This is where I came in . . . again

It’s been a while since I’ve had anything to say at the Fat Prop. A Rugby World Cup has come and gone and it’s been over a year since I was in that cramped Airbnb apartment with the double glazed windows on a hot sultry and steamy September day in Paris.

So what’s gone in the last fourteen months? Plenty. My best friend was married in Rotterdam and I fell in love with a city half way around the world with trams, unsurprisingly Dutch elm trees and a heritage that came from working class origins. I’ve been to Delft and the Hague and liked both. The Rijksmuseum is now fully reopened and was intoxicating in ways my art gallery exposure ill prepared me for. I sat there stunned in the ‘Walpole’ room of the ‘Masterpieces from the Hermitage’ exhibition with two stunning full length portraits by Van Dyke, probably the best Van Dyke’s I’ll ever see.

I’ve disconnected Foxtel, and disconnected even further from the game of rugby. I’ve had my phone nicked. I’ve replaced the oven. I’ve lost motivation in the gym and I’ve chosen to not celebrate a major milestone birthday. It’s safe to say that much of the last twelve months has seen me in the dumps.

In some respects with my new oven, I’ve managed to bake my way out of the gloom. Much of that baking has ended up on my waist – and with that, I lost interest in going to the gym. I’m the heaviest I am since I started this blog, some 24kgs away from my lowest weight hence why I use that phrase often heard in the movie pictures of the 20s and 30s when someone would say to the other ‘This is where we came in’ because the movies in those days run on an infinite loop with audiences able to come and go at any time.

I’ve discovered podcasts, rediscovered walking, and watching movies in a theatre. I went to a piano recital. It’s been a year of reconnecting with old friends, and making new ones.

All the while my thoughts have been kept to a non – electronic form. My writing has stalled. I’m no longer convinced that pouring my heart out to the internet is the best thing to do in an age where you’re personal life and your social media presence is used as a determinate of your ability to do a job.

I’ll say it once, I’ll say it twice, it’ll probably be the last words on my dying breath. My personal life, my private thoughts, that is the ones I keep just for me, are none of your business. If you think that all I am is the internet & social media persona that an algorithm decides to filter for whether I deserve an interview or not, then that’s your loss. I wouldn’t want to work for an organisation run by an algorithm.

I’ve always known I’m different to everyone else. I think different, I behave differently and I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way to fit in, to make the way I think and act work in a connected world. It’s sometimes resulted in giggling, laughing and sometimes in tears. There are several ruminations of the famous that drive my thoughts most days. Robert Charles Benchley’s ‘Drawing on my fine command of language I said nothing’, Nora Ephron’s overarching theme given to Julia Child in ‘Julie and Julia’ “I never fitted in, literally” and accepting that was the way it is always going to be.

And my two heroes, John Harrison, he of Dava Sobel’s ‘Longitude’ and Alan Turing before I knew he was gay, before I accepted I was gay. Then of course there is Sandra Boynton the gifted artist of cute fluffy cats who had a drawing of a horse in a room full of cows. The chair cow puts a motion to the floor ‘Okay, now, all those in favour say MOO, All opposed say Neigh’. Underneath this room full of cows a solitary horse stares back at the viewer overwhelmed by the odds. Underneath this solitary horse are these words that have stuck with me since my University days ‘Just because you’re outnumbered, it doesn’t mean your wrong’.

Just because you're outnumbered it doesn't mean you're wrong.

Just because you’re outnumbered it doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

I was asked recently if I thought of myself as a philosopher. Without a beat of silence I unequivocally answered ‘Yes. Absolutely’. A philosopher of what, I do not know, I just think that this life all our lives are not a game, it’s an experience that must be explored, lived and most definitely you have to feel it and think it.

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Paris: The largest tourist trap on planet Earth

My sister loves Paris, and I like Paris too, but not as much as my sister does. My sister likes Paris the theme park and I like Paris because of the Parisian’s who live, work and have to cope with the 50,000,000 tourists who pretend not to be tourists who visit Paris EVERY SINGLE YEAR. I believe Parisian’s should be given one month a decade off. Think of it like a public holiday for Parisians from the tourists. The tourists who don’t bother to learn about the formal culture that underpins France where you are expected to say ‘Hello’ upon entering a shop and ‘Thank you’ when leaving – even when you have not bought a single thing. The tourists who, without fail block the Metro exit, unfold their map and say where are we while 60 people are backed up behind them ready to throw them onto the third rail without mercy. Come the next revolution I’ll be happy to pitch in with the throwing of the tourists onto the first metro beyond the 16 adroissiments.

