Entries in pasta (3)


Lessons from living on $2 a day

This was my seventh year doing Live Below the Line – a fundraising and awareness initiative run by Oaktree Foundation to help end extreme poverty.  You live on (food and drink) $2 a day for a week … the equivalent of the poverty line in developing countries.  Though that includes transport, accommodation … everything ... for those people. 

The challenge never gets easier, but each time I am reminded of important lessons, which is one of the key parts of doing it.  

The first and most obvious is that we have so much more than some people, and you really don’t need as much food as you think you do.  I come from a family who would pile dinner plates high with delicious food and we’d happily devour every last piece of whatever was served  … then maybe a little bit of dessert afterwards.  When you’re faced with a half filled bowl of bad bland pasta, it’s amazing how you can still fill up – and not be wanting more.  Note to self; stop over indulging.  (Have I done this since?  Sort of. I’ve certainly tried.)  

The week of LBL was also a reminder about how much free food we get at work.  Cake for birthdays.  Cheese Platters on Fridays.   With wine.  Catering from clients.  Home made treats from the people who like baking.  There’s always something tasty and free up for offer.  A few people suggested I could just eat the food because I didn’t have to pay for it, but I reminded them that there’s no free food in Cambodia or PNG, so unfortunately I’d need to wait a week to enjoy their to-die-for brownies.

My job is quite social, so I probably took it for granted that so many clients want to meet over a coffee.  In the five days of Live Below the Line I was invited to four coffee meetings.  And a breakfast.  In previous years I’ve met people in cafés and just drank water but sometimes it makes them feel awkward so this year I moved the meetings to another week – or told them what I was doing and we made it an office catch up.  Now I’m back and my barista is loving me again. 

Catching up with friends over dinner is a huge part of my life too.  We love going to our favourite restaurants, enjoying a wine or seven, and swapping stories on what’s happening in our lives.  My gorgeous friend Dani was a trooper, hanging out with me one night when we went to a movie preview, turning down the complimentary wine, popcorn and choc tops to drink water with me.  My stomach grumbled a little, and I went home straight after the movie to ‘enjoy’ a bowl of bland pasta, but she never once complained.  Our catch ups usually involve cool new restaurants or piles of funky gourmet pizza.  I’m sure we’ll get back there soon. 

The one thing that wasn’t a surprise – but continues to humble me – was the generosity of my friends, family and workmates.  So many of them donated to my fundraising page – some quite large donations, along with a whole lot of people who are suffering tough times but still dug deep to help me with my fundraising goals.  I was hoping to raise $1,200 but, with the generosity of so many people, hit $2,542.08.  My first year of Live Below the Line saw me raise $400.  A stack of amazing people in my life donated to the cause – and also sent me beautiful words of love and support.  I have some fantastic people in my life.  But I already knew that. 

The thing I didn’t know was that you can lose 3kgs by stuffing your face with white home brand wheat filled pasta and bread three times a day.  So carbs are actually good for you?  I knew it. 


Carbs overload 


I never thought I'd say this but I don't care if I don't eat pasta again for a very long time. Like ages. Months and months.

I have spent the past few days - okay I'll admit it - more like weeks in a huge lovefest of carbs loading. Let me point out, I havent just been doing it for fun, though God knows I could. It's been part of my running plan. Everyone knows that before you do a long run you need to eat a stack of food with lots of carbs. That's how you get your energy. My problem - or should I say awesomeness - comes from me eating copious amounts of pasta and bread before every run. Like 10kms or 15kms. Once I even ate a huge bowl of tuna pasta before an 8km run. Yes.

I have a carbs problem. 

I LOVE pasta so any excuse to eat it and I'll take it. Running is perfect as I get to have pasta and bread the night before a training session ... then burn it off. Well that's how it's meant to work IF you follow your running plan.

Unfortunately I've not been exercising as much as I'd like to ... or should be. There are lots of reasons for that. I've had running injuries. My PT Dani went overseas for a month then came back for a week and moved to the US. I was loving yoga and going at least once a week until The Sports Dr said it was stretching my body the wrong way for running so I gave that up too. Rather than a stack of cross training I've been doing just two or three runs a week . And eating like I own an Italian restaurant.

Needless to say I don't really feel or look my best right now. But I'm certainly happy. (Research says carbs release endorphins. I am testament to that.)

Sure I've considered going on a low carbs, high protein diet but something in me dies when I think about a life with no pasta, bread, rice or fun stuff.  I would rather give up alcohol and increase my exercise regime to lose weight than give up carbs. They're my crack.  Besides I've heard that people on high protein diets have bad breath and find it difficult to pooh. No thanks, I'll pass.

Not that I should technically be eating carbs anyway.  My body gets a bit antsy when it has too much wheat ' so I´m meant to try and avoid it if I can - or at least not eat too much of it.  Epic fail lately.

