New Year Resolutions ought to be voluntary. The three Kings came to the Island and I celebrated gently with them, or so I thought. I shared guacamole dip and a cheese souffle with a good friend. However, one extremely grumbly gall bladder later, the doctor prescribed me a very low fat diet, and I am now rendered Fatless in Sóller.
Now the Soller Valley is verdant and productive, with its mountain water diverted through a huge network of channels called sequias, into gardens and orchards and drinking troughs. The soil in Huerta is rich enough in nutrients for crops such as Swiss chard, tomatoes of every shade of the sunset, aubergines, herbs, spinach and lettuce. Even a chilli sauce business has opened in the last few years, the rows and rows of bright red, spicy delight growing down near the football pitch.
Crowing cockerels and squawking chickens greet the dawn. Lambs graze peacefully, not just up in the shady olive groves, but also in patches of land round and about the town. It’s a bucolic scene mixed up in the hustle and bustle of town life. Soller is therefore home to wonderful butchers and a pate and sobrasada factory.
Ensaimadas laced with saim are lovingly coiled, baked and bathed in clouds of powdered sugar. An ice cream factory produces gallons of cooling flavours for the summer. Then the olives ripen in November and their precious contents are squeezed into litres of liquid gold in the presses of Can Det or the Cooperative.
A plethora of restaurants celebrate this magical Mallorcan produce in traditional recipes and other establishments take their own haute cuisine slant.
Look, I do not diet!
I have always loved food and cooking is my expression of love for my friends and family, so this has been a real challenge.
I have some amazing friends around the Valley, mainland Spain and the UK including chefs, vegans, vegetarians, foodies and food bloggers. But was I equipped for the fat free world? No way!
3g of fat a day maximum, that’s about three tablespoons!
That means no cheese, no unctuous sauces, nothing remotely fried. Not even ‘healthy’ fats are allowed. No avocadoes and no nuts, which means most vegetarian or vegan options are also out. Believe me, I have prowled the aisles of the shops, inspecting the list of ingredients on the packaging.
(How incredibly helpful is that EU food labelling system by the way!)
So, what are the options? I really don’t want to make a fuss over food!
Basically, I am left with steamed fish, chicken or maybe a bit of steak (expensive!) with plain boiled rice or potatoes and as many raw, steamed or boiled veg as you like. Healthy? Yes to a point, but flavours in food so often come dissolved in fats, both vegetable and animal based. In the Bip Bip supermarket, I direct the butcher to clip off the bits of fat from my treat, a choice cut of steak, into a bag for Scooby the dog. (Boy was he happy!) The rest is ground into mince for me, just for a change of texture. But there is consternation!
The butcher and the chap waiting next in the queue want to know why no fat in the mince? Embarrassed, I try to explain my situation in my bestest Spanish and without any gory details. I end up with sympathetic claps on the back and looks of horror on their faces as I leave them contemplating what their lives would be without fat. No sobrasada, no butifarro, no olive oil? Impossible! They were almost in tears…
I am currently living next door to some picky chickens. I have been enjoying feeding them my scraps over the fence and see what they love. They go nuts over sweetcorn and completely bananas over bananas. They have eaten all the sorrel in their patch, so when they race over to see me on the other side of the fence, I chuck the chicks a handful. I heard of sorrel being used as a garnish or even a salad item (though not if you have kidney stones!), so I nibble a bit. It is fresh and acidic, lemony maybe…
So, like them, I find myself foraging around the garden, whilst wondering how to increase my tomato yield this year somehow…
I find acelgas (Swiss chard) sprouting up in healthy clumps, the sweetest and tastiest fronds of wild asparagus are poking their heads above the spikier stems, the oranges are literally falling of the trees and there is a huge promise of Spring and the growing season.
I am embracing this new life with as much joy as I can. It’s raising many questions every day. In the valley of the pig and pork fat, ensaimada, roast lamb and Mallocan frito, my heart goes out to you if are struggling to find something on the menu.
I am pretty sure there are a lot of people out there that are avoiding fat in their diet. I would be fascinated and very grateful to hear from you about your experiences. Please email me on email@example.com
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