For The Hate of Food

It’s hard to imagine, Dear Reader, that I’m coming up to the one year anniversary of my abdominoplasty, I’ve been through so much before and after, I know that someday I’ll be sitting here remarking how strange it feels to be over all the remaining surgeries, for now I wait. In waiting I do tend to look back, my weight-loss journey has been a complex and, I suppose, extremely successful one. One aspect of it is the complexity of our relationship with food, where, for one person it can be a pleasure, for another it can be a coping mechanism. For some it all hinges on how much. For me it was once a matter of gluttony mingled with chronic illness causing near insatiable hunger. That’s what brings me here today, my views on food have changed a great deal, naturally a consequence of becoming more educated and discerning. But, it hasn’t been a sudden change that became the whole, it’s been a slow gradual change that still jars against what was my whole world at one point.

I look at food and sometimes I really hate it, I look at junk food knowing I can’t be a part of that world and it honestly hurts. Being excluded for any reason never feels pleasant and because it’s such a complex mixture of emotions people rarely understand it. I suppose it’s as if everything sweet to you tasted like dirt to me, but I’ve had to create that feeling to save myself, well, from myself. This isn’t a natural by-product of weight-loss, Dear Reader, it why so many bloggers starting their journeys abandon those blogs, it’s why people fail. A part of my brain will always want to eat and eat, it’ll hate what it’s eating but carry on. It’ll look for gratification in food, find none and still try. People won’t understand that and just dismiss it, but I never can. What I’ve done to counter that is to create a respect for basic, healthy ingredients. To appreciate simple tastes, the kick of spicy blue basil, the subtle sweetness of sweet potatoes, the sting of garlic, and on and on and this doesn’t come naturally. It never fully will. That’s a sad truth, but a necessary one. I will never gravitate towards healthy food without some effort, no matter how small it’s still effort.

I tend to look at the hate side of the old ways, instead of the glimmer of pleasure. Hating something isn’t always healthy, but it has worked for me. I look at the old foods as enemies that made me a mess, made me hate every waking moment and slowly my views shift. People tend to screw with this because they’d rather not think too deeply about their unhealthy habits, they baulk even when I’ve said nothing, done nothing, but just exist as a good example. Their weakness is theirs to deal with, Dear Reader, I’d no more apologise for breathing at this stage. It would be hard to imagine if I hadn’t been through his for so long, but the more you grow as a person the more those stagnant around you tend to stand out. I could tell you terrible stories about people, but I won’t, just remember that I’ve never tried to sell you on anything, to convenience you that I’m anything more than an ordinary person, so decide how truthful I’m being on what you’ve seen of me, Dear Reader.

I’m tired, Dear Reader, not physically, just mentally. I feel it’s important to share these insights as I’ve rarely, if ever, seen anything like this about weight-loss. All I do here, Dear Reader, is free and, often, unrewarded. I do sincerely hope that it helps someone, that’s al I can do really. I’ll never go back, Dear Reader, but I sincerely hope that this limbo of surgical waiting lists ends sooner rather than later. I think after all I’ve been through I deserve a happy ending, don’t I? Take care, Dear Reader, when the sun shines again I’ll be out, weeding, arguing with plants and getting a reprieve from all this thinking. Still, a little honesty never hurts, does it?


Barrows of Basil, Buckets of Salad

The other buried planters work so well as a border.

Discount shops are so good, so so good.

Buying early in trays is better than buying later in an expensive single pot.

This year I divide and move these.

Because I’ll forget it, Dear Reader, the recipe below is here. Sans lime these days, but still delicious. I’m currently at the green growth stage, fruit has started to set in places, but for now I’ll just wait for new blooms to appear while the green growth carries on. Things are slow with this colder spell we’re having, but everything is strong after the heatwave and heavy feeding. I always say that I grow by the weather, I also plant and harvest by the weather. I leave my basil until it’s large, fragrant and just a little dry. All the key points for a strong tasting harvest. I’ve now harvested all the basils. Let’s talk basil, Dear Reader.

Third leaf is large! Maybe they’ve established.

Cascading pansies.

Worth adding the viola.

