The Chocolate Gap

Creak… creak… creak. What’s that sound? It’s the sound of my Will To Live returning! It’s only four weeks until daylight savings begins. It’s getting lighter in the mornings. Birds are twittering again. For every minute of sun we gain each day, I will surely become one percent less crabbit! Right now my temper is short, especially when watching University Challenge and the students deliberate too long before answering the question.

"Hurry up FOOLS!" I screech at the telly. "This is not a pub quiz!"

If I was the producer of the Challenge, any hesitation longer than five seconds would be rewarded with a small electric shock to the buttocks. I’m sure we could rig up the chairs somehow.

Speaking of televison and chairs, Monday nights aren’t the same since Nigella Express finished. I used to scoff at Nigella’s sprawling adjectives and deep-throating of vegetables but I love her, really I do. Watching her show makes me ever more resolved to enjoy my food and never diet again. Yes there is the annoying Scoffing By The Fridge Light scene at the end of every episode but I feel she has the right idea. There’s a great chapter in her book How To Eat about dieting and healthy eating that is one of the most sensible things you could hope to read on the subject. She celebrates food. She doesn’t divvy it up into Good or Bad. She can wax lyrical about a bag of spinach just as much as a wodge of chocolate cake.

One time in the new series she made herself a tasty lunch of sourdough toast, chopped into three slices. One had hummus, one some avocado and tomato and olive oil on the other. It was a nice little meal on a nice little plate, but a year ago I would have freaked out… FAT! CARBS! PLEASURE! I used to restrict toast to a Weekend Treat, which of course made me pine for it from Monday to Friday, sputtering with resentment over a perfectly tasty bowl of porridge. These days I’m not breakfast bossy  – sometimes it’s toast, sometimes it’s yogurt, sometimes it’s leftovers, whatever I’m hankering for. The less restrictive I’ve been the more I seem to lean towards a healthy choice.

Anyway, The Nige has inspired me. I have a gigantic folder full of recipes I’ve saved over the years that I’d filed under Cook These Once I’m Skinnier. I’ve always loved food and cooking but I’d deemed most recipes off limits. As if I couldn’t be trusted with certain ingredients; as if one mouthful would be my undoing.

Why not just COOK what you want to cook? You don’t have to eat it all at once. You can share it with pals. What are you waiting for? I’m talking to myself here, by the way. Was that confusing?  Anyway. I am going to make some of these Forbidden Recipes. Fetch me apron, luv!

Gareth says I have a Cooking Show Face, an expression of utter peace and happiness that is reserved purely for when there’s cooking on the telly. My eyes are wide and gleaming and he’ll be telling me a story about his day and I do not hear a word. He reckons there’s a certain Cooking Show Posture too. If chocolate is on the menu, he’ll cackle, HA HA you’ve got a Chocolate Gap! and wave his hand through the space between the couch and my back, which is alert and upright like a police sniffer dog. Do you have a chocolate gap too? Get out your rulers, tell me I’m not alone?!

45 thoughts on “The Chocolate Gap

  1. There’s a whole world of us out there, I’d guess. Today, I watched Rachael Ray make a “hot dog salad,” and as yucky as that might sound, it looked good… I was kicking myself for not having any hot dogs in the house. Pretty much, there’s not enough time in the day (or room in my tummy) for all the things I’d like to cook!

  2. How can you not love Nigella? My ex used to call cooking shows (and cookbooks!) my ‘cooking porn’, and you know what? It is πŸ™‚

  3. I have an ice-cream gap, a cheesecake gap, and my ears are ultra-sensitive to any utterings of the word ‘marshmallow’. I wonder why? πŸ˜€

    And Nigella is fantastic! (Though I find myself more drawn to the rantings and ravings of Gordon Ramsay meself – secretly, I think I’d love to be able to swear at people as much as that man does :-D)

  4. You go on and make those recipes! Yeah, you don’t have to eat it all, have some people over.
    I do love me some chocolate once in a while but what I crave are usually breads, carbs, etc.
    Too bad your book won’t be out in the US till 2009! Maybe I’ll try the Canada website as I’m just a little south of there. I hear it’s a great book and always liked reading your blog even though I don’t get here often.
    Great photos and story in the Elle issue below. You look awesome.

