A titbit from Renee in Ullapool

When Meet and Two Veg were up in Ullapool we were lucky enough to get to interview some of the wonderful people up there about their knowledge of local food and their own food histories.

There are too many stories to relate here and we ran out of funding too soon to be able to complete the editing before Thalia went off to America to start her PhD, but one of these days we’ll get round to finishing them and hope to have them kept as part of the collections at the Ullapool museum. Just as a taster, here is a short clip of Renee…

International Trade Regimes – something to be cheery about?

So this is my reading response from last week – a top dollar week, I thought. Food for anti-capitalist rage a-plenty 🙂 scuse, the smooshed up crampedness of it – it has to all fit on an A4 page and I’m not going to adulterate it now.


International Trade Regimes – Can international regulations meet the needs of the local?


In theory, increased trade should produce greater benefits in terms of resources to fight poverty but trade liberalisation seen at the end of the twentieth century has been very unequal and ‘hit the poor’.


International trade agreements are dominated by the richer countries (eg. 1993 Agreement on Agriculture ‘basically a pact between the US and the EU’), resulting in legislation that panders to their interests at the expense of LDCs. This results in trade agreements that aim to alleviate the problem of over-production and market saturation, priority being given to opening new markets, using technology to get greater returns and increased competitiveness for the food market. This overlooks the needs of developing countries who want their domestic agricultural sectors developed and protected from dumping and to be recognised and rewarded for indigenous knowledge. For example:


Trade liberalisation and international trade agreements such as patents require a strong state to protect its citizens from exploitation and uphold the rules; developing countries often lack this and richer countries tend to take advantage of this (see how neo-liberal policies are eroding the power of the state, more control being conceded to a transnational capitalist class who have no loyalty to any one state, only to profits)


Genetic modification: IPRS are expensive to both obtain and uphold, privileging those with the money to maintain them; most genetically modified products are modified to meet the needs of the processor or to make producers reliant on total systems of production (i.e seeds, fertilisers and herbicides) all from the same company; genetic modification reduces biodiversity, contaminates landraces used by subsistence farmers and constricts their opportunity to improve crops through seed swapping; GM not culturally/socially acceptable in Mexico, national identity aligned with corn itself


Subsidies: current regulations protect those countries rich enough to subsidise the dumped products, destroying the receiving domestic agricultural market, pushing people off the land and tying the country into dependence on imports (US freely admits that food aid is merely a development of its export market). The power of developing countries to protect themselves has been eroded with countervailing responses to dumping restrained and health standards etc prevented from being used to ‘descriminate against imports’. Moreover, regulations prevent developing countries raising their own levels of subsidy to meet that of developed countries despite. Inequality is innate and protected within the international trade regime.


Problems stem from false premises of neo-liberal policy ideology: that the market self-regulates; that trade liberalisation will ensure the most efficient allocation of resources; that more trade equals more economic growth; market based agricultural systems are powerful engines for economic growth; exports are essential to economic growth and development; in other words, that the commodification of the agricultural system, transforming food from a basic necessity to a vehicle for profit is the secret to economic development, the engine for development overall.


In truth ‘free trade’ has never really been realised internationally enough for it to ever ‘self regulate’. It has been used solely as a tool with which to lever open the markets of developing countries to better exploit them whilst the developed world continues to use market distorting measures such as subsidies to maintain its advantage. Growth does not equal development. More food traded does not necessarily mean more food grown or more food for the hungry, moreover economic growth does not necessarily benefit all – the trickle-down effect is largely mythical. Exports have predominantly allowed developed countries to export their environmental degradation, take advantage of cheaper labour, and dump surplus subsidised food whilst developing countries find exporting to divert food away from the hungry and consolidates farms, pushing smaller producers off the land. Essentially, everything is subservient to profit (the profit of the few): environment, civil society, culture and development policy.  But international food trade regimes overlook the fact that food performs a function above and beyond that of profit – in all of these international trade regimes food can be seen to exist in a void without cultural, social or environmental significance which is a vital and intrinsic value of food. Can international regulation ever meet local needs? International regulation serves only the internationally powerful.


