In celebration of the slovenly season I have been very neglectful of my cooking over the Christmas break and aside from preparing a family Christmas dinner and party food for 40 people on New Years Day I took a giant break from the kitchen, with plenty of black and white movies, an overexcited toddler and the beautiful snowy conditions of our rural neighbourhood to keep me busy. And chocolate.
The Christmas period was also a break from an intense period of work researching the food documentary which starts filming next month, I've encountered so many great food producers while working on it this Autumn but unfortunately we can only fit in so many stories - this is the problem with television - you can only bring to light so much of the picture and there are many parts of Ireland's food and farming sectors that are not going to get on air as a result. Our aim is to tell the story of farming and food production in Ireland through looking at how supermarkets have changed our diets, the way food is produced, the way towns are designed and the way food is legislated. And it ain't pretty.
In terms of our own food intake, those wishing to cut themselves loose from bad food habits and a diet of ready meals this year will find plenty of advice in the first few weeks of January on how to remake oneself in the image of Angelina Jolie and that sort of thing. Personally I got tired of looking like Angelia Jolie and have now re-trained my sights on having the body of Giselle in er, a four weeks time. No problem. Unless you're under the age of ten you probably are aware that New Year resolutions rarely last, probably because we try to bite of more than we can chew, or more accurately, too little.
Most New Year's dieting advice involves taking far too big a jump in trying to change eating habits formed over a very long time. In trying to ignore most of this newspaper and magazine twaddle I came upon American writer Kim O'Donnell's advice on the New Year food and dieting advice craziness. Her approach can be summed up in three simple points -
•Eat down the fridge. This expression is borrowed it from the Depression-era and translates as - use what you already have on hand and resist the urge to stock up at the supermarket until the need truly exists. Challenge yourself to be resourceful with what you have in your kitchen for one week or longer, and learn how to reduce food waste. And don't whatever you do go to the supermarket when you're starving; in our household this results in a four tubs of Ben and Jerrys, three baguettes and a hunk of cheese.
•DIY vs. buy. Making your own food (and yes folks it does only take ten minutes to fry up some tinned tomatoes, garlic, onion and sardines and serve it up with penne pasta) costs a hell of a lot less than buying it as a prepared dish and offers control over salt and fat content. If you're not in the habit of cooking yourself, start with really simple stuff, like some scrambled eggs on toast with chopped parsley and a knob of butter. Don't go anywhere near a Heston Blumenthal et al cookery book or you'll have an aneurysm.
•Take baby steps. When it comes to making changes in our diet and health, less equals more. Pick a day to go meatless, for instance, or go for a walk, bring your lunch to work, climb the stairs instead of taking the lift, use one spoonful of sugar instead of two. Week after week, it adds up
So that's my pick of the advice. Time to go and load up on the chocolate again, after all, three weeks and six days is enough to look like Giselle, heaps of time...