Clean Eating – boring?

I don’t usually post un-original material, but I came across an article on the UK Guardian’s website, and it amused me – and thought I would share it.

Should eating be boring and disciplined? Or should it be fun? Or are the two not mutually exclusive? Personally I think that good eating can be enormous fun. A lot more so than eating junk. Although eating junk sometimes can be great fun too.

Jennifer and I arrived in Los Angeles yesterday. It’s easy to eat badly here, but equally, it’s a great place for good healthy food. We went and saw MALEFICENT last night, starring Angelina Jolie. A very fine film, and it deserves all its current box office success.

Jolie is a great actress – her Oscar winning performance in GIRL INTERRUPTED still resonates with me – and in the film last night, she looked truly amazing. Lit exquisitely by Australian cinematographer Dean Semmler, she had cheek bones that could cut diamonds.

After the movie, we walked a block – yes, in Los Angeles we actually walked! – to our favourite Mexican restaurant called La Serenata di Girabaldi, on Pico.

We ordered a spinach and avocado salad and grilled Chicken Parillo – with two beers. Jennifer had a non alcoholic beer, and I had a Mexican dark beer – Negro Modelo. I don’t usually drink beer – white port is my first drink of choice, and out of the bottle, not the glass – but this beer was delicious, particularly with the spicy grilled chicken.

Was it “clean eating?” Probably not. But it was healthy, low calorie (except for the beer) and delicious.

So now here is the Guardian article, written by Jay Rayner –

You will be relieved to know that today, before writing this, I showered. Soap was involved. I am therefore clean. In the matter of my danker, moist crevices cleanliness is clearly the way to go. Where my lunch is concerned, however, I do not hanker after anything that can be described as clean. Sure, I want my plates without skid marks, my lettuce leaves without half an allotment’s sod. Sadly, though, that is not what the phrase “eating clean” now means.

“Eating clean” is a Thing. What does the phrase mean, apart from a wretched violation of the English language in a way that makes a good argument for corporal punishment? Oh, you know: it means joylessness, piety, self-regard, self-delusion and staggering pomposity. Gwyneth Paltrow “eats clean”, which tells you all you need to know.

Mostly what it means is: “I’m much better than you.” The opposite of clean is dirty. There’s dirty politics, dirty money and dirty dealings. People who enjoy sex are portrayed as dirty. (Though Woody Allen’s line that sex was only dirty “when it was done properly” is instructive here.) When junkies kick the habit they “get clean”. Bad people “clean up their act”. In short, if you don’t eat clean you are lacking in virtue. You are not a good person. You are a bad person. You filthy, dirty dog.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in a balanced diet. But I also believe in honesty. So yes, I will confess to having eating Nando’s and KFC, Burger King and even one of those worryingly sweaty sausages sold off carts in Trafalgar Square at 3am. (I was very drunk.)

But I also like salads, real ones made only with green stuff. I do not always require something with a pulse to have died for my dinner. Sometimes I eat muesli for breakfast. I don’t expect you to think better of me for this.

And that’s the point. We all know that only the most boggle-eyed ideologue, the type who would be in the vanguard of a murderous revolution stringing dodgy sorts like me from lamp-posts, could ever keep to a diet like this. The rest eventually crack, only to be found slumped in the corner of the kitchen sobbing, smeared in bacon fat, spooning cheap peanut butter straight from the jar.

Not that I advocate “eating dirty” as a protest. I am just as irritated by all that filthy Americana, the menus of fast food elevated only by the use of quality ingredients in the service of fat, salt and sugar. Sometimes that’s OK. Sometimes it’s great. Just as salads are sometimes great.

But pursuing a menu of any of these things in isolation will not make you a better person. It won’t make you more deserving of our admiration. It will just turn you in to a self-deluding, sanctimonious bore.

Gwyneth Paltrow



12 thoughts on “Clean Eating – boring?

  1. Everything in balance, from one who does eat “clean” the majority of the time, but really “dirty” some of the time. My dietary habits work for me, but I could care less what someone elses are, and the only time I discuss “clean” eating with anyone is if they ask. And they often do. Otherwise, it does not even cross my mind. It’s just a 21 year habit, but not an obsession.


  2. Great post Bill – thanks for sharing it with us all.
    Sometimes ‘clean eating’ for a period of time is just what you need, particularly after travelling. Simple pleasures such as a boiled egg, or a big plate of steamed vegies – are absolute heaven after all the rich food and treats.


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