Thursday, 15 March 2012

Man vs Food, Woman vs Cream Tea.

Man vs Food is fast becoming my favourite programme. The premise is an American food lover, Adam Richman , travels to American cities sourcing restaurants that do gigantic portions and/or food challenges for their customers and then he puts himself to test by attempting to eat as much as is physically possible. Surprisingly, Adam is not obese and this is due to the strict exercise regime he follows (he exercises before eating, stating that squats are best for building the appetite, and then on the treadmill after to burn off the calories) This discipline gives me a lot of respect for Adam. He is bringing blood, sweat and tears to the act of eating. He will eat in the extreme and work out in the extreme. Work hard, play hard. This isn’t greed, this is a food religion.
I can imagine me and Adam would be great friends. I would be there to mop his brow when the inevitable meat sweats began, I would provide words of encouragement during the challenge such as “Food grows on this good Earth for men such as yourselves to eat and to eat in abundance. Don’t let food control you Adam, seize what is yours”…Or something similar. I want my pep talk to adequately reflect the gravitas of the situation and support the almost biblical significance he places on the act of eating. Yes, we would be good friends Adam and I.
What I love about Richman is not only his overwhelming enthusiasm for food but his absolute dedication to the food mission. He often does spice challenges which can involve a stack of meat “hotter than the sun” which he will devour with astonishing speed, sweating profusely yet never once removing his jacket – to me, further evidence of his food fundamentalism – it’s all about the pain and the lessons learnt. This is the exact opposite of comfort eating.  I also love the fact he is (seemingly) an incredibly nice guy. He spends part of each episode talking to the restaurant owners and the local customers, getting to know the history of the venue, what the locals love about it and what’s on the rest of the menu. He basically acts as an advert for the restaurant, selling to you their food with infectious enthusiasm and mouth watering descriptions of the menu options. His salesman technique is so effective, that now I often find myself daydreaming about visiting junk food joints in each state and sampling the biggest most intimidating dish on their menus. I know my British pea sized stomach wouldn’t even make a dent on most of the dishes Adam knocks back but I would love to try.
On January 27th 2012 Richman announced his retirement from competitive eating. Spurred on by the need to keep the food torch burning and from being ever so slightly brainwashed from watching countless episodes of unashamed gluttony … Woman vs Cream Tea is born. Bring on the cream tea challenge!

The Rules
45 minutes. No stopping the timer, no breaks.
Marks and Spencer scones.
Strawberry jam, Raspberry jam and Blackberry jam (a choice to keep it interesting)
Tub of Rodda’s clotted cream
As much tea as one can drink.
Not being sick (during or after), no spitting out food.

So how many can I eat…?
My ad hoc research assistant (ie. My friend who listens to me rant about food far too often) found that :
"The average sized scone is about 52g. Wikipedia says that the average human stomach can expand to hold approximately 1L of stuff. Let's assume you're not going to get the scones to be more dense than the dough. So if we look at a reciepe for scones :
"Turn on to a floured work surface and knead very lightly. Pat out to a round 2cm/¾in thick. Use a 5cm/2in cutter to stamp out rounds and place on a baking sheet. Lightly knead together the rest of the dough and stamp out more scones to use it all up. "
Then a 2cm thick, 5cm diameter circle is about 39 cubic cms, or about 0.039 litres, which means you can eat about 25 scones before your stomach gets full. But then we need to add on jam and cream. So I think 20 scones before you will definitely be sick."
Excellent research.
I surveyed my friends and responses varied to how many they thought I could eat, they ranged from 2 (this person doesn’t know me very well) to 117 (this person is ridiculous). The general consensus was between 6 -8. So I will be happy to achieve 7. I also have a competitor, one of my friends has daringly asked if she could challenge me.
Bring it on!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Chocolate Turncoat

February. A month most people dislike. It’s cold, there are no bank holidays, Valentine’s Day for single people can be a painful reminder of love lost, looking or unrequited … Shrove Tuesday provides the only excuse for gluttony in the whole month and then this is followed sharply by discipline demanding lent.
Personally I like February. Firstly, it’s my birthday so I anticipate quality time with friends, food of my choice and, of course, presents. Pancakes being one of my favourite foods, Shrove Tuesday fills me with child-like excitement as I consider all the hundreds of combinations of pancake fillings. (Although I didn’t indulge this Shrove Tuesday as I was treated to heart shaped blueberry pancakes on Valentine’s Day instead…) February is usually the month of crisp cold sunny days, sprouting daffodils (my favourite flower) and hints of spring.
I’m aware that the above paragraph sounds like one truly terrible attempt at Keats so moving swiftly back onto what I know best … FOOD. February was busy and decadent food was in abundance (hurrah!). Combine this with a fear I would be diagnosed a coeliac (I’m not!)  and I nearly missed out on a February Cream Tea. The horror!
All was saved on a crisp cold sunny late February day in Plymouth at Chocaccinos -

Me and my friend Chloe and her new born Jasper had a Chocoholic’s Dream Cream Tea at £4.75 each. Yes I know, chocolate again! I’m jumping on the chocolate bandwagon. I am living up to all chick lit stereotypes; I am a woman on a chocolate mission. It’s just SO good. I will resume normal cream tea habits soon I promise but winter just makes me want to indulge on a serious level. Your disgust with me aside .. here’s the review :
Appearance -  6/10 – The appearance left something to be desired. Very plain almost clinical looking cutlery. The scone itself was a beast but there was no finesse in the presentation. I was slightly disturbed by the appearance of a knife AND fork on my plate but upon cutting into the scone and realising its crumbly texture I was happy for the fork.
Quantity - 8/10 – Only one scone came out and I think both me and my friend had the same sinking dread – Have we been scammed? But then we had our first bite and it was warm, thick, heavy chocolate scone goodness and we knew we could only ever manage one of these monsters.
Taste – 9/10 - absolutely beautiful taste. The scones were soft and warm straight from the oven. I never thought that a chocolate chip scone, clotted cream, chocolate sauce AND jam would work but it definitely does! You can have a novelty cream tea but also keep the components of a traditional one. Have your scone and eat it, marvellous!
Price – 9/10 - Price was just right. Obviously the bargain hunter in me will always want a cheaper meal but it was very good value.
Ambience – 6/10 - the location of Chocaccino’s is in a pleasant area of the Barbican, it was a sunny day and I had the company of one of the nicest ladies I know. However the inside can have a canteen feel to it.
How I felt -8/10 - I decided in the interests of my waist line that I would substitute lunch for the cream tea. It was a good idea as I felt less guilty about the calories and it kept me full into the evening. The chocolate aspect of a cream tea also makes you feel all warm and gooey (endorphins being released?) in a different way to the usual cream tea.

Overall score 46/60