Just Eat the Effing Sandwich

Possibly the best (effing) sandwich I've ever had in my days - toasted ciabatta with crispy bacon, avo, melted brie and caramelised onions. It was from Motherland Coffee in St George's Mall. I still think about it.
Possibly the best (effing) sandwich I’ve ever had in my days – toasted ciabatta with crispy bacon, avo, melted brie and caramelized onions. It was from Motherland Coffee in St George’s Mall. I still think about it.

Before I sat down at my computer right now I made myself a sandwich. As in, put things between two slices of thick, fresh bread (real mayo, cheddar cheese, cucumber, tomato, rocket and a bit of chutney, if you want to know), and not flaxseed ‘bread’ or cauliflower ‘bread’ or ‘bread’ made from dried, ground psyllium husks (what the hell is that anyway?), but the kind we used to eat back in the day made from wheat and yeast. Pretty retro, huh? And while I actually sat down to work on something else entirely, the strangeness of sitting down to eat a real-life sandwich struck me enough that I changed my plan and started writing about that instead.

Because the thing is, three months ago this sandwich would have made me quake. I mean, it’s a carb, for the love of god, and everyone knows carbs are very, very bad. Very. And believing this to be true, I would have substituted the best part for, well, anything. More lettuce. Seeds. Those psyllium husks. Anything but eating the bread part of that meal because if I did I believed I’d basically be obese or dead or both within the week. But bacon was fine. Oh, chow down, sister. Bacon’s not a carb. Neither is chicken skin or steak or butter or coconut oil. All of these things? Hunky damn dory. But a slice of melba toast? Well, you might as well go in a dark room and mainline arsenic.

And I don’t know, in this age of information, how we human beings can still be so stupid. Okay, maybe stupid is harsh, but why we fall so enthusiastically, so uncritically for these fads and trends instead of just using our noggins and good, old-fashioned common sense. And I totally include myself in the idiocy because I have done every. One. Of. These. Diets. Looking, as I was, for the holy grail of eating – the key, the trick that would let me stop fighting with food and therefore myself. And I ate the eggs and forewent the toast (so yuck, right?) and turned down the banana in favour of the smoked sausage. I mean, does any part of turning down a banana make sense? Potassium. Fibre. Nature’s own pre-packaged snack food. Perfect. A lot perfect-er than that piece of processed meat.

Because actually sitting down to an entire sheep at one sitting is not okay just because you skipped the mash. Putting butter on your 500 gram T-bone isn’t fine because you had spinach instead of chips. It’s greedy and it’s stupid and it’s killing the planet. Do we even think about what it costs in energy terms to get that cow onto our plates? And putting that amount of fat and protein into our bodies just can’t be healthy. I refuse to believe it is. It’s one of those cases of if it sounds too good to be true, it more than likely is.

I’m not a dietician, but I write about food and think about food and eat food a lot. And, because it’s something that interests me, I read books about nutrition and talk to people who are dieticians and doctors and have made it their life work to help us be healthy and when I ask them what they think of Banting and LCHF the sensible ones shake their heads in collective despair. For sure, no question we were eating too much grain (thank you, marketing campaigns of the 90s). We don’t need all that wheat and rye and barley and the kak that gets added to it. But removing all carbs is extreme and counter-intuitive and, frankly, cray. There is no way a sandwich filled with avo and salad is worse for you than a three egg omelette with bacon and a half kilo of cheese. Or that the fat of the (probably hormone fed) steak is better for your body than a nutrition-packed sweet potato. It just doesn’t make sense.

The other day I was chatting to a restaurateur friend of many years – someone who runs a few of the most successful eateries in Cape Town, and who’s made a very good career out of feeding people. And we talked about trends and food fads and the future, he told me something that made so much sense. He said, on the way out are the days where people will sit down and gorge themselves on a huge piece of steak and this is because we are becoming more mindful of what meat really is and where it comes from. We want to know it’s from a reputable farm where the animals are treated humanely and not pumped full of drugs and rubbish. Quality is replacing quantity, and it’s about damn time.

Contrary to the greed that permeates our food culture now and has for some time, we human beings seem to slowly be gaining respect for the fact that an animal lost its life so we can have those pork chops for supper. And, what’s more, restaurant patrons of the future will be presented with a ‘Provenance Bible’ where they can see exactly where the food they are ordering was sourced – the meat, the fish, the eggs, the vegetables, the cheese. Transparency will become de rigueur and, with it, accountability and a growing interest in and awareness of what we are putting into our bodies.

And with that philosophy guiding us hopefully soon we’ll start to pare down; reduce our portions; order one plate of meat and share it amongst the table. In his words, we’ll go back to eating like our grandparents did – not endless sandwiches made from cheap government loaf, but a few slices of good bread baked with organic flour and natural ingredients, savoured and eaten in moderation. Fresh fruit and vegetables we’ve grown ourselves or bought at a market served raw or lightly seared. Fruit, nuts, home-made butter, organic olive oil. Happy food that our bodies recognise and know what to do with.

