Welcome to my blog Cacti & Clementines. My aim is to share with you the food that I prepare for my family. Good, honest, uncomplicated, healthy food.
A little bit of background
I have always loved cooking and creating new recipes. When my first daughter came along, I found it even more enjoyable, (if a little daunting), as I was instantly responsible for everything that went into her little tummy. She was a very good eater though and mostly enjoyed her food , aside from the occasional involuntary shudder…and I found it hugely satisfying cooking for my little family of three. But as I began weaning her onto solids, I became increasingly confused by general nutritional advice which I often found contradictory. I researched different diets and read countless books on ‘ healthy eating’ , but I never really felt satisfied with a definitive answer. I’d focus on the ‘five a day’ rule, and then discover with horror that the glass of organic freshly squeezed orange juice I was giving my child as one of her ‘five’ contained as much sugar as a can of coke…! Not long after my second daughter was born, I discovered ‘the Paleo diet’. Lots of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, nothing processed, just real food in its natural state. It made so much sense! I eagerly transitioned my little family into this new way of eating, yep, husband and all. I even started buying raw dog food for our Jack Russell – no one was immune from my paleo wrath. I ranted about it to anyone who would listen, (or anyone who didn’t). I spent a small fortune on every paleo cookbook going and generally became a little bit obsessed. Physically, we all felt fantastic, but I found I was spending ALL of what little spare time I had, either preparing food, planning our meals or tirelessly sourcing products nobody has ever heard of, (bee-pollen)… Crucially though, we just couldn’t afford it. And I was slowly but steadily going insane.
The turning point for me was two years ago on a day trip to London with a friend and our kids. She innocently handed me a flapjack on the tube, which I instinctively batted away in horror. The oats! The sugar! The plastic packaging!!!!! I then proceeded to fumble around in my bag for our pre prepared snacks…little tubs of apple slices and nut butter. In my rush I’d forgotten to squeeze lemon juice over the slowly browning apple and all our traipsing round museums had resulted in a nut butter lid smearing catastrophe. We all just sort of stared at this for a few seconds until my youngest said gingerly ‘ Mum…can I just have crisps?’ As I watched them all tucking into bags of popcorn and general shop bought fare, my shoulders sagged and i felt like an utter failure. I tried to explain to my bewildered friend, why I was so anxious about this. I reasoned that she just didn’t understand. If i could make her SEE, then we’d all be fighting over the apple slices, I thought smugly. But i ended up sounding like a mad woman, ranting about sugar and carbs and HIDDEN DANGERS, until she put a firm hand on my shoulder and suggested I forget about Paleo diets, and clean eating, and any other diet on the horizon. She said simply ‘ Why don’t you just do the Gillian diet…eat what makes YOU feel good, and forget about everything else’ It sounds dreadfully simple, but it was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me.
Since then I’ve tried to focus on how food makes me feel, instead of following any specific diets. Too many carbs for instance makes me feel tired and bloated. Sugar leaves me feeling lethargic and a bit spaced out. Dairy products seem to trigger acne, so i tend to avoid them, though not always. I try to buy the best quality organic, grass-fed meat that i can afford and only seasonal fruit and veg. We are on a tight food budget, so i rarely waste anything and shop around for offers on store cupboard items.
Most importantly, I try to keep my relationship with food as healthy and stress -free as possible. I make most of what we eat, but sometimes it’s just not possible and i don’t beat myself up anymore if I have to nip to the chippy for our supper once in a while. And you shouldn’t either!