Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Enough of the US election, Wall Street disasters and other world problems, it’s time to take the Monster for a blast in the hills.  

Ducati Monster In Cafe

Ducati Monster In Cafe

Inland from the famous Costa Brava beaches there are hills, forests, medieval villages,  curvy and quiet roads. Quiet apart from farmers on their tractors and hay trucks, it is one big secret chunk of paradise.

 After filling up at the gas station I immediately got us into the adventure and found a “new” road to Palausator, that is I got us lost but I prefer the word adventure. Thru Bisbal up to Cruilles, Monels and on up to Madremanya, only 20 miles but plenty of twists and bends to give the bike a work out. Madremanya has to be in the Top 10 Old Villages List. It’s a cracker.

Madremanya Spain

Madremanya Spain

 It sits up on a hill, has crooked streets, crooked houses with overflowing veggie gardens, pomegranate trees laden with big ripe fruits and an enormous, not crooked, scary looking church.

 It also just happens to have a stunning restaurant/hotel Placa, there’s a Tancat sign hanging on the gate (closed in Catalan) so in we went and found the owner working in the garden

“Ola, Blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah” in Catalan. Huh? 

This could mean “Bog off you biker hooligans, don’t you know what Tancat means?”  or “Good afternoon, what would you like?”   We opted for the latter.

“Dos cafe amb llet por favor”  which is “2 coffees with milk, please”  our favourite Catalan expression.

Success, 2 fresh hot kick ass coffees arrive along with “Bla blah blah blah blah blah ” which could mean something like “I’ll be in the garden if you need anything else”. 

Sitting in the courtyard with MBH in the afternoon sun all is good with the world…


Photographic note. The Monster photo above was taken a few months ago in a cafe in Estartit, there are absolutely no red, orange and blue plastic chairs in Madremanya.


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Agave Nectar or Syrup is the latest health food craze in California and its popularity is spreading faster than syrup on a hot pancake.

It is is being promoted as a healthy alternative to sugar maybe it is too good to be true?

Sugar in all its various forms is bad for us, if we want to eat a healthier diet or lose weight we know we must eat less sugar but most of us enjoy eating sweet things so the idea of a healthy, low GI natural sweet product is very appealing. Here lies the problem, we truly want to believe the labeling and marketing hype and when we want to believe something we jump right in and don’t ask questions. 

Having checked the facts I would never again eat Agave Nectar in any shape or form. 

Agave nectar is 100% sugar and its calorie content is basically the same as any other sugar product.

Sugar does come in various shapes and sizes and the stuff in Agave Nectar is 70-90% fructose and the rest is glucose. This is a higher percentage of fructose than any food or drink . Fruits contain much lower levels of fructose so it is not accurate to compare Agave Nectar to fruit. The sugar in soft drinks such as regular Coke and Pepsi is 55% fructose and 45% glucose (it is called High Fructose Corn Syrup) so eating Agave Nectar has more in common with drinking a super fructose strong Coke than anything that ever existed in nature. 

The medical community is very concerned about increasing fructose consumption as it may cause liver damage as well as obesity. (1, 2)

An important historical side note. Until the mid 80’s most sugar in the US was sucrose (the white stuff), but then the US Government subsidized corn from which high fructose corn syrup is made which lead to increasing fructose consumption. The increase in fructose consumption parallels the increase in obesity. No causal link has been proven but there are many concerns (1, 2). The body does not process fructose in the same way as normal white sugar (sucrose) which is another reason to have caution (thus the concern over liver damage.

The extremely high fructose content puts Agave Nectar in new territory and I have no desire to be a lab rat for a sugar chemistry experiment run by a bunch of tequilla makers. Agave Nectar is made from the same Agave cactus that is used to make tequila. 

 High fructose products need to be studied and the links to obesity and hunger need to be better understood. In the meantime I will be taking the Mayo Clinic’s advice and applying it to Agave Nectar “Avoid or limit foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup”.


1. Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia  Heather Basciano, Lisa Federico,  and Khosrow Adeli

Clinical Biochemistry Division, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada  http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/2/1/5

2. Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 76, No. 5, 911-922, November 200

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Here’s a thought. We should learn to embrace feeling a little hungry, if for no better reason than the alternative is way more scary.

If we eat every time we feel the slightest hunger it is ridiculously hard not to over consume, so we need to recognize the feeling of mild hunger and understand it as a positive feedback that we have not overeaten and that all is well with our system.

As opposed to ….hmmm….I’m feeling hungry and something bad will surely happen to me if I don’t eat right away? Will low sugar levels trigger a temper tantrum, low salt levels trigger a bad mood, will I have a hypoglycemic incident, will I have some kind of sugar rebound, maybe I will pass out, become dehydrated, get an ulcer or be ostracized for starving myself? The answer is NO …bearing in mind that moderation is always a good approach.

Parents have it very tough in this area. Is it child neglect if you don’t have your kid satiated at all times? Is it socially acceptable to tell your whining hungry kid that being hungry is ok, normal and healthy. Again I would suggest that the alternative is way worse and that teaching kids that they should never go hungry is unrealistic training for life and a recipe for an endless cycle of dieting, weight gain and anxt.