Of course 90% of this town speaks english they have to because Paris can not survive without tourists it’s the Bali of the north or as I prefer to call it Euro Disney before Disney. Paris is a theme park, the Louvre, Versailles, Musee D’Orsay, Opera Garnier, Invalides, and yes, Tour Eiffel which sneaks up on you the same way the Sydney Harbour Bridge photo bombs your pictures of Sydney even when you’re really nowhere near the harbour foreshore.

I’m staying in the 2nd Androissiment this year, barely 2 small blocks from Foodie heaven on Montrogueill a market street that sells fresh food of every shape and size. But despite servicing the local Parisian’s with a Fromagerie, Bouchier, Vin du Cave, several Boulangerie & Patisserie, a Poiosonnaire and a Supermarche there are the regular reliable hints that all is not as it seems.

That would of course mean there is a ‘Starbucks’ yeah Gods, it means there is a Mariage Fres tea shop an Quotidant de Pain outlet to sell bread not technical a Boulangerie as to be called a Boulangerie you need to bake the bread on premise. Oh and there’s a Guess outlet. That all happens two blocks to the left outside my front door. Two blocks to the right and there are sex shops lots of sex shops, Madames of the night literally standing outside doorways and on street corners with short skirts, a shoulder strap half on half off, tits out to tomorrow cleavage to sink down into and surface 2 days later if and when you could afford it. It gets seedy and it gets seedy fast in a short distance from my front door to the right. To the left it gets touristy and fast.

This is not to say in any way that Paris is alone like this. Grey St St Kilda isn’t pretty, and despite the efforts to clean it up that central section of Smith Street Fitzroy still has its fair share of colour. I think I’m dark on Paris this visit because it’s taken me three days to get my bearings. I walked 3 kilometers to the Mariage Fres Tea shop in the Marais only to discover I walked past a micro outlet store in Montrogueill six times in the first 3 hours in Paris.

My feet are sore. They have not helped my mood.

The other joy of Parisians is that they do like to honour your attempts at parle francaise. They like you to try, or they beg you to stop speaking French. It’s one or the other. Sometimes my pronunciation is note perfect and they reply at a million miles an hour while the English side of my brain is thinking ‘Holy shit, he understood me’ and then of course while I was celebrating (occasionally in French but mainly in English) I failed to listen to the next 83 words spoken in 27 seconds like, as if, I was a native speaker.

Then there are the guys who breathe deeply and say ‘No, not again, I’m going to kill myself with the chacuterie knife if he tries to speak French’ look on his face and your courage fails you and you speak English, and then kick yourself for chickening out.

My experience of Parisian showers has not improved on this visit in my new apartment, the old shower in the old place near Hotel de Ville was minute, this shower is larger but the plumbing true to Parisian form. There’s a reason every shower in every apartment comes with a plunger. At some stage during your stay you’ll be unblocking the shower and trying not to think too hard about what that is coming back up the spout.

Every apartment in Paris for rent faces the street, and that means it’s noisy. This one faces a very quiet street in the heart of the fabric district and has double glazed windows to keep the noise out. It’s been a relief to shut out the noise of Paris within the original 16 Androissiments there are one million tourists gawking around.

So Paris for me isn’t the trinkets and the jewelery box of monuments, it’s the people and the culture that I love. Every time I visit Paris (and this is my fourth visit in 5 years) I end up buying some fabulous clothes that seem tasteful, refined, classy and then realise that Parisian’s embrace colour like the English the sun and the Australians the rain after a drought. When I wear it back in the cultural backwater all I hear is ‘Gee that’s a bit loud’ where as in Paris it would be considered refined and tasteful. It’s then that you comprehend with ease why Coco Chanel invented that little black dress because it’s the last colour most Parisian’s would pick, unlike the rest of the world where it’s usually the first.

So after 2 days of being lost in the 2nd and having my Museum pass pick pocketed in the Mona Lisa room of suffering at the Louvre I’ve decided to brush off the frustrations, the Madames, the outlet stores of all things Parisian, the identifiers of a tourist trap (Starbucks crap coffee, Ben & Jerry’s etc) my grumbling of the Disneyfication of the culture and the discovery that just like the end of the Wizard of Oz – behind the sparkly shiny bits and all the colour and lights are people, not quite like me, just trying to get on with their day and their life in the largest tourist trap on planet Earth.