It’s okay to eat potatoes now and then. Few things in the universe are more delicious than a French fry. Just remember that they’re high in energy so don’t eat more than you’re going to expend. Have the odd plate of pasta. My god, it’s good for the soul. But mostly eat salad. Eat the stuff that comes in the best colours (not smarties). A little bit of meat now and again when you feel your body needs it. Because it’s not about how to get as much food down our throats as we can get away with and still look good in low-cut jeans. It’s about eating gently and living gently. And looking after ourselves and our environment. And saying no to factory farming – not supporting those mofos because it’s really not okay, the suffering that goes on there and that we all collectively condone.

So, having after immersed myself wholeheartedly in the madness of diets and weird eating trends for the past twenty years and having learnt many things from that experience, the ultimate conclusion I’ve come to is this: eat meat a little bit, but let it be special; a treat. Aim for a diet that’s simple and light on the body (and the soul). And when it comes to food (and life), practice mindfulness and humility. Stop all this radicalism and the weird, self-imposed rules like taking the freaking croutons out of the Caesar salad. They’re the best part. Banting gets it right-er because it’s about going back to basics, turning away from processed stuff and incorporating a bit of fat. But it’s too extreme. Cauliflower is not the truth and the light. There’s a middle road that I think we’ll get to when all this hype dies down. And what I’ve learnt from all of it is to eat the effing sandwich.

54 thoughts on “Just Eat the Effing Sandwich

  1. I couldn’t agree more! I think everything in moderation and I love that you mention just how bad eating all this meat is for the environment. That doesn’t seem to feature in most people’s brains about Banting. Fresh, whole, nutritious ingredients = good food. I’ve had so many of these thoughts myself but can’t quite eloquently say them like you. :-)

  2. Great post, and mostly sensible, though I think where people give Banting a bad rap is in thinking it gives us a licence to eat half a kilo of hormone-filled steak. It doesn’t. Prof Noakes is quite clear about only eating grass-fed meat and keeping portions sensible. As for me, I’ll happily forego the toast if it means I can enjoy the whole egg, yolk and all, fried in a bit of natural butter, and a dollop of cream in my coffee. (And at the end of paragraph 6, surely you mean “Quality is replacing quantity and it’s about damn time.”, not as it’s written?)

  3. Amen Susan….. I simply love your outlook and your blog.
    Trust me, before this week is out I also will have one of those Effing sandwiches :-)
    Sounds to delicious to resist.

  4. Bloody love a good sandwich. i also recetly got off the high protein b*&(shit. Been loving my grains and surprise surprise the weight has dropped off because i get to eat what i want just in normal healthy quantities and those grains fill me up – bring on the brown rice and wholemeal flower – although think you meant to say quality is replacing quantity at the end of para 6 :)

  5. oh this is great Susan!! As always, you had me smiling from the beginning to end (and beyond)… I love this :”Eat the stuff that comes in the best colours (not smarties).” haha. … ps. Try occasionally baking your own organic bread! It’s a rewarding thing to do with your kids and becomes the tradition and the treat.

  6. Yes, I do more often than not skip the fries/rice/pasta/potatoes and have salad and veggies, but this morning proper thick cut gammon and cream cheese on toasted, seeded (low GI) bread was definitely what the soul required, alongside proper coffee made from fresh ground. And you can’t make padkos out of cauliflower!!

  7. Susan, I love your blog and writing. But something you miss here is that we are all so different in terms of our food and body journey. As someone who has been obese for most of my adult life, Banting has been a saving grace and has probably also saved me from diabetes and premature death (yes, it is THAT serious to someone whose health is at stake). For someone like yourself who clearly don’t have an issue with weight, I would definitely not recommend you swearing off a scrumptious ciabatta because that would not make sense at all. Sometimes, however, we need to take a hard and long look at our lives and admit that certain sacrifices needs to be made because we allowed things to get to a certain stage by making the wrong choices throughout our entire lives. Not eating the sandwich or the french fry is a choice driven by the necessity to say: “Stop, no more! Now I take control of my body and get my life (and health) back to where it should be. And once I have that control back, I might eat that effing sandwich as a treat every now and then. Be sensitive to Banters though, a lot of them have been living with a lot of baggage (literally).

  8. I ate an effing Sandwich yesterday, ok? (Despite the fact that it’s probably my Facebook post from Saturday that got you going in the first place. :o) But just to keep a bit of perspective here, remember Noakes is not advocating the full sheep and the 500g T-bone. It’s not a high protein diet at all… Your comments on mindfulness however are noted and valuable. Thanks!