The genovese is  great cropper, you’ll always end up with a large bunch of leaves, no stems in Jack’s pesto thank you very much, and the flavour is the usual but extremely fresh and pungent compared to shop fare. The Thai is also a very good grower, it has a strong aniseed smell and taste, very pungent taste that remains even after being cooked, a very useful basil for curries and stir-fries. The lemon and lime are very true to the names, the smell of lemons in the first harvest was so fresh and crisp, I’d suggest using these alongside the genovese to mellow the citrus taste as it can be overpowering. The red Rubin is somewhat like cloves, not quite, but close, very spicy and piquant, it’s an improved cultivar, like that? That’s just me quoting the blurb on the site I bought them from, of dark opal which I grew last year. It was very scraggly, but not bad, these seems to be a bit stronger and hopefully I’ll see more of a harvest. The blue spice is a very soft basil, almost fuzzy, it really does smell of vanilla, the taste is just a light clove, nothing too intense, but interesting nonetheless. I imagine it’d be best as a planting like lavender, great as a fragrant bush, less so as a culinary herb. Give it time though, I’ll eventually try each separately. Today the Thai and Genovese made pesto, the rest, the sauce.

New growth on a rose just started flying up.

A barrow of basil.

Ten servings of pesto and today’s dinner.

I like this time of year as it means going into the garden for ingredients. Even a little fresh sage can make a world of difference. I was rooting around in the wind battered broad-beans, they’d fallen on the turnips, and I spotted a turnip forming. These are the small white kind and I’m very curious to see how they’ll taste. The golden beetroot beside them seems to be growing happily that’s my favourite kind of beetroot, almost sweet enough to be a fruit. Speaking of which, I’ve started harvesting a few strawberries, they’re so tender that they’ll go bad after a day so they’re going from plant to freezer and I’ll make sauces and jams as I want them. There a lot of saving things from here on out, in the middle of Winter these little treats, stockpiled when harvests seem endless, are a great way to kick against the Winter blues.

I went a little elaborate.

A fragrant sauce.

Thankfully it was green, not brown.

I miss the lime, but still worthwhile.

The great part about salad greens is how prolific they are with little to no tending. Peppery rocket, spicy mustard, warm mizuna, crisp lettuce and pungent chives. They grow in very little soil, but a  little extra depth helps keep them well watered and unwilted. The only issue is that you will need to harvest them quite frequently to keep the growing happily. If nothing else the worms will have a feast or the compost will have easily broken down leaves. Nothing is wasted, everything returns to the garden in some small amount. I’ll be back again later, Dear Reader.

A bucket of salad.

There’s four times as much still out there.

Thai and Genovese pesto.

Espresso Steak

It had to happen eventually.

Hey, what do you mean you forgot this is a recipe blog?! Tut. Dear Reader, here I am, shaken by the storm, but thankfully the garden has been mostly spared. A Few plants damaged, but nothing major, the cold spell has done more to harm them than the wind did, though some will stay listing until harvest. So, I was at a loose end and something I have pondered frequently popped into my mind again. The problem I face with marinades or rubs is that there is just so much I can’t have it negates most recipes. That might sound like an exaggeration, I wish it were, but I have to rely on myself more often than not. So, in looking at coffee rubs for steak I was hit with he near certainty that they’d be gritty and poorly flavoured. A steak rubbed with grinds? Let’s face it the only way to get a taste from those grinds is to pull an espresso shot and well here we are. No acids, no marinading of any sort, but finally a way to give a massive punch of flavour. And not the flavour you might assume.

The shot I’m using is made from a dark roast, in my opinion, only formed from my own experiences with various beans, I drink a lot of coffee and go through quite a few bags, the best for espresso. None of the bitterness you get with lighter roasts. The double basket guarantees a good shot with a little care. So, you have your espresso, some seasoning and a steak. I used fillet, but any steak will work here, any meat probably would too. This is nothing elaborate, just a simple way to add flavour. The flavour isn’t quite of a cup of coffee, when the steak hits the pan it sends up a huge waft of delicious aroma, when it’s finally cooked there a wonderfully complex taste, hard to describe. It’s a hit of saltiness, the gentle sweetness of those onions, now saturated in juices and coffee, and the meats simple taste. It would go easily with any side, there’s enough flavour to be noticeable, but not to overpower. If you’re not a coffee fan I’d still say this has merit, especially if you’re unable to get much variety in your meals due to dietary restrictions.

