The Fife Diet blog saga: Day 1

We’re continuing with our daily journal entries from Fife Diet Week. Paul subverts the dominant paradigm! Hugh eats offal! All this and more herein!

p. Don’t forget that the concluding episode will be released on Monday (the 22nd), not Wednesday, this week.

h1. Day 1 (30th March)

h2(#day1-paul0). Paul: You can’t park that ‘ere, mate. On the train over to Fife on Friday, we encountered the first–but, I suspect, by no means the last–infestation of mindless jobsworth officialdom to plague Three Guys Argue A Lot About Cookery (title subject to change).

p. We were filming ourselves sitting at a table talking about the Fife Diet while Fife itself rolled into view beyond the window. Because we are Professional Televison People, the camera was balanced precariously on top of the bike rack across the aisle. And every time one of us tried to say anything, the bloody recorded woman decided to announce again that the next stop was Inverkeithing, as indeed it had been for the last twenty minutes.

INT. TRAIN CARRIAGE. DAY > > p. Our Heroes are sat around a table, talking about the Fife Diet. Enter stage right THE TICKET INSPECTOR. > > p. THE TICKET INSPECTOR You can't film in 'ere, mate. > > p. OUR HEROES Why not? > > p. _Beat._ > > p. TICKET INSPECTOR Because... there are people walkin' past. > > p. OUR HEROES Okay. > > p. Exit THE TICKET INSPECTOR, satisfied. HOLD on OUR HEROES as the CAMERA continues rolling uninterrupted.

p{font-size: smaller}. (TELEVISION SCRIPTS always have some of the WORDS in CAPITALS, usually PROPER NOUNS but also sometimes VERBS. This is because it helps DIRECTORS to CONCENTRATE after they’ve DONE all of that COKE.)

p. The mind of the bureaucrat is a simple one to understand, if not always this simple to subvert. “You can’t do that” invariably translates as “you are doing something slightly different, therefore Strange and Frightening to me, and you must be destroyed”.

p. ~

p. Most of the discussion on the Fife Diet has been going on over at Hugh’s LiveJournal. This is because he has a vastly greater number of friends than I do, and as such is a comment on the quantity, not necessarily the quality, of such friends–although it wouldn’t hurt if you buggers commented every once in a while. You know who you are.

p. Most of the commentary seems to be along the lines of:

"_But why are you doing this?_" "_But you don't live in Fife._" "_But that's not what the Fife Diet is about._" "_You should be doing something completely different, or better still, nothing at all!_"

p. Forturnately, the response to all of these queries is the same one:

p{font-size: large; text-align: center}. SHUT UP!

p. I am doing this for Science and, as already discussed, for you, the entertained viewer. As a result I am already looking forward to ten more swede meals before Saturday. The last thing I need is an existential crisis on top of my critically low blood sugar levels.

p. The only way to explore a concept is to push at its boundaries. The most popular, highly-publicized and critically-acclaimed experiment in local sourcing is The Fife Diet, so we decided to investigate it and use it as a stepping stone to explore the wider concepts of food miles and local sourcing. Thus, we’ve taken a strict interpretation of the Fife Diet in order to see just what, exactly, “local produce” actually means.

p. To take an early example: followers of the Fife Diet as set out in their press releases are allowed bread, for instance, as long as they make it themselves. We found out on Day -1 that the flour may be local, but the wheat that makes the flour is from Canada. This raises serious questions about what constitutes “local”, what we’re all going to have to learn to deal with when the oil runs out, and–perhaps most important of all–how much hypocrisy we’re all willing to put up with from hippies.

p. We could, theoretically, invent our own diet and call it the Edinburgh Diet and test that, but that wouldn’t prove anything about the Fife Diet. Doing so would be irrelevant and pointless. Doing this instead has the potential to enlighten, and to inform and entertain. And I’m getting to eat vegetables, which may or may not be a good thing.

