This won’t come as any real surprise given my posts to date but I simply ADORE food. I’m pointing this out LOUD and CLEAR as it would be so very wrong – if not rude – to continue working my way through the IQSP (I Quit Sugar Program) without, at some point, focusing on the actual FOOD itself. After all, I’ve been living and breathing FOOD for coming up to 5 weeks now – from preparation to plate – so lets walk away from the commotion, just for a while, have fun and some laughter, forget the bad and focus on the good … let me invite you all over… come sit at my table and share!
You will (I hope) have seen a number of the meals I’ve managed to plate up so far, through photos posted either on here my blog or Instagram but there’s so much more I’d like to share about them, as photo’s don’t really do them justice. Hopefully this can be done without boring the pants of you all by going into the detail of every damn recipe! – you have the IQSP to thank for sparing you from this, as they’ve made the majority of recipes for the program available through their website, although for those lucky few of us that signed up to the program, there are a number of “new” and “exclusive” recipes which are protected – but hey! – there has to be some exclusivity for joining the Program, right!
Anyway, now that that you’ve all arrived and have settled yourselves at my table, the first question I’d like to ask you is… “Are you a sweet or savoury person?”
Unfortunately for you, this is NOT to determine what I could serve up… but to try and help answer a basic question of… “Why do people have different taste preferences?” or more relevantly… “Why does the IQSP look to recalibrate our tastes in weeks 1-4 of the program?” Hopefully the answer to this question may just help us to understand the process and the ability for someone (like you and me) to take it in and run with it! – meaning less of the “blindly following” or “herding like a sheep”
So, let’s consider the basics of the primary sense associated with food, “TASTE” which, after diving into a mine of research and information (not much sparkle… but plenty of coal, so we’ll be keeping warm at least!) I’ve managed to pick out a few diamonds to discuss at the table. To start with, it turns out that “Taste” is the result of receptors in our taste buds sending sensory information to our brain and whilst everyone’s taste buds are similar; they are NOT the same – hardly rocket science, I know!
Next, I found a real gem, our sense of “taste” is actually developed from our initial exposure to flavours in the womb and that these stay with us after birth, resulting in very sensitive taste buds for sweet, salty, sour or bitterness… and although our taste bud receptors are DNA encoded, any subsequent food experiences and associations develop “new” neural connections in our brain! Think of the associations you may have had in childhood, say between “love” and “sweets”… which, of course, resulted in us favouring sweet flavours. On the opposite side, a negative sensation or reaction associated with food – I apologise for discussing this at the table – results in us feeling nausea / sick, such that we develop a repulsive reaction to certain foods… the “sauce béarnaise phenomenon” as it’s called – anyone who knew that syndrome gets 10 bonus points! and what’s wrong with “béarnaise sauce” anyway… I love it!
Moving swiftly on from nausea… to sex (because no chat around a table would be complete without this topic!) it appears that men and women have big differences when it comes to taste too – shocking I know… but then, we do come from different planets! Less shocking though is that women tend to describe a stronger love for sweets and chocolate than men do (Amen to that sister!) and when you throw our hormones into the mix, even our taste buds join in and get more sensitive at different points of our menstrual cycle.
And finally! Going back to the association I mentioned earlier between “love” and “sweets” – on a side note, a massive THANK YOU goes out to my parents here for all those sweets – it’s now been proved “scientifically” that they tasted better back then… because by the time we reach 20, yes that’s only 20!! our taste bud receptors have physically decreased by half… and continue to decline, until we die! Which, I have to say – as a true lover of FOOD – has to be one of the most downright sad and cruel things I’ve ever read because, if my sense of taste is diminishing… I’m worried that this means my interest in food and appetite will too?!!!
So, having dug out this information about “taste” and with it safely tucked into our coal sacks, it’s time to go after some sparkle! … and while we’re at it let’s throw our senses of “smell” and “touch” into the mix. After all, we have five senses, so why limit ourselves to one! – sensible I’d say given that our taste bud receptors abilities are diminishing…
To get the search for sparkle underway and to really start “messing with” our senses of taste, smell and texture… we could decide to quit sugar. Why? … because sugar not only dulls our sensitivity to sweetness but boosts our subconscious need for sweet foods. Even a small amount of sweetness changes our perception of taste, with frequent consumption causing our taste buds to become more and more acclimatized to the taste and it dulls the affect more and more. Those “treats” become less of a reward and lead us to crave more sweet foods and drinks. It may seem a good idea to recalibrate then, to bring ourselves back to “set point” – back to where we started in all of this before we decided to keep adding more and more sugar to our diet! Now hold-on there!, I’m not suggesting that you go to the extreme and extract your “sweet tooth” fully, whole fruit and desserts are definitely still on the menu! When we talk about quitting sugar, it’s all about eliminating refined sugar and reducing fructose from our meals…trust me in a matter of a few weeks food/drink will taste sweeter anyway.
