Mid-month round-up – the health and long life edition

As winter draws in and the evenings get colder I find cooking more alluring. Slaving over a hot stove – so very unappealing in Sydney’s sticky-hot summers – becomes much more enticing as a way both to keep warm and to get a good meal in. And, having just discovered the farmer’s markets up the road, I’ve decided to try my hand at making the best of the autumn harvest produce. Unfortunately I’m not really sure what naturally peaks down under in the Autumn (Easter eggs?) so I’ve picked up a copy of Belinda Jeffery’s Country Cookbook to inform me and inspire me on how to whip up that seasonal fruit and veg.

Before you think I have gone all Nigella on you, I have to admit that I have being taking inspiration from the sumptuous pictures (if Belinda decides to stop cooking, she’ll easily be able to make a living as a photographer) and the suggested monthly highlighted produce more than whipping up a 3 course dinner to spec nightly. Much like fashion trends, cookery tends to work better for me as a concept than in actual practice, especially baking – I did once, accidentally, managed to make a pretty convincing replica of the Discworld’s dwarven battle muffins. But while some of the recipes will certainly suit those with sweet teeth, it’s also inspired me to whip up more than a few stews, soups and casseroles from scratch, which has to be a little healthier than my normal method if warming myself through the winter with hot ports and chocolate.

The Country Cookbook: Seasonal Jottings and Recipes

Keeping with the theme of eating plenty of good food and living well, Good Health in the 21st Century by Carole Hungerford has also been prodding me to overhaul a diet that had become a bit over-reliant on grabbing pre-prepared and fast food. Carole is a family doctor and in this book she applies her years of learning and practise to give readers her perspective on how we can stay healthier for longer. We’re always interested in their opinions as soon as we become ill but doctors don’t get to interact much with what is the ideal outcome of their profession – healthy people.

It pretty much boils down to one simple point – eat better food, and more variety of it. The book meld recent studies and research on diet and nutrition with a no-nonsense approach to getting your hands on it easily through eating well and heartily.  An organic apple a day is unlikely, by itself, to keep the doctor away but Dr Hungerford suggests that diet rich in the minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids that normally occur in a wide-ranging diet will do a lot of work needed to keep us out of the doctor’s waiting room and in good health.  She addresses subjects including asthma, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mental health and neurological disorders, and – while I am not suggesting that every single thing in it is correct as I am, of course, not a doctor – it’s an engaging read that provides a good prod to those of us with good intentions regarding food often ruined by having the local takeaway on speed-dial.

Good Health in the 21st Century

Speaking of good health and a long life, I’ve also been enjoying Joanna Lumley’s photo-scrapbook and memoir, Absolutely. Much like Country Cookbook, Absolutely is a visual feast of photographs as well as words. Joanna describers herself as a hoarder of all things personal and memorabilia and thanks to this habit she has pictures of her family and herself in her every incarnation, from growing up in Kashmir and Kent, to her time as a model in the Swinging Sixties and her many memorable roles. She’s been a Bond girl, fought crime as Purdey in the New Avengers and, along with Jennifer Saunders, re-defined the phrase sweetie-darling as the unforgettable Patsy Stone, and looked absolutely fabulous throughout.

While it’s tempting to just flick through the pictures, it would be a shame to miss the linking text; Joanna’s writing is – much like her – stylish, welcoming, whimsical and possessed of a self-deprecatory sense of humour and perspective normally absent in celebrity memoirs. I’d quite like to be Joanna Lumley when I grow up, although I occasionally worry with my current diet and hobbies, I am more likely to end up resembling Patsy Stone. Well, whatever of the healthy eating and sylph-like figures at least we have the hoarding in common – I bet she can’t throw out books either.