Friday, July 15, 2011

The Winning Combination

Thanks to Ciao and Eileen for wrting in. Good to hear from you both again. It really is getting to be a good time of year to gather our own fresh fruit and vegetables - and hopefully for several months more.

For once, yesterday was quite upbeat for me and am beginning to wonder if the cause of my tiredness is more psychological than physical. As the arrangement was changed (re buying a freezer yesterday morning) with B unexpectedly trotting off "to help a sailing mate with a boat", found that having the place to myself made me feel very relaxed.

Had already made the decision to cook up a 1lb of minced beef steak with some finely diced carrots, onions and celery, with an initial sautee in butter before adding 'rich beef stock' (home-made and red wine based) and a can of chopped tomatoes. Then clapped on a lid and let it simmer while I went and sat in the living room to watch 'Food Fighters' (11.00am BBC 1). Particularly wanted to watch this episode as it dealt with foods that had reached their 'best-before' date. Was thrilled to bits to find the presenter had gone to the warehouse of Approved Foods (the company that sells st0ck of such type and has been mentioned by readers of this site several times). Enough questions were asked, and taste testing done by the public to confirm this way of shopping makes a lot of sense. The series finishes this week, but you may be able to watch yesterday's prog on iPlayer.
Afterwards went and sat in the garden to wait for B's return. And yes, he did come back, but just to collect more of his tools and to let me know this 'work' was taking a little longer than expected. "We'll still have time to go and buy the freezer".

Not that I minded waiting. It was lovely sitting in the sun. Even felt energetic enough to go and water some plants, plant out others, and ended up sitting in the greenhouse, cosy enough for me to decide to eat my lunch there. This 'lunch' was picking a ripe cherry 'Tumbler' tomato from the bush at my side, putting it straight into my mouth whilst I picked a baby 'mange-tout' pea from another pot, eating that whilst I picked a couple of oak-leaved lettuce leaves from another pot, and repeating the process three or four times.
As it took less that two seconds (I counted) for each to be individually picked and then eaten, this means a tomato, mange-tout and lettuce salad was 'prepared, served and eaten' in less than one minute. Doubt there can be another salad 'served' that could be so speedy, fresh, full of flavour, and so much enjoyed.

Time was moving on. Having noticed only one crust of the Ciabatta left, decided later in the afternoon (if B hadn't returned) to bake another loaf, but first sat and watched '10-mile menu' on the TV, before setting the dough to knead in the bread-machine. While that was working, decided to divide the 'meat sauce' mixture into half. To one added a can of drained red kidney beans, and part of a packet of Hot Chilli Sauce mix. Meant to add a chunk of dark chocolate too, but can always add that when reheating. This was then divided up into two containers to freeze for a home-made 'ready-meal' that B was capable of reheating all by himself.
Sliced some mushrooms and fried these in a little butter and beef dripping before adding the remaining 'meat sauce', also adding a dash of Worcestershire sauce and the rinsed out dregs from a bottle of HP sauce. This then turned into 'spag.bol sauce. Half was left in the frying pan to reheat for B's supper, the rest put into a container to make another frozen meal.
The bread dough was put into the loaf tin and covered, set in the warm conservatory to rise whilst I went and watched 'Daily Cook's Challenge' followed by 'Goodnight Sweetheart'. What a pleasant day it was turning out to be.
When the ads were on, checked the dough - nearly ready - so put the oven on, went back to watch a bit more TV and during the next ads the loaf was put in to bake.

All this time felt no tiredness at all, even (between times) managed to tidy up the conservatory (a bit) and hang out the washing. At half-past five, realised that yet AGAIN I seemed to have spent most of the day cooking for B whilst he was out doing exactly what he wanted, and so said quite firmly to him that I'd decided not to have another freezer after all as it would only be there to hold all the foods that he particularly enjoyed (ice-cream, steaks etc), and as I would not be eating any of them, but still have to do all the cooking, then it was time for me to stop pandering to his needs. From now on it should be me doing exactly what I wanted, and he should cook a meal for me every alternate day. After all - retirement is not just for men. It should mean both husbands and wives have freedom to enjoy life, but as ever - wives still have to continue doing everything for their man as they always have done.
And yes, I did say that. Out loud, only B wasn't here at the time. Just my way of making my feelings felt without rocking our marital boat.

When B rolled in at six o'clock he did apologise "for being a bit late". He wasn't too pleased when I suggested he cook the pasta for his spag bol, as he was 'tired' (and I'm not even sure that he did), but he eat the spag.bol sauce, and afterwards came into the living room with the last of the Ciabatta smothered in well-salted beef dripping. Then he fell asleep. Well, he had been working hard poor lad! Not that I ever do of course. But then I fall alseep too. But not during yesterday. Until - that is - when I realised that I suddenly felt very, very tired the moment B walked through the door, yet up to then had felt bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

So maybe it is B that is mentally sapping my strength. Perhaps - deep down - I'm now beginning to feel very much the one who is ignored in favour of more interesting pursuits and 'feeling tired' is subconciously my way of trying to avoid doing so much for Beloeved.
Much of the fault is mine, but as I've always preferred outdoor activities to be shared rather than 'enjoy' them on my own, and B and I don't share the same interests, this is now proving a bit difficult. . B always manages to meet up with other like-minded people (esp now in Morecambe) due to his love of sailing, and - of course - he has the car to go further afield. I really do miss having a car of my own, for at least then I could explore the country where we lived, and visit friends. Not to mention playing bridge and the short mid-week bridge holidays that four of us often used to take together.
It really is all my fault for not forcing myself to move around more. Norris is a help, but he can only take me so far, and I haven't made us of him enough. From now on I will.
Yet, having said that, am still quite happy with my own company. Am sure this is due to being 'an only child', as Gill, who has many siblings (and living close to all her family), is so used to a 'house full', that she cannot bear being alone.

