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A Clutch Of Pearlies: Close the Larder Door

ÖSome people I know can get so absorbed in dinner party conversation that they can forget for minutes at a time that theyíre holding a fork laden down with bits of lamb and roast potato. Not me. Iím not capable of keeping up an impersonal relationship with lamb and roast potatoes. Especially if thereís gravy involvedÖ

Mary Pearl wrestles, to our reading delight, with her over-eager appetite.

My friend Trixie says, if you want to lose weight close the larder door and go for a walk. Thatís a simple solution that has the ring of a complex truth about it; like that time an advertising campaign tried to convince us unreformed smokers that we were stronger than cigarettes. I couldnít see it. Whenever I tried to give up the cigs, the addictive drugs contaminating my bloodstream did a Cha Cha through my system in spiked heels.

I did overcome the chemically induced pain in the end, but rage had a lot to do with it and zero tolerance. If only I could do the same with food, Iíd be home and hosed. I say that with feeling because Iím the sort of person who lives to eat. Some people I know can get so absorbed in dinner party conversation that they can forget for minutes at a time that theyíre holding a fork laden down with bits of lamb and roast potato. Not me. Iím not capable of keeping up an impersonal relationship with lamb and roast potatoes. Especially if thereís gravy involved.

When I quit the cigs there was a compulsive personality lurking in the wings, waiting to take their place. What that meant was that while my mouth was still constantly on the move, it was now munching, crunching and masticating. I would only have to think food to want it. To see a packet of chips was to finish it, down to the very last crisp. Then, if there were any crumbs left in the pack Iíd chase after every one with the tip of my middle finger, before declaring myself all done.

Like the good nineteen fifties child I used to be, I cleaned my plate; I still do, but Iím a lot more careful now about what I put on it. Nothing fried, if youíre interested; I steam or gently poach my meat and veggies and I add herbs for punch, or a bit of white wine. Iíve discovered that my next best alternative to giving food up altogether is to be more creative about how I prepare it.

The trouble is that we have too much on offer to tempt us these days. There are the supermarkets and delicatessens. Thereís al fresco dining and boutique bakeries on every corner.

Trixie is eighty plus; her influences and experiences are vastly different to ours. ĎWe would close the larder door if we could, Trix,í Iíd say, Ďbut there are much yummier things in it than when you were a girl and our lifestyle is more complex.í But she refuses to understand about us foodies.

Trixie and her contemporaries grew up within cooee of the Depression years and experienced World War II rations. We worship at the altar of nouvelle cuisine. They ate their meat and three veg without too much fanfare and discussed how four lamb chops could fit into five people. We have dedicated a whole TV channel to food and speak of nothing else.

My heart does a bit of a tap dance when I see those chefs shovel quantities of salt and pour generous amounts of oil, cream or butter onto every dish as if there were no tomorrow and for those of us who are inspired to do the same there probably isnít.

Our food is refined, and I donít mean well bred. Science has found a way to suck all the nourishment out of a product, replace it with chemicals and food colouring, then pump some vitamins and minerals right back. Thereís 'diet lite' to confuse us, extra light, salt reduced, no added salt, virgin, extra virgin. Itís enough to make your head spin. The supermarket has brought the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker under the one roof. Convenience is the name of the game and trekking down the ever lengthening aisles is as close as we busy types will ever get to the daily workout.

Things are so stacked against us. What hope have we modern girls got? But some of us persist. If we can afford the fees we lug our exhausted bodies across to the gym fondly believing that we can make a regular feature of it. We might know that three brisk walks in the hand are worth more than a dozen diet books in the bush but canít help preferring the quick fix of the glossy magazines that tell us in twenty-four point bold type that we can eat what we want and still lose ten kilos.

Thereís this symbiotic relationship we have with the diet industry. It feeds off our unrealistic dreams of immediate success and we eagerly eat up its latest miracles on offer. Want to look like Oprah? Follow her diet or hire her chef. Want to have flat abs like the models who demonstrate it? Buy this machine or an upgraded version of the previous machine.

We have a gymís worth of gadgets at home. We believe in them in the same way we were once sure that the right underarm deodorant would do fabulous things for our social life. Every other day thereís a new guru to follow, a food replacement shake that will do the trick or an exercise machine thatís an improvement
on the last one that we bought; but how many machines can we fit under the bed?

Thereís no one diet fits all, thatís what I discovered for myself. But as Pandora wonít go back into her box Iíve learned to use her to my advantage. Iíve begun by accepting my flaws and limitations and working around them. Iíve dusted off a manual treadmill for the times I canít go for a walk and have given the rest of the stuff away to needy friends. Like actress Kirsty Ally, Iím Ďa work in progress.í I make my own cups of soup and TV dinners and freeze them against the day that my granddaughters will once again grace me with their presence. And Iíve cleared out my larder.

Iím a hard core compulsive who needs to overcome my psychological bent and I need to work out my addiction one day at a time. I donít say that Iím stronger than the lamb roast. Just that Iíve found a way to distance myself from the gravy.

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