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The food blogger’s diet. Baked sea bass with fresh herbs from the garden

I’ve been on a diet every day since I was nineteen, which basically means I’ve been hungry for a decade. Julia Roberts, “Notting Hill”

I could say the same, though the results are clearly different. The diet issue is a recurrent theme of my blog, as it is of my life. I’ve been in several diets, with fluctuating results. After a few months of diligent diet I would often circle back to the starting point, with much disappointment. The reasons are the oldest ones in the world: a lethal mix of laziness and love for food, which often turns into an ancestral hunger difficult to appease. Food makes me happy, tickles my curiosity, made me what I am, gave me a job and a dream to fight for along with a few more pounds, a generous and mediterranean look and the inability to get into a pair of skinny jeans. Choose wisely.

Baked sea bass with fresh herbs from the garden

I’ve been on a diet recently. Actually, I just quit it. It was one of those straight forward old style diets, so even quite easy to follow, no paleo, no forbidden ingredients, though I could not surely feast on fried food. When I decided to quit it I had an immediate feeling, as someone had just removed a heavy burden from my chest. I could breathe again, but mostly I could choose what to eat. This is what I miss in a diet, the right to choose, to decide all by myself what I want to eat on any day, at any time. It could be considered yet another failure, but I want to see it as the discovery of the food blogger diet.

There are three elements that contributed to the discovery of this diet, if you can call it a diet. On the one hand there is a deeper reflection on the ingredients that we use for cooking, linked to a judicious and seasonal use and to the appreciation of every single precious element, which is the theme of the book I’m working on now. On the other hand there are two clever articles I stumbled upon recently. One is The Food Writer’s Diet, published a few years ago on Bon Appétit.

It was then that it dawned on me to only eat food that I like, and to not eat things that I don’t. It sounds simple, but at the time, when I tended to polish off everything in front of me just because it was there, it was revolutionary. – Melissa Clark, Bon Appétit magazine

The second one is the newest discovery, found a few hours ago, Why I will always choose to be a little bit fat, by Jamie Khoo.

Intuitively, deep down inside, we do know the basics of living well. We know when we’ve had enough to eat, what kinds of foods are good for us, what makes us feel good and what makes us go into a slump, how much exercise we need to do, when to stop when we’re exhausted and when to rest.
We know this not just intellectually, but physically—our bodies are always telling us what we need to do; we just need to listen.
– Jamie Khoo for The Elephant Journal

Baked sea bass with fresh herbs from the garden

A premise is needed : I’ve repeatedly felt the need for a diet exclusively for vanity reasons, because I’d like to be thinner, wrongly considering thinner as nicer, because I want to wear a white linen dress in summer and skinny jeans when I feel like. I have chosen several times to go on a diet not for health reasons but to gain in self-esteem, convinced that removing the extra pounds I would have rather conquered self-esteem. I always look at myself in the mirror with a hyper critical eye, I am always as hard on myself as I am forgiving with others.

So what is this diet and why I like it so much? Apparently it is not a diet, even if it leads you to make conscious choices. It allows you to indulge the natural curiosity which belongs to every  food lover. Imagine how I could have been on a diet in Venice, saying no to spritz and cicchetti. I would not have enjoyed the holiday with my friends but I would also have been deprived of important discoveries for for my profession!

Melissa Clark says that you have to eat what you like and do not eat what you do not like. Taste everything, but do not feel a moral obligation to lick your plate clean in every situation. It sounds obvious, but it is not.

My goal for the next months, and years, is the following: love myself and be more forgiving, eat consciously what you like, savouring every crumb without feeling guilty, limit my portions, do not eat what you don’t like just for the idea of eating something, walk as much as possible with my Noa. This is probably the only diet I’ll be able to follow, because it will allow me the sacred right to choose in every moment of my life what to eat, satisfying my taste and my curiosity.

It sounds easy, but this diet requires some discipline, too. You have to be able to stop after the first arancina without going for a second serving even though I’m testing the recipe for the book, and I have to force myself to choose a walk rather than an additional hour of work at the end of the day. I have to claim some time for me. Add also the desire to cook in a fun, curious, healthy and conscious way, valuing the right ingredients, in order not to get bored with grilled chicken breasts or boiled vegetables.

From all these considerations comes today’s recipe. A recipe that may very well fall within a diet food diary, but it did not represent neither a sacrifice nor a loss, because I had chosen it regardless of everything: a sea bass caught in the Gulf of Follonica, whole sea salt, steamed vegetables seasoned with the best extra virgin olive oil and chives flowers. This was my lunch yesterday. For dinner I had sourdough bread made with organic flour, two slices of goat cheese form Greve in Chianti, sautéed spinach, good olive oil.

Baked sea bass with fresh herbs

5 from 2 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Fish, Main
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2


  • 1 fresh sea bass, about 500 g
  • A sprig of basil
  • A sprig of lemon balm
  • A sprig of lemon verbena
  • a few sprigs of chives
  • 2 tablespoons of sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
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  • Preheat oven to 190°C. Gut the sea bass. Do not remove the scales. Rinse under cold running water and then pat it dry.
  • Chop finely basil, lemon balm, lemon verbena and chives, then mix the fresh herbs with sea salt.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, sprinkle half of the fresh herb salt on the baking sheet, put the sea bass over the salt and cover it with the rest of the scented salt. Put a few leaves of lemon balm inside the fish.
  • When the oven is hot, bake the sea bass for about 30 minutes, until you smell the good aroma of roasted fish.
  • While the fish is in the oven steam some vegetables to make a colourful side dish: carrots, zucchini and potatoes. Season them with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a dash of apple cider vinegar and chive flowers.
  • Serve the fish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the vegetables on the side.
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To cut a long story short, I ate just like when I was on a diet, though I did not apply the label diet to my choices, they were just healthy and conscious. For this very reason I ate everything with the greatest pleasure, appreciating the subtle aroma of the chives flowers and the lemony hint given by the fresh herbs I chose. Simply by not applying the label diet I had prevented chocolate cravings to appease a hunger that had no raison d’être or the temptation to open the fridge just to stare what was inside. Nothing had changed, yet indulging myself I removed the desire to make an exception to the rule.

Will it work? We’ll see! I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts!

This is my 500th post on this English blog, so I consider this big revelation I just had as lit by a good omen and as a new beginning!

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. What a refreshing and wonderful post! Our eating and food habits are deeply rooted. Finding a personal balance while carrying all that baggage around can be daunting. I commend you for your honesty on a subject that is fraught with emotion, politics and history!

  2. Ooo this is brilliant… By coincidence I’m also posting diet stuff on my blog today too as it’s that time of year again I guess but this is an approach I can work with! Love it!

  3. 5 stars
    Past generations used to be more spontaneous about eating because they didn’t have as much food as -we people of the West- have today. They seldom ate red meat, desserts etc. so it was easier to stay thin. And they certainly used their legs more often than we do!
    I’m giving your recipe 5 stars.

  4. 5 stars
    This had to be said. The dieting fads that abound seem to be about anything but health or pleasure. As a Mum of teenage girls I see the damage that the media’s relentless promotion of a particular body type can do. Bravo – fantastic post. 5 stars

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