I doubt that anyone really prefers to be totally alone. We all need to hear the sound of something 'living'. A hermit will delight in the sound of bird-song. An old person living alone in the past nearly always had a canary trilling away in a little cage, or a cat purring while it sat on a lap to be stroked. In the days of no TV or radio, usually a loudly clicking clock was there to give back-ground sound.
Now we have TV, radio, and computers we are never fully 'alone'. Which reminds me - must buy myself a radio to keep myself company in the kitchen when B is away. Always used to have Radio 4 on when working in the kitchen in Leeds, and this is something I do miss.

There was a thought provoking full page article by Michael Winner in our newspaper yesterday. He was remarking about the meals served in restaurants these days, agreeing with Delia Smith as to how dishes seemed far simpler, but far better in 'the old days' when food was not given a fancy title, if it was 'meat and two veg' that is what we got (potatoes as an extra veg, making three), There were no cheffy garnishes, portions were full sized, not a mini-helping in the centre of a plate. And no need to pay more (as we do today) because fresh food is being served, because in those days ALL food was fresh.

Today restaurants (even in coastal towns) will buy food from a wholesaler who ships it up from miles away, when for a little extra effort and time it could have been bought from the local harbour as fresh as fresh. Potatoes are bought 'ready peeled and chipped' for frying. It's got to the point when we are charged extra for 'hand-cut chips'. Bread is bought part-baked (usually frozen) to be 'freshly baked' on the premises. All the time we are fooled into believing what is really not.

The point was made that if buying a painting by a well-known artist, we expect to pay a full price. But if the painting was made by one of the artist's apprentices, even if still exceptionally good, the price would be much lower. " So why doesn't the same apply when it comes to restaurants owned by top chefs? asks M.Winner. If we go into a Gordon Ramsay owned restaurant and pay a very high price for the meal, then we expect Gordon to be there, and if not actually doing the cooking, to at least control what is being served. So why should we pay the same for the food when cooked by another (and anonymous) chef in his absence?

It does seem - at grass roots level - we are now becoming wise to the fact that we are now expected to pay for what we see, rather than experience eating a satisfying meal that does not give us value for money. It's becoming very much a matter of 'who you are' when booking a table. Many people have to book months ahead to eat at some 'top eateries', and it is this that makes them appealing - with the "I've actually managed to get a table at 'X' to celebrate your birthday darling" that means something. Squeals of delight from darling who then goes off to buy new clothes to outdo any celeb that might also be there dining that evening. Quite honestly, the reason anyone eats in places like that is usually nothing to do with the food.

Although cooking is creative, it should not become 'art on a plate'. At the present moment there are 'artists' out there making pictures (more like collages) composed only of foods. And none meant to be eaten. We can buy beautiful pictures to hang on the wall all made from chocolate. Let us hope these are hung in a cool shady place and not in the sun!

So it's not surprising that in this week's The Apprentice, the winning team won because they served traditional pies made with all British ingredients. Served within minutes (it was supposed to be a 'fast-food' restaurant), so right at every level, and all who ate enjoyed them. A taste of the past that I hope will become the taste of the future.

From now on I think that when we 'eat out' we do need to be very selective where we go if we want value for money. Not that I class a chain of 'carveries' as a 'restaurants', but we do however get a very good meal for the price, being able to have a choice of roast beef, turkey and/or ham, plus Yorkshire pudding, stuffing balls, and a 'help yourself' to a very wide selection of vegetables (and possibly salads), gravies, sauces, etc.
Problem is - the 'menu' never changes, but that's what keeps the price down.

'Pub lunches' usually have more to offer, and although have not eaten at any 'gastro pubs' no doubt these are even better, but also pricier. At least the helpings should be satisfying enough. Gill - being a 'lady that lunches' eats out most days, often a pub lunch and she is always going on about how good value they are.

There truly is nothing better than a good home-cooked meal, especially when using ingredients freshly picked from the garden, and good meats/fish from a local supplier. However much we pay for the ingredients, it will never be as much as we would be charged if eating exactly the same cooked for us in any eating establishment, top restaurant, with the final thought that the home-cook always serves larger portions.

Beloved has just come in to suggest we now go off to choose the freezer (which I hope he will be able to fit into the car and set up before he goes off again this afternoon to do more 'boat work'. He is also out this even at the social club, so once this morning is over, should have most of the rest of the day to myself, no doubt moving stuff from 'Boris' into the new freezer, to make room for all the lovely ice-creams and desserts that I'm planning to make this coming weekend.
If I continue to make 'meals-for-one' then maybe will find I've released myself from the shackles of continually cooking for B. Yet - somehow feel I might just miss doing that, so will take it slow and steady. No doubt tomorrow you will hear all about our new 'baby'. Not sure what name to give it. As 'Boris' is our fridge/freezer, and 'Norris' my scooter, 'Doris' is our car, then maybe the new freezer should be either 'Horace', 'Maurice' or 'Cloris'. Perhaps if a three-drawer freezer, each drawer could have a different name. I could stick a label on the front of each, then it will be easier for B to find what he wants. But am sure he will know where the ice-cream is without being told.

Looks like another sunny day (although rain is forecast for the weekend so might get away without needing to water the containers today). With us having to now go out - had better get myself ready, and wind up my blog for today. Hope you can join me again tomorrow. TTFN.