Sunday, 22 August 2010

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

One of the things that makes rationing easier (or even easy) for me is that I only eat one meal a day.

Yes, I know this is probably a huge dietary nightmare, but I've never eaten breakfast - I can't stand the thought of food first thing in the morning - and I gave up lunch, without missing it, when my thyroid died. One of the side effects of having no thyroid is the body's ability to turn any food eaten straight into fat deposits. If I ate two meals a day, I'd be gargantuan - and I was until I gave up on lunch.

This of course means that my main meals can be a bit more generous with rationed items, as they don't need to be spread over 3 meals in a day. But I'm having to reassess this policy when it comes to CJBS. His doctor is worried about Type II diabetes, and although the diet sheet he filled out for them was so good that they didn't believe it was true, they've spotted a change that must be made. He must always have breakfast and lunch.

The breakfast is easy. Porridge oats with semi-skim milk and cinnamon doesn't impact on rations. But providing a fat free, carbohydrate rich lunch is very difficult, especially when his shift work sees him rising at 4am one week, 8am the next and noon on the third. To cap that, it needs to fit in with rationing.

He came back from the unholy GP-dietician-nurse trinity clutching a big pile of leaflets, booklets and novellas given to him to help him plan a new diet. And here's where I fall out with the NHS that I otherwise love to bits.

What I need is a simple guide to what food need to go into him when. The NHS, however, has taken a more Big Brother approach. They don't supply that information. Instead, they've merged the diabetic advice with their "Healthy Eating Agenda". That would be fine, but this bit of meddlesomeness, which has included television, radio and press advertising along with leaflets through the door in an orgy of spending over the last 5 years, treats the recipient of the advice like a lard-arsed idiot.

I search in vain for a simple guide. Instead, the advice attempts to browbeat me into ceasing to be a pig. Stop eating so much chips! Eat less pies! Put down that cheeseburger, fatty! Where do you think you're going with that cake, lardo? Can you still fit through the door of Greggs, chubbs? The problem here is that CJBS, and me for that matter, would kill for chips, pies, burgers and cake. We almost never have them. The advice sheets, however, are designed to get you to reduce having them. So if I actually followed them, CJBS would be getting chips two or three times a week - a great reduction from the 7-days-a-week the leaflet assumes that diabetic Northerners are cramming down them, but a 1200% increase on what he currently gets. The same with the pies and the burgers. And as for cake, well, CJBS loves cake but I prefer to use the egg rations on something I can make that won't be be both burnt and undercooked at the same time and might possibly rise without spilling over the edges of the tin, if at all. The leaflets are throwing cake at him compared to the current level of "never".

I've therefore effectively got to guess what I should be feeding him and when. With official advice recommending that he eats vastly more fat and sugar to cut down on fat and sugar and with their idea of stopping the snacking he doesn't do by feeding his face with biscuits - biscuits! - at every opportunity, the NHS's help has been no help at all.

One thing I can do is go by instinct and by what Nella Last was making for her boorish husband during the second war. If you've never read Nella Last's War (now usually sold under the name of the TV drama it became, "Housewife, 49") then buy a copy now. Nella was a fascinating lady who took to World War II as something of a release from her dull, depression-ravaged existence until then. Tucked away in its pages are examples of how she eked out the rations to make wonderful lunches and dinners, all the time hiding from her husband that she was scraping by (like many men of the time, he both had no clue whatsoever of how shopping and cooking under rations worked and also sought to direct her shopping and cooking because he was A Man).

From her, and her kitchen garden, I see that she did a lot with roast vegetables, served hot, warm and cold. Small amounts of meat and fish could be made to go further by mixing them into the roast tomatoes and celery and other such things. The husband never noticed that he was basically eating lots of veg and pasta and very little meat. She was also very good at making stuff in a batch at the start of the week and creating smaller lunches from it over the next few days.

If she could do that, then, with my fridge and deep freeze, both things she never owned, I could do a lot more. So I've been making cold pasta salad and a version of potato bravas, locking them in tupperware and decanting a bowlful, complete with the fabrication of choice, whenever CJBS declares that it's lunchtime in his body clock zone. The pasta salad is easy: roast mixed seasonal vegetables in a medium oven for under an hour with a sprinkling of herbs, garlic and Maggi. Boil some wholewheat pasta, drain, stir the veg through the pasta and refrigerate. Make it something new with diced spam or tinned fish to keep it fresh-feeling. It keeps for about a week in the fridge.

The potato bravas is nothing like the real version. Boil new potatoes in stock. Chop an onion and some pepper. Fry those off in a tiny bit of butter or oil. Add passata, chopped tomatoes or tinned tomatoes depending on availability and points (passata is best), bring to the boil and then simmer until reduced by about 10%. Add the potatoes to the tomato mixture (or, if you've got the fat, fry off the cooked potatoes in a little butter, allow to cool and then add them) and store in the fridge. Again, it keeps about a week.

By alternating between the two and supplying bread on the side, I'm keeping up his carbs, keeping down his fat intake and not particularly bumping up my workload. He'll be sick of both after a month, I'd imagine, but until then I've think I've beaten the system. And beaten the NHS at its own game.


peezedtee said...

I am also on the NHS diabetic list, and once they've got you they never let you go. CJBS will find himself endlessly summoned for blood tests, urine tests, eye tests, unwanted sessions with the chiropody lady, etc. However, they have never given me a diet leaflet. They said the idea of a special diabetic diet is outmoded - just eat regularly and sensibly as if you were trying to lose weight. Choose foods with low glycaemic index, have slow-burning carbs not refined ones, avoid anything with extra sugar (obviously), beware of fat content. I was already doing all these things anyway.

Michelle said... the U.S. a menu low in carbs (even unrefined carbs like whole wheat and potatoes) and high in lean protein is supported as a good anti-diabetic diet. It sounds like things are reversed as compared to the approach in your NHS pamphlet.

Tanya Jones said...

eOh dear, Michelle, that doesn't inspire confidence either way, does it? It sounds like the NHS are so used to dealing with people who don't know how to eat properly, that they aren't able to give advice when the diet just needs tweaking a bit.

Saying that, when you've got kidney failure, their resources are pretty good, as they're desperately trying to keep you alive. My mum got looked after pretty well, and was able to have 8 years of decent life quality before the combination of type I diabetes and kidney failure did her in.