I owe you, my dear readers a small apology. Many of you may have noticed that my recent posts on Chompchomp have been fewer and far between and are often written using content that dates further back than I would prefer. For this I am truly sorry. If the lack of reading has bothered you, I can assure you that the frustration is mutual. Whilst I hate to go on like a broken record and whinge incessantly, the reality is that my slipped disc in my back has made our dining experiences virtually non-existent. Needless to say, life goes on around me and consequently my list of new venues in Perth that I want to visit is growing at an alarming rate.
Recovery from a disc injury can be a roller-coaster ride of good days and bad days. After an optimistic fortnight of steady improvement, I was faced with a horrid day of crippling pain and depression. I forced myself through the morning’s torture in the hope that it would ease as the day progressed but the short drive to work was enough to push me over the edge. I am normally an energetic and bubbly person and I hate that I’m reduced to a crumpled heap on the floor of our staff room. To add to the pain, I feel racked with the guilt of leaving my colleagues with all my work for the afternoon. I battled through a couple of consults before pathetically limping back to my car for the dreaded drive home. Pain has a way of warping your perspective on life and I can sense how short tempered and grumpy I am but with every moment hurting I cannot stop myself.
Earlier this year I locumed as a cat vet for the Hobart Cat Clinic and discovered a humble little café just up the road called The Picnic Basket. For lunch breaks I found it hard to tear myself away from the clinic as I’m not used to working somewhere as the sole charge vet. I am paranoid that an emergency case might rock up when I’m not there to treat it. Fortunately, the brilliant nurses at the Cat Clinic are very experienced and in all honesty would have been more than capable of holding the fort in my brief absence. After buying take-out lunches for the first week, they encouraged me to walk up to The Picnic Basket and dine in for lunch.
For anyone who has gone through the journey of having a back injury you will understand what an ordeal it can be; not just physically but emotionally as well. When I was in my early thirties, a couple of my spine’s intervertebral discs decided to give way while I was in the middle of performing a dental procedure on a dog. It was at a point where my veterinary career was progressing perfectly and I was just about to ask my bosses to buy in as a partner to the practice. I was one of their star employees who happily worked consecutive twelve hours shifts, overtime and after-hours with no complaints.
After graduating from high school I left Adelaide and moved across to Perth to study for my dream career in Vet Science. Being only seventeen at the time, my worldly possessions consisted of a suitcase of clothes, some hand-me-down pots and pans, a hand written note book with all of Mum’s family recipes and my stereo tape deck. I couldn’t imagine why I would need or want anything more; music and food were enough to keep me happy.
It was fortunate that I was so easily satisfied because for the next six years I got to experience what it is like to live below the poverty line on Austudy, Australia’s government funded student income. It is easy to learn to go without when you barely have enough income to eat and pay your rent, and it forces you to become much more resourceful.
For those of you that missed out on experiencing the glorious feast at Taste of Perth last year, my best advice for you is not to miss out again. Taste Festivals are one of the world’s greatest restaurant festivals and are held in a number of locations all around the world including Paris, London, Sydney and Moscow.
Taste of Perth made its début last year attracting over 16,000 hungry punters over the three days. This year’s Taste festival will be held from the 15th to the 17th of May at Langley Park and it looks like 2015 is shaping up to be even better than last year.
At Taste of Perth, you will be able to create your own designer degustation as many of Perth’s top restaurants will be participating in the event. The 2015 line-up will include some of my favourite venues such as Lalla Rookh, Bistro Guillaume, Bib & Tucker, Nobu, Next Door at No4, Print Hall, El Público and more.
It is a known fact, I don’t know how to relax. I almost always have at least 101 things on the go at any one point and this can be both extremely exciting and stressful. Although I have no one to blame for being so busy but myself, yet I cannot help but look upon my feline fur-kids with envy as they happily laze entire days away sleeping, cuddling and lounging about. They are true experts in relaxation. After years of recurrent illness and always being “sickly”, I have finally learnt that to keep up this crazy pace without falling apart it is crucial to take time to nourish my body with excellent nutrition.
Part of this commitment to myself has included switching to eating a more plant-based diet, and whilst I would never claim to be a true vegetarian, we certainly do find ourselves eating less and less meat as the years go on. And for once in my life I can honestly say I don’t really miss it.
