MY WEEK IN BEAUTY… SWEETS AND SEDUCTION
LONDON: A 30 MINUTE LUNCH WITH SARAH WILSON, AUTHOR OF I QUIT SUGAR
“Britain has a snacking issue.” So says Sarah Wilson, author of the best-selling book, I Quit Sugar, who is on a whistle-stop tour of the country, and – because I turned up at the wrong restaurant by accident and we’ve therefore lost half an hour – is having an even more whistlestop lunch with me at Camilla Fayed’s new vegan-ish restaurant Farmacy (which by the way, is becoming a bit of a habit, so good is the food).
Sarah is a friend of one of my dearest friends, the artist and unofficial Mayor of Byron Bay, Australia, Mr Paul McNeil. (Check out his surfboards, Elle MacPherson is a fan among others). Sarah’s anti-sugar drive is relentless, so perhaps I won’t tell her just yet that Paul and I used to eat maple-syrup drenched waffles in a North Bondi café called Brown Sugar a while back. (They were sooooo good). Thanks to her website programmes guiding people through the process of giving up sugar, around 1.8 million people have managed to fight off the cravings and go without”.
But back to the snacking issue. “Snacking was a dietary concept invented back in the 90s,” she says. “Sure, if we were all snacking on hummous and carrot sticks it would be fine, but we’re not. We need to go back to eating three times a day, and forget all those so-called healthy juices, smoothies and snack bars sweetened with dates – they mess with your blood-sugar levels.”
In a week where the news has been dominated by the anti-clean eating brigade, (check out the wonderful James Duigan bravely finding something nice to say about a somewhat grey-looking beef and potato pie on breakfast tv this week) Sarah’s enthusiasm is in danger of being interpreted as mis-placed, but in fact it’s well-founded and based on her personal recovery from endocrinal failure in her late 30s. “I was so sick I gave up my job as editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, left Sydney, and moved to an army shed in seven acres of forest because I didn’t want to see anyone. I howled every night, I felt so depressed.” She took a long, hard look at her diet, and found herself feeling stronger, healthier, fitter once sugar was eliminated from her life.
Sugar, she argues, is more addictive than heroin, gets passed straight from the liver to the fat cells around the heart and lungs, and “you cannot eat it in moderation because we are biologically programmed to want more of it.” Fructose is the only molecule that does not have a corresponding appetite hormone in the brain – “There’s no “off” switch.”
Why does she think “clean” eating attracts so much criticism? “Sometimes I just don’t get it – if I told everyone I was giving up buckwheat or quinoa, no one would bat an eyelid, but you say you’re giving up sugar, and everyone takes it personally.” She admits much of the drive to eat healthily can be expensive and faddy and as a result “all my recipes focus on seasonal produce, I use the most daggy vegetables, and I work on a no-waste principle, so you’ll never be left with that half an avocado in the fridge.” Not that she advises us Brits to eat avocados. “They’re so expensive here, and they never taste good – they’re not English!”
Neither is she in favour of milk-alternatives. “I am really against almond milk – it’s so unsustainable,” she says. “The carbon footprint for it is enormous, and with California suffering from drought, where so many almonds are grown, we need to rethink our almond milk consumption.” She prefers full fat milk to everything else. “It’s better for you than skimmed. When they make skimmed milk they remove the lactase enzyme which is what the body uses to help it break down the lactose in milk.” As for soy – “don’t touch it. Again, it’s unsustainable and leaches magnesium and zinc.”
I’m going to sign up for one of Sarah’s programmes – the next 8-week one closes in two days. They’re not specifically for weight loss, but apparently 79% of people who go on them do lose weight. And at my age, when hormone disruption is the norm, we all know that sugar isn’t going to help anything. Sarah admits to snacking on the occasional bar of dark chocolate which has always been my go-to mid afternoon fix, so I reckon I could do it. So yeh, bring it on. Where do I sign?
But obviously if I ever find myself back in Sydney with the Mayor of Byron Bay, I’ll make an exception for maple syrup waffles.
World scoops in beauty don’t carry quite the same intellectual weight as world scoops in say, international politics, but a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be the first member of press to visit the magnificent domaine of Louis Vuitton perfumery, the Fontaines Parfumeries in Grasse. (Or as Jane Larkworthy from W magazine says, “Kathleen, you’re a show-off”). (Jane by the way, is a really good foodie show-off, check out her blog The Fraudulent Chef ). You can read the full story in the Financial Times’ Life & Arts section this weekend.
Even though the weather was miserable, Jacques Cavallier was a fun person to interview; erudite, friendly and interesting, as you might expect. He’s been working on the new fragrance which launches in September, for around five years. How does he decide when a fragrance is ready to go?
“I take the smelling strips on the table next to my bed, and I spray them at night and then smell in the morning. That’s the best way – never smell immediately when it’s fresh, always let the alcohol burn off first, leave it for a few hours and smell it at the dry-down. That way you get the personality of the perfume.”
Cavallier thinks the way we currently smell fragrances – rushing through department stores trying to dodge the competing perfume-spritzers – runs counter to the way fragrance needs to be experienced. “They have to give these little blotters where they’ve sprayed it earlier, so they can tell the customer that this is what it would smell like when it’s on their skin. But I’m not sure how much that happens in reality. And how can you evaluate a perfume in three seconds? You need to experiment, to live with the perfume, to be seduced by it.”
I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed a French perfumer where sooner or later it hasn’t all come back to “seduction”. But isn’t that why we love them?