D4D

Making it Personal

Archive for the category “Food”

Sugar Tax

On Friday, the UK introduced a “Sugar Tax” on sweet drinks, purportedly to help reduce childhood obesity. Will it work? Personally, I doubt it.

There’s a few reasons – first and foremost, that a lot of manufacturers have already chosen to reduce the sugar levels in their drinks to put them into lower rates for the sugar tax.

Connected to that, diet and zero-calorie versions of most of those drinks have been available for years. If people haven’t chosen to swap by now, will paying 10p extra make them change? Probably not.  There’s not even a really visible price difference – at least two of the shop chains I use regularly have upped the price on all the drinks, not just the sugary ones, which also defeats the object.  If there were a visible difference ( “I can buy 500ml of the sugary one for £1.50, or the diet one for £1.35, so I’ll save money”) then it might work, but without that, I don’t see that there’s a real driver to force the change.

Alongside that, I *personally* have a problem with government telling me how to be healthy, and attempting to enforce that. I have the same issue when it comes to smoking, the way government encourages people to stop smoking, while also getting massive amounts of income from the tax and duty on cigarettes. (This also applies for alcohol, telling people to drink less while getting the income from the tax and duty, and so on and so on)

I also suspect that there’s a lot more damage done by the ‘invisibly’ sweet drinks – the bizarre creamy milky super-sweet concoctions from Starbucks, Caffe Nero, Costa et al – which now seem to be far more prevalent than sweet fizzy drinks.   I suspect there’s a lot more of the obesity blame that can be laid on the coffee culture now than can be laid at the soft-drinks industry.  I’m not even sure that the coffee chains are being hit by the sugar tax – I haven’t seen any mention of it being on anything except the soft-drinks industry.

It’ll be interesting to see the results – although of course the government will always claim it to have been a massive success, even when it’s a clusterfuck of monumental proportions – but I really don’t expect to see it have any positive effects on reducing obesity, whether in children or adults.

Burns’ Night

Last night, as you may or may not know (or care) was Burns’ Night in the UK.  For the first time, I went out for it, going to one of my favourite Scottish places in London, Mac and Wild, who had a special Burns’ Night menu for a fairly respectable price.

Being Scots themselves, the owners had made sure the entire thing was really good – the food was (as usual) great, and so was the atmosphere, with a live piper playing at the entrance (and for the toasting of the Haggis) as well as pipe-based music in the restaurant. In short, it couldn’t have been much more Scottish if they’d tried.

I’d never done a Burns’ Night properly before, and thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing. I’ve even got a copy of the whole “toasting of the Haggis” process and poem now, which makes for interesting reading…

Overall, I can see me booking myself in for another one next year – although it’s still undecided whether I’ll try somewhere else, or stick with the Mac and Wild I already know…

Weekend Of Idiocy

The weekend just gone was the one that had been noted as being a completely daft one, even by my standards. It involved a lot of mileage, a fair amount of walking, and a piss-poor amount of sleep.

Saturday had been “planned” for a while, with a full day in London – starting off with the festive version of the Taste festival at Tobacco Dock. I’d got in early (as usual) and walked down to Tobacoo Dock, getting there in plenty of time.

Also as usual, the organisation of Festive Taste was… kinda flawed. The tickets said it started at 12-noon, the email from the ticket people said “Ooops, sorry, we meant 11.30“. Except it actually opened at 11. Genius.    And once we were in, it turned out that none of the food places were actually starting until at least 11.15, and in some cases nothing was ready ’til 12.  Not good – but standard.   The Festive version also appears to be far more focused on booze than on food, which (for me) is annoying, but there we go. It was still worth going, but I was out within 90 minutes.

In the evening I was at the theatre, seeing Stockard Channing in Apologia. It’s an interesting play, and I really enjoyed it – there may be more thoughts later, I’m not sure yet – and then headed home, getting back at around half one.  Which would’ve been OK, except that…

On the Sunday I was on the road by 7.30, heading up to Middlesbrough to see friends, and then on to Durham in the late afternoon to see the Lumiere festival, one of my favourite events. Again, I’ll probably write more about it later on – for now though, The Guardian has great pictures of a lot of it here.

A great day, but a long one – and then drove home, getting back about half two on Monday morning. It would’ve been earlier, but it turns out that the M1 was closed (and hadn’t been announced anywhere when I was driving up) for two whole junctions, and the diversion that was in place added a good forty minutes to the drive. Which was a pain, but there we go.

And even that would all have been sensible (ish. Kinda) if it weren’t for the fact I was also on-site in the other office on Monday morning, so I was in Chesham by 8am…

I really am an idiot.

New Year

Normally, I don’t celebrate New Year – I couldn’t give a shit about midnight, Auld Lang Syne, fireworks and so on. Entirely not my thing.

However, over the last few years, I’ve been going out for meals on New Year’s Eve, and being back home (or, more usually, still driving home on beautifully clear and empty roads) by midnight.

This year though, it’s all a bit underwhelming – even the offering at Helene Darroze (where I went last year) is disappointing, as there’s very little change from what I had last year. There’s nowhere else that’s massively grabbing me as a “want to try” (or at least nowhere that’s currently released their menu)  so for now, I’m really not sure what I’m going to be doing.

Mind you, right now I’m actually quite OK with that, of actually doing sod-all for New Year.

2016/17 – What Happened ?