SOLUTIONS? Change the IPR laws: amend them to facilitate sharing and innovation, exclude basic processes and biological materials,  etc (148-9 in handbook)

Stop dumping: greater transparency, extend safeguards, accurate cost of production measures (p. 130 h/book)

Overhaul the capitalist system (emphasis on profit)? La Via Campesina – putting the means of production back into the hands of the producers and wresting back power from the multi-nationals (role of the state vs. Transnational capitalist class) Via Campesina describes its main goal as ‘to realise food sovereignty and stop the destructive neoliberal processes’. ‘Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It develops a model of small scale sustainable production benefiting communities and their environment. It puts the aspirations, needs and livelihoods of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.’

The Good, the Bad and the Binging.

And yesterday was all three!

Having had the kids for the weekend, which had been fine, we walked up a hill and had a picnic and such funness but then – horror!- Sunday struck. Neil took the kids to the train station and I stayed at home… They had eaten every last crumb of ‘bad’ food in the house. Every biscuit, every piece of cake, every last Celebration (leaving behind the seemingly full wrappers in the box to goad me – I had to scrunch each wrapper to check its tempting plump but empty crinkles – I felt so cheated!) like a swarm of junk locusts they had passed through leaving only crumbs. I felt the rising panic of no binge foods in the house.

So what did I do? Have a cup of tea and resign myself to a low calorie morning? Go for a walk? Otherwise distract myself and think about why I wanted to binge?


I set about baking myself a binge mountain. Nothing may stand in my binging way! Out came sugar, butter, parsnips, cheese, sultanas and flour and I cooked up a storm which I then proceeded to eat more or less all of. Half a batch of cookies and half a loaf of parsnip bread later, I came to and reviewed the devastation. Flour everywhere, the rabid look in my eye and the straining trouser button… Sigh… I had done it again and not even tried to think about what I was doing or why.

Still some good things came out of it…

The Parsnip Bread – see earlier post

Binge Cookies (you don’t have to call them that but I find it the most honest and descriptive title)

125g soft butter

75g light brown sugar

50g granulated sugar (or 125g of whatever the hell sugar you’ve got in the cupboard that you can see through the descending red binge mist, golden syrup if there isn’t sugar and treacle if you’re desperate and only minutes from ramming the raw butter/sweetness mix straight into your gob by the fistful)

1 large egg

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

165g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

(You can also add, tblspn of peanut butter, handful of sultanas, chopped nuts, chopped chocolate, smarties, rolled oats, dates, dried apricots, mashed banana, tsp of cinnamon or anything else you fancy – go mad, if you haven’t already)

Cream butter and sugar, beat eggs and add a bit at a time, mix in the chopped whatevers and then sift in the flour and bicarb and salt, spoon blobs onto a tray and cook at 180 for about ten minutes until they are golden brown. Take out of the oven and hunch over the deck, cramming the burning sugar into your mouth and cursing the heat until a) all cookies are gone b) the mist had cleared c) cookies going into mouth are met by rush of cookies exiting the mouth.

Beat self up.

Other good things included:

1) Once I added it all up, it wasn’t such a bad binge. Not even half a batch of cookies (as lovely Neil helped me eat them) and there were some left at the end, and only half the loaf of bread. The bad thing was that it was still bingeing and I still felt bad afterwards. The strange thing was that it seemed to be set off by the terror of finding nothing binge-worthy in the house. Strange indeed. What does it mean? I don’t know.

