The Girth Mother Sounds Off Again

What a food scary week it’s been! First we had the wonderful Hugh F. W. raising hen hell with the supermarkets and then our Jamie telling us the truth about junk and fast food.

Chickens

Photo by Hans Splinter

Once I wouldn’t have bothered to watch all this, I’d have thought yeah, yeah but so what. Now, feeling rather smug, I switch on ready to metaphorically lap it up in the knowledge that he is preaching to the converted. I didn’t really expect to be surprised by Jamie’s programme, I half expected to take what was said by the ‘experts’ with a pinch of salt (if you’ll pardon the pun) but I was wrong on both counts.

Before I go further I’d like to report on my own discoveries since I last wrote from the Girth Mother. Having read Joanna Blytheman’s assertions that the food in the supermarket has less flavour, and seen all our celebrity chefs insisting that we should know where and how our food is raised/produced I still didn’t get it until I started buying good stuff for myself. Last week I purchased two particular items to drool over. The first was a piece of lamb from my local butcher that must have been living in heaven before its demise. It was succulent, juicy, tasty and tender, more delicious than any lamb I’ve had for years, possibly ever. I don’t know exactly where it was produced, I have just grown to trust my butcher’s recommendations. The second thing was smoked mackerel from the fishmonger at our Friday market. Being a complete ignoramus when it comes to fish, I was searching for the flat, orange articles available in all our supermarkets but what I was given was a golden and silver, glossy, whole mackerel, and I was amazed to discover that the flavour and texture were decidedly superior and the flesh was pinky beige, not orangy brown. I kept mmmming as I ate it, and while turning it into pate which, with hind sight, was possibly a waste of the mackerel. It’s on my shopping list again for this week and Whizz and I are going to eat it unadulterated.

I have realised by now that the Supermarkets have already won the ‘kill the High Street’ game in this area. It is not possible to buy ordinary foodstuffs in Tinkle High Street other than from Tesco or M & S Food. In the market there is a fruit and veg stall but its produce is as tasteless as that in the aforementioned supermarkets. This is probably, if I understand things correctly, because it is the same stuff, just the rejects that don’t meet the size/shape criteria of the big stores. The only fruit and veg worth buying are from the organic delivery company, which is fine but limiting. I now have a different method of planning my week, a more French approach i.e. find what is available then decide how to cook it and what to serve with it.

 Rubber glove by Rupert Ganzer

Photo by Rupert Ganzer

The real problem comes when I want to buy, say, rubber gloves or cottage cheese. The hardware store stocks Marigolds – too supermarkety for me or gardening gloves – truly enormous. There is a brand of gloves called Glovelies but they are all too small in the fingers, my hands do a work out just picking up a saucepan and they’re not exactly enormous hands, well, apart from my thumbs, which bear an uncanny resemblance to big toes! I have spent a fortune on rubber gloves and have yet to find any that are suitable. As for cottage cheese I have asked the cheese lady on the market to get some and I live in hope, but what about low fat fromage frais which I use occasionally? To me, these things are basics and would be available in small shops if such establishments existed.

The thing is, I have returned to Slimming World after a stone’s absence. Now I have to do without things that once I would have substituted with something lower fat or artificially sweetened: Hellmann’s Light, Diet Coke, sugar free yoghurts and desserts. Now I must be much healthier and have nothing on my bread, I used to use low fat mayo, nothing to sweeten my coffee and just fruit for dessert but oh, how hard it is!  One light on the horizon: I have discovered that Easiyo  (remember how I raved about the do it yourself yoghurt) makes a low fat ice cream mix so I have ordered some to try. It looks a bit full of E numbers but I’m going to go for it anyway, a girl’s got to have a treat occasionally you know.

I’m afraid the cats have won their battle. I couldn’t stand tripping over them any more as they begged for their old food back and looked miserably at the lovely free range chicken I served them. I have resorted buying the cat food from the Co-op. I reckon the Co-op and Waitrose are the best of a bad bunch. The Co-op seems to have good ethical policies and Waitrose doesn’t stock own brand rubbish and has a pretty small market share so can’t dictate prices and terms to such a great extent and Tesco and Asda.

Ben washing

One Eared Ben (He’s had a stroke. Boom boom!)

Photo by Horace

So, back to Jamie. I was shocked to watch a post mortem on a 24 stone man, we weren’t told his age but he didn’t look that old. His diaphragm was so pushed up by his fat encased and enlarged liver that it was level with his nipples. His heart was twice the size of a normal man and so his lungs were minute as there wasn’t room for them.  The organs and muscles were not just surrounded by fat, they were impregnated with it. He had no cartilage left in his knees and one of his legs was black because of diabetes.

