You’ve probably seen the advert currently being shown on TV which depicts an octopus playing table tennis against 4 human beings. Can’t really remember what the advert is for, but that’s not unusual nowadays as computer graphics and animations seem to be more interesting than the product the advert is supposed to be selling. Bring back Tony the Tiger I say. At least we all remember he advertised Frosties and that they were “Gr-r-reat!”

Although actually they weren’t. They are now deemed to be too high in sugar and the advert is banned from children’s TV.

I digress (as usual! – Ed.).

The reason I mentioned the octopus is that I wish I’d had him helping me the other day when I tried to make pasta with some new toys I recently thought I needed. I bought 2 new attachments for my food mixer; a pasta maker and a ravioli maker. I suppose I didn’t really need them, as I already had a perfectly good pasta roller and am more than capable of making ravioli by hand, but the urge was too great for a new gadget.

I’m thinking of suing. Nowhere in the instructions was there a warning not to make ravioli on your own. Eager to use, I didn’t think things through properly. It quickly became apparent that I’d made far more pasta dough than was necessary and ended up with a ribbon of pasta over 6 feet long with nothing to hang if from other than an outstretched arm.

It was around about this point that I realised I could use the help of the octopus, as I had to remove the pasta maker, replace it with the ravioli maker and then put the filling in the hopper all with one hand and a very aching arm. The result wasn’t pretty. I managed 12 parcels of ravioli from that 6 foot of pasta. The rest was discreetly disposed of.

I had used a pasta recipe from Gino D’Acampo’s, “Gino’s Pasta”, sub-titled “Everything you need to cook the Italian way”. An excellent book, apart from the fact that he’s omitted the bit about how useful it would be to have an 8 limbed assistant if you are daft enough to buy an electric pasta roller.

In the foreword, Gino emphasises the need to cook pasta al dente and never to overcook. He even states that if you have bought dried pasta (I think I will in future), you should take a minute off whatever time the instructions on the packet tell you to cook it for. His point was that by overcooking pasta, the digestive system doesn’t have to work so hard to release the sugars from the starch in the pasta. Result is you’ll feel hungry earlier and need to snack more. It’s all to do with the GI level apparently, as pasta is mainly made up of carbohydrates. It really makes a lot of sense.

When I was at college and learning about nutrition, GI hadn’t even been discovered. What we were taught was all sorts of things to do with the contents of foods and things like the effects amino acids had on the digestive system if a meal wasn’t balanced. All good sensible and basic stuff, but still very relevant today. Just as importantly though, we were also taught the importance of cooking properly, just as Gino states in his book.

It got me thinking about cooking methods in general and the effect poor cooking may have on one’s diet.

Still on the GI theme, let’s take a look at the humble carrot, Sorry Graham. (He’s our main crop carrot grower and he doesn’t think his carrots are humble at all.) Anyway, if a carrot is eaten raw, it has a GI level of 20, meaning it will give your digestive system something to keep it occupied and work hard. But if you boil it and it’s boiled too long, apart from killing virtually all the nutrients, the GI level increases to 50 as the starch in the carrot gelatinises. Not good on the digestive system and not really giving the body any nutritional benefit. In fact; the opposite. You would be better off throwing the carrot away and drinking the liquor it was cooked in.

It is often stated that a properly balanced diet, in addition to exercise, is enormously important for lowering health risks; particularly on obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.

But I would add to that. Not only should we take regular physical exercise and eat well, but we should also think about how well our food is cooked. So next time you are in the kitchen you might want to take a few seconds off some of the foods you cook to give your digestive system a bit of a workout. A sort of aerobic digestion.

Oh, by the way. If anyone’s interested, watch out for a cheap deal on Ebay shortly. Fabulous 4-man ravioli machine for sale.

Used once.

My earliest food memories are of my mum’s baking; coconut pyramid cakes were my favourite.

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