I’ve come to understand that it’s not Paris I’ll miss but the Parisians and in a way that makes sense and makes me realise only now that I’ll miss this place once a leave it again.

Hopefully it will be au revoir not adieu.

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Woodfired Apple Crumble

I am on my friends farm near the Dargo High plains. I have been visiting this farm for nearly 30 years and I’ve been cooking in the farmhouse kitchen with its woodfired stove and cook top for all of that time. Last night after doing some off farm (rather than on farm) labour I made for my friends and their two strapping sons this Apple Crumble recipe.

CBARS: 3
CREATIVITY: RD (You can improvise with the crumble mixture and the fruit).
SERVES 4-6

Equipment:
1 Microwave proof bowl (glass is my preference)
1 Microwave
1 Chopping Board
1 Vegetable Peeler or a fruit paring knife
1 Chopping Board
1 Medium to large mixing bowl.
1 Sharp knife that’s not been used to undo screws or tighten them up again
1 Medium ovenproof casserole dish
(Optional FOOD PROCESSOR)

Ingredients:
Stewed Apples:
4 Medium Apples (or 6 small or 3 large)
Vanilla (paste, essence, pod it’s up to you. We used a 1/3rd of a pod split and seeds scraped)
Lemon peel (No, I’m not taking the pith and neither should you)
1/2 Cup of Sugar
2 Cups of Boiling Water

Crumble:
3/4 Cup of Plain Flour
1/2 Cup of Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup of PUKKA or 1/2 cup Rolled oats, 1 tablespoon dried fruit 1 tablespoon roughly chopped roasted nuts)

Method:
1. Ensure the AGA oven is stoked with wood and at about 400F (200C)
2. Using the VEGETABLE PEELER, peel the APPLES
3. Core and cut the apples into quarters then the quarters into thirds
4. Place the APPLES into the microwave safe BOWL
5. Add 1/2 Cup of SUGAR to the apples and combine
6. Add LEMON PEEL and VANILLA to the bowl
7. Pour over enough water to nearly cover the APPLES
8. Mix GENTLY so that the sugar is dissolved
9. Cover the BOWL firmly with CLING FILM and microwave for 12 minutes
MEANWHILE . . . make the CRUMBLE
Version A – MANUALLY
10. In a large mixing BOWL place FLOUR and SUGAR and combine
11. ON the chopping board, cube the BUTTER into 1cm cubes
12. Add the BUTTER to the mixing BOWL.
13. Using your fingers pinch the BUTTER into the flour and sugar until it is crumbly.
14. Stir through 1/2 Cup of PUKKA or oats, dried fruit and nut mixture.

ALTERNATIVELY you can replace steps 10-13 by placing all crumble ingredients without PUKKA in a FOOD PROCESSOR and pulse (DO NOT BLITZ) until resembling bread crumbs. I had no food processor so I used my hands. Once crumbled (hence the name) follow step 14 and add the PUKKA

Then
15. Grease the CASSEROLE dish
16. Add the stewed APPLES to the bottom of the dish with the lemon and vanilla
17. Gently sprinkle the crumble mixture over the apples
18. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes until browned and piping hot.
19. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving with (in this case) Double Cream or more usually the wonderful cold of Vanilla Ice Cream

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Trying to like Fennel

I like buying fruit and vegetables from Farmers’ Markets. If for no other reason than the produce is picked ripe and delivered fresh. Sometimes it has only been hours from the picking to the eating.

Melbourne is experiencing a true winter this year. It’s cold, it’s wet. This bodes well for the cruciferous (cabbage family) as the colder the days the better the produce especially one of my favourites Brussel Sprouts.

One of the things that grows well close to Melbourne is Fennel. I like the smell, I like the texture, but I always find it overpowering when I use it. I will order it on a menu and one of my most favourite dishes in the world ‘The Melbourne City Wine Shop’s Chicken Schnitzel with Italian Coleslaw features the fennel raw.

Yet put me in the kitchen with fennel and I fail. Consistently.

So after yet again buying young, fresh, vibrant fennel on Saturday, yesterday I made Stephanie Alexander’s Braised Fennel. It had so much going for it, EVO (that’s Virgin Olive Oil), Butter, good Balsamic Vinegar, Rosemary and the tiniest bit of honey.