  5. Enjoy the increasing sunlight! A great incentive to get out of the house and/or cook up some treats for friends. Picnic anyone? A garden party perhaps (with energetic games of course!). Perth WA very sunny and hot, 35 oC +!
    PS I can’t decide on my fav cooking show – I love them all.

  6. That toast-for-lunch concept is extremely alluring to me… I think it’s something to do with that part of me desperate for theology and geometry that craves the neat sectioning of the toast combined with the “trinity” symbolism. Oh dear.

  7. Hey I love this post – you are so right! why be afraid of food when you’re good at cooking? This is you, not me, I’m a crap cook. BUT I am going to stop tormenting myself at breakfast time! Thanks DG!
    Ooooh BTW I got your book for my birthday, so great! I had to ration myself so I didn’t sit and read it all the way through when there were 30 people coming for lunch!

  8. I love cooking shows, and I love Nigella. Thanks for reminding me what I should do this weekend (when I have time to do more than throw a chicken wrap together)– cook! Mmm… time to go flipping through my cookbooks! πŸ™‚

  9. Damn you, taking our sunlight.

    I made a Nigella recipe (can’t remember what book it’s from) with roasted sweet and regular potato, garlic etc with fetta melted on top. It’s totally low calorie cos every time I make it, my friends scoff the lot and I’m lucky to get a mouthful!

    My fave TV cooking show was this one we used to watch as kids in Tassie. It must have been taped live cos the woman used to always screw things up!

  10. It’s really interesting what people class as a “treat”/weekend food! For me, porridge is a weekend-only treat, because it’s too much faff to make (and wash up after) in the week.

    Though I do have semi-skimmed milk, brown sugar and raisins in my porridge, so it’s probably best as a not-everyday thing. πŸ˜‰

    Made me think, though, how one gal’s treat is another gal’s “what’s so special about that?” Perhaps chocolate wouldn’t be such a dangerous (“naughty”, “tempting”, “forbidden”) food if it wasn’t constantly advertised that way…


  11. Shauna! I just finished reading your book. Girl, you had me laughing at some points so bad, that one night I gave myself asthma!

    You are an inspiration… even if you nearly killed me. πŸ™‚

  12. We have streaming sunlight here too, but then I’m only a few miles up the road from you, in Perth!! One wee peek of the sun and I’m ready to get the salads out, I hate the way winter makes you crave stodginess!! Just finished your book, and I have to say, I’ve stopped stressing over the numbers on the scales, as long as I’m eating healthy and exercising, the scales no longer scare me!! Haha, my OH has always called me Couchgirl, but you’ve actually inspired me to sign up for this years Race For Life in Perth in May… haha, watch out, it’s not a real earthquake, just me training for the race!!


  13. good morrrrrnink people!

    Whoa! I thought Kek blowing snot bubbles was a triumph but causing asthma is going to take some beating! Glad you enjoyed it, Sarah πŸ™‚

    Ali – That is interesting what we define as special! I used to do porridge in the microwave so it was pretty quick. Toast is so precious, especially with a cup of tea… ahhhh. Toast. Toastyyyyy.

    Kathryn – that sounds bloody beautiful. how can you go wrong with feta!?

    LBTEPA – i just emailled you but happy birthday comrade!

  14. anyone who has read my blog for more than 5 mins knows how i feel about food so between lusting over being the butter in a james martin and gordon ramsay sandwich, fantasizing about rolling around in the pastry department with the young chefs at the local supplier and licking cookbooks with vivid photography and shiny pages… well… woman, you just need to get your cook on πŸ˜‰ I eat such basic food all week, the weekend is there for experimentation, when there is time for it and no food is taboo in my book, nosiree. Something that gives such pleasure can’t be a bad thing. Chocolate, cream, pasta, toast… erase the word guilt from your vocabulary, it’s nothing more than a matter of priority after all πŸ˜€