Speaking of meals, that reminds me… I owe you all that meal I promised right at the start… and a meal is all about ingredients and preparation …
Ingredients… we owe it to ourselves to ensure that our ingredients are REAL, by which I mean, they are NOT over processed, they DON’T come with a “fortified with vitamins or minerals” label, NO fats or natural sugars have been reduced, lowered or taken out and it will not have been stored in cupboards for months on end, with a “use by date” in the next millennium! In fact, these REAL ingredients we could eat raw, HELL! some of them could’ve been in the ground a few days ago – put those wellies away!, there’ll be no need for us to head out and dig them up! … but it does mean that our fridge “turnover” will be high… The IQSP promotes this in saying that we need to “start eating whole, un-mucked with foods, just like our grandparents did” and that when we quit sugar, we quit processed food. We “cut out the crap and get real”
In a nutshell, we need to JERF – “Just Eat Real Food”… and you’re all invited!
Preparation… it’s all about quick and simple because “real food” made with healthy, high quality ingredients at their peak doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be!) mucked about with! The way I think about it is that – cooking CANNOT improve poor-quality ingredients but it CAN enhance the flavours of high-quality ingredients. Now remember, we’re aiming to cook something that appeals to ALL our senses… think flavour, colour, smells, texture etc. whilst retaining as many nutrients from each ingredient as possible.
After following a number of recipes from the IQSP now, there appears to be a few, simple techniques for cooking that I’ll share here. For meat, poultry and fish… they typically suggest it be cooked on high-heat, pan-seared, grilled or broiled in order to intensify flavours (brown the meat to add flavour) – having said that, a slow cooker comes in handy for lamb/pork – there’s always an exception to every rule after all! Veggies follow a similar path, being typically cooked on a high-heat, pan-seared, grilled or roasted… sometimes marinated with oils and/or herbs but they always retain their amazing color and texture! .. recipes are sweetened with sweet vegetables (like sweet potato or pumpkin), coconut products, nuts and whole fruit … we caramelize onions taking full advantage of their natural sugars, pep-it-up with peppers and tantalise with tangy citrus juice and zest… flavour “explosions” come in the form of adding small amounts of big, bold flavours from herbs, spices, mustards and good old Vegemite! – The IQSP is Australia based after all!!
Hopefully your mouth began watering just a little after reading these last 2 paragraphs… I know mine was! .. driven by an active imagination, a love of food and inspired by the attack to my senses that the IQSP has provided, I now have the REAL ingredients and preparation skills to plate up that meal I promised …
Remember this though… everybody’s tastes and therefore their “favourites” are going to be different. Consider all those differentials… our DNA, the amount of taste bud receptors we have, our individual food experiences, associations and neural connections, it’s hardly that surprising that the same meal will taste different from one person to the next! Which explains why there is a lack of personal opinion on recipes within this blog! but seriously, I’m hoping that you’re starting to see that there are underlying principals and techniques that can be used to create a foundation, which can then be applied to the abundance of available recipes out there… for us to “pimp” up to our particular tastes.
So, with that said, I’d like to thank you so much for coming by and joining me at the table and listening to my thoughts and suggestions, which – just like meals – I believe are always best shared. My mother always taught me its “good to share” and anything as good as the FOOD we’re delivering on the IQSP should be shared and particularly with those we love – besides we all need to keep “cupboard love” alive!
Oh yeah and just one more thought! If you do decide or need to “take-out” or “eat-out” always remember that “We’re JERFING because we’re worth it”. By which I mean, we don’t need to compromise that much. With a little planning and getting to know the local take-away, restaurant etc. and being positive (i.e. not having to apologize for our choices), we can extend and continue to “celebrate” our lifestyle choice beyond the four walls of our home – besides it also gives us an awesome excuse to be “wined and dined” (yes… red wine is allowed on the program) … and I will, no doubt, look forward to telling you all about those experiences in the future!
Bur for now how do you want to tantalise those taste buds of yours? …..
Photography by S A Hopkins: June-July 2016
Feature Image: S A Hopkins: July 2016: inspired by Amber Locke’s Fruit and Vegetable Art