Eating real food: a quick comparison of cookbooks

January 4, 2016 at 2:12 am | Posted in Books, Cook books, food, health, nutrition, recipes, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

‘Gosh it’s easy to write a cookbook. Well, it’s easy if your primary role is “quality control”, and all the actual work is done by seasoned professionals and my slave-driven wife,’

writes David Gillespie in the Acknowledgements of his The Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook (Melbourne, Viking, 2013, p. 199). He states that he ‘did practically nothing (other than eat pudding on a regular basis)’.

photo(2) copy

Having your (sugar-free) cake: two of David Gillespie’s books

David Gillespie presents the facts about serious and complex subjects (how sugar makes us fat and exhausted and gives us chronic diseases like diabetes Type 2 and certain cancers) simply and clearly. Equally clear are his reasons why we should avoid vegetable oils. The facetious self-deprecating humour in his Acknowledgements quoted above is typical of his style, and at other times the mental dexterity with which he expresses himself is highly amusing.

The highly unamusing fact is that food manufacturers well know how addictive (and cheap) sugar is, which means ever-escalating profits for them, so they are putting sugar in virtually everything on the supermarket shelves. It’s not just sweet things you need to avoid; it’s all the savoury things too. This means that if you do what Gillespie advises in his Eat Real Food (Viking, 2014), you will be okay. This book is written as simply and compellingly as all his others. The sugar-free recipes work well and taste good.

The David Gillespie recipes in all his books – see – are more consistently better than the ones in Sarah Wilson’s books, which you can see on. Many of Sarah Wilson’s recipes taste good but some are dodgy. While they look good in the photographs the taste and texture don’t always live up to their food-styled, gorgeously photographed visual aesthetics. I have a hunch about this.

David Gillespie and his wife test their recipes under the severe conditions of catering for their six children, (a domestic kitchen in Brisbane catering for the palates of childhood, adolescence and the adults) while Sarah Wilson and her hip young Sydney-siders I Quit Sugar team, I’m willing to bet, have more money and more time and are more interested in creating quantity than quality so perhaps some recipes get a tick when they shouldn’t. That said, the Sarah Wilson ones that work (e.g., almond butter bark, I Quit Sugar, p.175) are wonderful, and it is of course a subjective thing, as you see with the positive and negative comments on her website about the same recipe.

David Permutter’s Grain Brain (NY, Little, Brown and Co., 2013, p. 291) contends that gluten is also a cause of today’s escalating rate of chronic disease. Haven’t we been eating grains for thousands of years? Yes, but the food manufacturers have engineered the grains to contain a much higher concentration of gluten than previously, to give their products longer shelf life. Permutter maintains that today’s low fat, high grain and other carbohydrate diet is the origin of headaches, insomnia, anxiety, autism, depression, epilepsy, schizophrenia, ADHA, inflammatory diseases like arthritis, and dementia.

Grain Brain: The surprising truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar – your brain’s silent killers contains evidence, recipes and case studies. You can get access to his latest research and recipes etc at

This book is a controversial best-seller. Many disagree with his theories. His research is not expressed nearly as clearly as David Gillespie’s. The website disagrees with his findings and Alan Levinovitz ( presents a detailed critique of his research. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that sugar (the fructose half) is the worst thing that has happened to our health in the last two or three generations.

An award-winning website about food and flavours is and it features Lizzy’s beautiful photography as well. She is an engaging writer and her recipes are well and truly tested, and they do work consistently well. Her recipes are not necessarily sugar-free or wheat-free, and neither are Jules Clancy’s – – but they are both healthy overall and quick, easy and reliable. My copy of Jules Clancy’s 5 Ingredients, 10 Minutes: Delicious, healthy recipes for tired and hungry cooks (Michael Joseph, 2013) is ingredient-spattered and book-marked all the way through – I use it when I’m tired and hungry or not – it really does take ten minutes and every recipe I’ve made is a winner.


“Mad with joy”

October 13, 2013 at 12:09 am | Posted in creativity, food, Quotations | Leave a comment

‘The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tyres.’

American writer Dorothy Parker said that. I was lucky to get four stepchildren, three of whom – the three boys – lived with us for about half the time. Lucky because it had become too late for me to have children (that drought of men remotely possible that happens to women about mid-way through their 30s) and lucky because the stepchildren themselves were wonderful.

