Wednesday, 7 October 2009

I'm just a boy who can't say no

My stomach is distended.  I look like I'm about to give birth to twins.  I'm full to the brim and it will keep me awake tonight.  And I've no-one to blame but myself.

Today, I lunched with my accountant and had dinner at an Italian restaurant I was reviewing for the website,  Two meals out in one day is one too many, as far as I'm concerned.  Still, I told myself, if I kept the lunch light, it would be perfectly manageable.

My accountant's offices are in Pimlico, one of my favourite bits of London because, whilst it boasts the architectural grandeur and some of the gentility of neighbouring Mayfair and Belgravia, many of its residents are quite poor, so there's a pinch of vibrancy, scuzziness and madness to leaven the mix.  It also positively teems with restaurants, especially as you near Victoria.  We peered at the menus of many before settling on a Mexican joint which irresistibly offered two-course lunches for a tenner.

The starter duly arrived.  It was huge.  Only a starving navvy could have seen off the vast mound of tortilla chips, melted cheese, guacamole, tomatoes and goodness knows what else.  Only a starving navvy or I, that is.  Because I can't leave food.  If it's on my plate, it goes into my mouth.

The main course was of equally insane proportions, although I suppose I should have been grateful it wasn't even bigger.  Again, I polished it off, fretting all the time about how I would manage a single radicchio leaf a few hours later.

Of course, when dinner time came round, I put away parma ham with melon, sea bream a la Meuniere and panna cotta with the utmost efficiency, even helping out my dinner date with her selection of vegetables and new potatoes for good measure.  Which is why I am now lying around, nursing my pot belly, loathing myself and groaning 'never again!'.

Why do I do it?  Why can't I put my knife and fork together neatly when I know I've had enough and calmly step away from the plate?

I can't recall my mother threatening to withold the rhubarb crumble unless all the carrots and cabbage were consumed.  Many parents back then engaged in that kind of bargaining.  Either that, or they guilt-tripped their kids by pointing out the starving Biafrans on the television news.  Either tactic would probably be classed as abuse these days, bound to lead to eating disorders but, when you witness the narrow diet and non-existent table manners of some of today's children, it makes you think grandma had a point. 

My mum never resorted to such measures because she never had to; I wanted to finish my vegetables because, like everything else she served, they were delicious. 

How my heart goes out to those whose mothers were lousy cooks (and I remember the surprise of eating at friends' houses and discovering that some of their mums certainly were).  How melancholy their childhood mealtime memories must be, although they presumably remain constantly surprised at how good most of what they eat in adult life tastes in comparison, which is a happy state of affairs, I suppose.  I, meanwhile, am wont to compare, invariably unfavourably, the shortness of pastry, the crispness of chips, the fluffiness of mash or the richness of gravy with what mother dished up 40 years ago, day in, day out, apparently with little effort and usually to little acclaim.

Miraculously, I've completed half a century without becoming obese but, as the metabolism slows, it's sure to become harder.  Will I ever learn to quit when I'm sated? 

I doubt it.  Believe it or not, I've just experienced a pang of hunger.  Like buses, they never come singly so, if I don't go straight to bed, I shall find myself at the fridge, assessing my options for a late-night snack.

I am a hopeless case but I can live with it.  Salvation and salivation are mutually exclusive, it seems.  I'll take the latter every time.

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