Saturday, August 20, 2011

What Next?

After a disastrous evening, spent longer in bed this morning than intended, so will keep this posting to a minimum. At least your comments cheered me up.
Two 'unfortunate' things happened yesterday. Our electric kettle stopped working. It has - for a few months - been a bit 'iffy', the removable jug part needing to have a plastic lid tucked in at the front end to keep it switched on, or it kept switching itself off and - often hours later - would suddenly switch itself on again.
Yesterday, Beloved tried to sort out the problem and (as ever when he does this) stopped it working altogether. He bought a new one during the day, as B ALWAYS does (and despite my constant requests will not do otherwise) he had filled the large kettle to its limit, even if just for the one mug of coffee he was making, then he topped it back up again with cold water. I try to explain to him that he is reheating most of the water in the kettle tens of times over without even using it, but he still does it.
Often, when I go in to make myself a cuppa, I pour the (now cold) water in the kettle into a jug and use it to water the plants, before heating up the remaining small amount for a drink. Then refill the kettle to no more than half-way full (but then B finds it and fills it to the top again).

But B is my golden boy since late yesterday afternoon. I'd cooked the lamb shank, put a potato in the microwave to cook, and went to Boris to get some frozen peas. None in there, so went to our new freezer (aka 'Maurice') to bring out a new bag of peas, and when I opened the door, what did I find? The whole of the front of the drawers were a sheet of ice, which began dripping as soon as the heat of the room touched it.
I yelled for B, who came and took over while I had the vapours. The priority was to switch off the freezer (right at the back so it had to be pulled out - heavy with food - this B was able to do). Then - once thawed enough to pull out the drawers, the food was to be put into the cold box, while the rest of the freezer was defrosted.

Luckily we do have a huge coolbox (and for those who have frozen meat delivered from Donald Russell, their boxes make another perfect coolbox to keep frozen food solid for hours and hours - good to use when buying frozen food to take home from the shops, or for keeping food cool on picnics, or for taking frozen food on a self-catering holiday. They also make good containers for growing veg when filled with soil, so never throw them away). Went to get the big box and of course it was full to the brim with empty glass jars and their lids, saved to use when making jams and preserves etc. As there are already two top shelves in the kitchen cupboards also full of empty jars, really don't know why I've begun hoarding these too. You see I do have a bad habit to save just about everything.

After turning out all the jars and other things in the cool box - these are still littering the kitchen floor - I took the box to B and went into the living room to sit and fall into the depths of despair. Did remember that we do have insurance that covers the freezers, also any food lost if they break down, but that was little consolation as throwing food away is against my nature. Alternatively was faced with cooking as much of it as possible, and then storing it in the freezer when it was repaired (if it needed repairing), than meant several days work of non-stop cooking meat, fish, vegetables etc....).

Suggested to Beloved that he leave the door open to allow the frost to thaw (towels on the floor to collect the drips), and have his supper, having found some green beans in Boris for B to eat instead of peas. After his supper, B came into tell me he had managed to remove the drawers, put most of the food in the cool box, any remaining went into Boris (where somehow he found space) and told me there was only one chicken breast that had thawed out. This was in the top drawer in the corner nearest the open side of the drawer, and as B said, warm air rises, and this would hit that part of the drawer first. He had put that in the fridge.

To cut a long story short, by 8.oopm, Beloved had defrosted the freezer, wiped it dry inside, then wiped all the surfaces with glycerine (this prevents the ice sticking to surfaces so it is then easily lifted off in 'sheets' when next needing to defrost - works very well with chest freezers). He had replaced the freezer, plugging it into a more accessible socket, switched it on to super-freeze, and an hour later it was cold enough to put the food back. This was my job, and have to say I was quite shocked at how much food there was (surely we don't need ALL of it, even if I do like to keep an amount in store), but it now seems to be working properly again.
Thankfully, B was able to go off to his sailing social at the normal time, but have to say, he did a marathon job sorting the problem out for me, and for which I will be eternally grateful.