The only down-side was more housework, but their dad was pretty good at doing his share. This puts me in mind of another American comedian, Joan Rivers: Í hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes, and six months later you have to start all over again.’

I recently converted the last, the youngest, boy’s bedroom into a gorgeous guest room when he moved into a converted garage at his mum’s place, not far away. Of course he is perfectly welcome to sleep in his old room any time he wants to, but now it looks (and smells) appealing.

The toy car engines are in the shed. The real car engines are in the shed. The heavy-duty dark blue curtains are in the shed. The dark furniture lasted about three minutes on the grass outside the house before being taken away. The desiccated rat behind the chest of drawers has gone.

His old single bed (handed down from older brothers) has become a sort of day-bed, with its pale green cotton doona cover with magnolias and embroidered blue and turquoise hummingbirds and matching pillows and cushions.

People – grownups, not adolescent boys – sigh with pleasure when they see the sunlight spilling in through the delicate white muslin curtains with blue embroidered borders onto the pale blue suede-painted walls and light cane and wicker furniture and recycled silk and cotton turquoise and blue rugs – it’s a dream of a room, they say.

And if it’s too “girlie” for the boys, there are always other rooms they can sleep in. When they lived here half the time, there was “girlie” bread and “girlie” milk, “girlie” butter and “girlie” rice. It was wholegrain versus white and full-cream versus skim and real butter versus margarine and white rice versus brown. A conflict expressed by the eldest boy with teasing affection to the only girl in the house.

Now they have gone except to visit, my house can be as “girlie” as I like. I even have flowers sometimes –pink lilies, delicate jasmine or armfuls of our jonquils and daffodils, bright yellow in blue glass vases. The boys don’t really notice flowers. But I’m with Iris Murdoch: “People from a planet without flowers must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”

A kinder way to treat a potato

October 5, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Posted in Books, food, health, nutrition, recipes | Leave a comment
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‘Don’t get your food from the same place your car does.’

This is the advice of writer Michael Pollan. American petrol stations make more money from food and cigarettes than from petrol. It’s very probably the same here in Australia. And the food is all ‘Highly process non-perishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened soft drinks…’ Pollan writes that petrol stations ‘have become processed-corn stations: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside you.’ (In Defense of Food, 2008, p. 192)

I don’t know that Australia uses as many corn products as the US but the principle remains the same – petrol stations sell food that is very high in sugar and this is very bad for us. Very addictive too.So-o-o-o-o hard to give up.

I liked Pollan’s book a lot. His basic advice is this: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ It sounds a bit Zen. I love the simplicity of it. It doesn’t say anything about alcohol but grapes are food, are they not? You’re not supposed to have more than two glasses a day if you’re a woman. And the size of that glass is probably smaller than you imagine. Sadly.

Men can get away with a bit more than two glasses a day because they have bigger livers. A bit more though – not a lot more. I think it’s three glasses a day.

In Defense of Food is well written, informative and funny. I think people should read it because they need to know about the massive number of poisons and toxic chemicals in manufactured food today – and how this desperate situation came about. They can see the desperate consequences of it all around them: unhappy, sick, obese people everywhere and a national healthcare bill that is completely unsustainable.

Australia, like the US, has staggering levels of disease and ill health. Nearly 300 people in Australia are diagnosed with diabetes (Type 2) per day! With a population of only 22 million, that is awful. David Gillespie – – writes about this and has a similarly clear, witty style as Pollan. His books are a pleasure to read. A danger on public transport because you burst out laughing sometimes.

Pollan quotes Wendell Berry’s essay, ‘The Pleasures of Eating’ where he writes about monoculture and the increasingly vast size of farms. Of course this generates vast profits. ‘But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases.’ (Pollan, p. 159)

And so, if we don’t want to be plagued by the ill health that makes us dependent on drugs and chemicals, Pollan advises to eat as many plants as possible – they all have different anti-oxidants and these help the body eliminate different kinds of toxins. The more toxins there are in the environment, the more plants we should be eating.

‘There are literally scores of studies demonstrating that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits reduces the risk of dying from all the Western diseases. In countries where people eat a pound [you know, that’s about half a kilo – Pen] or more of fruits and vegetables a day, the rate of cancer is half what it is in the United States. We also know that vegetarians are less susceptible to most of the Western diseases, and as a consequence live longer than the rest of us.’ (Pollan, p. 166)

‘A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.’ George Bernard Shaw said. When he was on his death bed – actually, he lived for years after that – he thought that his hearse should be drawn by all the animals he hadn’t eaten.