It’s a great recipe. The fennel was magnificent hot, and even better in my salad today cold. The leftover balsamic,honey & rosemary infused with fennel made a spectacular dressing for today’s salad. It was the first recipe that I’ve cooked with fennel that worked for me. I’m sure there are more out there.

I complained yesterday that I would try for a decade to find a recipe that would make me like fennel. It took me forty-five minutes and three cookbooks (Medici’s ‘Italy the Beautiful Cookbook’, David’s ‘Italian Cooking’ and the old Australian faithful Stephanie Alexander’s ‘A Cook’s Companion’).

So that’s one recipe (admittedly cooked – which softens the aniseed strength and sweetens the bulb) that I like and will cook again. Let’s hope there are a few more that will make me keep buying and using this vegetable suited to the winter weather of Melbourne and stocked by the farmers at their markets.

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Chicken, Mushroom & Kale Salad

Recently I discovered that I started every blog post with today. Let’s put a stop to that – today.

One of the side effects of having specific amounts of protein at each meal is that the world, particularly the organic world doesn’t dish things up in 100g, 150g, 200g or indeed 250g sizes. This means you are forever estimating how much of the cooked meat to trim. It involves weighing, trigonometry, a protractor and a very good eye. You end up with lots of left over cooked meat. Left over chicken, left over pork sausages, left over cooked porterhouse steak.

In the fridge tonight, I had half a porterhouse steak, one poached chicken breast, half of a grilled chicken breast – all cooked. That’s okay. Most days the leftover dinner ends up in the next day’s salad lunch. Tonight I decided to use the half of the grilled chicken breast and by dumb luck and outstanding ingredients brought at last weekend’s Farmers’ Market made this delicious salad. The only two pantry ingredients was a few sun dried tomatoes and some olive oil.

Chicken Mushroom & Kale Salad

Serves 1
CBARS 5

Equipment:
2 large chopping boards
1 6 cup pudding bowl (or any medium sized bowl mine was ceramic)
1 sharp chef’s knife (24cm recently sharpened by my Butcher for free)
1 Non Stick Fry pan
1 Wooden Spoon
1 Dessert Spoon

Ingredients:
150g of Cooked Chicken
60g Mushroom
30g Tuscan Kale (aka Cavalo Nero) after being destalked probably 80-90g, 3-4 leaves)
20g Walnuts
20g Sun Dried Tomatoes
Nigella Lawson’s Golden Honey Dressing
Salt, Pepper
Chopped Fresh Rosemary (1/2 to 1 teaspoon) NOT TOO MUCH. (It’ll taste like soap otherwise)
Olive Oil

Method:
Step 1. Make Nigella’s Golden Dressing

Nigella’s Golden Dressing :
Ingredients
1 tablespoon Olive Oil or Canola Oil
Juice of Half a lemon
1 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon of Honey
Salt
Pepper
Method:
Put all ingredients in a Jar. Seal the lid. Shake just before serving.

Step 2. Put the SAUCEPAN on a moderate heat.
Step 3. Add OLIVE OIL to the pan
Step 4. On the CHOPPING BOARD destalk and quarter the MUSHROOMS
Step 5. Add the MUSHROOMS to the SAUCEPAN use a wooden spoon to make sure the mushrooms are coated with oil.
Step 6. On the Chopping board slice the SUN DRIED TOMATOES into tiny pieces (2-3mm square) add the BOWL
Step 7. Stir the MUSHROOMS
Step 8. On the second CHOPPING BOARD chop the Chicken into small cubes (about 1.5cm square ish) add to the BOWL
Step 9. Stir the MUSHROOMS
Step 10. Add the WALNUTS to the bowl.
Step 11. If they MUSHROOMS are coloured and shiny remove from the saucepan and add to the BOWL.
Step 12. Return the SAUCEPAN to the heat.
Step 13. Add the ROSEMARY to the saucepan and allow the oil to infuse.
Step 14. Add the chopped TUSCAN KALE to the saucepan
Step 15. Stir the TUSCAN KALE gently around the pan.
Step 16. Add the TUSCAN KALE to the bowl.
Step 17. Mix the ingredients in the BOWL together with the DESSERT SPOON. The heat from the mushrooms and kale will help heat the other ingredients.
Step 18. Pick up the sealed Jar of GOLDEN HONEY DRESSING and shake vigorously
Step 19. Open the Jar and pour the dressing over the bowl and mix thoroughly.
Step 20. Serve the dressed salad on a plate and enjoy.

