Human beings are, as a rule, obsessed with youth and remaining young. You only have to glance through your local newspaper to see the advertisements for botox (for the stunned as opposed to stunning look!); cosmetic surgery; or lotions and potions "guaranteed" to make you look younger within hours. It seems as if we can't help ourselves – however much we extoll the virtues that come with age and experience, some small part of us still wants to be twenty years old.
Some people achieve this illusion by the aforementioned surgery or injections. Others (guys, this means you!) go for the little blue pills that are advertised so aggressively that my e-mail inbox cup runneth over on a daily basis. Some buy flashy red cars with no roof and hope they look younger behind the wheel than they do in the mirror. And yet others date people who are too young to even rememebr who the heck Duran Duran were.
Me, I don't go for any of those – I have my own personal take on how to stay young. Drink lots of water, get 8 hours of sleep per night, get 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and hit the gym three or four times a week. Becuse youth, like true beauty, comes from within.
OK, hands up – who fell for that? Anybody? Anybody??
I did try to type that with a straight face and MAN it was hard!
And I'm afraid that I will have to disillusion those who trusted me on that advice: my personal recipe for feeling like you are twenty for the rest of your life is a little different. Basically it goes like this: believe nobody – rather try it for yourself and see. I mean, come on, surely you remember your parents telling you at university "that boy/girl is unsuitable – it's all going to end in tears". Did anybody actually say "oh, OK, you know best – I'll dump them immediately"? I know I didn't. Of course I HATED it when my parents were right and it did all end in tears, but at least I had the satisfaction that I'd found this out for myself, empirically.
To me, that's what feeling 20 years old is all about.
Until recently, I had never cooked spaghetti squash. I don't recall it ever being available in the shops in South Africa and even if it was, I probably shunned it for my beloved butternut and gem squashes. In London, I see it on the shelves quite regularly,so when Kalyn wrote about it I decided it was high time to give it a go. Now Kalyn does state in her recipe that spaghetti squashes have hard outer rinds unless picked very young, and in that case they can't be eaten whole. Judging by its size, I would not say ours was partcularly youthful when it arrived, plus it spent another week or so on our kitchen counter. And yet, when the time came to cook it, I decided that I was in a hurry and in no mood to peel it, so why bother? I mean, I do a butternut squash bake where I don't peel the butternut, so how different can this be?
Grown-ups – what do they know?!
Umm. Quite a bit, it would appear. The squash roasted for probably the better part of an hour and caramelised beautifully, speckled yellow skin and all. But although the flesh was soft and delicious (reminiscent of gem squash), infused with the flavour of the herbs, the skin had an appalling texture. I'm trying to think of what to compare it to and coming up short of a description. Maybe some sort of plastic packaging accidentally left in your mince when making cottage pie?? Shudder. Not good.
Did I feel 20? Yes. Did I feel stupid? Yes. Sorry Kalyn – next time I'll listen to you!!
I told you all about thyme last week, so let's chat a bit about sage instead. Sage (Salvia Officinalis) is a member of the mint family and originated in the Mediterranean region. There are about 500 known varietes and its aromatic flavour is described as a mix of rosemary, pine, mint and citrus. It contains generous amounts of Vitamins A and C and (unlike more delicate herbs) can be added to foods at the start of the cooking process as its robust flavour will withstand cooking. But it was not until the 17th century that people started to cook with sage. For most of its history, it has been known as a healing herb, being prescribed for all sorts of reasons, including to relieve intestinal problems, an aphrodisiac, tooth whitening and brain stimulation. In fact – maybe the secret to eternal youth is sage!!
THYME AND SAGE ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH (serves 2-3)
1 large spaghetti squash, PEELED!
1 Tsp dried sage
1 Tsp dried thyme
Maldon salt flakes to serve
Pre-heat the oven to 190C. Peel and halve the squash. Remove the seeds and slice the flesh into crescents about 3cm long and 1.5cm wide.
Toss the squash pieces in enough olive oil to coat and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the herbs over the squash and bake for 45 mins or until soft. Sprinkle with Maldon (or fleur de sel) salt flakes to serve.