2) It got me thinking again about how much is a normal amount to eat and what is ‘ok to eat. I’ve realised that as soon as I eat anything that I consider ‘bad’, my brain decides that I’ve already screwed up and that I might as well gorge myself stupid and then ‘start again’ tomorrow, or next week or whenever that isn’t now. So that meant that as soon as I’d had one piece of parsnip bread (that had cheese in it! Evil cheese…) that I’d fallen off the wagon and might as well totally screw up. Seemingly, somewhere in my head I’ve decided that I shouldn’t eat anything that isn’t salad or tofu with recriminations of some kind and that, as I’m fat, eating anything with any fat or grease or non-natural sugars in it is automatically ‘bad’ and means I’ve screwed up. So…. well, I don’t know but.. there we are. It reminds me of an experiment I read about in The End of Food done by Herman and Mack in 1975 (I tried to find this study but it’s pretty tricky – lots of people cite it so you can find it if you look). Basically they had a bunch of people in diets and a bunch of people not on diets. Within those two groups they gave some people one milk shake, some people 2-3 and some people none and then they offered all of them some ice cream to eat. In the non-dieting group, as you would expect, people who had more milk shake ate less ice cream. However, of the dieting group the people who ate the most were the ones who’d had the 2-3 milk shakes first as they had removed the ‘cognitive boundary to their eating’ otherwise known as the ‘what the hell’ effect – in other words, they thought ‘Fuck it, I’ve screwed up and had 3 milk shakes, I might as well gorge myself stupid on ice cream’.

3) Interesting, linked to above, Lesley Kinzel of Two Whole Cakes blog looks at an article in the New York Times about the use of primates in obesity research. It’s interesting anyway, however you feel about animal testing, but it’s particularly interesting as it mentions that when they were feeding up the monkeys to make them obese in order to experiment on them only 3 out of 5 of them got fat, despite the fact that they were all fed on the same diet. So maybe (as we already know, if we’re honest) some people are susceptible to weight gain and some aren’t and maybe the amount of food that is a binge for one person is just fine for another and maybe it’s bingeing or maybe it’s just that I’m hungry but maybe, if I didn’t think I’d eaten too much (which may not be too much for me, just too much in the eyes of society) I wouldn’t feel compelled to make it worse and eat more? I dunno. I’ve lost track….

4) We went for a walk which made me feel better about bingeing and Neil was so delighted that his newly dubbined boots were waterproof that I cheered up too.

Jumping in a puddl


SO so pleased 🙂

Who ate all the chocolate?

We ate all the chocolates...





















Rocking the bulimia boat again

I said I would go into more detail at some point about why I think anorexia is, in particular, the ‘flagship’ eating disorder.

And then I made a lemon drizzle cake and forgot. So here we are – back on track (minus the lemon drizzle cake nom nom nom).

Now, to recap see here www.amygodfrey.com/page/2/ but the two major points we could take away from that post that are particularly relevant to this one are as follows:

a) being a fat person trying and failing to diet is almost indistinguishable from having compulsive/binge eating disorder
b) as a nation of people trying and failing to diet we are displaying and encouraging the symptoms of CE (compulsive eating) and BED (binge eating disorder) and one of the main reasons why anorexia is big news, despite being the least prevalent eating disorder, is because it the only one that stands out against a backdrop of CE/BED.

Marvellous. Hope you’re still with me so far.

I just want to point out again here that I am not knocking eating disorders of any sort. Previous experience, especially doing the Biscuit Chronicles, has shown me that people get up in arms about eating disorders very quickly, without actually listening to what I’m saying long enough to hear that I’m not mocking eating disorders; I’m talking about the way society views them illustrating how messed up society is. And saying that although we may hear more about, and feel more shocked by anorexia and bulimia, they are not more important than compulsive eating and BED and should not be treated as ‘more special’. I think. Maybe I’m biased as someone who clearly suffers from CE and not AN.

Now – right there – I resisted the urge to finish off that sentence by saying something like ‘dammit’ jokingly implying that I would rather have AN than CE. I didn’t write that because obviously I don’t want to be suffering from one of the most fatal mental health disorders known to the human race. However, it illustrates my point number one.