I forgot to take a photo of it on the plate.

I do love my coffee, it’s one of the few foods I can get a near endless variety of tastes in. It’s something I like to cook with and bake with, for an extremely decadent treat try a Microwave Buckwheat Mug Cake, Topped with a simple icing, and a freshly pulled shot of espresso. The coffee soaks as you pull it directly over the mug cake, melting and mingling the icing so you end up with a moistened cake, not too moist as the buckwheat is naturally drier. See? Jack really is a Jack of All Trades. I know quite a bit, but it’s not always possible to showcase everything at all times. You’ll learn a lot by doing trying and experimenting. I’ll be back again later, Dear Reader. Take care.


1 Fillet Steak
1 Small Onion, Diced
1 Double Basket Strong Espresso Shot
1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Black Pepper
1 Tsp Garlic Granules


1. Pull the shot into a bowl, add Salt, Pepper and Garlic and stir to combine. Add the Steak and let soak, turning occasionally.

2. Add Butter and Olive Oil to a frying pan and when Butter has melted add the Onion. Cook Onion on a medium-high heat until slightly caramelised, about 10-15 minutes, then add Steak to the Middle of the pan, pour over the remaining Espresso. Cook Steak as Normal and serve topped with Onions.

Jack Consumed By Flowers! Readership Dwindling, But Lovely Smelling

First strawberry of the season. Tender and sweet. The second was eaten by birds. Netting (Bird safe) is now in place.

I have posted this before, but not in this exact colouration.

Peach? Orange? Porange?

Finally this planter does well.

The Honeysuckle is nearly in bloom.

Ah, Dear Reader, I’m amazed you’re still here. How my readership has survived after all these garden posts is beyond the ken of Jack, but I might have to pretend you’re enjoying them to alleviate any worries about my readership because I’m not stopping. The weather hasn’t been that bad, I managed to weed the garden today, cleaning both sides, the big cabbages are keeping he weeds at bay to a fair degree, the weeds just haven’t the same hold they used to have when they’d been settled for years. I’ve been using bits and pieces, I had a sandwich, waffles, quiet! they’re bread, with mustard greens, mizuna and lettuce. I still find salad greens bland, but they’re good for you so, why not? I added some mixed basil to my cold brewed rooibos and it gave a pleasant herbal taste to the brew. I’ just going to enjoy the fresh produce and see what will come of it all.

My garden is made of those bamboo poles.

I’ve lost the nametags of all the roses. I’m a genius.

Hard to get it all in a few shots.

They baulked a bit at the colder weather, but seem okay.

The rambling rose.

It really is amazing all that can grow in a smallish space. Careful planning helps, naturally, but even with mistakes you can repair and redo. You just need to be very, very, ever so, patient because sometimes those mistakes take a year or more to be rectified. Gardening really will teach you patience if you can stick with it. You’ll become the envy of all meditating monks the world over. Sadly today the garlic gave up, these sudden heat waves have a way of thrashing my efforts, but to make amends the garden has decided that yellow strawberries are going to seed at random because I recycled some of the soil they’d been buried in. The cycle of Jack is a badly drawn circle.

Second generation cornflowers.

This one is a favourite.

There are bees everywhere.

Let’s hope I’ll be able to save these seeds too.

It’s hard to get a whole body shot as there are roses all over each other.

I’m running out of stories, Dear Reader! There are too many blooming flowers! It is gratifying to know all the year’s early work has paid off and each year the plants that will return are better able to grow. Roses that are poor fed or badly pruned will suffer in time, I’ve seen roses that bloomed beautifully one year struggle the next, I’ve dug up large roses with piddling root systems. A shame, they give so much joy and ask for just a little care.

Give it a few years, I’ll have it flowering everywhere.

Finally a red rose!

Droopy? No, they’re cascading.

Pink in all shades.

Naru’s garden.