  15. Believe it or not, I was a contestant on University Challenge (geek alert!) and you’re so close to having a toilet accident through the stress of it all that the electric shocks would push you over the edge! I also worked as a researcher on the show and could pass your suggestion on to the producer if you like; he might go for it πŸ™‚

  16. Crabbit – one of the best words. I don’t mind being crabbit – just to use the word!

    I’m counting down the days until daylight savings. Each night the hubby and I check the sunset time – “oooh, it will be at 5:03 tomorrow – that’s 2 minutes later!”. Living in the north is sad sometimes! πŸ™‚

  17. I like Nigella’s books but find her a bit full on when on the telly. I love the bit in “How to Eat” when she says she is writing with a white-bread-and-Laughing-Cow sandwich in one hand “and very good it is too”! And Nigel Slater’s “Real Fast Food” is a great book. Makes me hungry just thinking about it….

  18. I too go into a state of zen when watching cooking shows. Particularly Cook Yourself Thin, which is food p*rn for dieting women, I find.

    (By the way, I stopped by here after reading the Elle article. I would like to look like you when I grow up.)

  19. I’m a total cooking show addict. The Food Network is my default whenever I turn on the tv. I have a gap for all things cheesy, chocolately and carby (pasta, potatoes, bread). It really is food porn. And I loooooove Nigella. That chick is hot and has her head screwed on straight! Its nice to watch a woman enjoy eating.

  20. Of course there’s the happy medium when cooking…you can alway improvise and change a few ingredients to lighten up and make recipes healthy…plus I find it a fun adventure figuring out what will work and sometimes it actually turns out better than the original…good luck and well wishes!

  21. I don’t know if you’ve ever encountered the Japanese show Iron Chef (on SBS here in Oz). Last Saturday they had the ‘chocolate and pear battle’. I hated the idea of watching it with no chocolate in the house so much we almost taped it to watch later. But didn’t in the end.
    I’m sure I had a chocolate gap that night.

  22. I love cooking shows. I used to think I was a bit sadistic because I would watch them while on the treadmill. But one day I realized ALL THREE people on the ellipticals next to me were also watching the food network. Hee.

    Anyway, you may have noticed or mentioned this before, but now US residents can order your book through US amazon – it will be through third party sellers, but at least some of them are selling it new, and it appears to be less expensive than ordering through amazon Canada.

  23. I love Nigella too. As does my husband. I also agree that she needs to cut the adjectives! Get to the point, woman! We know the food is good – just tell us how to cook it!

    So, will you be reviving the food blog you started a couple of years ago?

    I bought your book last week and read it in two sittings. You can really write a page-turner!

  24. I like baking, but I don’t quite get cooking on TV. It’s the same as perfume advertising – seems like a sensory element which is vital to the whole experience is missing!

    I definitely have a University Challenge gap, though.

  25. Haha!!! We happened upon one of Nigella’s shows the other day and while I had major pasta gap, The Cub had major lovely Nigella-is-wearing-a-tight-shirt gap!

  26. When I began to emerge from 18 years of diet culture, and realized that ‘normal’ food and not just fat free, taste free and joy free foods were on offer,that chapter in How TO Eat was, and still is, one of the things that made the most sense.For that chapter alone, I will always forgive her when she over does the food porn close ups!

  27. For me it’s Alton Brown’s “Good Eats.” He’s a major food geek, getting into the science of cooking and throwing in some quirky humor to boot. Love. It.

    I *just* started cooking with recipes and have been eating much healthier food lately.

  28. Don’t have tv. So a good cookbook is my porn. If I fancy a big slice of cake i take down a book and drool. You cant beat food healthy or otherwise – yum!

  29. Hi Shauna, I was excited to receive a copy of your book in the post the other day! I think you made me cry in the first couple of pages :-), then the second night I turned into a prune after 1.5hrs reading in the tub. Thankyou so much for your honesty & sharing your journey!

    RE the cooking thing – do it! Invite people over & send left overs home with them! You can always freeze your left overs too in sensible sized portions! I’m more of a Jamie Oliver fan myself, Nigella really annoys me. But each to there own & so long as you are using fresh ingredients then all is well with the world!

