Food Article Winning Entry

CAVEMAN LIVES by Jeff Glazier

This is the first time that I’ve written about a recipe book, and I have very good reason to do so. I’m a food writer/ critic – have been for thirty-two years and seriously considering retiring from the business, my health is none too good. After having trained as a chef I worked in top Johannesburg restaurants, really in menial capacities. I soon found out that I couldn’t stand the heat, so I got out of the kitchen. I retreated to my other interest – that of writing about my interest.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know the job, I think that I’ve proved that I know what good food is all about, my journalistic skills were better than my kitchen skills it seemed. I’ve made a living writing articles for newspapers and glossy magazines – the glossier the better. I’ve also put meaningful blurb on restaurant advertising and menus extolling their virtues. But the best part of the job was to visit some exquisite establishments and be invited to sample their wares. It was always the aim of the owners of restaurants with Michelin stars that they would see more. I’ve travelled far and wide, the consequence being that so has my waist line. Occupational hazard you might say.

Three months ago I visited my doctor with a collection of ailments. My doctor is a lean and hungry looking man. That worries me. But his diagnosis worried me more. In his opinion I was forty kg overweight. ‘Hardly a diagnosis.’ I told him – it was plainly obvious. The severe pain in my left foot he suggested was gout. But in all seriousness he told me that I was deep in the throes of diabetes. It had been left unchecked for quite some time, he informed me with all the dire consequence of some stern headmaster who was about to expel me.

But he had a good friend who could help me. His friend, Tim Noakes, had recently collaborated with two well-known chefs and a dietician to produce a recipe book called The Real Meal Revolution, with its boast – ‘changing the world, one meal at a time.’ Of course I’d heard about the book but I’ve always shied away from mass media hype, I’ve only ever been interested in individual flair. But I recalled Tim Noakes, he exposed the sports drinks scam many years ago. Now he was exposing a massive food scam, if you believed it all, the whole face of farming was going to have to change.

I took my doctor’s advice and bought the recipe book, along with many other people it seemed, as I had difficulty in acquiring one. I gave myself some time off. I had been grooming a young man to eat on my behalf; we seemed to share the same taste buds. Then I set about trying to feed my way out of my condition. I had full support from my wife. She was also in need of losing a little around the hips, but who was I to point that out?

The recipes fly in the face of most diets. Basically remove all carbohydrates. Carbohydrates elicit an insulin response. Insulin is both an inflammatory and fat-storing hormone. We should keep this as low as possible using the barest minimum to remove glucose from our bloodstream to turn it into energy. This is stored in fat. Now, not having to flee woolly mammoths, we seldom use stored fat and continue to eat so much in the way of carbohydrates that stored fat is never called upon – in fact all we do is add to it.

This meant that even beer was out. This was a great loss to me as I always regarded it as a fine aperitif and I was hugely in support of all the microbreweries springing up at the moment. I was able to console myself with very dry red wine.

High fat, that was the order. Each recipe revolves around butter, cream, oils and high fat yogurt, all the things we were previously told would kill us. But for a week I followed in the large footsteps of William Banting. I followed each recipe carefully. The book itself is delightful. Each dish well photographed. The uses of herbs and spices are inventive. One problem I found was that it’s hard to find a substitute for potatoes – they are out. Cauliflower mash becomes a substitute.

On Monday we dined on slow-roasted pork belly with Asian basting and a selection of roasted vegetables in olive oil. On Tuesday baked line fish with bacon and tomato. It seemed to require an unreasonable amount of cream, but particularly good. On Wednesday we were treated to Chicken Tikka Masala with extra-thick yoghurt and accompanied by wilted onion and walnut spinach . . . and so the week went on. The most interesting feeling that I experienced was that I had lost a craving to eat (mainly caused by carbs apparently). At the end of that week, with a foot free of pain, I dared the scales. They would not lie to me – I had lost half a kg. The following week the same result. And all with absolutely no effort. I have always despised unnecessary exercise, the pulling back of a chair at a table was as far as I would ever go.

The régime continued. One month later I returned for a checkup. Not only was I without any pain, I had lost ten kilograms. And my lean friend, after a simple test, assured me that my diabetes was under control, my body was in charge and balanced. Astonishing – but true. But will this revolution sweep the world, and what will be grown on the land that once grew wheat, rice, and potatoes? And will Coca-Cola go out of business? So many questions. But I had an answer to my problems, and now I can now look forward to retirement in good health.