p. When the entertained viewer gives every impression of merely being a playa-hater or, worse, a bureaucrat, then I start considering quitting my diet. If I quit it now, then I’ve spent eighty quid, pissed off my managers, and eaten leaves, and none of us will have learned anything as a result.

p. (Although I have learned what happens if you make porridge with the wrong kind of oatmeal.)

h2(#day1-hugh). Hugh: The Fife Diet, Day 2, with recipes. Well, I’m not dead yet. And the Fife Diet is proving a fruitful (not literally) source of conversational topics–half of my conversations yesterday at Morag’s party started with some variant on

"Would you like to try X?" "No, sorry, I can't." "Why not?" "It's not from Fife." "…What?"

p. It is becoming apparent that the Fife Diet forces your household organisational skills back to an earlier era. I very nearly ended up drinking water at the party because I hadn’t run out to get Fraoch, the Fife beer that’s only sold in about a dozen places in the city. My potato supplies are dwindling rapidly, down 10 of the 24 already, and again, I can’t just nip out to the Co-op to get more. A whole bunch of modern conveniences are denied to the Fife Dieter–you can’t grab a sandwich or a chocolate bar on the run, you can’t just order in a takeaway if you’re too busy or lazy to cook, and any deviation from your planned weekly menu requires a major shopping expedition somewhere in working hours, because there are a lot fewer places selling the things you need and they mostly shut at 6, not 10.

p. This is going to be a significant challenge, and so far I think is one of the things that most puts me off the idea of a similar diet on a long-term basis. Well, that and the “no rice” issue.

p. Yes, rice. It’s funny what you miss. I’d have expected to miss coffee, but I think that has assumed the state of a luxury for me anyway. But I’m starting to realise that the absence of tea and rice are really going to piss me off.

p. On the upside, the diet’s doing exactly what I hoped it would do, which is forcing me to eat new and interesting foods. I’m really becoming quite fond of oatcakes, and suspect that I’ll continue eating them after the diet is over–particularly because I believe they keep for about forever, which is something that bread certainly doesn’t. I’m still very impressed with my soup, too, which I’ll be having for lunch again in a couple of hours. And…

### Venison Heart Hash(ish) > > p. Is not, in fact, Venison with locally-sourced, organic weed (although I'm absolutely bloody sure we could acquire such if we wanted to), but a rather nice melange I had for tea yesterday. > > p. Boil chopped potatoes and carrots. Meanwhile, slice sprouts finely, and slice venison heart even more finely. > > p. When the taters and carrots are done, remove them from the heat. Fry sprouts (with no fat, natch--hope you've got a non-stick pan) until reasonably done, then add the taters and carrots back in, and roughly fry for a minute or so. Remove all the veg from the heat, turn the heat up, and fry the venison heart very, very hot for about a minute until browned on all sides. Mix the venison heart in with the veg, generously season with salt and pepper, and serve.

p. Venison heart, it turns out, is lovely–with a very smooth, muscular texture a bit like good squid, and a very strong, meaty taste half-way between venison and a liver taste. I realise that may be some people’s nightmare meat, but I liked it.

h2(#day1-paul1). Paul: The Fife Diet: Day 1: smaller}. (NB: I index from zero)

p. I’ve been thinking about my five-a-day. “Five portions of fruit and vegetables” they tell you, but they never tell you what a portion is. Just considering fruit alone, which has a tendency to come in handy carrying-sized portions due to the miracle of Nature, we’ve got grapes and we’ve got pineapples. Which one is a portion? How many strawberries equal a melon? We don’t know and the dieticians aren’t telling us. I think the Government is covering something up.

p. I say that we’ve got grapes and pineapples, but naturally I don’t. Fruit in Fife appears to be somewhat limited. They’re very good for raspberries, but I only bought one box because a) I’m a moron and b) I don’t actually like raspberries very much. I like raspberry flavour in Angel Delight or Ice Pops. The fruit itself is somehow fundamentally other, with an unpleasant texture that squeaks against the teeth.

