Towards the end of last year, in some minor lapse of sanity, I joined the burgeoning ranks of the sugar-free hordes.
Essentially, I sacrificed sugar in favour of spice and all things nice to appease the God of new age fad diets. This was mostly as the result of watching the documentary style ‘That Sugar Film‘ which led me to the inevitable conclusion that I should really stop watching documentaries.
I’m sure that during the course of this year I will somehow be convinced or coerced into the squirrel diet; a diet that will primarily consist of eating nuts that I’ve buried or hidden up a tree. Or the NASA approved astronaut diet, where I only eat foods that weightlessly float around our kitchen waiting to be caught.
The point that I’m making, with no degree of subtlety, is that there is no lite (and easy) at the end of the dieting fad tunnel. Whether it’s the puritanical raw diet, or the archaeological Paleolithic (caveman) diet, I think it’ll all come to a natural dietary devolution that consists of starvation in a dark, dank cave while weeping in the general direction of a delicious looking chocolate cake.
Personally, I embarked on the sugar-free path to better my eating habits, not as a weight loss regime. I decided to be kinder to my body by making my brain miserable, and the way that I believed that to be possible was by avoiding processed foods, well, as much as was bearable. Of course, trying to avoid processed foods is like trying to avoid breathing air.
I won’t say that it’s not difficult at times, of course it is. Occasionally the simple act of choosing from a menu in a restaurant is akin to a self-administered psychological evaluation; an evaluation that you will fail if your eyes accidentally stray to the dessert menu. And lord forbid that you actually order from it. The guilt, shame and remorse will make you rise from the table, apologise to everyone in the restaurant and voluntarily admit yourself to the closest mental institution before the waiter arrives with your sticky date pudding.
My other drawback with attempting to stay healthy is my Scottish heritage. I am a typical Scot from the very bottom of my greasy heart to the tip of my hedonistic appetite and poor eating habits.
Regrettably, I come from a culinary background that advocates the deep frying of absolutely everything.
I’m sure that most Scots wouldn’t jump on the fad diet bandwagon, but would prefer to deep fry it instead, including the horse that pulls it. Case in point: I used to eat deep fried pizza from our local fish and chip shop. I kid you not. Only the inventive Scots could take a semi-unhealthy foodstuff and, in a Machiavellian masterstroke, double its potential to completely destroy your internal organs. I presume that there were too many vitamins and minerals still present in the pizza, and any potential health benefits could only be rendered utterly ineffective by immersion in hot oil.
Even reminiscing about it now my arteries start to spasm in disgust, collapsing in upon themselves in violent protest or a defiant final act of self-defence.
I was amused recently to see that Black Pudding has been added to the illustrious and morally superior list of Superfoods. I can only assume that this terminology originated from a follower of Nietzsche as a sub-philosophical way of dividing the excessively delicious wheat from the inferior unpalatable chaff.
Another thing that I want to touch on is the price of some of these Superfoods and specialised diets.
I do love Paleo foods, but I’ve no idea how the cavemen could have afforded it. Not on Fred Flintstones salary anyway, maybe if you were his boss, Mr Slate. Poor Fred would have been restricted to his cheap McCain Bronto burgers and other pre-packaged and processed delights. My other Paleo question is how did the European stone age society get their hands on so much coconut milk?
I love the fact that there is so much choice, but all of these strange grains, berries and vegetables have started to appear on our supermarket shelves. Quinoa, chia, acai and goji berries, to name a few. Prior to approximately 2 years ago, I had no idea what any of these foods were.
To have a good diet and eat well is becoming a more expensive pursuit, and recipes are becoming more elaborate and outlandish. Increasingly dishes are being made from exotic ingredients, found solely behind a mysterious wall of mist in your local supermarket, the one that fills you with an uneasy sense of foreboding and terrifies you to your very socks. The whole paradox is that processed food is by far the cheaper alternative, and can be found in freezers or on shelves that exist in this dimensional plane. They are without a doubt the more accessible, acceptable and less spooky option.
You know that you are the victim of food snobbery or kitchen elitism when your free-range French vanilla chicken storms off of your plate in abject horror, as it won’t be associated with simple carrots or humble cabbage, and will only return if it’s accompanied by a superfood such as kale, quinoa and perhaps some mashed raspberries on the side.
It all goes to show, we are what we eat: A handful of chemical compounds held together by an indomitable will to exist.