1) Anorexia and bulimia come in for this totally messed up awe and admiration and as much as we might deny it as it’s well not PC, it’s inevitable in a society that venerates thinness to such a degree. These people manage to do what we, the nation of failed dieters, cannot do (and let’s just put aside for a minute lost fertility, more body hair and likely death). See here for how far we’ve screwed up our own instincts http://www.foxnews.com/health/2010/08/13/skinny-sex-women-lose-weight-survey-finds/

2) Anorexia, in particular, is a shocking disease, and a sufferer looks like they’re suffering – frail, deathly pale and hollow eyed, it’s a frightening sight. Whereas a bulimic may look quite normal – HOWEVER, it is very shocking that they would go to the extreme of purging so dramatically so we’re still ratcheting up the ol’ shock factor. On the other hand a CE or BED sufferer likely just looks a bit cuddly. It pretty much blows the suffering ideal out of the water there. Not good for ‘wow factor’.

3) We might as well take into account the associations we have with thinness and fatness in general. Our religious past has coloured our view of fat and thin – gluttony after all, is a sin! Fasting and religion have always gone hand in hand, with abstinence (not only food… all bodily pleasures, oh the evil of sex!) being a show of piety and pureness. By implication fatness and indulging are bad/evil/not pious. We can look at the good old dualism in religion (mind and body being separate entities, with many folks such as Descartes suggesting mind over matter being the best option what with mind being superior and body base and earthbound. This leads on to Susan Bordo’s feminist theories about such mind/body dualism leading to anorexia as an attempt to realise the whole mind over matter thang but it’s too complicated for me, you get the general gist) which instils the idea that flesh is inferior and too much of it is bad whereas as conquering it is good. Much as we may not be very religious any more, the implicit meaning remains ingrained. Also, people go on hunger strike for noble causes but nobody goes on binge strike. Admittedly binging in prison etc is difficult and it may take you years to do yourself in but, primarily, it just doesn’t carry that noble, self-sacrificing kudos.

4) Finally, it may seem muchly related to point 1) which it is but, if you think about it, AN sufferers and CE sufferers both have the same aim – to stop eating and/or lose weight. But whereas as the AN sufferer is fatally successful, the CE sufferer is fatally unsuccessful. I think there is a success/failure boundary going on here. Thin is associated with success anyway but in terms of AN vs CE, the anorexia sufferer nails it where the CE sufferer goes belly up – literally. Also, having just made a cruel joke about CE sufferers, I realise that it’s still ok to laugh at a CE sufferer because they’re fat but not ok to laugh about anorexics.

Sooo…. there we are. Eating disorders of all kinds are dangerous and if the government is right about obesity being as dangerous as it says it is and if I’m right about all fat people failing to diet being CE sufferers then CE could be the biggest killer in the UK before long, costing the NHS however many billions every year. I say protect yourself now! Be a safety girl, like me…


Protect your vitals!

I have to go and let the hens out and feed them. I don’t think they have any food related issues or self-esteem problems. They eat dead mice. They ate yoghurt off my welly yesterday. Mmmmm….

In which I discuss ways in which I overeat

So – week one!

Mostly I would describe my overeating as just eating too much or not being able to stop. Nothing too emotional or euphemistic, am just a piglet and eat too much.

Ways in which I over eat include…

When I’m bored at work (in the pub) I eat peanuts and crisps. Sometimes I take things such as fruit with me to eat which may or may not temporarily distract me from the Kettle Chips. Most nights , when it’s not busy, I literally feel unable to think of anything else to fill my time.

To avoid wasting things. Brung up poor, I suppose. It’s been better since we’ve got hens (who go hyperbolic with excitement about scraps) but I still cook too much for one plateful, look at the leftovers and think ‘meh, not enough to put in a tupperware and save. I’ll eat it now’.

If it’s there and it tastes nice I will either keep coming back and picking or just plain eat a massive helping and wipe myself out.

