How I Shrunk Terry Durack

By Dupleix, Jill | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), November 11, 2007 | Go to article overview
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How I Shrunk Terry Durack


Dupleix, Jill, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


You are a food writer married to a restaurant critic. Slowly, you watch him grow. What do you do? You devise a plan using these simple recipes to bring him down to size, that's what

You try cooking for a restaurant critic. His porridge is either too hot, too cold, or not porridgy enough. Lunch is on hold while he works out if he wants a sandwich, a steak, or a sea-urchin souffle with langoustine ravioli, wild watercress and a truffle dressing. As for dinner - well, occasionally I get those off, when he takes me with him on a review - but otherwise, my rustled-up supper is scored out of 20. The worst thing is that he includes the service in his biting commentary.

Who am I trying to kid? There may be some restaurant critics out there who behave like monsters in their own homes, criticising their partner's cooking efforts and demanding silver service, but mine - The Independent on Sunday's own Terry Durack - isn't one of them.

He's a joy to cook for, and a joyful cook. Like all food-lovers, he is a most appreciative diner, whether it's Friday night's pasta or Sunday's roast chicken. And his palate memory and ability to analyse flavours come in very handy when I'm busy writing recipe columns or working on a new book. It's great being married to a man who can answer questions such as, "Which of these six lemon drizzle cakes is the best?"

But with those lemon drizzle cakes at home and a steady diet of braised pork belly, confit duck, and sticky toffee pudding in the restaurants of Britain, he got fat. Very fat, actually. I like a man with a bit of heft to him, but there's a difference between being pleasingly sturdy and being Mr Piggy.

He ate all the time, seemingly every minute of the day, and when he wasn't eating - and often when he was - he was drinking. At the same time, my cooking was getting lighter, simpler, and more focussed on foods that would be good for me. In that way, I figured, I might just be able to get away with my Pinot Noir habit. And so we bumbled along.

Then, one day, he stepped on the scales and almost broke them. Horrified at his weight - 116kg (over 18 stone) - he immediately cut out all his favourite foods, gave up drinking at lunchtime and refused to go near carbohydrates. It was never going to last because it was too severe and, like most diets, ultimately unhealthy. Diets and Duracks just do not go.

So instead, we implemented a more sensible way of eating; one that started with having a proper breakfast and finished - well, it never finishes, because it's not a punishing short-term regime but a gentle lifestyle change. I think of it as "lightening up"; moving your cooking and eating to a lighter place, as you would naturally in the change from winter to summer. We started eating lots of fish and chicken instead of red meat and pork, salads, vegetables and pulses instead of potatoes and pasta, fruit instead of pud, and nuts instead of high-carb snacks. I did my homework and found out what was good for us and what wasn't.

It's no hardship, after all, to eat naturally leavened sourdough instead of white bloomer, sweet potatoes instead of potatoes, pistachios instead of crisps, yoghurt instead of cream, apples instead of doughnuts. And when you cook at home, you know how to make food crisp without deep-frying, or rich and creamy without cream.

Slowly but surely, his belt went in one notch, then two, then three. By the time he lost 37kg (nearly six stone), he needed a new belt. He started walking more - it's never just the food - and sleeping better. He stopped snoring. We can even drink, thank the Lord, sharing a bottle of wine with dinner, as long as there is a glass of water for every glass of wine. The belt has now stayed on the same notch for two years, which is the best possible sign that he has settled at his natural body weight.

The key to lightening up is to eat for pleasure and good health, not for weight loss.

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