The fault lay with me. When I went into the freezer a few days ago to bring out some sliced bread - stored in the bottom drawer - had not pushed the drawer back in properly and B pointed out to me that one side of it stuck out slightly more than the other, and this prevented the door closing properly. It LOOKED closed, but obviously wasn't, and over the days the freezer must have been pumping out electricity to keep the interior frozen, freezing the humid air that kept filtering in. Thank goodness it was discovered sooner than later, otherwise the appliance might have broken down, flooded the kitchen (which is carpeted), and all the food wasted. Goodness knows how much electricity must have been used. Especially it is this month the fuel prices haver risen. Why couldn't it have happend last month?
It could have been worse, but certainly upset me enough to make me realise that I need to take more care..

From now on, will keep a note (receipts etc) of what food goes into the freezer, and how much it cost - just in case a claim has to be made. The way insurances are, they are hardly likely to take the word of anyone as to what food has been lost. If no receipts, probably they would accept a photo of the thawed food. So anyone with large enough freezers should take out insurance (cheap enough as an addition to a household policy, some give it as normal - and the appliance also is covered for its first year, although not necessarily for food unless you register. Worth bearing this in mind.

As things tend to come in threes, with both the kettle and the freezer throwing a wobbly, wonder what other appliance will be next. Let us hope it is not this computer.

At least it looks like being a sunny day so far. Beloved will be out from late morning until early evening 9But not sure what time) when he will have the chicken breast that thawed out. Will probably make a Strogonoff with it as have plenty of mushrooms. This is quickly made (using 2 minute microwave rice if necessary), so can wait until his return before it is cooked.

Myself will have to try and sort out what jars can go to the bottle bank - and be ruthless about it. Also clear up all the litter on the kitchen floor and try and get some semblance of order in there. Not sure whether I will do any baking as I've quite gone off the thought of food at the moment. Saw enough of it yesterday.

Did make me think though, possibly a well-stocked larder with foods that have a long shelf-life are more likely to be of use than a freezer full of food. Freezers break down, larders can usually remain 'in good condition' for centuries. Give or take an earthquake or flood or two. Sometimes technology can be a thorn in our sides.

If we could all live in small cottages that has wood-burning stoves that keep an old-style kettle full of water continually simmering on the top. Have a vegetable plot, a few fruit trees, maybe a greenhouse, a shed, some chickens and a goat, we could be almost self-sufficient. Like Tom and Barbara in 'The Good Life'. Don't I wish I was young enough to live like that again (had a good stab at it in my 40's - but had to make do with doorstep milk to make the yogurt, cream, and cheeses).

At least your comments have cheered me up, so will now try to forget all about yesterday and being my replies.
Believe it or not, I sometimes still convert from decimal currency to the old LSD, Sue15cat. Although can't now remember old prices (am sure they can be found on the Internet), do remember potatoes being one old penny (1d) per lb, and when working as a barmaid, beer was 11d (penny short of a shilling) a pint.
If anyone has a Mrs. Beeton cook-book they will find prices of all foods at the front. These varied only according to the season, and seemed stable enough to make them worth including in the book, and the cost of making each recipe was then also able to be shown.
The one item that has changed little in price from then and now is pineapple. At least 'pines' were down in the fruit section (so believe this to be pineapple), and priced at 15/- (75p in today's money). These were a luxury as they came from abroad In those days, most produce was locally grown or reared, only things like spices, citrus fruits, and dried fruits seemed to be imported. Presumably sugar, coffee and tea (which is why tea was kept in a locked caddy as it was so expensive). The food cooked was always seasonal. Salads (and soft berry fruits) disappeared during the winter months, unlike today when we can have it all year round. Even this 'advantage' has taken away a lot of the pleasure we had when looking forward to the 'first fruits' of the season.

It would probably be better Urbanfarmgirl to leave your tomatoes still on the plant for a while. They should eventually ripen. Some gardeners pull up the whole plant and then hang them upside down in front of a sunny windowsill to allow the fruits to ripen whilst still on the vine. This way is more natural and they end up with a better flavour.
However, was once give a huge crate of green tomatoes by a gardening friend, and he told me to put a couple of ripe tomatoes in with them, close the lid, and they will all ripen. Did not believe this would work - but it did - and luckily only a few ripened at a time.

