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Is a sugar rush safe at speed?

Byline: By Bill Oldfield

What's the similarity between a snack and a mobile phone? Answer: they can both get you into trouble with the police.

Standing in the pub the other day, as you do, a few of us got into a rather detailed but daft argument about what was the ideal food to eat whilst driving a car.

Me, I've always favoured the quick sugar fix that you get from a bag of pear drops or a Mars Bar and a stimulating black coffee to hang in the purpose-built cup holder. Others were into pasties or pies from service stations but, in my view, apart from significantly lowering culinary aspirations on the basis that they're generally rubbish, they also pose a distinct risk of an excess laundry bill.

Of course the healthy beer drinkers amongst us reckoned that fruit was the answer. As we all know, an apple a day keeps the doctor away and is the perfect one-handed snack. But, also, as we know to the cost of one young lady in the North-East, our local constabulary reckon that a healthy diet's not so healthy when driving. They take a dim view of holding an apple in the same way they do of a mobile phone.

Ironic, isn't it, that one of the world's major killers ( smoking ( is never reported to the authorities when seen being committed by a driver. I used to be a smoker and I assure you that until you've been through the athletic yet very necessary acrobatics as a result of dropping your lit fag between your legs whilst doing 70mph, you don't know what dangerous driving is. I'm no expert, but somehow a mobile phone seems a lesser evil.

But back to food for driving. Simple carbohydrate in the form of sugar gives you an initial quick energy boost but, because of that very speed, also soon results in extreme tiredness that can make you fall asleep at the wheel.

However, I work on the principle that if you keep chewing the sweets, the sugar rush should outweigh the sleepiness. It's along the lines of avoiding a hangover by staying drunk.

Carbohydrates like those from the bread in a sandwich can be better but you still have to watch getting sleepy. Maybe the pasty quorum had it right on the basis that few consumers actually know what's in garage pasties and pies so there's a fighting chance they might poison you, and thus make you pull over to be ill, before there's a chance of you falling asleep at the wheel.

But, as I drive so many miles each year, none of this attracts, as you have to hold the food. I need to find an efficient food deliverer that doesn't compromise my safety or my licence. I've had an idea inspired by both those Bluetooth headsets so often seen on salesmen at the wheel these days and those bits of drinking kit worn on the heads of rugby fans where lager is piped to the mouth from cans strapped to each ear.

I reckon I need inventive scientists to come up with a contraption where you'd have something like a farmers' market-sourced sausage, dangling usefully just under the nose. It would have to be low enough not to impede vision so as to stay on the right side of the law but high enough to be rounded up neatly by the tongue for consumption.

No brown sauce of course; we wouldn't want to cause a crash while wiping it off our shirts. But, whilst I'd look pretty stupid, it'd be hands free, allowing our police to concentrate on catching crooks while I get on with my lunch.

Organic courgette and rosemary soup with minted crAme fra'che (Serves four)

This week's recipe is ideal for the glut of courgettes available at present.

In the restaurants we get regular deliveries of boxes of organic vegetables and we rarely know what's going to be in them as it's down to whatever's available on the day. However, at the moment it's a dead certainty that there will be quite a few courgettes

So you can be sure that at present they're at their best and their cheapest. If you want to take delivery of organic fruit and vegetables via a box scheme, there's a number available by just searching the web or, I understand, your local authority should be able to give you a list of suppliers.

Courgettes have a high water content so don't use the smallest ones for this or, if you do, increase the number you use.

Six organic courgettes ( roughly chopped

One red onion ( peeled and finely diced

One leek ( washed well and chopped

Two sticks of celery ( chopped

Six 3in sprigs of fresh rosemary ( leaves removed and chopped

Two cloves of garlic ( peeled and crushed

Butter and vegetable oil for sautAing

300ml vegetable stock

A small handful of fresh mint leaves ( finely chopped

100g crAme fra'che

Mix the chopped mint into the crAme fra'che then chill in the refrigerator so that it nearly sets again.

In a large saucepan, melt a knob of butter with a tablespoon of oil and gently sautA the onion, garlic, leek, celery and rosemary until soft but don't allow to colour. Add the courgettes and sautA for a further three minutes before adding the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the courgettes are soft. Blitz in a food processor or with a stick blender and season to taste with freshly-ground black pepper and sea salt.

Reheat if necessary and pour the hot soup into warmed serving bowls and add a nice spoonful of crAme fra'che on top which should float. Serve with crusty bread.

For other recipes of ours go to www.oldfieldsrestaurants.com

Oldfields Restaurants: 18 Claypath, Durham, (0191) 370-9595 and 9 Osborne Road, Jesmond, Newcastle, (0191) 212-1210.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 25, 2006
Words:979
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