Eating seasonal fruit and vegetables is easy to do living in Western Australia because the diversity of our state means we can grow a wide variety of our own produce. This year’s cherry crop was a bumper one and I have been so grateful that I could buy fresh locally grown cherries throughout the Christmas period. As both the Boy and I are predominately vegetarians at home, our house has various fruit bowls dotted around the place such that anyone visiting might think we were obsessed with food. 😉
Cherries do contain a moderate amount of fructose so for those who suffer from fructose malabsorbtion you need to be careful with your intake. For those very sensitive, you are probably best to avoid until you have your symptoms under control. After being on a strict fructose friendly diet for a few months, I was recommended to reintroduce small amounts of fructose to assess my own personal level of tolerance. I find I can handle eating a small amount of cherries as my reaction is relatively mild provided that I do not go nuts and devour a whole bowl to myself.
There are some childhood food favourites of mine that die hard. My Mum is a talented baker and when we were kids she could effortlessly create a whole repertoire of delectable treats that never lasted long out of the oven. For school bake sales, her chocolate slice would always be the first to sell out and her melting moments were a textural delight. At Christmas time there were a number of cherished creations that would be guaranteed to fill our fridge and her pecan pie was one of those.
When I was approached by Belmont Forum to develop some recipes for Christmas I knew just had to have at least one symbolisation of my childhood and decided to adapt Mum’s recipe to be more gluten free friendly. There is nothing sugar free, vegan or paleo about these pecan pies but then I feel we all have to live a little at Christmas time. Even if it means hitting the gym a little harder in the New Year! 😉
Whenever I am feeling overindulged, a fail safe way of getting my gut and body to recover is for me to eat a plant based vegan diet for a few days. After the incredibleness of our weekend away in Margaret River for their annual food festival Gourmet Escape, my body was crying out for some gentle eating. We burned all the candles at every end for the full weekend attending multiple degustations, an international Cabernet tasting and rubbing shoulder with some celebrity chefs. I will not deny it was all worth it.
For the following week I had time off work which gave me a chance to catch up on my long to-do list without any distractions. Wanting to pledge to adhere to a vegan, or at least vegetarian diet for most of the week I kick-started it all off with a visit to Loving Hut on Albany Highway in Victoria Park.
In a time long gone by, before I was forced to give up gluten, I was a girl who loved quiche. There used to be a deli that I drove past on my way to work and once or twice a week I would stop in there and buy a slice of their home made quiche to take to work for lunch. It was a thick based quiche filled with a variety of different ingredients which changed every day, plenty of egg and flaky pastry crust. Not exactly the pinnacle of healthy eating but something I would really look forward to each time I bought it.
Chocolate is an addiction of mine that I’m certain I can blame on my genetics. Both Mum and Dad love their chocolate and I have been coerced into a number of chocolate binges with Mum over the years. I figure that there is no point fighting nature and assure myself that chocolate IS a nourishing super food after all. In fact, I am actually doing my body a favour giving it a daily dose. The best type of chocolate, in my humble opinion, is raw chocolate. sumptuous and silky, it has a melt in your mouth texture that will certainly have you going back for more.
For as long as I can remember, I have always felt like I never have enough time. I struggle to relax and seem to thrive on fast paced hyperactivity. It wasn’t until I hit my thirties that this lifestyle started to take its toll prompting me to seek medical advice when I could no longer even run without collapsing on the couch. As a direct result I was diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia which then led onto discovering my gluten and fructose issues.
I stick to my gluten free diet religiously and find this is easy to do as there are life threatening risks for me if I don’t. Coeilacs who eat gluten raise their risks of intestinal cancer significantly along with risking developing a bunch of other horrible diseases. In contrast, I find following my fructose friendly diet much, much more difficult to adhere to. Whilst eating fructose does cause some unpleasant effects, it doesn’t causing any permanent damage to my body. I consequently wax and wane from being vigilantly fructose friendly to chancing the risk of a gut ache for something tasty to eat.
I don’t know what it is about wet, windy nights that sometimes inspires me to want to leave the comfort of my home and eat out. Mostly when I get these fanciful urges, the Boy will sensibly put his foot down and insist we stay at home where it is warm and dry. However on occasions, for reasons I have yet to pin point, he will sporadically and unpredictably consent to my absurd proposition and off we go together with overcoats and matching umbrellas in hand. Whenever this glorious union in thought occurs, I get disproportionately excited like a child that has just been given an oversized bag of candy. I have to love this guy for always keeping me on my toes!
