Socrates Was Wrong

It is often considered a wise thing to quote that man must “eat to live, not live to eat”. To pretend that we are civilized beings above such animal concerns.

Really though, all mankind can ever do is live to eat. From our earliest beginnings, the four basic driving needs of man: water, food, shelter and reproduction, have governed all we do and will continue to do so (I also believe that mankind has a spiritual need, but a food blog is no place to talk religion). Even the wealthiest oligarch must still consider “what is for luncheon and when will it be served?” All we have done is cover up our basic needs with a thin veneer of civilization.

However, it is only a steady supply of food that allows civilization to exist. Without it we would quickly descend into chaos and anarchy. Without it we would never have risen above being hunter gatherers, always on the move looking for the next meal, without the time to consider the science, art and music that we think makes us so clever. But, we trick ourselves into believing we are above such matters. We are 21st century people, doing great and noble things; “Look at what we have achieved, how far we have come. We can live for science, love, beauty, ideals. We can do anything, be anything…oh, and whats for tea tonight?”

Whether you are wondering where your next meal is coming from or planning your latest fad diet, we live to eat. The minutae of our lives revolve around mealtimes. Abstain, indulge or everything-in-moderation, it’s all about food. Socrates was probably no fun to cook for, no wonder his wife nagged him.*

So eat to live or live to eat? I believe in a middle ground.

Eat well to live.

*Xantippe, Socrates wife, had a reputation for being argumentative. Can you imagine though? You spend all day slaving over a hot…um, slave (?) while your husband is at the Areopagus philosophising with his mates; and when he gets back he acts like he’s too morally superior to eat his dinner. Can’t say I blame her for that chamberpot incident…

“Writing destroys memory and weakens the mind….it is an inhuman thing”- Socrates

” ‘The only wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing’. Dude that’s us!”- Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Picture credit: By Reyer van Blommendael – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain,

Apple & Walnut Bircher Muesli

In an attempt to rein in my waistline, which after three children and a dodgy thyroid is perhaps larger than it should be, I’m going against my principles and going on a trendy diet. The 5:2 diet is appealing because you only have to suffer for two days a week and the rest of the time you eat normally (or hopefully slightly more sensibly than normal) Yes it’s tough sticking to 600 calories for a day, but you do get that first-day-of-a-diet-aren’t-I-doing-well feeling twice a week, without having to keep it up forever and ever amen.

I think the principle involved is tricking your metabolism into thinking you need to burn MORE calories to search for food rather than trying to shut down and conserve calories, which is what happens in a normal diet.

Anyway I will be eating Bircher style muesli this morning, while fantasizing about chocolate.

Soak 30g of rolled oats overnight in 80ml of cloudy apple juice. Top with natural yogurt, a grated apple and about 5 walnuts, chopped and toasted.  Optional: a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Healthy and filling.

Update: Lol. Kept it up for a few weeks, but found it unsustainable because everyone else expected normal meals. Mother-in-law borrowed the book, and I have’nt seen it since!

Fact: Invented by physician Maximillian Bircher-Benner circa 1900, for treatment of his patients. The word muesli comes from the root “Mues”, to puree or mash up.

Extra Breakfasty Muffins

On the days when we need an early start before a long drive, we take muffins as an easy portable breakfast to eat later on. Children enjoy the thrill of eating “cake” for breakfast. They don’t need to know that the cake is good for them, having higher fibre and less sugar than a lot of well known breakfast cereals.

I am a big fan of Susan Reimer’s muffin recipes. Here, I have souped up the oatmeal yogurt muffins, a family favourite.

Breakfast Muffins


  • 6oz (170g) plain flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3oz (85g) rolled oats
  • 8oz (240g) natural yogurt (or half yogurt half cream, for extra yummyness)
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 4oz of soft, light brown sugar
  • 3fl oz vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 2fl oz milk (3fl oz if you use half yogurt half cream)
  • Marmalade
  • Granola or muesli for sprinkling

Makes 12 small muffins or 8 large ones. Line the muffin tin with paper cases and pre heat the oven to 180°c/160 fan/gas mark 4.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, breaking up any lumps with your fingers. Set aside.

In another bowl stir together the oats, yogurt and bicarbonate of soda. Beat in the egg, oil and milk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones. Stir with a fork until just combined. NEVER OVERWORK A MUFFIN BATTER! Resist the urge to beat it, it’s not a sponge cake!

Put a spoonful of mixture into the bottom of each muffin case and dollop a teaspoon of marmalade on top. Divide the rest of the mix between the  cases covering the marmalade.

Sprinkle with granola, muesli or seeds and pop in the oven for around 20 mins, though it’s best to check after 15 mins if you are making small ones.

Cool on a wire rack. Best eaten fresh, but will keep just fine in an airtight container for three days.

The Egg McMuffin was added to the McDonald’s breakfast menu in 1972

Breakfast Time

Ok. How to start a new blog? How would you start a new day? With breakfast of course!

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day. We should breakfast like a king, so the saying goes. When was the last time you did that?

As a child I often wondered why mum never joined us for breakfast; now I know. The hectic struggle every morning to get to work or school on time, when sleep is precious and time short. So much easier to skip breakfast or opt for a dose of caffeine and a bowl of processed cereal. After all, what difference does it make?

January the 25th to the 31st is Big Breakfast Week 

The aim is to encourage us, not only to eat breakfast, but to take advantage of all the fantastic British produce that’s available. I confess that as something of an insomniac all I usually feel up to is something sweet and sugary, a quick fix with as little effort as possible. But, rising to the challenge, the last two days have seen cinnamon french toast, and buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. After all, I am interested in the benefits of constructive comfort eating, and yes, it works. I had something to look forward to, felt happy and virtuous while cooking, enjoyed the change and made the family feel loved.

Can I keep it up? Maybe!

Update: Reader, she did not keep it up. Pass the Weetos.