I often hear people saying: “It’s all a matter of perspective” – which is arguably just a fancy way of saying “it depends how you look at it”. We often use this to try and find the good in an otherwise dismal situation, encouraging friends going through tough times to try and change their perspective a little and seek out the positives in their situation. But the formal meaning of cognitive perspective (as our good friend Wikipedia tells us ) is the choice of a context or reference to use a basis for experiencing, classifying or measuring an experience. I often think of this when I talk to people about their idea of a “good” diet.
For those who are out to save the earth, a good diet would consist only of seasonal produce, sourced from as close to home as possible so as to minimise the impact of importing and transporting foods vast distances when they are out of season. For them, exotic tastes or a year-round supply of blueberries for their health benefits might be less important than the greater goal of environmental responsibility. But for somebody who wants to further the ideas of the Fairtrade movement, the benefits of buying Fairtrade beans from Kenya might outweigh their environmental concerns about importing the beans. For somebody who has high cholesterol, avoiding too much animal protein might be classified as a good diet. But for somebody who has been diagnosed as anaemic, increasing their animal protein intake is usually recommended. It really is all a matter of perspective.
Until recently, my idea of a good diet consisted broadly of:
- as few chemicals as possible (For example, I’m usually the one voice at the table who will happily order full-fat Coca-Cola as it contains almost no weird chemicals – remember the recipe was developed in the 1800s! Compare the ingredients of full fat Coke and Coke Light and you will ass what I mean…)
- limited processed food like baked goods, sweets, chocolates and ready meals (have you seen the ingredient labels on those?!)
- no trans fats if I can help it (hello butter, goodbye disgusting margarine – i always knew you were bad for me!)
- limited red meat most days – but with the occasional juicy steak or proper roast as a treat.
And then last month my perspective changed. I fell while skiing and broke my right femur – trust me to break the longest bone in the human body… This resulted in a lot of pain, a lot of drama, some fairly heavyweight surgery and a long stay in a French hospital while the insurers debated about how and when to fly me home. It was not the best week I’ve spent, I can tell you that. For those brief moments in each day when I was allowed to stand up (the French were big on immobilisation) on my Zimmer frame, I kept feeling faint and dizzy because the accident and surgery had also made me fairly severely anaemic. To stop myself going absolutely crazy, I threw budgetary concerns to the wind and spent hours surfing the net on my phone, trying to find disability equipment to hire for our home in London and trying to see what I could eat that would help my body heal the broken bone. I made endless lists – foods containing calcium, protein, iron, vitamin D, Magnesium, Copper, Vitamin C and lycopene, I devised menus in my head containing as many of these nutrients as possible, disregarding the food dislikes I’d harboured in a previous life. By the end of this, I suspect that body will be built of tinned sardines, artichokes, low-fat cottage cheese and yoghurt, For heaven’s sake – I’ve even been buying goji berries, the superfood I had always scoffed at! I have a new perspective, and that perspective consists of a single-minded determination to eat myself well.
This rather wonderful breakfast/brunch recipe was inspired by a visit to one of my favourite Johannesburg restaurants last year, Tasha’s. The menu is one of those that sends you into agonies of indecision - everything looks good enough to order. The dish I eventually settled on that day was so good that I was soon recreating it at home. Not only is it delicious but as luck would have it, it is packed with all of the things my body needs right now: eggs (protein, phosphorus, vitamin D); spinach (iron, kitamin K, manganese, calcium and lots more); portabello mushrooms (B-vitamins, phosphorus, copper); and Boursin cheese (protein vitamin A, phosphorus, calcium). The original recipe used a feta cheese spread under the egg, but I find that garlic and herb Boursin cheese works just as well. Whether you are in search of bone healing or simply in search of an indulgent weekend breakfast, this recipe is a winner from both perspectives.
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 Portabello mushrooms, sliced
- 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
- butter or olive oil for frying
- salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 2 large free-range eggs
- 2 tsp vinegar
- 2 generous Tbsp Boursin cheese
- 2 slices wholewheat toast (or substitute bagels, English muffins or bread of your choice)
- In a small frying pan, heat a little olive oil or butter and add the garlic. Saute until sizzling gently, then add the spinach and mushrooms and cook until just wilted. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper. Keep warm.
- Heat a small saucepan of water until it is almost boiling but not quite. Stir in the vinegar and bring to a gentle boil. Crack the eggs into individual ramekins, then use a spoon to stir the boiling water rapidly so that a little whirlpool forms in the centre. Holding the ramekin close to the surface, slip the egg into the centre of the whirlpool - this will help hold the egg white together. Turn the heat off, cover the pot and allow to cook for 4 minutes (you don't want to overcook the yolk!). Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and keep warm; then repeat the process with the other egg.
- Toast and butter the bread. Top each slice with half the spinach-mushroom mix and top this with half the Boursin, Place an egg on top of each toast, sprinkle with a little more pepper and serve immediately.