25 Mar 2016

The Past and the Present of Peanut Butter. And a dose of donkiness.

Facebook reminded me of this haiku I posted 6 years ago today. 

peanut butter fudge/ we really don't mind/ if it rains today

I was living in France in 2010 and six months away from starting this blog with stories about family and friends all linked by the theme of food. But the signs were there! 

The recipe was Sophie Dahl's, and it must have been one featured on her TV programme that year, The Delicious Miss Dahl, as it doesn't appear in her book, Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights. A book you can now pick up from 1 penny (plus postage) on Amazon which surprised me as I really loved the TV series and the book is really pretty too, with uncomplicated and inviting recipes. But then I looked at a few of Jamie Oliver's titles and the penny price for used copies applies to them too. And he's as popular as hot salty chips by the seaside. 

And 6 years later I'm back with my spoon in another jar of peanut butter making these cookies as a post run snack for my running friends belonging to Meopham & Malling Ladies Joggers. You can check the recipe here, courtesy of Melissa at My Whole Food Life, and I bet you'll be as surprised as I was at the ingredients: peanut butter, maple syrup and salt. That's it. Really. No flour. No dairy. Which leads me to how I ended up calling one of my friends 'a donk'!

'So gluten free,' one of them said when I explained what was in them.
'Dairy free as well,' I said.
'But how can they be dairy free if they have butter in them?'
And it just slipped out. 'There's no butter in peanut butter, you donk!' 

I guess we've all had moments of donkiness. My greatest was in a creative writing class at the beginning of the 1990s when I first started writing. The tutor returned a story I'd submitted for feedback. 'I'm unsure about the use of the 3rd person,' he said. 'But there are only two people in it,' I said. English grammar classes at my comprehensive school had either overlooked the specifics of verbal conjugation (I write/1st person, you write/2nd person, he or she writes/3rd person) or, more likely, I'd somehow blanked out that particular lesson.

Come to think about it there's an even greater donky moment in my past: in my early twenties I had it in my head that birds mated by the male bird passing the 'seed' from his beak to the beak of the female bird (don't ask...) and I shared this information with my new boyfriend's mates. Donk. Dork. Dunderhead. I'll take them all. I have no idea why I believed that. Though it'll probably come as no surprise to hear that I failed Biology at school.

I did apologise to my friend for calling her a donk.
'Don't worry,' she said. 'It's kind of a nice way of saying 'stupid'.'
Friends are lovely, aren't they? And I offered her a second cookie. (Which are pretty gorgeous, by the way. I cooked mine for a couple of minutes longer than recommended, for extra crunch.)





10 Mar 2016

The Knack of Running and some Snick-Snacks

It's not rocket science. You put on a pair of daps, go outside and run. But then you start reading about gait, cadence, foot-strike, the best shoes for you and you wonder if you're doing it right. (Even though you've been running since you were 4 years old!) But there are a myriad articles about runners' injuries to shins, knees, hips. So you should probably talk to an expert, shouldn't you? And suddenly it becomes rocket science. A different kind of rocket science depending on which expert you talk to. 

I'm sounding a little sour because ever since I took an expert's advice and changed my running shoes a couple of weeks ago I've been tip-toeing around the house like the Sugar Plum Fairy because of a strained Achilles tendon. And over the last year not one expert has ever warned about changing shoes gradually, doing short runs in the new ones before chucking the old ones out. I just put them on, thought, 'ooh comfy', and set off for 10km. 

But ice, ibuprofen and short runs later it's all getting better. And I'm starting to believe there's a lot of pseudo-science around running shoes. A lot of it based on fashionable thought promoted by big sports brands who want your money rather than on proven scientific facts. I'm sure Roger Bannister didn't have his gait checked. And my 'comfy' reaction to shoes seems the best bet in the future, combined with a slow transition, as this article points out.

These are the reasons why I run. (The fitness is a bonus.)


Fields. Lanes. Trees. Big sky. Fresh air. Running is the best head and heart clearer I've ever found. The natural world doesn't do fashion. It doesn't need to.

And talking about fashion, and food: do you remember Leslie and Susannah Kenton's Raw Energy book that first appeared as far back as the 1980s, I think? I bought it but didn't get near to eating the ratio of raw to cooked food they recommended to de-stress, look younger, feel fitter etc etc. But the book remained in my memory for two reasons.

One, a story Susannah Kenton told about how she burnt the skin on her face after she tried to get rid of a big spot by applying fresh garlic and a plaster for a couple of days. I'm guessing she didn't have to leave the house in all that time?

And two, Snick-Snacks. Or at least I think that's what they called them as that's what I wrote in this old recipe book.


But I never ventured as far as 'spirulina (for hunger pangs)'. If you eat one of these you don't get hunger pangs - not with all those figs, dates, nuts and seeds. 



They sound very worthy, I know. All natural and raw ingredients. Full of slow-release energy (good for runners). But they don't taste worthy. They taste like a treat. Even if you're not a big fan of figs and dates. The coconut and vanilla essence have a transforming effect. Sweet and delicious. And not a single fashionable ingredient. Come to think of it, that's probably why I ignored the spirulina in the first place. Enjoy. 


The recipe makes about 16 to 18 little balls - they're miniature cake cases, not cupcake size, in case you're wondering. I usually double up the amounts, make about 32 to 36 and keep them in a sealed container.