That’s all from me, but the flowers, well they never stop. Take it easy, Dear Reader. Hopefully when I return again it’ll be more exciting.


The iris is very pretty this year.

Everything is green at least.

So much to water…so, so much.

Also delphinium.

Not delphinium.

Potatoes are still in flower.

Triple centred. Sounds like a candy.

But What Can I Use It In?

I was reading through Cooking Without Gluten’s post today and I still marvel at the depth that goes into ever part of Irena’s recipes, the choice of ingredients, the balance between the benefits of each and the flavour, the wealth of understanding in the well written posts. What this has to do with humble Jack, well, I suppose I’ve tired in my own way to do something similar. We’ve both attempted to fill a gap in the free-from world, how successfully is up to you to decide, Dear Reader. That gap is the gap between available ingredients and actual practical, teaching recipes, intersecting with various diets along the way of course. To surmise simply: You can buy, say amaranth, you can fail to cook it because the packet has no proper instructions, you can find generic lists of the benefits and general facts, but if you want depth then you might be out of luck. You can replace that with so many ingredients, Dear Reader, and that’s very depressing.

So, Dear Reader, what prompted this, you ask. Almost nine years of this successful free-from life, and again struggling to buy cereal that I could actually eat, again and realising that he alternatives have no real information outside of basic preparations. Thankfully I have procured some boxes to hold me over, until a re-stock hopefully appears. So, I can have buckwheat flakes, which I can’t eat hot with milk, and watery flakes are just thin gruel, but what about the recipes, you, a different more smug, self-satisfied Dear Reader ask, which I answer thus: There aren’t any! I’ve searched for uses so often that I just made my own and this has repeated so much that this blog hosts an absurd amount of recipes for somewhat obscure ingredients. But one person can only do so much, I can take so much neglect from the free-from world, but it tires me out to have to struggle just to eat. Without cereal I lose so much, I have to balance nutrition, calories, availability and so much more. I do that already, I do that every day and everyday I scroll through recipes that I’ve seen countless times before, I see brands filling the shelves with the same products, junk-food disguised, I see charities helping sponsors before me and it makes me tired, so very tired, Dear Reader.

I’m not attacking my fellow bloggers here, but I am asking what I often ask and that’s to branch out just a little, try things that you’ve never seen done. Use ingredients in ways that challenge their common uses, we could do so much good. I have a tin of coconut flakes, they’re high fibre and might be used to boost a low fibre cereal if the need arises, this is my life, Dear Reader, it entitles me to some bitterness, and when I search for recipes it was either “breaded” chicken or what you can already imagine. Just add it to this and that. Baked chips abounded too. I may find a special use for them, perhaps they’ll be the cornerstone of a special kind of recipe, like chia was, but I doubt it, at least I’ll have tried. Not just for myself, but for people like me. It’s all too easy to forget those on extremely restricted diets, whose general answer to all food questions is: “No, I can;’t eat that either”. It’s a stressful thing to be a success, but to still struggle so much.

Jack is being depressing, Dear Reader, but the truth can’t always be made palatable. It’s all too easy to ignore it already, you just scroll past this and forget you ever saw it. For me, well, if nothing else I’m looking forward to harvesting some more basil, I have a recipe here that uses a lot in one serving, I’ll have to ditch the lime, but Red Rubin, an improved Dark Opal that does seem more vigorous, though that might be the heat, mixed with some lime basil might make for an interesting meal. If it works well without the marinade I’ll list it separately. I do miss the citrus, but not the stomach pains, all cleared up now thankfully. To end on a positive note I’ve now gotten down to a large tracksuit, still big and tall, but a far cry from 6xl. I have to buy as stock appears, the story of my life since the age of sixteen, but I’m happy they fit so well. I’ll be tidy if not trendy, let’s face it, Dear Reader, trendy and gardening don’t exactly mix. Torn jeans are in, but not rose thorn jeans. Until later.

Tiny Ponds and Small Successes

Weather is taking a turn for the colder.

Oh, Jack is going to be cranky.

Excuse the quality, water shots are hard to get right.

