I've just emerged into the sunlight and fresh air from four days in the kitchen, where I have been preparing, cooking and serving double the normal quantity of meals because we've had our vegetarian son and his family to stay. Husband is sniffy about vegetarian main meals – he says vegetarian breakfast and lunch is enough for him – so I had to knuckle down and do versions for them, and versions for us.
Interestingly, I find it quite hard to make tasty, interesting main meals with no meat, poultry, game or fish. Once you get beyond the basics such as stir-fries with Quorn, tofu or nuts and loads of vegetables, or lentil curries and the like, it's so tempting to chuck in lots of dairy produce to add substance, protein and flavour.
Having exhausted my few veggie favourites in their previous visits, this time I prepared a butternut squash and cashew curry which did tick both flavour and health boxes and went down very well, with a side dish of saag aloo – potatoes and spinach cooked in a home-made paste of spices and tomato – which was actually really good. I'll do it again next week and remember to take a photo, and will give you the recipe.
The next night I did a moussaka for them, replacing lamb mince with a mix of Puy lentils, black beans and a few chickpeas with a bit of Quorn mince, vast amounts of red wine, herbs, home-made tomato sauce from the freezer, cinnamon and goodness knows what else. That was OK too.
And so on. I did buffet style lunches, one of the best dishes being caramelised roast beetroot with feta, toasted almonds and pomegranate seeds. I even made puddings, as they have a sweet tooth. I feel like I've just been through a particularly fraught spell in a Gordon Ramsay professional kitchen, but doing all the jobs not just one, and swearing more than even Gordon can.
So as you may imagine, the old diet has been a bit lacking of late and I had no time to exercise at all apart from taking the baby for a back-breaking walk around the garden and orchard – but now it's back to careful eating, non-stop work in the vegetable garden, and hiking up the hill, plus a bit of time on the rowing machine as my arms are getting horribly flabby. As you get older, you have to work harder just to stay where you are.
By the way, Joan Collins says she's spent her whole life dieting to keep her figure. What phenomenal willpower to do that – not for Joan the putting it all back on then taking it off again next year, as most of us do. And she does have a good figure. However, I saw a photo of Joan in the paper today, all dressed up a la Dynasty in her miniskirt and with her face looking, as usual, not a day over 50. But then I looked down at her hands – the hands of a woman in her late eighties. The sight of which has confirmed what I've always suspected – that I'd rather my face and my extremities match as I age. I'm definitely not bothering with any renovations (otherwise known as face lifts) until such times as the cosmetic doctors can also fix gnarly old arthritic knuckles and thumb joints, age spots and crinkled and saggy skin.
Actually I take that back – even if they can, I'm still not bothering. I really don't care about having young hands or a young face. I like my wrinkles and other surface imperfections each and every one. It took a lot of living to get them.