It’s good for business to keep everyone afraid of being hungry, think of the big food companies, the fast food chains and then add to that the massive healthcare and diet industry that results from us all over eating. There is a lot of money stacked against us embracing the feeling of hunger and so much of our economy is based on us over-consuming I wont be surprised if we don’t make big headlines

I thank a good friend for being the inspiration for this story and I respect his efforts to help his little girl live a more healthy life.

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Whilst shopping in Girona I noticed Nespresso coffee machines are everywhere.

Yes, they’re spreading like Marmite on toast, I swear they are more popular here than Barca, actually I know Nespresso coffeezero about football so I don’t really know if Barca are still popular but Nespresso Coffee machines sure as heck are, and its got to STOP.

My earlier post entitled Nespresso Coffee Machines are Not good, has not yet managed to slow the stampede of customers. Being the tenacious one that I am, I will not give up until A) Nespresso machines have become extinct or B) recyclable Nespresso coffee pods are available in all countries and not just Switzerland.

There’s something else, I have a confession to make.

No it is not some weird deviant fetish, it is way worse. Here goes…I was very tempted to buy one of these demon Nespresso machines. A mere 149Eu and I too could become a Barista and wow everyone with my perfect espresso shots.

No No NO. Just because everyone else is doing it does not make it right. I desire but I will NOT buy.


Changing the world one coffee pot at a time

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The Butcher At Carnisseria SeliEarlier today in our local butchers shop in my very best Spanish Catalan hybrid language…(dos is 2, Botifarra is sausage and dolca is sweet)

Me Dos botifarras dolcas, por favor

The Butcher No?

Me Si, Dos botifarras dolcas por favor!

The Butcher No?

The Butcher then tries to give me 2 regular sausages and smiles.

Me No …Dos botifarras dolcas por favor!!!!!

The Butcher Huh?… esta? He points to the sweet sausages No?

Me Si, Dos por favor

The Butcher Es no normal!!

So now it is official, even The Butcher knows that I am not normal.

Sweet sausages are exactly that, a regular pork sausage with sugar, cinnamon and lemon added and they are absolutely heavenly. Fry them up and serve before, during or after dinner. All the sweet stuff melts, caramelizes and makes its own gooey sauce. They are Catalan, I don’t know much more about them or why they have not spread worldwide. From The Butcher’s reaction I am guessing that I am the first non-Catalan to buy them.

Note to self. I really must improve my Spanish/Catalan skills; it is very disappointing that The Butcher figured out that I am not a local.

The shop is called Carnisseria Seli in Torroella De Montgri, and is way more than a butchers shop, it should be called Deli Seli.

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Mediterranean FlowerMany food labels here in Spain don’t have basic nutritional data such as calorie, salt, fat, protein and carb. content. How come? How do Spanish people keep track of what they are eating? Maybe a better question would be ….do they keep track of what they are eating? I hear that the Spanish children are rising quickly up the obesity ladder and I wonder if these 2 issues are linked. The old Mediterranean diet is disappearing fast, losing to the high calorie, fat and salt diet honed to perfection by the US of A (and Australia and the UK). I am sure it was hard to over eat on tomatoes and fresh fava beans hence no need for calorie labels in the good old days of the Mediterranean diet.

Here’s the scoop. I am working on losing a little weight, a few pounds that mysteriously appeared when I wasn’t paying attention. What actually happened was that when we were in Australia we didn’t have a weighing scale, and even though I am careful about what I eat I clearly was unable to self regulate without weighing myself. Yesterday I made us what I guessed was a low calorie snack of cottage cheese with crackers (beautifully decorated with fresh basil and chopped chives for added low calorie, low salt flavour) and I wondered how many calories there were in this snack as compared with peanut butter on crackers. None of the products had calorie info on the packets so I was left guessing. This online, free, no need to register calorie counter works quite well.

Also, I try to run a low salt kitchen, mostly because it makes MBH’s heart work better and I am all in favor of stuff that makes his heart beat in good time. Our refrigerated package of Gazpacho also has no label and I suspect it has lots of salt although probably very low in calories. Hence the problem, I will probably end up overweight and salty with a broken heart. My only option is to buy foods with good labeling and start a boycott of poorly or unlabelled products. Note to self …no more boycotts this week…Nespresso coffee and unlabelled products are enough for now.

By the way the photo is from Pals beach earlier this week.

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Cup of Tea

My Mum often says, ”let’s have a nice cup of tea” and MBH always thinks it’s really funny so I got to wondering what it might be all about and why I am so attached to tea and its rituals.

The Chinese and Japanese have been doing it for centuries so it clearly is not a passing fad. Take a look at  http://www.2basnob.com/tea-history-timeline.html if you are into the history of tea…it goes back to 2737BC

The “nice cup of tea” is a uniquely British twist on the beverage and speaks clearly to important aspects of British culture such as staying calm under pressure…even when it may actually be better to panic and flee but no we sit down and have a “nice cup of tea”. It is the drink of choice after car accidents, natural disasters, as a gesture of friendship, a peace offering….any stressful moments that tend to come our way.

Bearing mind that stress situations are not on the decline it seems sensible that we promote the drinking of tea and in particular my Mum’s “nice cup of tea”.

If more of us sat down for a “nice cup of tea” rather than going shopping, going to the pub, going to the movies, going for lunch …how much better off would we be? We would save money, save calories, pollute less and maybe be happier too.

Off to have a nice cup of tea…anyone want to join me?

The image above was created by Paul Hammond and comes from a neat project between http://www.icons.org.uk and the charity Mencap.

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