Food Life

10 things I've learned from cooking for myself

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing a lot more cooking around the house. It stemmed from a discussion with Holly about how she tends to prepare the menu and do the majority of the cooking during a week, with me only stepping in for certain meals, mainly ones that involve chips, or easy things like making a pasta bake from a jar.

So, in the middle of April I decided to get more involved. I’m not sure why now has worked when all previous attempts to get me to cook have failed, but I’d say over the last couple of weeks I’ve probably cooked more than Holly, although I openly admit she has done a lot of ingredient preparing.

I’ve cooked a variety of things (as I type some stuffed peppers are in the oven for tonight’s dinner), and over the course of my baby steps in this culinary journey (jeez that is so clichéd. Pretend I didn’t type that) I’ve learnt various things about cooking and, by extension, myself.

  1. I get garlic and ginger confused in my mind, although not in my mouth or my nose, so hopefully I’ll avoid and disasters on that front.
  2. I use a lot of spoons when cooking.
  3. iPads may not randomly close and lose your page whilst your hands are full like a recipe book will, but the screen timeout will still always wait until the most inopportune moment.
  4. My lack of confidence in the kitchen manifests itself as striving for perfection. “It says 1cm chunks in the recipe. These are 1.2cm. I need to start again.”
  5. “The juice of one lemon” is a difficult amount to measure when coming out of one of those squirty bottles.
  6. Also, too much lemon juice can make food taste like washing up liquid.
  7. Saffron is not a yellow powdered spice, and apparently costs more per kilo than heroin, gold or bull semen. Despite this, these are not suitable substitutes.
  8. Cooking vegetarian food reduces the fear of food poisoning.
  9. Most foods are far less poisonous than you fear – not all vegetables or meats are blowfish-like with only a tiny, edible portion surrounded by sickness and death.
  10. Baking cakes from a packet mix is fun and easy, but makes you feel guilty when people start complimenting you for how nice they are.

I’m not sure yet if cooking for me is a passing fad, whether I’ll actually improve, or if I’ll just be capable of reading from a recipe book from the rest of my life. The ultimate test will come when I run out of recipes from the iPad ‘Good Food’ app I’m currently using.

Fail Food

Honest promotion

Whilst shopping in Tesco today, I saw some chocolate that was, for once, honestly titled.


Food Life

The Chocolate Wars escalate

We’re now up to quadruple chocolate cookies.


Not just cookies. Super quadruple megaultrachocolate flavoured cookies.

It’s only a matter of time before they have to start branding them as cookie flavoured chocolates, rather than the other way round.


Calorie Counting

My wife has recently stated calorie counting in order to trim off a few pounds and maintain a healthy weight. She’s logging everything she eats; keeping track every little calorie.

As you’d expect, there’s an app for that.

The app makes it easy to log any and all calorific intake, as well as any exercise done in order to keep on track to hit a weight goal. It has a database of food stuffs which can be added to by users so the chances are whatever you’ve eaten is on there, and a recipe function so you can mark the calories on the ingredients of a meal you’ve made yourself. It’s quite a nifty little app.

When she first started out, I was very supportive, asking if bogies were on the food list and if sex was on the exercise list (note: they aren’t, but you can add them).

However, seeing how calorific some foods are and how quickly those calories add up, I started to get curious as to just how many calories I was putting away in a day. Just curious, of course; I treat recommended daily calorie intake amounts the same as I treat speed limits – as a reference figure, not anything that needs strictly adhering to.

For a while I was contemplating downloading the same app my wife was using, so see how much of a calorie hog I was. I had a few reservations about it though; for a start I’m only reasonably sure that I put away a ton of calories, and knowing me I’d see the allowed limit as a target to be exceeded, not an upper limit. Also, I don’t plan on making any actual changes to my diet – I just want to see what’s what. That means that if I make one of my ShakeAway-style milkshakes that contains a few scoops of ice cream, maybe 300ml of milk, and a whole slab of Cadbury’s Caramel, I’d end up leaving a whole load of temptation on the recipe database for those who are doing serious calorie counting for serious health benefits. Well okay that wasn’t an actual concern, more of an added bonus. Same as adding sex or bogies to the database.

Anyway, I eventually went ahead and downloaded the app. Even telling it I wanted to lose an arbitrarily small amount of weight it still said I had to eat over 2,100 calories in a day.

Of course, such is the way when you have something new, you want a legitimate excuse to use it, so for a while on the first afternoon I was looking around for things I could eat to add to the log.

Unfortunately, that first evening was also the day of Eurovision, where we had a small ‘make your own pizza and shout at foreigners on the television’ party. My pizza – a six cheese, chicken and pancetta number – accounted for (and admittedly this is on slightly rough estimates on how much went into it) no less than 2,500 calories on its own. And that’s without the small garlic pizza we had to start, the slice of cheesecake that followed, and of course the drink. And what I had for lunch.

All told, I apparently exceeded 4,000 calories on my first day. When I logged it the app said if I carried on like that I’d put on almost 9kg (1.3 stone) in 5 weeks, if I lived that long.

The six cheeses on the pizza, if you were wondering, were mozzarella, spicy cheddar, Danish blue, Cotswold, goat cheese and Camembert. A pizza so awesome I’m sure I’ll be talking about it for a while.

Fortunately, two days later I spent the day helping some friends move home (in my first draft that said “some family” rather than “some friends” but reading it back I realised it sounded like I stopped and helped a random family on the street move their worldly possessions from a skip rather than, you know, my sister- and brother-in-law), and burnt far more calories then I ate, resetting the balance a bit and making me realise I actually appeared to have started caring about the calories I was ingesting.

Caring about, yes. Not actually reacting to, however; I overate by various amounts from a couple of calories to almost a thousand over the last week. But at is turns out, I’m still one of the bastards you really really hate who can eat what he likes and still not put on any weight.

Maybe that’s why, after a little over a week, I got bored of the app and went back to the old ‘how fat do I look in the mirror?’ technique.


'Ch' Foods

I don’t know what it is, but all of my favourite foods begin with ‘ch’:

  • Cheesecake
  • Chips
  • Chocolate flapjacks

It’s uncanny.

I suppose it does speak volumes about me that these are my favourite foods. Yeah, that poncy stuff on Masterchef sure does look good, but when it comes down to it nothing beats a good bag of chips.