Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mad Cowes

I'm still on Phillip Island, 2 hours south east of Melbourne, Australia.

And after a week's worth of boiled egg on toast with Vegemite for breakfast, this morning I opted for something different: brunch out at Mad Cowes.

A clever play on words, Mad Cowes has nothing to do with the disease first found in infected British cows, rather, it's a wonderful little cafe on the esplanade of Cowes, the main town on the island.

When I walked into Mad Cowes, the first thing I noticed written on the cafe's chalk board was "indulge and enjoy."

I don't think Australians need any prompting; as I mentioned last week, judging by the expanding girths of my compatriots, over-indulging appears to be the new national pastime.

It's not my imagination either; Australia's Department of Health and Aging cites these very concerning figures: 42% of men and 30% of women are overweight and 25% of men and 24% of women are classified as obese.

And this, despite the fact that Melbourne has been named best sporting city in the world! But what this title actually means is that Melbourne plays host to great sporting events -- it does not mean that Melbournians are busily playing lots of sport and burning off their excess weight.

With this in mind, I ran my eye down the menu and Mad Cowes and saw the kind of fare that I'd find on breakfast / brunch menus in Boulder or any other city in the US.

There was French toast, egg and bacon sandwich, eggs Florentine and Benedict, granola with fruit and yogurt, plain fruit with yogurt, and pancakes (above).

I ordered the pancakes, which were actually listed as "Ricotta Hotcakes w/seasonal fruit & pure Canadian maple syrup, yogurt or ice-cream." Ice cream was an option with a number of the other breakfast items.

Call me crazy, but ice-cream for breakfast strikes me as an unnecessary caloric indulgence.

When I asked the (slim) proprietor questions about the food, he said they get a lot of Canadian and American tourists at Mad Cowes, hence the selection of dishes on the menu, the large servings, and of course the maple syrup.

I'm not sure Australians can use the excuse that their fat because of an imported American diet; blaming, and allocating responsibility elsewhere, is not a solution.

While on the island I don't have a car and there's no public transport. So every day the distance I walk totals around 4 miles. I considered my brunch of pancakes with bacon and syrup and yogurt this morning a treat, but not an indulgence because I'm exercising.

If I'd had the seasonal fruit with the pancakes, instead of swapping it out for bacon, obviously I would have consumed less calories and fat, but today I anticipated walking further than usual and so I opted for more energy.

It's a simple equation that overweight Australians (and Americans) have apparently forgotten: eating more calories than energy expended will cause weight gain.

If you have a big energy-expenditure day on your schedule, and you fancy a hearty breakfast like the one I had Mad Cowes, you might like to try making these Seed and Nut Waffles, the recipe for which I posted almost a year ago.

I like them as an alternative because of the option of using a mix of high-protein flours, seeds and nuts in the waffles instead of the processed white flour in the pancakes I had.

Instead of spoon of yogurt on your waffle, you could use ricotta drizzled with honey, maple syrup or agave, and topped with fresh fruit, perhaps a few extra nuts, this version of a big breakfast is high protein but low in saturated fat.

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