Also, I have no self control when it cones to ordering what goes on top of the pasta. Yes tomato based sauces with lots of veggies are great, however I want the ones filled with cream and cheese thanks very much. Oh and I can't eat pasta without bread. See what's going on here?

Carbs and pasta joy serve a purpose when I'm training for a marathon ... once a year ... but  I'm not sure it's that good for me.

I want to feel great again. Now that the Majorca half marathon is out the way I'm breaking up with pasta. It's time I hung out with some protein and veggies for a while .

Don't worry pasta, I'll be back. You never forget your first love.  We'll just have to find fun ways to burn you off. 


The power of lasagne


I got home from a semi average 12km run tonight (in search of my marathon mojo) and walked into my kitchen to find the most brilliant thing any girl could wish for.  No, not a stripper doing the housework.  GFM was cooking.   “I’m making you fake lasagne” he said to me while stir frying mushrooms, “so you don’t have to think about cooking.”

I want to marry this man.

I’m still in a weird headspace.  A bit of a Sad Panda.  Numb.  Thinking about what to make for dinner (especially given there’s no real food in the house) is a struggle for me right now.   Having someone else cook is better than me winning the lottery.  It makes my life easy.  No decisions.  No thinking.  Someone else is happy to take care of things for a while.   To look after me so I can do whatever I need to do, to feel better.  (Whatever that is.  I haven’t quite worked it out yet.)

Friends have told me that, in times of grief, neighbours have popped around to their house to see how they are coping after losing someone – and that each time they’ve brought a tray of lasagne.  One woman ended up with five giant lasagnes in her fridge.  She never really ate carbs until that moment.  It appears there’s an untold rule that when you are visiting a house filled with mourners, lasagne is the appropriate ‘gift’ to give in their time of need.

Is it the carbs effect?  Stodgy comfort food to make you feel better always sounds like a good idea to me.  Something about pheromones.  After GFM’s outstanding efforts with fake mince, pasta and veggies, I was actually feeling more content.  Settled.  Peaceful.

Perhaps it’s that lasagne is meant to be shared.   A ritual of people eating a meal together – connecting - so you don’t feel so alone and isolated.  Maybe lasagne is a spiritual dish as much as it’s a tasty mixture of tomato sauce and cheese.  

My sister’s girlfriend makes an unbelievably good vegetarian lasagne filled with roasted vegetables and creamy, cheesy joy.  She shared the recipe with me but I have to admit, I’m too scared to try it.  I have a phobia of making lasagne.  I’ve tried three times with dismal failure so now I leave it to other people to bake.  Like GFM, the untold hero of it in our house.

Having said that, (my bad) lasagne brought me love once.  Okay, so it was more like lust, but I have Dolmios to thank for a short term love affair.  (Very short). 

On my third and final attempt at making the veggie version I had a huge disaster.  As I opened the oven to check on my dinner I found a pasta abomination bubbling away in front of me.  The top of the pasta was crunchy, while the cheese was brown.  Plunging a knife into the centre, I found the middle was tender from the juicy vegetables, but also a little dry.  The sauce had all but disappeared.  I had created the world’s worst baked pasta dish.  Quick, call MasterChef.  Or Myth Busters.

Because I can’t stand to waste food (it’s the thought of all the starving people in the world) I forced myself to eat this atrocious meal.  I covered it in more sauce and made sure I had a lot of bread and salad to go with it.  A lot.  The crunchy bits were bearable – the slimy bits of semi cooked pasta weren’t so hot.  Gross.

With just one small slice to go, a guy friend I had a crush on popped over for a drink with GFM and I.  As I searched the fridge for some form of tapas to enjoy with our wine he spotted my giant dish of un-lasagne.   My insides slowly died as he removed the alfoil and cast his eyes on my creation.

“So, hey, that’s a science experiment to see if you can cook something both crunchy and soggy at the same time.  It looks like I’ve succeeded.”  I mumbled embarrassingly as he looked sadly at me.  This guy is an amazing cook so you can imagine my horror and shame at not being able to whip up Italy’s favourite meal.  Yes, this is why I am a shit wife and will be single forever.

I’m not really into lasagne” he said as he pushed me against the fridge door and kissed me.   Well thank God for that, because if this relationship is to go anywhere, I won’t be the one spending any time in the kitchen.  Unless you are longing for a life of inedible lasagne.  Then it’s game on.  

Our love affair lasted as long as it took me to eat that final slice of crappy pasta bake.  Three days.  It’s okay, like baking, I think it’s important to try everything once and if it doesn’t work out, you move onto another recipe.  Or another man.  Or you eat out a lot. 

The only one doing any baking in our kitchen now is GFM.  He can make me fake or veggie lasagne until my belly swells with happiness.  Which it will given he didn’t use my usual gluten free pasta.  That’s fine, I’m still content.  Just a bloated kind of content.