It’s still alive, Dear Reader, all started from a few seeds, now only one remains, but the amount of information I’ve gathered so far has been immense. It’s got me thinking about how often we set ourselves up to fail before we’ve even tarted, due to not wanting to fail. I could’ve so easily just forgone the idea of a contained pond. I would’ve been spared the stresses and worries, the comparisons to better established and bought ponds, which is what we do so often in life. We decide that we couldn’t do something and that way we protect ourselves from the hurt of failing. Which leaves us sans experience, knowledge and, often bitter. In any successful endeavour there are detractors that will needle at you maybe not even intending to, but they hurt. They hurt because they haven’t found what you have in attempting. Forget them and try, Dear Reader, I took a chance at being better and you know how that turned out. I have gained so much from just trying and daring to believe that I deserved to try.

Is the pond a metaphor? No, it’s just a pond. Look a beetle!

The rain really clarified the water.

The garden is host to so many insects.

I’m looking into cheap feeding solutions, someone suggested injection feed directly into the substrate, which I like. If I could get comfrey tea into the soil I think it’d be safe for the plant and really beneficial. Some suggested freezing a cube of fertilizer and burying it. It’s alright for this season, if it survives. I think I’d try again if it didn’t. I’ve learned a great deal about aquatic plant care, actual practical information, rather then the kind you rattle off to impress. I’m nowhere near well informed enough to advise anyone yet, so, sorry, Dear Reader, if you’re planting water lilies you’re on the same standing as Jack. I’ll keep you updated on the garden. I’l try to update any old recipes I’m making again with photos, it all depends on what I can still use myself. Hopefully it stays somewhat warm, though the plants are toughened already, the warm weather was an aberration, not a familiarity to these poor plants. They’ve been well fed and watered in hot weather so the roots should be deep. Take care, Dear Reader.


A Break In The Weather For Jack

The smell after the rain was an experience.

I don’t remember rescuing a white rose.

Jasmine is returning to life.

The rambler in the front garden.

I can say with certainty, Dear Reader, that I was in great need of a day off from watering it’s been something like three weeks of watering twice a day, and this isn’t a short garden, I think it’s getting longer, so when the thunder rain came I was very glad. I might have been one of few, but I think the plant appreciated it too. I’ve been carefully feeding them a little extra, with the heat I imagine they’re rooting fast and it seems to have paid off. Everything look vibrant and huge.

The delphiniums only survived in the back garden, but there are plenty.

The slipped rose from the back-garden in the front.

This was once a yellow rose. Turning peachy now and that’s just peachy.

Ignore the flies, there’s a third leaf! One plant died, only two germinated, but it’s still alive!

Exotic plant care is a pain in the backside, Dear Reader, but a challenge can at times be rewarding. I’m still tending to the worms which I’m thinking of a very specialized pet, both they and the bokashi have taken a lot of late nights reading. The resting bokashi is providing run-off which seems to be little more than vinegary food run-off, a wonder feed this is not. No harm no foul, Dear Reader, I’m more informed after trying it and it’s better than running my mouth without having a clue of what I’m talking about. Bottom-line is that bokashi works as a means to dispose of all kitchen wastes with the risk of flies or other problem insects, but as it require long resting and either burying, carefully at that, it’s very acidic, or further composting. It works, but whether it’s for you, or me for hat matter, depends on how much waste you want to recycle. I’m not going to pony up for a second bag of bran, but I’m glad I tried.

Heya pal, long time no see.

Comfrey powered squash blossoms.

The leaves are strangely soft, almost weed like.

The new baskets are picking up.

For a bunch of cheap bareroot roses these have been the best investment.

Sorry for the hands, but these droop quite a bit. Those squash blossoms are huge and healthy, I saw a bee in the female, but I don’ want to look and see if there are any males, I want to be surprised, but looking might just lead to disappointment. The reason I started planting so many flowers was, originally at least, to attract bees for the squashes. The next few months will be something, there will be so many dropped fruits, some swelling just a little as if to taunt me, there will be a watch on for squash blossom end rot, though I’ve already amended them twice with bonemeal jut to be safe. It’s a lively time in the garden to say the least, Dear Reader.

The Bucket O’ Roses final rose type.

Some fade fast, others hang around.