Posts Tagged ‘diabetes’


There are a few places left on this extra cooking workshop in the first week in June (4th-8th) and in the extra autumn workshop at the end of September. The focus is hands-ons cooking of Mediterranean cuisine–with the accent on healthy recipes.

This June weekend will be the sixth I’ve run chez Dominique and Philippe, the warm and welcoming owners who run the beautiful La Terrasse in Lautrec.


We start with tea–well I’m a Brit!–in the garden on Thursday afternoon and finish with a celebratory Sunday lunch.



We eat outside in the garden as much as possible!

We eat outside in the garden as much as possible!

In between we top and tail, chop and slice, chew the fat and generally hang out together round the large central table of the working kitchen of the gite which Dominique and Philippe designed specifically for cooking courses.



We are blessed to have Simone Sarti (pictured below) with us who keeps everything ship shape and the wheels turning.

Friday morning, we walk to the little market held in the main square of Lautrec and buy the makings for lunch, then go back and prepare it together.


Friday evening we give ourselves a break and dine chez Valerie—a fine cook—in the converted barn where she and her partner, Bernard, have created a delightful table d’hôte.


They have a sociable “Long John Silver” parrot in residence who is in love with Meredith and hangs on her every word.


Saturday morning shop at the open air market in Castres, our nearest town, buying our fresh food for lunch.

Before the final dinner, Phillippe offers his expert take on local French wines in his extraordinary cave deep under the house.

Each attendee–Bravehearts to me!–has their cooking station with a chopping board, cook’s knife and an apron!


It’s a hands on workshop–we are all in it together


The aim is to have fun, make friends and eat well.





The setting for all this is Lautrec—a medieval bastide (hilltop) village in the Tarn, proud of its designation as Un des plus beaux villages de France. It’s famous for its pink garlic–l’ail rose–and hosts a Garlic Festival the first Friday in August every year, attracting 10,000 visitors!  On a clear day you can see the Pyrenees from the hilltop.

Image 5



So far into the melting pot have jumped Bravehearts from the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, France, Italy, Australia and Majorca.

The pictures tell the story–it’s the people who’ve made it work.

Come be a Braveheart!!

Here’s more about it…

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Diabetes Logo

This week marks the end of the testing season–feet, heart, liver, kidneys, prostate, skin–you name it!

On Monday it was the annual love fest with Dr Nguyen Ngoc Luong, my opthamologist.

A man of few words, Dr Luong sits on a swivel chair with an alarming revolving table to his right.

At the push of a button this table goes in to action, swinging round to position a new chin rest at eye level between me and the good Doctor. This happens three times in the course of the test.

Then comes the checking of my long sight.

Reading off the numbers or letters projected on the wall opposite, as Dr Luong slips different lenses in and out of the “pince-nez” he fastens onto my nose.


I feel like a schoolboy keen to answer teacher’s questions correctly.

Now it’s time for the most intimate moment of the session.

We both shift nervously on our chairs preparing to stare into one another’s eyes for a few breathless moments.

My freshly shaved chin juts towards his as he points a penetrating light at my pupils–shining  it into every corner of my cornea and beyond.

Breaking the spell, he leans back and utters three precious words. To my relief–a few days short of Valentine’s Day–not “I Love You” but…

“Pas de diabétes!”

I uncross my fingers–and feel foolish again for indulging in the Superstition Game.

Another year CLEAR!


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The UK’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, has revealed that she was recently diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.


It was a real shock and, yes, it took me a while to come to terms with it,” she said. “It started last November. I’d had a bad cold and cough for quite a few weeks. I went to my GP and she did a blood test which showed I’d got a very high sugar level – that’s what revealed the diabetes.

“The symptoms are tiredness, drinking a lot of water, losing weight, but it’s difficult to isolate things. I was drinking a lot of water. But I do anyway. There was weight loss but then I was already making an effort to be careful about diet and to get my gym sessions in.”

The Home Secretary says she has been told that she will have to inject herself with insulin twice a day for the rest of her life–but she has no fear of needles and intends to carry on in her Cabinet post.