So, a year ago I listed the following as the plans for 2016/17

  1. Continue rebuilding the finances, and keep boosting the savings
  2. Exercise, improve health, lose weight
  3. Complete September’s walking marathon – ideally in under seven hours. (My target is more ambitious than that, but I’ll be happy with 7 hours)
  4. Write more. (And ideally complete/publish some)
  5. Do more of the ideas around my own business
  6. Get out less.  Ideally, some kind of middle-ground between being ultra-quiet/sensible, and the idiocy of the last year
  7. Look more at some political ideas, and see how that goes. (This one’s the random ‘maybe’ one, I don’t know if anything will happen with it or not)

How did it go?

  1. Finances : Yeah, not bad.  Not at the totals I wanted to be at (which is a familiar theme) but I did what I wanted to, so I’m happy with that one
  2. Health : Less so. I haven’t gained any weight, but nor have I lost much. Good intentions have been undermined by an utter failure on Number 6, and life getting in the way of things
  3. Walking Marathon : Failed utterly, as I’ve wittered about at length.  But I’m already signed up for the 2018 one…
  4. Write more : Failed utterly. There are ideas, but as with Health, I’ve been abysmal at doing less, so yeah. Bugger.
  5. Own Business : Kinda. I’ve written out more of the plans, got some ideas in code, and been looking at other stuff. But actually done? Nope.
  6. Get Out Less : Also an utter failure.  I’ve been out loads, and in many ways have kept even busier than I did in 2015/16 – less Michelin-starred restaurants, but more things
  7. Politics : Looked at the ideas, but in the current political climate of Brexit and so on, getting involved on that score strikes me as…. less than wise.

So what’s on the list for 2017/18? Well, we’ll cover that tomorrow…

Repeatedly Breaking – an Update

Following on from Friday’s post about the pain I was getting in my ankle and leg, it all sorted itself out over the weekend.

From the speed of the recovery – going from walking with serious pain and limping at 9am to being able to walk fine, with just residual soreness by 2pm – I suspect that it was some kind of reaction to something I’d eaten, rather than a ‘proper’ muscle or tendon strain.

I’ve had gout attacks before – although I haven’t written about them here (or at least, not using the word ‘gout’!) – affecting the big toe on my left foot. They’re usually related to a food reaction, that I’ve either eaten or drunk something to levels that aggravate things. Some of those things are ‘standard’ – too much beef and ham, for example – and some are downright weird – such as swapping my usual Diet Coke for something like Sprite Zero. That’s what triggered my first attack, back while I was still in Norfolk.

Last week’s one, though, was different. Similar levels of pain – but on a slightly greater scale, as it was my ankle joint rather than a toe, and thus there was a lot more that hurt.  I don’t honestly know whether it was gout but in an ankle, or whether it was something gout-esque. Regardless, it bloody hurt.  It felt more like it was muscle/ligament-based than joint-based, but I simply don’t know enough.

I’m pretty sure of what triggered it this time, so I might research it a bit more, and try things out a bit. But doing so would, by definition, result in more pain, so that’s currently not striking me as a great idea.  Frankly, I’ve had enough of hurting for the moment, so I’m firstly hoping for just a few weeks where I don’t get any more shit to deal with.

It won’t happen, but hey, a boy can dream.

The Man Behind The Curtain

I mentioned in the last post that I’d done a day-trip to Leeds, and that I would write more about it.  So, here we are.

One of the Michelin-starred restaurants I’ve been wanting to try for a while is Michael O’Hare‘s “The Man Behind The Curtain” in Leeds. It’s always been booked solid, but when I looked on a whim a couple of months ago, I discovered that there was a table for four free for a late lunch on Saturday. I called the other friend who was interested in the same place , and I booked it.

That’s where the first shock came in. The entire price of the meal was paid at the time of booking, including the wine – and the service charge!  Now to me, that’s taking the piss.  The only other Michelin-starred place I’ve seen with that attitude is The Fat Duck, and even there it’s “only” the food that is paid for ahead of time, not the wine and tip. Every other place I’ve been has taken a credit card number, and said “if you don’t show up, you’ll pay the full price”, which is fine with me.  Paying up front for it all seems very dodgy.

Anyway, I did that, and last Saturday was the day.

I’d hired a car for doing it as a day-trip, as I was also driving the others there and back, and it makes life fun.

“The Man Behind The Curtain” is… highly individual.  First things first, it’s on the top floor of a department store – definitely not somewhere you’d just wander into! As it turns out, it now *was* on the top floor – our meal was the last lunch served in the top floor, and they were moving to the basement after the dinner service.

It’s a strange space, seemingly more of a gallery than a restaurant. The walls were graffitied and arty, with chicken-wire clouds above some tables. I’ve never been anywhere else like it – but that also shows in the food.  Again it’s very arty – some of the food is quite spectacular, as is the crockery it arrives in. In particular, “Emancipation”, which is cod in squid-ink, basically black food on a black “droplet” plate…

That was just one of the ten ‘courses’.  And they were all brilliant.

Honestly, I kind of wanted to not like it, to be unimpressed by the entire place. I feel really strongly about the whole ‘pay upfront’ thing, and think it gives a really bad impression of the restaurant. But the food, the atmosphere, and the service of the place all combined to leave me still impressed.

It was a really good day, and decent drives there and back (two hours door-to-door each way) helped as well.

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