Out of habit, all the time. If I’m at a train station I feel compelled to buy something to eat, even if I brought something with me, even if I’m not hungry, because I always buy something at the train station. And I can’t have something savoury without following it with something sweet. Or a cup of tea without a biscuit… The list is endless.

I do things like have chocolate for breakfast because I have this idea that I’m totally, like, relaxed about food and not uptight at all, so hell, I’m the kind of person who can eat chocolate hobnobs for breakfast because I’m so quirky and non-chalant and not even make a thing about it. Look how chillaxed I am I just ate mayonnaise out the jar for breakfast. Bah.

I eat leftovers. Like the poker boys’ pizza’s in the pub – it’s ok because I didn’t buy it – they offered me their dregs! Who am I become?

Neil always encourages me to have seconds. I know it’s not his fault, I could say no, but darn it… It was a good meal…

I get this feeling of panic and unending bleakness if I think of trying to give up sugar so I throw myself into a flap and eat a whole packet of biscuits. I actually feel frightened of the prospect of giving up things.

I pre-plan eating so that if I need to go out I eat early (in case I go to a place where no food exists and I will be stranded for days without sustenance) or make a lunch to take. Often this seems to result in multiple eating events as even if I’ve packed a lunch I always seems to eat before lunch and then I’m hungry again… This might be related to being skint and not wanting to buy stuff but I have an irrational fear of going hungry – of course it’s irrational, look at me, I’d be fine for at least a month without so much as a oatcake. I’ve tried that, just taking oatcakes to sustain me in the long hours but I can’t stick to it.

Lot’s of my eating events seem to me to happen just because I can’t imagine another scenario. Whenever someone offers me a biscuit I say yes because why would I ever say no? When would I ever not want a biscuit? I’m like a Pavlov dog – all mention of cake/biscuit/chocolate gets a ‘yes’ response. I might even sit up on my hind legs and beg.

I’ve have been overeating since…

Hummm…. I don’t know.  I was a fat child. I’ve always been a bit chubby. I remember at primary school I hated gym because we had to get changed in front of each other and I was embarrassed about my belly. My mum tells me that I was upset because other kids teased me about my fat belly. Very vividly, I remember queueing up for lunch one day, selecting whatever paltry offerings there were and getting to the pudding section only to be told by the dinner lady, in front of everyone, that my mum says I wasn’t allowed to have cake, I had to have fruit. On later discussion, literally in the last couple of years when it was brought up for the first time, it turned out that my mum had told the dinner lady that I was to be encouraged to have fruit as it was the only vegetable matter they served that wasn’t boiled to death. Clearly, it sticks in my mind as an early food/shame  incident which makes me suspect I was overeating even then.

I was conscious of overeating at secondary school and persuaded my mum to take me to a nutritionist who patronised the hell out of me and told me I should only eat one banana a day. As I was so shy about it the staff concluded that my mum was a pushy mother trying to foist a slimming regime on her chunky child.

Since then, I have always overeaten to some extent or another.

I started overeating because…

Food tasted good? I don’t think it was anything more sinister than that. But I’ll think on it and try to come up with something a little more newsworthy.

When I think about overeating I feel…

Annoyed. Frustrated. How can someone who has more (just) than two brain cells to rub together be so entirely unable to control something as simple as what she puts in her mouth? I feel jealous of all those people who just don’t give it a second thought and disgusted with myself and my continual failures. And part of my thinks I would rather learn to want to want to be the way I am and stay fat rather than continually beat myself up about it. After all there isn’t actually anything wrong with me – I’m perfectly healthy.

Dammit. I’m hungry now. Avocado with tomato and home made mayonnaise….

All things eggs

Today I have eaten:

Half an avacado.

Two pieces of toast.