Mrs May’s determination to get on with her life reminds me of my mother, Molly Ellis.


June 1955. Brother Jack in Molly’s arms. Her doctors overcame their doubts about letting her proceed with the pregnancy despite being a Type 1 diabetic.

Molly was diagnosed with Type 1 aged 38 in 1953.

She too injected herself twice a day for the rest of her life.

Eventually she died of a sudden heart attack linked to her condition–but she made it to 67–almost 30 years with Type 1 diabetes–and in those days treatment was not as advanced as it is now.

Molly was not a professional politician–and the cabinet she loved best was hanging in a corner! But she carried on leading a full life, running the household and raising three boys.

The last six years of her life were spent in a Buckinghamshire village called Brill–not too far from Oxford. She and Dad retired there from London. They threw themselves into village life and were much appreciated for it.

I’d wager that not many in the village, apart from her doctor,  John Spence, knew she was diabetic–and few would have understood what it meant.


Molly relaxing in Brill–after preparing lunch I’d guess!

She never liked to make a fuss.

Her heart attack happened one morning as she was finishing dressing to go shopping. Her heart finally gave up after years of struggle.

Her gift to me was an understanding of how damaging diabetes can be if ignored. When I received my diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes in my mid-fifties, I took it seriously, thanks to witnessing my mother’s journey.

There’s still a shocking ignorance surrounding the condition.

Theresa May’s high profile and very public admission that she is Type 1 helps focus attention on and heighten awareness of this ruthless and insidious menace.

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As I came out of the new organic supermarket this morning, the dry heat hit me–transporting me directly to California.

That would be nice.

Enter the shop in France and exit six thousand miles away and close to the ocean–all stocked up!

Dream on–though they did put a robot on Mars this week–not in my lifetime.

Good weather for a stressful day–a double clinic visit and the results of a blood test.

On second thoughts, maybe California and the land of perpetual sun is not such a good idea….

My first clinic visit is to a skin surgeon for him to look at a small cancer on the left side of my nose.

Stop PressPoldark’s scar becomes a reality!

Pas de soucis–the dermatologist assured me, providing a referral to Docteur Mylonas, the plastic surgeon–nothing to worry about!

He confirmed what she’d told me–that the culprit was the sun.

I had spent all my sun capital!, she’d said, charmingly.

Docteur Mylonas picked a date at the end of August for the small operation.

Just after lunch on the 28th suit you?

It’s this easy? Seems so. 

That’ll be forty euros for today, says the receptionist, all reimbursable barring 2 euros.

Quel système!

The blood sample was taken–here in the kitchen–at 8 am Tuesday by our friend, Sylvie, one of the local team of nurses.

Just the quarterly A1C  (measuring the glucose levels in my blood).

Sometimes the result comes in the post from the lab the next day.

Nothing yesterday.

I listen anxiously for the postal van’s vibrations on my return from the clinique.

Just before 1pm–a tad early–I hear it and go out to the box.

The envelope is there and the moment of truth–eek!

Worryguts in my head, it’s bound to be bad…

I unfold the paper and…

6.4% is clearly written–0.1% less than 3 months ago. In the range of normal–just!

A silent whoopee is followed by a moment of self-satisfaction as the anxiety recedes.

But there is no room for complacency, Robin, I quickly remind myself.

The 6pm appointment with the cardiologist will round off the day!

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The book event in Washington was held in this Georgetown home.

Signing books in advance of the evening

A brief talk to the assembled group

Wonderful book event in Georgetown last night!

Thanks to author, nutritionist and all-around whirlwind, Katherine Tallmadge for organizing the event; Nancy Taylor Bubes for opening her beautiful home to more than 80 guests, the American Institute of Wine and Food  for co-sponsoring, and Executive Chef, Janis McLean of Bistrot Le Zinc for demonstrating the potato-less salmon fishcakes recipe–and thanks to all who turned out, many bringing dishes prepared from recipes in Delicious Dishes for Diabetics.