I’m not really a vegetarian. I just have never liked the taste of meat. I do like fish and chicken. When we lived in the bush (East Gippsland, Victoria) chicken used to be only for birthdays and Christmas. (Yes, they do run around the yard for a bit just after their head’s been chopped off. Ugh. But as kids we never felt Ugh.) On my father’s sheep farm, he’d cut the throat of a sheep and we’d live off that for a while. We lived on porridge in the morning (we had a cow) and mutton and mashed potatoes, mashed pumpkin and boiled peas. Oh, and bread. My mother made that as well as the butter and jam. (She even made the soap.) I always loved Fridays because we were Catholics and forbidden to eat meat on Fridays. To this day, decades after I could eat whatever I wanted when I wanted, Friday still has a great taste for me.

My older brother Bill told me that my father thought I was just being stubborn when I didn’t want to eat my meat and vegetables. So the last time I saw him, Bill was recalling when I was two, and our dad forcing me to eat my mutton, and I projectile-vomited all over him! From then on, I still had to eat it – there was nothing else and we lived in an extremely isolated place – but I could take my time to do it. This went on for years. I have memories of still being at the table at 10 o’clock at night; I wasn’t allowed down until I’d finished. Ugh.

No wonder I so enjoy eating now. And yes, I do eat mostly plants. No more mutton. No more mashed spuds and no more pumpkin. I know the latter two are plants but there are kinder ways to treat them. I still can’t stomach pumpkin (except in scones or the wonderful American invention of pumpkin pie) but the best potato recipe is Aussie food writer Jill Dupleix’s Crash Hot Potatoes. Ooooh, so good! And easy.This is how you do it:

16 small spuds or chats
Handful of thyme
Carraway seeds (or any herbs you have on hand, fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Parboil about 16 small spuds or chats. Put them on an oiled baking tray. Squash them flattish to about half-way through, with a potato masher. Then drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle thyme and caraway seeds – or whatever herbs you fancy – plus sea salt and ground pepper on them, and put them in the oven – 350 degrees, you know, average temp – for 20-30 minutes. Yum! They will emerge hot, crispy and aromatic.

Have with a green salad and some protein – meat, if you eat it, or grilled fish or chicken. Plus a glass (or two) of wine. The crash hot spuds are also very good cold the next day.

Playing with language and playing with food

June 9, 2013 at 2:18 am | Posted in Books, food, linguistics, nutrition | Leave a comment
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This blog is about language and literature and health and life so today I’m going to share the websites and blogs of three people who improve our mental and physical lives by their brilliant ideas – the first one is Jules Clancy, the second Sarah Wilson and the third a Canadian guy called James Harbeck.

The first two are wonderful young Australian women who have great ideas on things like nutrition and cooking, chocolate and health, and how to save time and have more energy. All three are really good writers. I notice that about Nigella Lawson too – she was a journalist before she was a food presenter and cook book writer, and it really shows. At our house she is popular for a number of reasons, but one of my reasons is that I can curl up on the sofa with one of her cook books for the sheer pleasure of reading her prose.

Reading the prose of the following three people is a joy too.

Jules Clanchy looks like this (photo didn’t paste but you can see it on her website) and has the following to say about herself:

: Ready to discover the secret to quick & easy cooking?
Stonesoup is all about helping YOU become the best cook you can be.
The thing is, you can make delicious, healthy meals without spending hours in the kitchen.
This is her website:

Jules Clancy is a country girl and her recipes are fabulous – easy, quick, nutritious and she makes a feature of vegetables. She makes them really exciting.

Sarah Wilson’s website and blog can be found at
This is a quote from her site:
I’m a journalist + TV presenter. I write about how to make life better. If I had a resume it would list the following: editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, host of MasterChef Australia, Sunday Life columnist, host + producer of the Lifestyle YOU channel (under “hobbies” it would say: eating + riding a bike).
I’m on a mission to find ways to make life bigger, more meaningful, nicer, smarter, heartier.

James Harbeck can be found by googling his name or his blog, Sesquiotica. Many of his monologues are on You Tube. The linguistic analysis of seven rude sounds teenagers make is a favourite of mine:

These three make life richer and funnier and better in so many other ways. Bon appetite!

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