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No Prisoners

Today, with Cubby on leave I had a proper sparring session with Peter. Peter is a professional boxer and now has only a face his mother could love. Peter will not and should not be offended by this, he is steeped in boxing culture in a way I have only ever skirted the edges of in my exploration of hitting the pads.

Until now.

I sparred for 30 minutes and in those sweaty hard thirty minutes, I learned more about myself and more about boxing and the etiquette of boxing than I had for the ten years or so that I have owned boxing gloves. Peter was passionate, educated (a term he would shun), dedicated, disciplined, authoritarian and most of all Pete was experienced. Direct first hand, knocked out cold in the ring ‘experienced’.

Boxing is all about discipline; it is from the first minute, sparring or in the ring about hit, or be hit, kill or be killed. You never, even on first meet-greet say sorry. You apologise for nothing. You turn your mistakes to unintended advantages. For reasons that are painful and don’t need to be retold, my automatic response to everything I think I do wrong (even if it isn’t) is to say aloud ‘sorry’.

Pete the boxer (Peter the boxer sounds far too formal) fixed sorry by making me do a burpee everytime I said it. I soon stopped saying sorry. A habit, an automatic response that has been with me since early childhood because of fear, was stopped, because of – well – fear.

I learned so much more about Boxing in thirty minutes than I really thought was possible. How to get the power transfer, what a sweet thing it is to land a punch, to have the body doing what it seems, even to this pseudo pacifist, completely and utterly natural. I worked aerobically harder than I have with Cubby and that’s because Cubby is from the anaerobic school of fitness (as is the sport I truly love rugby union).

Boxing is about self discipline, it’s about endurance, it’s about physical strength and it’s about smarts. Most of all boxing is about pride, courage and something T.E.Lawrence taught me a long long long time ago.

That something that I know from Boxing & T.E.Lawrence is about taking ‘no prisoners’. In my first 30 minutes with ‘Pete the boxer’ he made sure I knew it and was merciless in the application of the lesson.

As it should be.

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Paleo Tuna Salad

Today, because I’m back in Protein World and I was (and I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this) sick of the sight of beef and other red meats I made the decision to make a Tuna salad for lunch. The ingredients were all fresh from yesterday’s Farmers’ Market at Veg Out St Kilda (bar of course the tin of tuna or ‘tunny’ as Elizabeth David calls it in ‘Italian Food’).

It’s quick. It’s easy, and if I do say so myself, tastes delicious.

Paleo Tuna Salad
Serves 1
CBARS: 5

Equipment:
Chopping Board
Sharp Knife
Can Opener (optional if it’s a ring pull tuna)
Dessert Spoon
Small Pudding Bowl (3-4 Cup size)

Ingredients:
1 220g Tin Tuna in Olive Oil or Springwater
1 small Cauliflower floret
2 Spring Onions
4 Lettuce Leaves
2 Sprigs Thyme
2 Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 Small Orange/Red/Yellow Capsicum
15ml Sweet Chilli Sauce or (1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil 1/2 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar)
Salt, Pepper

Method:
1. On a chopping board shred the LETTUCE and add to the bowl.
2. Quarter the Cherry TOMATOES and add to the bowl.
3. Slice the SPRING ONION on the diagonal and add to the bowl.
4. Dice the CAPSICUM and add it to the bowl.
5. Shred the RAW CAULIFLOWER so that it disintegrates into rice / barley sized pieces. Add to the bowl.
6. Pick the THYME leaves from the stalk and guess what … add the leaves to the bowl.
7. Open the TUNA and add it to the bowl, be sure to fork the tuna into small chunks.
8. Using the dessert SPOON mix the salad together so it is well combined.
9. Stir in the SWEET CHILLI SAUCE (or RED WINE/OIL combo)
10. Add some pepper and if required SALT (N.B. Sweet Chilli Sauce is VERY HIGH in Salt)
11. Serve and eat with a fork.

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The Battle with Breakfast

In what I call ‘Protein World‘ and what the world calls the Paleo diet. Breakfast is frankly the biggest pain in the arse there is in any day – but especially a work day. By the time you cook protein, be it chicken, beef, pork or fish be it steak, fillet or sausage it takes time, makes a mess and you’re always running around like a blue arse fly trying to tidy up, make sure the gym bag is packed, lunch is made and you’re out the door on the tram to the gym.