  9. Spot on, love this post and your thoughts! I am so over banting and the fact that half of Cape Town has fallen for this trend instead of considering what their actual individual, unique bodies needs are.

  10. I love this article Susan.. common sense is the one thing that’s in short supply.. and youre not short of it this piece ..I applaud you……. its not going help to have wheat free pizza the size of a domestic coffee table then wash it down with a diet soda…. best thing I ever did to get mindful ( apart from ethical ) was to check up on the amount of whats in each thing I eat and the weight of it ..one only has to do this for awhile until you get an idea . I found out that although I was being mindful and eating ethically , I was habituated to eating a lot more than I actually needed.So now its only one lamb cutlet not three . I was house trained in 1950 when people still pushed a lawnmower , hand washed clothing and walked to the station .. they ate accordingly …. but my life style is sedentary in comparison .. so I switched back to eating to that effing sambo… its good for my soul and my inner peace. Also I feel humans are all unique and need to work out what works for them by being mindful .. keep a food diary for awhile .. see how you feel and record it.Last count there was 54000 diet books on Amazon and Im sure they all work

  11. Oh and yes .. years back for health reasons I was doing a juice fast and noticed where my mind wanted to take me and realised that my mind wants to make the” fat” choice.And recently I read thats its likely we are pre programmed genetically to make the “fattest” choice available and that we are designed to overeat and that this is a survival mechanism dating back millions of years. Now in a world of relative plenty and steady supply ,it works against us but is a powerful instinct and so ” dieting ” or restricting of any kind goes against this powerful force .And this is maybe why diets dont work.

  12. Hello Susan from a chilly Toronto, As an expat (25years) I really enjoy your blog. Just a few things: What or who is Banting & LCHF? I guess you meant quality is replacing quantity? North Americans as you know generally, are the fattest, most unhealthy eaters in the world. Fortunately we are aware & very conscience of finding ” the good stuff” When living in Jhb, we started a restaurant called the Health Kick, in the Rosebank mall, 30 years ago, way before its time! Love your writing! Regards Sylvia Gavin


  13. Fabulous article! I have just recently come across the wonderful Diana Henry who has written a book called “A Change of Appetite”. Her food is for those who wish to eat less meat and heavy food, more veg, fish and grains. Have a peak at it – so delicious.

  14. Yay, you’re back! Great writing. Have you ever read “French Women Don’t Get Fat” (Mireille Guiliano)? Her food philosophy mirrors yours & emphasizes that quality / moderation / variety are the only things that really work in the food / life journey (and they are ;-) Plus, it’s a really fun read..

  15. Yup, stay focussed on being humble and sincere – in whatever it is we’re doing! GOOD SPOTTING!! Well Said. Thank you! Maureen

  16. Hear hear…common sense. I can’t even be bothered to invite people to dinner because I am so sick of having gone to enormous and expensive effort, only to have people list the ways in which my meal is at odds with their taste or dietary preferences. I was brought up that you just politely ate the bloody food, whether you liked it or not, unless you were going to be violently alkergic or sick!

  17. Though I rail against the fact that every damn restaurant seems to be a franchise, I am thrilled that there is a Motherland in Joburg just so that I can go and eat THAT effing sandwich. Did someone say crispy bacon, avo and melted Brie? I am there!

  18. Great point you make. I have a scientific background and take a great interest in the emerging science on human nutrition and health. Noakes’ scientific foundation is sound, but his ‘banting’ diet is very restrictive for the average person with a few extra kilos. Is you are diabetic, obese or suffer from metabolic syndrome then banting IS a life saver. But if you are in reasonable health, then reducing the refined carbs and sugar, and eating mainly whole, fresh food (still in cell) is the way to go. With occasional treats of artisan bread or whatever you want. The big underlying issue which the science is in on, but which is still under the radar, is the key to everything is looking after your gut bacteria, our forgotten digestive organ. We have about 1.5kg of the critters in our system and their cells outnumber ours by 10 to 1. Whole food = healthy gut bacteria. Energy dense refined foods and sugar promote nasty gut bacterial fauna which affect everything from satiety to inflammation and Altzheimers. So think of eating as feeding you own personal compost heap!

  19. Oh, and I love that in her comment above, Susan from Toronto asked what ‘LCHF/ Banting’ is! I was in North America a month ago. After being bombarded with Banting in Cape Town, it was so refreshing to see that in the health communities of North America, (not in the unhealthy North American eaters, of which there are many!) there was no hint of anything Banting. Rather they are all speaking along the lines of what you have written above…eating in a way that is kind to the planet and kind to our bodies…not ridiculously high in animal products. Being there for a few weeks was so refreshing. And then I came home to Cape Town and couldn’t believe that people are STILL Banting!