Another avocado half with home made mayo and half a tomato

One cup of tea

One home made not quite cooked meringue

Probably about a pound of home made mayo as I was making it, beating the hell out of it and tasting it

Two oatcakes with stilton, tomato and you guessed it half a pound of home made mayonnaise

Half a papaya

That’s it so far

Yesterday I mostly ate home made chocolate brownie

And then we went to James and Lillith’s where we ate a massive roast – he made the chicken, Neil and I made veg and puds. Altogether we had..

Quails eggs to start with Lillith’s special sauce

Roast chicken with orange stuffing (so so very good)

Roast potatoes

Melanzane (griddled aubergine baked with tomatoe sauce and lashings of parmesan)

Creamy baked leeks

Steamed broccoli

followed by

MORE HOME MADE BROWNIE with fresh home made custard.

This week I have mostly been eating eggs

Home made mayo

2 yolks

1 tsp french mustard

1 garlic clove finely chopped

12 fl oz vegetable oil (or olive and veg oil – Neil doesn’t like olive oil much but it’s better for you, innit)

Some amount of lemon juice

Beat the mustard into the yolks. Add oil drop by drop, beating the hell out of it each time. As it starts to get thick, add the oil in a thin stream and then beat in garlic for flavour and lemon juice to thin if you’d like. Rest your poor, tired arms. Eat. With everything. Yum.


Beat 3 egg yolks with 1 cap ful of real vanilla essence and about 1 tbslspnstl of golden caster sugar. Add one pot of cream and enough full fat milk to make a pint-ish, maybe a bit less. Heat gently, whisking like a crazy woman and as it hits simmering point it should thicken enough to be more like custard and less like a pan of hot milk. Eat, with everything. Preferably share with friends. Or eat it all on your own and don’t tell anyone…


However many egg whites

2 oz caster sugar for each white.

Beat the egg whites until seriously stiff, add sugar spoonful by spoonful, beating between each one. Pile onto tray, put in oven at 100 degrees, cook for twenty minutes and then turn the oven off and leave them to dry out. Pile with whipped cream and sliced fruit (my choice was papaya this week) ring friends to come and help you devour them.


Yesterday I was mainly eating…

But first the day before – perhaps this is better – just keep track and forget posting every day – never going to happen. A learning experience, oh yes.

A spoonful of banoffee pie.

Another spoonful of banoffee pie (I don’t know why we’re so biased against cream and caramel first thing in the morning – I find it an excellent choice for breakfast stuff)

Risotto cakes made from left over risotto (mmm – and book about the slave trade in the background – tasty)

Tasty risotto cakes


Probably some biscuits but I forget

One vodka and orange

Dinner at Neil’s mum’s – one slice black pudding, one slice white pudding, half a lorne sausage, one normal sausage, chips, many cherry tomatoes (in vain attempt to undo all lorry driver feeling – whereas banoffee pie for breakfast seems ok, especially if homemade, somehow my brain cannot compute many meat-based things accompanied only by chips without feeling like I have turned into a man called Barry who has a lorry called Wanda and eats 2 hamburgers for breakfast- Neil’s mum provides vegetables just for me)

I suspect more banoffee pie but didn’t write it in ma book

And the next day….

Two slices of wholemeal toast with butter and marmite/honey

TOAST (note frost bitten nose)

A giant Chinese eat more than you should sensibly eat in a day buffet – mostly spicy mushrooms because I love them, but also vegetablenoodlesprawntoastspringrollsandterribleguilty



Chai and shortbread (many – 6?) while watching the Matrix (on VHS!) so possibly burned off fat with quasi-Christian shoot em up adrenaline? I even watched the informative ‘how we made the spinny round, slow bullet, trippy bit’ that was an ‘extra’ (on VHS!) plus an advert for DVDs – what they are and just how unimaginably great they’ll be!

Salad consisting of courgette, yellow pepper, tomato, toasted pine nuts and thinly sliced leeks with olive oil, lemon and balsamic vinegar

Two wholemeal crackers

Half a cream cracker – I lost the other half in the sofa.

Pickled baby beetroot and a small piece of cheese (am I pregnant?)