I’m starting to really love eggs. Scrambled eggs with Smoked Salmon has been used before, but lately thanks to Julia Child’s youtube video on the humble Omelette, I’ve returned to this protein winner.

Ham, Spinach & Cheese Omelette

(Serves 1 fat prop or indeed anyone visiting Protein World)

CBARS: 3
Creativity: RD (Robbie Deans – go for it)

Equipment
Non Stick Frypan
1 wooden spoon
1 small bowl
1 bread plate
1 whisk (Nigella or any other kind)
1 chopping board
1 sharp Chef’s knife (preferably your own not an actual Chef’s)
1 stove top or gas hob
Paper towel for draining.

Ingredients:
2 Organic Free Range Eggs (I use an 800g box which is usually labelled Extra Large)
50g of Ham
30g of Spinach
10g of Unsalted Butter
10g of more Unsalted Butter
1 tablespoon of unadulterated Cream
15g of Cheese (Cheddar, Goats it’s entirely up to you)
Fresh garden parsley finely chopped (to taste)
Salt
Pepper

Method
1. Turn on your heat source for the HOB to a HIGH flame if experienced. If not moderate flame for beginners or Backs.
2. Place the nonstick FRYPAN on the HOB
3. Break the 2 EGGS into the SMALL BOWL
4. Remove any eggshell from the SMALL BOWL (Optional)
5. Whisk the eggs until well combined.
6. Add the CREAM and whisk in until well combined.
7. Season the EGG/CREAM mixture with SALT and PEPPER
7. Add 10g of UNSALTED BUTTER to the FRYPAN
4. Wait for the UNSALTED BUTTER to stop sizzling (this implies it has to sizzle first – right?)
5. Add the 50g of SPINACH and allow it to wilt (shrivel up into a smaller version of themselves)
6. Place some PAPER TOWEL on the BREAD PLATE
7. Remove the SPINACH and drain on the PAPER TOWEL.
8. Wipe the FRYPAN with more PAPER TOWEL and return to the HOB
9. Add the additional 10g of UNSALTED BUTTER and allow it to sizzle
10. Add the EGG mixture to the FRYPAN and be sure it coats the base of the frypan.
11. QUICKLY add the chopped HAM over the egg mixture.
12. Ever more QUICKLY add the SPINACH where the HAM is not.
13. Using the WOODEN SPOON gentle pull the edge of the omelette in to the centre (about 3-5 millimeter from the edge is fine or watch Julia)
14. GRATE the hard cheese or dot the soft cheese over the quickly forming Omelette.
15. As soon as the EGG mixture sets fold it in half using a spatula or using a flipping motion of your wrist.
16. Serve immediately

It’s important to note that with the ham – the salt level will be high. You can also use fish or other protein sources. The secret to great omelettes is not too many ingredients in the pan. This omelette has a lot of protein added (50g Ham) so Julia Child’s technique doesn’t work as well. If it’s just the eggs then practice practice practice.

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A Crisis of Faith

This week, I’ve decided to pick a fight with two fitness industry gurus from the Poloquin school. It’s not really a fight more a semiotic argument. I’d love it to be a debate, but the issue seems too big for 140 characters and also I’m coming at it as a neophyte. So there’s a credibility gap right up front.

It seems that after reading Simon Schama’s three volume of ‘A History of Britain’, ‘Citizens’, ‘The Power of Art’ and the major texts of the American Civil War and World War 2 (including the seminal John Keegan ‘Six Armies in Normandy) I haven’t learned the lessons in history that you never fight a battle on two fronts. It ruined Harold of England, it ruined Richard II. It ruined Napoleon. It, thankfully, ended Hitler. Now, I think it’s going to ruin me.

My trainer, Cubby, is a disciple from the Poloquin school. He’s not a clone of Poloquin. If Poloquin was Plato then he’d be Aristotle. He’s the same, but different. Like the the film ‘L.A. Confidential’ is like the book, but different. It’s his interpretation of the Poloquin philosophy – not a regurgitation of it.

I could be the only person on the planet taking offense at the value judgement’s these Poloquin disciples say about the obese. Both these Poloquin disciples claim to have been obese themselves in their younger lives (actually one of them claims only to be ‘fat’ and seems oblivious to the difference).