We were shown a frozen cross section of a healthy (apart from the fact that she was dead) woman’s lower abdomen, and compared it with another suffering the effects of constipation. We saw from a body scan that fat looking people can have a lower fat to body ratio than much slighter people. We saw, through the recorded week’s diets of several people who enjoyed too much processed food, that the amount of salt and sugar they were eating was truly huge and that salt was added to food to disguise the low quality and therefore taste of cheap, mass produced foods; sugar must then be added to disguise the salt. It all reinforced my determination to continue to cook and to make most things rather than buy them, I already did this to a degree but I now source food differently.

And what about Poo? We saw a heap representing five years worth of poo defecated by a very healthy Ugandan It was truly enormous, 851k to be precise. This was especially impressive when compared with the equivalent pile from Dan, one of the ‘guests’ on Jamie’s program who pooed an average of 94g per day or 171.5k per year, or nearly one fifth of the Ugandan’s. In fact the average ugandan poos four times more than the average Brit.

So my challenge is to give my family more fibre and reduce the fat in our diet. This time next year Rodney, I’ll have them shitting like Ugandans (no offense intended to any Ugandans reading this)!

On Women

Practically every week I receive an email from a woman telling me to take comfort, women are wonderful. Not only are we wonderful we are better than men, endure more and work harder.

I don’t know whether I have lost my sense of humour but isn’t this sexist? Why do we feel the need to persistently advertise our suffering, our durability and our intelligence? Me thinks we do protest too much.

During my life as an ‘IT person’, which started late at the age of about 32, 20 years ago, I have seen only one email aimed at and defending men. I found it horribly irritating, defending the toilet seat habit and so on, but men, well my man any way, reads these female, very insulting emails and chuckles tolerantly. He knows, as I do, that the words say more about women than they realise. They tell men that yes, we are crabby, yes we do moan about everything life throws at us and yes, we are stupid to spend our lives trying to do things that don’t even need to be done. Take this email for example, my comments are in italics:

Why Women are Crabby

We started to ” bud” in our blouses at 9 or 10 years old only to find that anything that came in contact with those tender, blooming buds hurt so bad it brought us to tears. So came the ridiculously uncomfortable training bra contraption that the boys in school would snap until we had calluses on our backs.(I’ve never had testicles but I believe this goes on for a lot longer with them – like a lifetime, the pain I mean, not the elastic. But I imagine a wedgie might be pretty uncomfortable for a boy)

Next, we started our periods in our early to mid-teens (or sooner). Along with those budding boobs, we bloated, we cramped, we got the hormone crankies, had to wear little mattresses between our legs or insert tubular, packed cotton rods in places we didn’t even know we had.(Well, yes but aren’t you exaggerating just a bit. And why fight what you can’t change?)

Our next little rite of passage (premarital or not (Is this relevant?)) was having sex for the first time which was about as much fun as having a ramrod push your uterus through your nostrils (IF he did it right and didn’t end up with his little cart before his horse), leaving us to wonder what all the fuss was about. (OK, so it was all his fault was it? You never consented, wondered, shared in the experience? And anyway, how was it for him?)

Then it was off to Motherhood where we learned to live on dry crackers and water for a few months so we didn’t spend the entire day leaning over Brother John. Of course, amazing creatures that we are (and we are) (Oh please!), we learned to live with the growing little angels inside us steadily kicking our innards night and day making us wonder if we were preparing to have Rosemary’s Baby. (Come on girl, admit it, you were the one who wanted kids weren’t you? Some women want kids so they can stop work – OH YES THEY DO! Some women have an uncontrollable urge to have kids and give up all their freedom and some even try to retain their individuality/career at the same time but most women want kids and they persuade their husbands it will be a good idea. Men, well they are pleased with the kids but kids, like housework, were your idea so you take responsibility. Men do work for a living and never pretended they could do more than that. We women are very quick to tell them that they can’t multitask. Could this be self fulfilling?!)

Our once flat bellies looked like we swallowed a watermelon whole and we pee’d our pants every time we sneezed. When the big moment arrived, the dam in our blessed Nether Regions invariably burst right in the middle of the mall and we had to waddle, with our big cartoon feet, moaning in pain all the way to the ER. (Of course your belly grows, you’re carrying your child, something to be proud of. As for the waters breaking; never happened to me. In fact I’ve only seen that in films. I did know of a girl who was so worried about being embarrassed that she carried a plastic carrier bag round with her to catch her waters if they ‘went’ at the supermarket!)

Then it was huff and puff and beg to die while the OB says, “Please stop screaming, Mrs. Hearmeroar. Calm down and push. Just one more good push (more like 10),” warranting a strong, well-deserved impulse to punch the %*#!* (and hubby) square in the nose for making us cram a wiggling, mushroom-headed 10lb bowling ball through a keyhole. (OK I agree, nature was a bit remiss on the pain barrier thing but it can’t have been that bad or you wouldn’t have had another one!)

After that, it was time to raise those angels only to find that when all that “cute” has worn off, the beautiful little darlings have morphed into walking, jabbering, wet, gooey, snot-blowing, life-sucking little poop machines. (Come on, please, you love them don’t you?)

Then came their “Teen Years.” Need I say more? (You need to love them at this point! – see my previous blog on The Teenager.)