After a couple of teasing days of sunshine, our Perth weather turned sour and my bizarre desire to head out to a restaurant in the rain returned. I wanted to check out a relatively new bar opened in Applecross called Bad Apples Bar and after enticing the Boy with offers of beer and pizza he willingly accepted.
Many of you know that my day job is totally unrelated to food. I am a vet, and this means a career of long hours, late nights and a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. Attaining a work life balance has always been a battle for me and the Boy plays a huge role in making me see the bigger picture. Whilst I would never neglect to care for a patient that needs me, to be at my best I need to stay fit and well rested otherwise, like many of my colleagues, I face burn out.
Depression is rife among veterinarians, in our profession we are four times more likely to attempt suicide than the average person. A frightening fact, yet, one that most people in our industry have had to face one way or another.
Despite knowing that the menu at Ace Pizza is devoid of gluten free pizza options, this has been a venue that has remained on my wish list for some time. Don’t be fooled by their name, whilst I’m told Ace’s pizzas are far from shabby it’s their share plates that I was keen to try. Being paid monthly means when we hit the end of the month we are scratching for a cheap place to eat out without compromising on our needs for quality or flavour. I was hoping Ace Pizza would fulfil this basic need.
Dishes are certainly cheap, reasonably sized and served with lickity split, no fuss speed. Perhaps too much so as within about ten minutes of placing our order all of our dishes had made their way to our table. There were a number of gluten free and vegetarian options to suit both our needs however as is often the case, we ordered far too much food.
The Boy and I were struck down with the killer Flu of the Year this month and it completely knocked the stuffing out of us. Everything became a huge effort and suffice to say life wasn’t much fun. At the tail end of our sickness we decided to cheer ourselves up and head out to the Avon Valley for the Toodyay Food Festival. Toodyay is roughly an hour’s drive from our house and when we got about half way both of us became overwhelmingly tired and nauseous.
It took about five minutes of us whingeing to each other before we realised the insanity of what we were trying to do. Walking around a food festival when I could barely stand up followed by another hours drive home sounded more like torture than enjoyment. We agreed this idea was a little ambitious and turned the car back around. As we headed home I realised we had nothing in the fridge because I had originally anticipated we would be stuffing our faces at the festival. We took a detour through Belmont and landed at Sapore Espresso.
Last year I ran a weekly series for six weeks inspired by the Meatless Monday movement. At that point in time the Boy wasn’t a vegetarian and I wanted to show him that this lifestyle change didn’t have to mean just eating boring lettuce and tomato salads. Since then we have both changed a lot about our eating habits; eating mostly local produce, organic where we can and definitely with a much lower focus on meat.
I was recently approached by Belmont Forum to help them create a couple of recipe cards to put in their new Fresh Food Mall in the centre. After visiting the centre to check out what was on offer, I was impressed with the amount of gluten free and organic food available in their health food store and was inspired to recreate this zucchini noodle dish from my Meatless Monday series. It is so easy to make, surprisingly satisfying and full of nutrients.
Following a gluten free diet has become second nature to me. Ingesting just a tiny crumb of gluten has such a profound effect that there is simply no point me risking a reaction. Our whole household is gluten free to avoid any contamination and the Boy is more than happy to eat a gluten free diet with me.
In contrast, my sensitivity to eating dairy products is not so black and white and I can tolerate small amounts. Being able to eat a little bit now and then leads me into a false sense of confidence as it isn’t something I have to avoid totally like gluten, I just try to minimise my intake. I have never been good at minimisation and generally prefer to take the all-or-nothing approach with most things in life, especially food. Progressive day to day carelessness in restricting my dairy intake is generally brought to a grinding halt after one of my hedonistic cheese binges. These joyous cheesy evenings always result in my skin becoming so inflamed and sore that I can barely stretch my fingers fully open. Consequently I have learnt to try to only eat dairy on special occasions.
Geographical separation has never had any impact on the bond I have with my best friend, Kate. Through the course of our fifteen years of Bestie-hood we have only lived in the same city for about half this time. We are not that good at regularly calling each other on the phone, in fact we are both shockers, yet within seconds of hearing each other’s voice we immediately lapse into our crazy way of talking that no one else on this Earth can ever seem to replicate. It’s actually like our own language. We have a way of bringing out the best in each other and I know that if anyone can turn my frown upside-down it will most definitely be Kate.