The Washington Post’s Food Editor Bonnie Benwick was present the entire evening and wrote a wonderful account today: http://wapo.st/xGHO30/.

We leave balmy Washington D.C. where the magnolia blossoms are opening for the Windy City  tomorrow!

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An early post this time last February was a short account of my annual eye test. This week I went through the identical procedure–Mr Nguyen is reassuringly methodical.

Arrive–present my Carte Vitale (the card accessing the French health care system)–take a seat in the waiting room.

This is usually backed up with a crowd of anxious, silent people but is empty this year (maybe it’s the freezing weather)–apart from a couple who whisper together as though the Queen were in the next room!

No sooner do I unfold my copy of The New Yorker magazine when out comes the doctor with a patient and–moments later–the summons:

Monsieur Ellis?

Eye Test–(15/2/2011)

I learned early on, that managing Type 2 Diabetes involves more than watching what you eat—it’s really a head to toe job!

The villain sugar is a ruthless foe. It will take advantage of any weaknesses with alacrity, and insinuate itself into those vulnerable spots like eyes and feet if you drop your guard, causing damage that cannot be reversed.

“Put your chin on the strap please and place your forehead against the bar—look straight ahead and don’t move”.

The forced intimacy of doctor and patient is strange. As he leans forward and shines his special torch deep into my eyes, we are eyeball to eyeball. For a moment I feel like the Man in the Iron Mask, receiving a visit.

The short pause before he says–pas de diabetes [no sign of diabetes], is a bit nerve-wracking; on occasion I’ve caught myself crossing my fingers under the table—though I forgot this morning!

Phew-another year gone!

Being tested has become part of life again. Just like schooldays.

I see Cyril for feet every three months and have a blood test to check cholesterol and glucose levels as often. No big deal really—when your life depends on it.

Pas de diabete!   Encore phew!

Less than 15 minutes after “the summons, I had paid 27 euros for the consultation (to be reimbursed later), made an appointment for February next year and was searching for my car key outside in the cold.

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It was heartening to spy through the mist from our friends Susan and Jean-Michel’s bathroom window in Strasbourg (AlsaceLorraine in NE France) a sea of allotments stretching a hundred yards to the elevated road on the horizon.

Dotted with little sheds and pockets of green (but no sign of anyone working–well it’s winter!)–they at least were proof that vegetables are grown in this part of France.

Heartening in both senses–good news and good for the heart–after several veg-free meals eaten over a weekend in the restaurants of this ancient regional capital.

Meat is big here–the displays of it in butchers’ windows are impressive.

And often it seems little else on the plate.

True there is the chou (white cabbage)in the ubiquitous choucroute (sauerkraut) but that is not a fresh vegetable and it’s true there are potatoes but they are not an option for me.

Even white fish is served with sauerkraut here!

Vous allez manger bien la-bas! [You’ll eat well there!] we were assured enthusiastically by our friend and neighbor, Thierry, an amateur [fan] of good food when he heard we were heading to Strasbourg for the weekend.

Heavy–yes but bee-an!

At a reception in the celebrated Wine Cave Historique des Hospices de Strasbourgthe guide casually mentioned that there is more cadiovasular disease and Type 2 diabetes in this region than any other in France!

In a cave underneath the hospital of Strasbourg great casks of local wine are stored--including the oldest cask of drinkable wine in the world--so they say!

Our host in Strasbourg, Jean-Michel–(who by the way cooked me a delicious omelette for lunch on Saturday!)–said this part of France had the lowest life expectancy.

Cause and effect?


But it made me think how difficult it is to change ingrained habits….

The people of Alsace are clearly proud of their cuisine.

It reflects centuries of tradition and daily consumption, deeply connected with the customs and rural way of life autrefois (in times gone by).

But “in times gone by” the people (peasants) worked hard all day in the fields and the food they ate in this northern climate stoked their boilers.

Times have changed–but not the way of eating it seems.

Come to think of it a couple of days hard digging at the allotment would take care of at least two plates of choucroute–and there’d be some vegetables to see for the effort too!!

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