To be fair to them I could be the only person on the planet taking offense at this value judgement. It would not be the first time that I’ve been outnumbered in an opinion and it wont be the last time or the last issue either. I’m always brought back to one of the tenants of my life ‘Just because you’re outnumbered, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong’. As I mature and age, I have learned through painful lessons that my gut instinct is very rarely wrong.

However, this wholely, brutally ugly, and very personal experience has made me question many many things about my lifestyle.

Namely:

  • Should I keep going to the gym?
  • Should I keep paying a personal trainer?
  • Should I keep eating a paleo diet?
  • Should I give up?
  • Has the last 10 years been all for nothing? All for nought?

I’m not religious in any capacity. If atheism came in the same categories as heavy metal music (heavy, thrash, black, grunge, death), I’d be at the death atheism level.

However, it’s three days later, I’m still picking a fight with the bullies, about one of the few pleasures of my life in the last decade namely pumping iron in the gym. Normally I haven’t given a shit about what anybody thinks about my gym time. Why now? Why?

Is it that I think that what people say differs from what people do? Is it that I’ve done what I always do and put people up on a pedestal so high that when the illusion breaks I’m ruined by the reality exposing the stupidity of the ideal? The stupidity of my idealism, my passion being exposed for what it is. An expensive folly. A middle aged, naïve man, thinking anything is possible, and still not waking up to the Shylock’s and Iago’s in one’s everyday life?

If I’m to believe Charles (Poloquin) and Michael (Jordan), and just about everyone else this should only be a battle with the former version of me.

The confounding thing is, I’m smashing personal bests out of the park week in and week out. I’m at the heavy end of the dumbbell rack, I’m up to 4 plates on bench, 12 on leg press 4 on squats after last year’s knee surgery. The numbers in the gym are telling me I’m succeeding. The numbers in the real world, weight, and belt loops are reporting no significant change for the better or worse.

If I was religious, I’d be able to go to the texts, go to the chapter and verse and reflect. In the fitness industry where do I go? To podcasts? That’s what led me here in the first place.

I’m not religious in any definition of the word, but this from my limited understanding, feels like a crisis of faith.

(No one’s going to get me through this but me.)

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Postscript to the podcast wisdom. Cubby & the gym remain. I (eventually) run out of anger & hurt.

Today. After bellowing (me) common sense & sanity prevailed (Cubby won the argument). Reason & Logic (Cubby, again) conquered the anger and despair (umm me again) of a lowered self esteem, hurt pride and a truckful of loss of faith (that would be, err, umm, me again).

The best of all of this is I’m keeping the best personal trainer in the world. My trust is restored, and battered self esteem slowly repairing and staying with the gym and continuing on the good course to success.

The sanity only returned after ranty me (pain in the ars- me) said my piece. Given any day I like to be heard. It’s unlikely in the history of me having a pulse that I’ll ever not be heard clearly.

As a backstory before I trained with Cubby I had Steve from Nottingham. I use to call him Robin Hood – he smiled weakly at the lameness but I persisted week in week out. Anyway… I always trained with Steve in the group fitness room. It was one on one, it was personal, my humiliations were private, the sweary rants were private (and kind of funny) and it quickly built trust and rapport and my confidence grew exponentially as did my esteem. Cubby changed that on day 1. I remember when I said why aren’t we training in the group fitness room Cubby said ‘I like the show’. I shut up like a three year old in a new environment. . . for about 2 sessions. Then because Cubby (The quiet assassin type of trainer) pushed and pushed and one day, one day, my reserve broke. From then on, it was game on and gameday in the ‘Cubby House’ We own our gym on Fridays at 8.15am. It’s fun, it’s hard bloody work and it’s always, always brilliant.

Today’s Friday 8.15 started at the Squat Racks. Cubby and I (mainly me) gave a show and a half this morning.

Our session started as normal.
‘How are you?’ Cubby said, and that pressure valve temper of mine blew its fuse for the first time in the forthcoming hour.

‘How the f-ck do you think I am? I looked at the mirror and caught the anger and grim menace of the vesuvian temper of mine errupting. The session was not like any other we’ve had and one I don’t want to ever have again.