When the kids are almost grown, we women hit our voracious sexual prime in our early 40’s – while hubby had his somewhere around his 18th birthday(You think he doesn’t appreciate your sexual hunger when he’s 40? You don’t know much about men! Any way, he can keep going longer now!).

So we progress into the grand finale: “The Menopause,” the Grandmother of all womanhood. It’s either take HRT and chance cancer in those now seasoned “buds” or the aforementioned Nether Regions, or, sweat like a hog in July, wash your sheets and pillowcases daily and bite the head off anything that moves (Yes, it’s hot (I can testify to this), yes your brain gets addled; that’s why women should stay at home and enjoy life, not work their bloody socks off for everyone else. It’s how they are designed. Don’t blame men, please just SHUT UP and make the most of it).

Now, you ask WHY women seem to be more spiteful than men, when men get off so easy, INCLUDING the icing on life’s cake: Being able to pee in the woods without soaking their socks… (Get a shewee)

So, while I love being a woman, “Womanhood” would make the Great Gandhi a tad crabby. Women are the “weaker sex”? Yeah right. Bite me. (Bite yourself, see if you’re alive then get on with it.)

Send this to seven bright women you know and make their day!!! Or at least make them laugh a little…..(Bright women, they’re the ones trying to juggle too many balls in the air aren’t they? I suppose it might make them feel better about their life decisions but they won’t get this email from me.)

Shopped

I have mentioned before that I am reading the above book by Joanna Blythman, and I am still wading through it. As usual it has given rise to some heated debate in our household. Having sounded off to Whizz a few times and received his Capitalist Dog opinion on it all I am now ready to put my own opinion on paper.

My first observation is that Ms Blythman has used an awful lot of words to state what could have been written in a report of about one third the size – and with proper references to her sources. She bangs on an awful lot about the tasteless state of the food sold by supermarkets due largely to short cuts forced on manufacturers as their profit margins are pared to the bone. She’s probably right but I have said it in a couple of sentences.

In other things though she is very informative: In the case of fruit and vegetables she says that the number of varieties available to us from supermarkets is a mere fraction of the cornucopia of fruit and veg. we could be eating. The supermarkets choose their produce more for its “handleability” than its taste. There is also the fact that fruit and veg are picked green and ripened en route, on shelf, in our fridges or, in many cases not at all before we eat them. This of course affects the flavour and the smell.  She goes on to say that the supermarkets demand all produce throughout the year no matter from where it comes so we have got used to strawberries in December and mange touts in February which takes away the pleasure of getting these items lovely and fresh in their own seasons.

She tells us that small high street shops and wholesale businesses are being driven to bankruptcy because they can’t compete. She says that growers are forced into crippling conditions without any consideration for their needs. We are informed that all our fruit and veg are intensively farmed and therefore full of chemicals that nature never intended and that there is nothing the farmers can do to stop it.

The supermarkets have grown into huge international companies and their buying power has increased in line with the growth. It means that they can demand terms that no supplier would choose. In short, Ms Blythman paints the supermarkets as the evil perpetrators of sins against producers, food quality, architecture and our high streets.

I had already decided to boycott supermarkets before I read “Shopped”. A friend suggested I should read it and it has done nothing to change my mind about the decision but I don’t really agree with Joanna Blythman that the situation in which we now find ourselves i.e. the decline of our high streets, the intensity of our farming, and the poor quality of our food, is the fault of the Supermarkets. We live in a Capitalist society. Money is God. Tesco, Wal-Mart and the rest are no different in their attitudes to buying from any other multinational company. The days of the philanthropic business leader are long gone. I know that Bill Gates does a fantastic amount of good in the world now that he has more money than he knows what to do with, but I wonder how many suppliers his buyers screwed on Bill’s way to the top.

As for the suppliers, as Whizz rightly says, if they have got themselves into a situation where they only supply one customer then more fool them. They were very naive to let it happen. Why don’t they all get together if things are so bad, get themselves an Association of Supermarket Suppliers (ASS) and refuse to deal if the terms are unfair. The supermarkets need them as much as they need the supermarkets so it’s time they got smart.

The only people who can really change things are we, the customers. We encouraged the supermarkets in the first place by voting with our purses. I remember wondering why manufacturers didn’t put nutritional values on everything, then they did and I was delighted – thanks to the supermarkets. I remember wishing I could post a letter and get cash out when I was buying my food, then I could – thanks to supermarkets. I, and you, are responsible for the change in the high street and only we can get it back. If we want to revive our small local businesses, if we want to put the taste back into our cooking, if we want to retain the nature of our countryside and reduce the use of chemicals in farming then we need to vote again. We must get back into the kitchen, cook, teach our kids to cook and to shop ethically. We are responsible for checking the provenance of our food and buying from our local veg distributor, small grocer or our butcher before he too goes the way of the greengrocer. We, who once wanted what we have, like petulant mistresses, must change our minds.