• Fun and pleasure was taken out of food

    I think I had enjoyed food and that I had taken much pleasure in the the taste and eating of it until my anorexic days.

    Looking back at it, I most probably enjoyed food more than my two sisters – I think they ate to live more than they lived to eat.  Whereas I was the opposite.  I was also shorter and slightly bigger than my two sisters (I was also the middle child!).  It was not that I was big, it was just that I was bigger than my sisters.  Maybe because I seemed to like food more than my sisters.  I think I still do.

    Although I was shorter and bigger than my sisters, I took some solace in the fact that the three of us had barbie dolls at the time.  Whereas their barbie dolls were tall, buxom and attractive in a more mature manner, mine was shorter with small breasts and pretty in a girlish way.  I related to my barbie doll.  I felt that she represented what I was in relation to my sisters.  Up until my anorexic days, I had always felt relatively pretty.  I was not unhappy with the way I looked.  Unfortunately my anorexia certainly took a toll on my looks and I spent quite a few years in my late teens and early twenties not looking particularly attractive.  Some of the fashion and hairstyles of the time did not help matters, but more of this later.

    My lack of attractiveness during those years was inadvertently confirmed recently.  At a recent family reunion where an ex-boyfriend of mine (from my anorexic years) was visiting from the States, a photograph was taken of my Mum, my ex-boyfriend, my sisters and me.  My eldest sister, who has been struggling a bit with her weight since she had a hysterectomy, was commenting on how much she hated the photo of herself.  My younger sister, who has never been particularly happy with her looks (despite having a lovely figure and an attractive face, as well as being phenomenally intelligent) was also making negative comments about what she looked like in the photo.  I for once, was happy with a photo of me – I looked happy and was smiling, which is rare in a photo.  My eldest sister, in a hushed voice (so that I would not hear, but I did anyway) mentioned that in our youth that it was not me, but my younger sister and her that the boys/young men they thought were the most attractive.  A harsh, but not altogether surprising comment under the circumstances.  One, however, which I thought could have been left unsaid.

    Back to the pleasure (or lack thereof) of food.  I certainly knew what food I enjoyed and what I did not.  I hated my Mum’s ox tail stew and her beef olives.  I think I hated the idea of eating a tail of an animal and the beef olives were always dry and stuck to the roof of your mouth.  Yet I was happy to eat my Grandmother’s tongue sandwiches, somehow blocking out what I was eating.  I also hated my Dad’s silverside beef and soup ‘with bits in it’.  Dad’s soup put me off eating soup for years until I realised you could puree soups.

    I must mention however that my Dad (certainly more than my Mum) was an excellent cook.  He made the best hamburgers, toasted sandwiches, pizzas, mushroom and bacon on toast (later mushrooms on toast when I became a vegetarian) and something which affectionately became know as Daddy’s toast (sauteed chopped celery, onions, green pepper and bacon (left out once I became a vegetarian), combined with a generous amount of grated cheese, chopped fresh tomatoes, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, spread on the most evenly toasted toast and then grilled to perfection until the topping was warmed through and going slightly brown in places – each slice of bubbling toast was then cut into three fingers for easy eating – three precisely cut fingers).

    I loved melktert (milk tart), Ingleside apple pie, Israeli cheesecake and our Sunday chocolate treat.  Dad would pop out to the shop on a Sunday and bring back a range of chocolates (aero, peppermint crisp, top deck, white flakes etc.) which we ate as a family on my parent’s bed (I can’t recall whether this was before or after breakfast).

    With my anorexia, all of the fun and pleasure surrounding food disappeared,  I no longer ate with people and no longer ate food for pleasure.

    Perhaps the only pleasure I took in food was cooking it for others and seeing others eat, while I starved myself.  Food at best was something that I had to eat, in scant quantities, to give me energy to face the day or to stop people being on my case about not eating.  Despite this, every morsel that passed my lips was tainted by guilt.  I no longer ate chocolate or sweet things.  In fact, if I recall correctly, I did not eat chocolate for eight years (between the ages of 16 and 24).  My family ‘chocolate Sunday’s’ were a thing of the past.

    Not long after my anorexia started, I registered to go on a hike with my school.  I can’t remember where it was or what it was in aid of.  All I can recall is that we were required to carry a large rug sack with all our belongings in it, over very undulating and at time steep terrain.  I remember sitting apart from the rest of the group at breakfast, eating a small cup of cereal and then feeling guilt ridden, tipping out half of it.  We were told to take boiled sweets with us for energy.  I remember putting a delicious tasting, red boiled sweet in my mouth and then removing and discarding it soon afterwards as I felt guilty taking in the additional calories.  Needless to say that it did not take long for me to succumb to my lack of energy and for my school friends/support crew to have to take over carrying my rug sack as we finished the hike.

