small side; it suited me well for lunch, with a side dish, but I know that if I took Calum or one of my brothers along, their hollow-legged appetites would not be satisfied.

Ayrshire Chips with rosemary salt




















On the whole, The Left Bank definitely stood up to my expectations. It is elegant but not pretentious, and does Scottish fusion with the best of them, combining local ingredients to create exotic tastes as well as newly-perfected classics. I will definitely be visiting for brunch, and the evening menu looks divine; perfect for an occasion. It is a place I know my mother will love (which, if you know my mother, is definitely a compliment). Whilst it might not be the place to go if you want lots of food, for not much money, that's not necessarily a bad thing. What The Left Bank does it does very, very well.


My next blog will be a travel piece on the stunning capital of the Czech Republic, Prague.
Until next time!

Lindsay x