  20. Lovely stuff. I run (a lot) and eat (a lot) and I skip meat (and fish, fish is meat) entirely, enjoy a moderate fat intake but smash a good pizza stacked with fresh ingredients after a race. My weight is ideal for my height, my glucose has stabilised (in all three pregnancies it went a bit weird) and I love an effing sandwich. Mindful consumption is absolutely everything, as is common sense. What works for one will not work for another. LFHS is my favourite eating plan (low FAD high SENSE).

  21. Nothing like a good wholesome ‘dagwood’ sandwich, but I’ve unfortunately reached the expiration date on enjoying one. I am a Type 2 diabetic and the ‘Banting/Noakes’ diet works for me. I did however get the LCHF information off an American Diabetic Forum before I attended a Noakes talk. It keeps my blood sugar into the normal range. As soon as I cheat and eat bread, some high carb/sugar fruits, pasta, rice, potatoes-unless it is retro-ed, my b/sugar sky rockets and I can immediately drop into a heap on the floor, so intensely tired I get immediately. I used to get angry like a spoilt brat when I cant have bread, but now I indulge in one slice of toast or a small slice of bread with loads of butter when it is served in a restaurant now and again and I can tolerate that in small doses. I occasionally eat very little red meat and mostly stick to fish or chicken. It is the salad greens though that is most beneficial to keeping my sugar levels down.

    But if you enjoy that effing sandwich because you can with no side effects, why not :)

  22. Hi Susan thanks for an entertaining article. I liked your reference of living mindfully and lightly and that it is up to each person to decide what and how to eat. If you want to eat the effing sandwich then do it and if Prof Noakes want to Bant let him do so. We should take responsibility for ourselves and live with the consequences.

  23. Susan, thank you for once again writing SO MUCH SENSE, and doing it so well. I feel like I know you. You must peek inside my head every now and again. I just haven’t caught you doing it, but I will. :-))

  24. Hi Susan, once again great article and yeah it makes good reading… I always, however, say that if it works for somebody, then that’s great, and the very same thing may not work for somebody else..
    I have been following the basics of the ‘banting diet’ so to speak because my daughter (who is currently living with me) decided to try it (never having tried a diet before in her life) and it is far easier to cook for two than cook two different meals… from her point of view, she has lost 12kgs, looks and is far healthier and has more or less made it a lifestyle. Her choice and I know she misses her pasta and pizza…
    From my point of view, remembering I do not adhere religiously to this and have not been any more physically active than before I started, I have lost 8kg in the same time, but more importantly my hypertension (which I’ve had for the last 22 years, 14 of which were vegetarian years and during which I competed in many ultra distance sports) has all but disappeared. There are a couple of other benefits that have also surfaced which i will not go into detail here.. so yup there must be something about this…the only things I have cut out permanently are sugar in any form and wheat in any form…
    and, yup, if I want a glass of red wine, or an avo sandwich, I will have it.. but in moderation…

    thanks for the articles… I enjoy reading them..


  25. hi Susan and fellow blog readers .
    I started Banting early June of this year as I was feelling tired/bloated and kind of heavy ……found that Banting made me view food differently – and as a result I have lost 12kg/2 sizes so down to 10 and have so much more energy – I was obviously eating far too many carbs before. Not following it to the letter at all but it provided good guidelines …..think it’s a good way forward for diabetics/pre diabetics .
    Thank you Susan for your blogs – always worth a read and more often than not, thought provoking

  26. Great blog! any kind of extremism, including about food, is misguided and sad. Banting (stupid name) will blow up its own a*** one of these days and then they’ll all have fat, butter and cream all over their deluded faces.

  27. by the way, make no mistake, I love fat, butter and cream (see below); my supper last night was a small crispy very fatty lamb rib roast with lemon and origanum, with a mush-up of potato, gemsquash and carrot swimming in butter on the side. Yum. Because that’s what I felt like, and that’s what my body needed.

  28. Gosh, my whole life I have eaten almost only carbs. I live off bread. Multiple slices a day. I seem to have a high-carb tolerance. Am aware that as I say this my body will suddenly turn on me and become obese and I will never be able to eat bread again. But this whole banting frenzy is not necessary for everybody. I think that is the key thing. We all react differently to different foods. For insulin resistant people a low carb diet really does seem to work. And if my body reacts differently in the future then I will readjust the way I eat. But if I stop eating bread now I will peg! Cauliflower makes me literally puke, so that is really not an option for me.

  29. I need some help with restaurant suggestions please. I am coming to Cape Town end Feb/beginning March and would love ideas on where to eat. We are staying in Milnerton, visiting Cape Point, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch and some wine tours. But I have no idea where to go in the evenings for good food. Can someone please help and suggest somewhere great to eat.

  30. Just love this … A bit of sense at last! I am so anticipating the Banting fallout that’s going to happen down the line …

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