    I also recall an episode when we were staying and my Granfather’s lady friend’s holiday home in Kleinmond of me ‘walking the streets’ of a rather dusty and desolate Kleinmond just to burn off calories, with absolutely no energy and a light head but not letting myself eat a thing as I was in calorie-burning mode.  It was like being in a fugue-like state.  Being there but not there.

    My life changed quite quickly from food pleasure to food deprivation; from eating food for fun to eating out of necessity and even then, just barely.  I was in a permanent state of hunger.

  • Good Food

    For those of you who have read my posts for a while; the posts which are now private, you will know that BBC Good Food is my go-to site for recipes, particularly cakes and bakes.  The reason is essentially two-fold: (1) they have a large range of cakes and bakes to choose from and (2) the cakes and bakes tend to work well and are very tasty indeed.  Although I have been relying on the BBC Good Food site (not to mention their magazines, which I pick up from the newsagent if I see a copy of the latest edition) for some time now, I have had a bit of a BBC Good Food baking spate over the last few months.

    It started by baking a ‘brilliant banana loaf’ (their words).  My aim was to use my dehydrator, which I bought some months back, for the first time and luck would have it that the ‘brilliant banana loaf’ required dehydrated bananas for decoration, along with a drizzle of icing.  All was going well – the cake was baked and the bananas were dehydrating in the dehydrator – when I realised that I was running out of dehydrating time before my shift at the Coln Community Stores.   Rather than adding fully dehydrated bananas to my delicious banana loaf, I had to add a ‘sun-blushed’ version, which although looked absolutely fine when I photographed my creation, resulted in rather soggy, brown decorations by day two.  The good thing was that my lack of dehydrating time did not affect the taste of the cake in any way, just its appearance on day two.   The other good thing was that most of the cake was eaten on day one, so there was not much evidence of my flacid, discoloured bananas.  Note to self, ensure that you have enough dehydrating time (preferably overnight) and make another opportunity to practice your dehydrating sometime soon – perhaps lemons or oranges next time.

    My next bake was a decadent carrot cake loaf with a cinnamon cream frosting.  This bake came around as I was working one weekend at the Coln Community Stores (I don’t normally work on a weekend) and asked my husband, Jo to do the fruit and vegetable order.  When it came to ordering the carrots, he promises me that he asked the supplier for ‘the usual’ but when the order came in on the Monday, we were greeted with a large mound of carrots, which the Stores were certainly not going to sell in any great hurry.  By about day three, and still embarrassed by Jo (and my) collective faux pas, I decided to purchase about a kg of the carrots and then work out what I could make with them.  Carrot cake seemed the most obvious thing to make with carrots but I didn’t want to make a carrot cake that I had made before.  I also wanted to try a carrot cake loaf rather than cake.  A short google later, yet again the BBC Good Food site came up trumps.  Definitely one of the best carrot cakes I have made and tried to date.  Especially lovely with the walnuts on top.  With a retweet and like from BBC Good Foods, my carrot cake was quite a popular one on Twitter.

    My next two BBC bakes were a sticky malt loaf and a bitter orange and poppy seed cake.   Not to bore you too much with the details of these two bakes, lets just summarise as follows.  The sticky malt loaf was the best malt loaf I have ever tasted, full of flavour and moist (the word that makes everyone squirm).   One of my Twitter commentators remarked: ‘@bakebybuffy@bbcgoodfood that’s just gastro porn, stop it it’s too early ;-)’.  My bake was enjoyed warm with a generous spread of slightly salted butter, accompanied by a cup of tea.  Perfect!  The bitter orange and poppy seed cake was another flavour and texture triumph.  Following a discussion with one of my neighbours earlier in the week about the merits (or lack thereof) of the bakes on offer at the Coln Community Stores, I took a piece of my bitter orange and poppy seed cake around to his to try.  The following morning he approached me at the Coln Community Stores with a great deal of enthusiasm saying that it was the best cake that he had ever tasted.   I am sure he was exaggerating, but you can’t really get a better accolade than that.

    My final two BBC Good Food bakes were a chocolate and banana loaf which I made for my in-laws, when they visited us recently and a cherry Bakewell cake.   While I will briefly mention the chocolate and banana loaf here,  I will devote a separate blog to the cherry Bakewell cake as over the last 12 months I have tried various incarnations of the cherry Bakewell, some which have been a great success while others have been less so.

    Going back to the chocolate and banana loaf briefly, I have to admit that I resorted to using bought dehydrated bananas (as I didn’t have time or didn’t make the time to dehydrate my own with all the cooking I had to do the same weekend) to decorate the loaf.  It was another delicious bake, made especially delicious by a sour cream frosting.  A posting on Twitter seemed to confirm the popularity of the cake, with 11 retweets and 55 likes and with one commentator stating that they had made the loaf for their book club ladies and they all agreed that it was delicious.

    On that note, let me end my blog post by saying that if you are ever at a loss as to what to bake, scour BBC Good Food site.  I am sure that they will have something to your taste and I am sure whatever you choose it won’t disappoint.