Archives for posts with tag: Food

Texture, I’ve concluded – and not before time I hear most of you say – is incredibly important to how we perceive things. While sales and marketing can do much to get us to the stage where we purchase a product, or evaluate it if it’s a large or involved purchase, it’s only when we sample the product first hand, in the flesh, that the final piece of the opinion we form about something seems to slot into place, or else becomes a jagged peg in a round hole.

Texture seems to be very closely linked to the senses of touch and taste. It directly feeds into them. It’s hard to taste something or feel something without being acutely aware of its texture.

I think this is why I have an issue with peanut and peanut butter. I love peanuts, their flavour and crunchiness. I cannot stand peanut butter. I can’t finish even one slice of bread with it. It feels wrong as a paste, even those versions that have bits in them. For me it’s totally the wrong texture.

We were on holiday in the US about a decade ago with American friends, and on a day-trip one of the guys kindly made sandwiches for us all. They were PBJ, peanut butter and jelly – or jam as we say in Europe – the staple of American living. I’m perfectly fine with jam in a sandwich. Jam is supposed to be a paste. Mix it with peanut better, and to me it’s simply wrong. It was all I could do to politely eat a couple of them without the contents reversing direction.

Take avodado and guacamole, on the other hand. I love them both. They feel right in both forms.

But peanut better? Yes, it must be the texture.

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I’ve phoned into lots of sectors over the last couple of decades, doing everything from cold calls to research calls and loss or win analysis calls.

It’s always tough to get hold of people and I’ve found that generally it takes 4 or 5 calls to get through to the person you need. With cold calling, even after an email to tee them up it can be a poorer still average.

I’ve recently spent a few days calling into hotels and restaurants, asking to speak to the head chefs. The media often portrays chefs in TVs and films as moody, broody, harassed individuals who radiate the same kind of angst to their staff.

Not in my opinion, at least from the sample size of the few dozen I’ve been speaking to.

Chefs are nice! In my experience they are polite, happy to take calls, willing to listen, and open to new ideas. Maybe in the social media era they’re more careful to project a polite image to everyone, to avoid the risk of being rubbished or trolled, to the cost of their restaurant. I don’t know, but even when I phoned during meal preparation times, when I could hear the buzz of the kitchen behind them, they took my call.

I can only recall one conversation where the chef sounded harassed and up to his eyes, and he asked me to call back. He wasn’t rude, and he could have been. I think I would have been.

So there you have it. Chefs are nice in my opinion, a welcome break from many other sectors.

What is it about those inclusive hotel packages? In this last  in a 3-post series on holiday musings, I have a confession to make.

We recently went on holiday and opted for a half-board package. You get breakfast and dinner, but no lunch. Not only that but it was all the breakfast you could eat, in a self-serve stylee, and all the dinner you could eat. The food was excellent.

I couldn’t help myself. I can’t help myself. It’s something about the bountifulness and being able to go up as many times as you want. I would have 4 small courses for breakfast, topped off by buck’s fizz, natch. I would also have 4 small courses for dinner. It was like tapas on steroids.

We decided not to upgrade to full board – the all inclusive package – while we were there. It was €30 per day to upgrade, for which you also got lunch and all the drinks you wanted from a specific list. A long specific list, including mojitos that were €12 a pop to the non-full boarders. It was ludicrously good value.

I wouldn’t have been able to control my intake with a 24/7 carte blanche. With all inclusive it’s as if the laws of supply and demand no longer apply. We can suspend Newton’s 3rd law of physics and gorge on a seemingly unending supply of body fuel.

It’s a good job there was a gym and a couple of pools in the complex. An extra stone over the course of a week does not sit well on a 10-stone frame.

I was helping my daughter bake a cake the other day. She wanted help measuring out the ingredients and then she got on with it herself. It was to be a cake for her Ladyship’s birthday, one of those two-sponge affairs with jam in the middle and icing on the top.

I haven’t baked in a long time. I was staggered at the amount of butter that was called for in the recipe. Half a bar of the stuff. Worse was to come. The required amount of sugar filled a desert bowl, heaped.

It reminded me how much of the stuff that we’re supposed to moderate in our diets goes into making the big 5 food indulgences: cakes, crisps, sweets, chocolates and biscuits. I also love the cake mix, the gloopy mass of ingredients before it goes into the oven. Not usually the one to make the mix, I would grab a few scrapes of the remains of the mixing bowl. I had forgotten how much badness goes into these delicacies.

I guess that’s why legislation insists on manufacturers explicitly listing contents of food and also showing the number of calories in a meal. This has applicability not just in the world of fast moving consumer goods but in the broader marketing of both B2C and B2B products. Sometimes we don’t want to know what goes into the making of something. Sometimes we do, so it’s good to have the option.

If you’re a healthy person trying to get fitter, or indeed an unhealthy person looking to get healthy – and you’re serious about it, I have one piece of advice for you.

Being in good shape is of course a complex blend of lifestyle, genetics, circumstances and so on. This is not the advice part by the way. Some of these things are beyond our control, but we can to a large extent get or stay in shape by managing our diet and exercise.

It seems to be that you need to do both. We’re subject to a basic calculation: calories in and calories out.  In that sense we’re a bit like cars, taking in fuel and using it up to do work.  The more we exercise, the more we can eat, put in an over-simplified way. If you burn less calories than you absorb, you gain weight.  If you burn more, you lose weight. You could do 100’s of sit-ups a week, but if you can’t cut out the rubbish, you won’t see the benefit.

Now I’m partial to rubbish. Very partial. Cakes, sweets, biscuits, chocolates – these are the 4 basis food groups as far as I’m concerned. Added to that, I’m not as sprightly as I used to be, and nor’s my metabolism. So this is only going to end one way if I’m not more careful.

Here’s where I get to my advice, which if course I already gave you in the heading. Keep a food diary. I have kept one for the last 5 years, recording in general terms what I’ve been eating. It’s not particularly scientific, but what I do find is that it helps me acknowledge exactly what I’m eating, and that for me is half the battle. If you ate 4 chocolate biscuits after your tofu salad, then record them. I also try to record how much water I drink (I can’t stand water; it’s an effort for me to drink it) as well as tea and coffee. Finally, I also record any exercise I do that’s more strenuous than a walk around the block.  Any day without any exercise is recorded as ‘Black Day’.

Recording exactly what you eat reminds you of exactly what you eat. When you’re monitoring it, you’re effectively measuring it. And as the business gurus will tell you, if you can measure it, you can manage it.