  30. I work for a tv station, which means the telly is constantly playing the reception area. In the afternoon when the rumbles are settling in I get to sit back and listen to Ready Steady Cook (nowhere near as good as the UK version!) and Ian “Huey” Hewitson. Not the best food porn around but I do get some good ideas – it’s worth it. Personally I love Nigella and Ainsley… thank god I don’t have Austar anymore otherwise the foodie channel would be on all the time and I’d have the choccy gap happening a lot more than when it happens now. LOL
    And yep, I yell at the TV too. My man says he knows when I don’t know the answer because I’ll go very silent all of the sudden. hehehe sprung!!!

  31. I’ve just started fixing porridge this week. Usually I have the instant stuff but thought I’d try the old fashioned stuff. It is so good with a bit of honey and a smidge of sugar. Because I overslept today brekkie is just bananas and yogurt. But pasta for lunch!

    As for the food porn: on Sunday the Food Network had Jamie and Nigella on back to back. Oh – I wanted to fix each and everything they made. Although I did have to mute Nigella a time or two and I just drooled over the food.

  32. Did someone say marshmallow? That’s what I’m making today — pink ones, homemade — for part of our Valentine’s Day treat.

    I just keep telling myself I’m Nigella or Rachel and will look good, well-adjusted and happy if I give in and have one. Oh, okay, two.

    Three, tops.

  33. Started reading your blog from the very beginning last week. Ordered the book and promised myself I wouldn’t start reading until I got up to date on the blog – happy now I can go home, curl up with my kitty cats and read.

    By the way, not such a Nigella fan but was seriously addicted to Delia Smith when I was a small child!

  34. GOOD GOOD GOOD! Cook, cook like the wind! I am not fatter or thinner depending on whether or not I cook for myself and friends, but I am happier when I am cooking delicious food and foisting it on people (and myself, of course). Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

    It’s a teensy bit warmer and sunnier here now, too, so I know all about Will to Live.

  35. Hi Shauna, I just wanted to drop by and wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. I love your enthusiasm for life – you’re inspiring.

  36. I love cooking! But yes, sometimes I find myself having to decide between eating the usual healthy salad or cooking a fabulous (but calorie-drenched) meal for myself.

    Maybe someday we’ll find a happy medium, no?

  37. Hi Shauna – just had to let you know I have just purchased your book. I have been reading your blog since you started but never commented (you have heaps of support so I’ve just stayer an avid reader). I am from Sydney Australia and brought your book from K-Mart Casula (near Liverpool). There was only one other on the shelf after I got mine. I have two daughters (28 and 25) and I have often talked about your blog and they are keen to read your book (after me of course). Congratulations you have achieved so much. Take care, Rhonda

  38. I’ve been running down to the postbox every 5 seconds to see if your book has arrived. I bought it for myself as a valentines gift on account of being married to a nerd who’s internal computer does not process terms such as “romantic” caaaaaaant waaaaait for it to get here! it’s taking FOREVER

  39. ‘Why not just COOK what you want to cook? You don’t have to eat it all at once. You can share it with pals. What are you waiting for?’

    Fucken-A. I read this amazing study as part of my daily Pile ‘O Joyless Reading for Teh PhuD where the researchers took two groups of women, one Swedish and one Thai-Swedish, and gave each group two meals, one Thai and one Swedish, both nutritionally the same. Blood tests showed that following the Swedish meals the Swedish women (who enjoyed aforementioned meal more) had higher blood levels of certain nutrients, and the Thai women were better nourished by the Thai meals.

    In short: you absorb more nutrients from food you enjoy. Which means chocolate really is health food.

    I also wrote a blog post about my love for the Nige, but it pretty much said the same thing you did so I suppose it’s a bit redundant.

  40. Oh god, I know about that cooking on tv!!! I love it and I adore Nigella!!!

    I don’t make her desserts especially on special occasions, but being on WW and counting points (remember that??? :o) I find that her lunch/dinner recepies and dishes easily fit in.

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