“I can’t belive you really believe that shit. If you do we’re done. Let’s stop right here and now and move on”
At this stage my eyes were doing there usually post blown fuse bore through with lasers to the heart of men’s souls thing. Australians also call it a ‘greasy stare’.
“I don’t. I’m really sorry.”
He was. I couldn’t see it through my anger and like somebody with Tourette’s all I could do was stare through him and desperately try to temper the negative stupid irrational thoughts and words forming in my jump first, look second brain. Instead all I could do was repeat verbatim Mr Phil Learney’s phrase “Obese people can’t help but be lazy” (beat)
“Really?”
“You honestly believe that shit? I thought you were better than that.”
And in return I got back
“I am better than that. I don’t believe that.”
“Thank fuck for that!”
“Sorry. Stop being angry with me. I didn’t say it. “

I said “Sorry” but it sounded more like the Sorry you say when you have to say sorry to move on, not the sorry you really mean. I wanted it to be the sorry I really mean. It WAS the sorry I really meant to say. It just took another 20 – could be 30 – minutes for me to get out of the tape loop that was Mr Learney’s quote

“Obese people can’t help but be lazy”

I repeated it every time I was about to start a set until Cubby could take no more
“Can we have no more of the podcast?” Cubby calmly rationally asked
(Deep breath out) “Sorry. I’m sorry” The dam walls broke. The anger dissipated. The regret flowed. I finally said sorry and it sounded like I was sorry.
There was no more of the podcast and the fight response was channelled into the shoulders and legs. I simply didn’t trust myself to spa with Cubby today. I missed my boxing, but I’d miss my trainer more if I f-cked up for something that was done with best intentions and he was – factually & accurately – not accountable for.

Later I understood from Cubby that Mr Learney (still a great joke on Day 2) is a Poliquin disciple. So apparently is Mr Coomber. Poliquin is from the ‘take no prisoners’ school of training (metaphorically) Poloquin makes Drill Sargent’s pee their pants not the other way around. So Mr Learney is from the “Drill Sargent” (let’s label it correctly with Phil’s phrase ‘Tough Love’) school of Personal Trainers. I use to respond really well to this typecast of personal trainer until I discovered the quietly spoken Tom Hafey school of P.T. that is Mr Adam McCubbin.

I apologised for my rants, my anger, my frustration, my despair, my loss of faith, my loss of trust. I at some stage may have promised him my first born son. Regardless we did what the Australian Bush and Australian Rugby taught me to do. At the end of the session I shook his hand mate to mate and put all this painful experience behind me. I hope it’s water off a duck’s back to him. But I know my words can bite and sting better than any fist I can throw. He’s a big man, with a great passion and talent for fitness. It’s a lesson for him and me and it’s the biggest lesson for us as a client and trainer.

For Phil & Ben I’ll say this:
The message you intend to send is not the one always received.

As a former Associate Professor of the University of Melbourne my word of advice to Coomber, Benjamin and Learney, Phillip is:
If you’re going to quote the science as fact there is nothing wrong with listing the title of the main reference which influences your thinking and supports your beliefs in your podcasts summary.

For me I’ll go hunting for fitness and nutrition podcasts on my own.

Every one of us, even the obese ones, Phil & Ben, are unique. Every one of us views the world through our own prism, hopefully tempered by experience, reason and logic. Sometimes we don’t succeed and sometimes poor judgement, irrationality, inexperience impair our actions and behaviours.

Podcasts by their nature are “All about me” but let’s have a discussion about the content, rather than 30 minutes of agreement. Let’s have podcasts less like Moses on the mount and more like Mohammed Ali in the ring.

This tawdry episode has taught me that when I used the phrase ‘Fitness Guru’ glibly I was in error, these people really do believe they are the voice of the fitness Gods and painfully, regretfully I understand that that has to be the case. Lesson learned by me, it’s cost me emotionally, physically and mentally.

In summary I don’t need a Poloquin clone, because I have a Poloquin original. I’m glad I’ve made my peace with him, I’m glad he survived another irrational pile of my crap and another brain snap in the gym.

Now time to put this all down to experience, bad Apple iTunes software failing to sync the last 3 episodes and the cult of personality (mine, yours, theirs).

I’m sorry to everyone dragged into this sad, miserable mess and I’ll finish with my favourite John Wayne quote

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”
– John (Marion) Wayne

P.S. The one cool fitness thing I learned out of all of this is that endomorph<-->mesomorph<-->ectomorph is a sliding scale between the three states (known in our gym as me, FieldMouse, Stavros) not a fixed state.

Posted in Cubby, Fitness, Gym | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Postscript to the podcast wisdom. Cubby & the gym remain. I (eventually) run out of anger & hurt.