Pleased to hear that you use your slicer to cut bread SusanG. Was it a large loaf that gave 17 slices (in which case they will be toasting thickness) or a smaller one to give thinner slices? With a mention of a 50/50 loaf (half thin sliced, half thick) wonder if the Hovis 50/50 are like those, or whether they are half white sliced, half brown sliced, or just a mixture of white and brown flour? Anyone know?
With the food industry now pushing 'lunch-box' foods and snacks etc., did read in a recent trade mag about 'sandwich bread' now being (or about to be) marketed. Not sure if this will mean thinner slices, but do hope so for we then get at least four more slices to a loaf, and now that we have to cost 'per slice', this could mean a few pennies saved per sarnie, and these soon add up to a pound. At least we now have only 100p to our £1, whereas in the past we had to save 240 (old) pennies to get there.

Was interested to hear that you have salted down some beans Woozy, and do hope you will let us know what they are like when you choose to cook them. Was grateful for your recipe for balsamic vinegar. This can be expensive to buy, and a lot of what is on sale at the lower price range is not 'the real thing' anyway, which is horrendously expensive, so worth making our own.

Pleased to hear our courgettes are doing well Scarlet. Many readers do seem to have trouble growing them this year, and it does seem that male flowers seem to predominate early on, but from past experience have found the courgettes will begin to appear, and then too many to cope with.
Unfortunately for me, courgettes and aubergines we are not keen on eating, so am wondering if it makes more sense to concentrate growing only the foods we enjoy eating, even though some can be more difficult. My Romanesco has again fallen foul of the cabbage white caterpillars and all its leaves have again been eaten. When they come into season, if any reader knows of a supermarket selling them, please let me know as I am determined to try one before I pop my clogs.

The trade mag for this week has just landed on my desk. Will read it closely today and report back both the bad and (hopefully) good news tomorrow. The front cover doesn't give much hope of any good. Seems that the looters are now claiming their winnings on the scratch cards they have stolen. Luckily the grocer mentioned had kept a record of the serial numbers on the cards and notified Camelot, and claims in the looted areas have to be made directly to them. Hopefully leading to more arrests.
This particular grocer said the cost of repairing the damage to his shop will be in the region of £80-000 to £90,000 - but his insurance only covers him for up to £25,000. There are bound to be others in the same predicament, some even worse when their whole property (including living space) has been burnt to the ground.

Each week the trade mag comes up with more doom and gloom, and am wondering if ever our foods will return to costing us less (other than when on offer). Unless wages rise (as if!) it will keep costing us more and more to eat the food we wish to, and - for that matter - should be eating. No wonder so many tend to feed their families on 'junk food' for this is often the cheapest on sale. Have you noticed when reading 'flyers' from the local stores (that comes through our letter boxes), how there is probably one 'good' food item on offer and the rest are mainly things like crisps, fizzy drinks, sweets, chocolate biscuits, booze, or non-foods?

The prog mentioned recently about babies and toddlers etc being fed on only junk foods made me realise that the mothers probably thought their children were well fed because they looked healthy enough. It is the calories in food that makes us gain weight, and it is quite possible to also LOSE weight by eating nothing but junk food if we work on only the calorie intake. So it can be far more tempting to eat a bar of chocolate than several plates of 'healthier food', knowing the calorie limit has not been exceeded. Yet, eating more calories but in protein form can help to lose weight (the Atkins and Dukan diets are living proof). Protein uses more more calories to 'burn it off', also we get rid of the surplus in the normal way and it won't stay on our hips. It is the 'hidden' vitamins and minerals etc, that our bodies need to keep healthy and which the junk foods do not contain. Hence the anaemia and rickets that so many youngsters end up with in a very few years if they don't eat 'a well balanced meal'. At one time used to hate that expression (my Mum was always using it), but it makes good sense.

Beloved has said the freezer seems to be working properly, all the food in there is rock hard, so hopefully the worst is over. Have still not fully recovered from the shock, and hope you will forgive me for not putting up any recipes today, as feel I need to go 'and have a sit' in the other room and read the TV supplement to see if there is anything worth watching after Saturday Kitchen, make myself a naughty sarnie to cheer myself up, and read the trade mag.
Tomorrow hope to be back again, bright eyed and busy-tailed. You never know - come this afternoon, with Beloved out of sight, might even decide to do some baking. Then I'll begin to feel normal again.
Hope you all have a good and productive weekend, and will find time to join me again tomorrow. If so - see you then.