p. I know you can get apples in Fife–my boss lives there and we often have windfalls from his garden to give to guests–but I don’t have any.

p. Also, my raspberries defrosted on the way home and leaked juice everywhere, so now I have raspberry-flavoured oatcakes and a lot of paper bags with structural integrity that is dubious at best. Raspberries, it would seem, don’t like me much either.

p. Nonetheless I’ve been a little worried about my sugar intake–and I’ve had a three-day headache to bear me out–so it was time for some fruit at breakfast.

### Porridge > > 1. Put water into oatmeal. > 2. Make porridge with it. > 3. Porridge on its own is pathetic. Add something to it, anything, whatever you've got. >

p. I soaked the oats overnight, which is supposed to make them cook more quickly. It didn’t work. I was using pinhead oatmeal, which some people apparently like, but it makes a chunky, fibrous sort of porridge that never really stops just being solid oat bits in water. I cooked the crap out of it, eventually gave up hope of it ever turning into actual porridge, and ate it.

p. I think I expended more energy chewing it than I gained from the carbohydrate content. The raspberries and their associated juice added some colour, but even that was really offputting to anyone who’s seen The Golden Child.

p. Total time elapsed from getting up to finishing breakfast: an hour and a half. Good job I work nights.

p. Lunch was more promising. I made a soup. I’ve made soups before, but only from recipes which I’ve then instantly forgotten. This time I was guided by the lovely Jehane, who was taught the esoteric art by her grandmother. It turns out that making soup is absolutely piss-easy and I have no idea why I don’t do it more often

### Random soup > > 1. Get two rashers of bacon, diced fine, and heat them in a pan[0] until they start releasing fats. > 2. Add some stuff to the pan. In my case this was a carrot, a parsnip, and a hefty chunk of swede, all diced up. > 3. Sweat the vegetables. "_Sweat_" is pretentious cookery-speak for "_heat them slowly until they look a bit damp on the outside_". > 4. Add some stock from last night's roast, a smidgeon of jellied venison stock for luck, and water. > 5. Simmer with the lid on[1] for half an hour or so. "_Simmer_" is pretentious cookery-speak for "_keep it bubbling, but not too much. Not that much. That's too much, turn it down. More. There._" > 6. Use a blender to reduce the result to a nutritious mush. >

p. So nutritious was the resultant mush that it solidified in the jug before I could eat it. I had to add as much water as there was soup before I could get a spoon in. There wasn’t enough meat in it, so I added some diced pork as croutons. It was marvellous and I went back for seconds. This is a dish consisting almost entirely of Things I Don’t Eat.

p. Dinner was leftovers from last night’s roast pork and vegetable medley, although I had spinach this time instead of kale. I will eat spinach, but usually this is for definitions of “eat” that include “pick at it a bit so it looks like I’m eating the green stuff”. This spinach was meaty and tender and delicious–slightly bitter, but that’s probably because I’d overcooked it. I overcooked everything else as well, because I wasn’t paying attention, but still the pork was fantastically juicy and flavoursome, and the vegetables were tasty in a way that actually made them taste of food rather than that stupid crap your grandmother made you eat.

p. I think I am actually getting something close to this nebulous five-a-day, and for the first time in my life. Admittedly it’s mostly from root vegetables, but I think that’s to be expected on the Fife Diet.

p. I’ve just drunk two litres of water and I’m not entirely sure why.

p{font-size: smaller}. –

[0] My Trusted Co-presenters have apparently been having some problems with the lack of cooking fat and its implications for getting bacon back out of the pan. Not so for me: I have plenty of dripping from last night’s pork roast. The tiniest smear on the surface of the pan, dotted on with a fingertip, was sufficient.

[1] Keeping the lid on also saves energy and helps reduce your carbon footprint.