Friday, August 05, 2011

Which Road To Take

Life is so very interesting. Kathryn's critical mother is making me think a lot about the things we do (or might not do). For a daughter to have so many skills and thrifty ways means she can have a lifestyle that her mother might have to pay thousands of pounds to achieve the same. We just don't realise that the hand-crafts we make would sell for (sometimes) hundreds of pounds in top London stores. If we could market our home-cooked foods (preserves, cakes etc) and fresh garden produce we could earn a pretty penny. Yet those who sow and grow, make and bake take their skills for granted. Time to start believing in ourselves.

A neighbour of mine in Leeds made some Xmas decorations (and not that well I may add) and Harrods bought them - I saw them for sale myself in their store). Myself have sold many 'hand-mades' (both food and crafts) admittedly at a very VERY low price to a craft shop in Dent, just to bring in some much needed pin money, then discovered later they had been sold for 1000% profit! My feeling at the time was that I'd rather sell them to get some money than put up the price and probably not sell them at all. As I was not out of pocket (B used to work as sales rep for a fabric firm and would bring home sacks of free scraps, samples etc) it was just the time it took to make things - which was considerable and usually done late at night after the children had gone to bed - but it brought in money when needed and that was all that mattered at the time.

Some people feel nothing has any value unless it is able to be bought. A jar of 'home-made' jam from Fortnums can be almost a status symbol, but an even better one made by a neighbour would be considered not worth serving to guests. Is that why we now see 'the home-made' (on sale) almost priced out of the middle-income brackets? Do all 'home-mades' have to be so expensive that only the well-heeled can afford them? Probably so, as the latest fashion - when it comes to household furnishings and food - is to purchase from those who run a 'cottage industry'. People like you and me make the same things for ourselves without giving them another thought.
Those who watched the Kirstie Allsop programmes about furnishing her country home will understand what I mean. People everywhere who work alone making things and charging the earth for them because they are 'one-off', 'bespoke', made to order - and cost a fortune to buy. Kirstie learned how to make but still ended up buying most of them in the completed state. And we can make them for pennies.

The point I'm making (in great length as usual - why can't I keep things to a few words???) is that most readers of this site will have a life-style that most 'yuppies' would envy. Yet somehow we can't see it ourselves. So those that have to be mega-thrifty, don't feel you are walking down the Pauper's Path, instead proudly march along the Road of the Self-Reliant and you will discover you can truly live a life far better than many of the rich and famous, who are probably desperate for a good home-cooked meal (and even a top restaurant can never provide food as fresh as that picked from your garden and instantly on your plate or in the pot).
My goodness me, the more I think about it, the more lucky I feel we 'cost-cutters' are.

Well done Eileen for the smoked salmon bargain (this fish also freezes well - so if you get more worth storing it for Xmas). Going back to 'posh nosh', scrambled eggs mixed with snippets of smoked salmon is one of the breakfast dishes eaten by the nobs. So why not take a leaf out of their book?

Sorry MimsyS, but there seems no way you can contact me other than via the comment box. However - if you (or anyone else) order from Donald Russell you could say that this is because my website had recommended them (and mention my name just so they know). When I first mentioned their name they did once send me some meat as a 'thank you' - which was kind of them. Who knows - maybe they might stick an extra bag of free bones in with my next order.

Thanks Lynn for your reply. Without wishing to muddy the waters (for we are all free to walk the road we choose), just have one final query as the one thing I can't understand is why vegans cut out ALL animal products when many of them come from creatures that are harmed in no way at all? To me this doesn't make sense. Appreciate nothing should be touched from animals that are reared for meat, but what about others that are not. Here am thinking of my DIL's father who keeps a couple or so sheep just to graze his acreage to save him having to buy an expensive mower to keep the grass short. For the comfort of the sheep they are sheared every year and think he may either sell the fleece or even give it away to a local 'spinner of wool'. This wool then knitted up into garments. The sheep themselves have a happy and contented life until they die of old age. and in return have kept people warm. You could look on it as a barter - 'you look after me and I'll look after you'.

Lots of people keep sheep, goats, bees etc for other reasons than for meat, milk, or honey. Grazing being the obvious one. In the olden days bees were kept on orchards purely so they would pollinate the fruit. Goats/ sheep also kept there to keep the grass down. The massive amounts of honey the bees made was an 'extra', with enough honey left for the bees to feast on before the winter (when I think most of them die naturally). Again a sort of barter system.

With websites now seemingly able to tell us everything we need to know, it should now be easy enough to get products from animals where none have been harmed in the process and allowed to live naturally and not bred for eating. It's just the amazing amount of waste that could occur if all animal products were avoided . If nature has provided something for free without harming anything at all, then my feeling is we should give thanks and use it. I just cannot see a good reason why things have to be so black and white in this respect. Am beginning to feel quite sorry for those creatures who have all this to give and they are being denied the privilege.

Almost everything these days has been 'touched' by animal products. Organic foods will almost certainly be grown on farm-yard manure enriched soil instead of using chemicals. Bonemeal is used as a natural fertiliser.. So does this means this produce cannot be eaten by vegans? As animal by-products are vast, almost certainly some will be in almost everything - including cars, buses and other forms of transport. Probably computers and TV's. Animal glue is so good its used everywhere. What happens then - do vegans read no books, watch no TV, use no computers or mobile phones, have to walk everywhere?
Unfortunately, there is no way we can escape the way animals have infiltrated into our lives. Whether we like it or not, there is little we can do about this, other than perhaps make a stand in a small way by cutting out of our lives anything we KNOW has to do with animals for human consumption.

Yes I have seemed to go OTT re the above, and it cannot be easy to be a vegan in this day and age. In some ways it reminds me of the Buddhist monks who revere all animal life and try to make sure when they walk they never tread on an insect, and possibly pray for its soul if they accidentally do. To me this is understandable, for I well remember (several times when younger - and even not so young) tripping over and falling into a hedge and apologising to the hedge for hurting it. And I meant it.

There are folk who believe it is wrong to use any herbage for food if it means killing it, for these too are 'living beings'. They will pick off a few leaves here and there, but the plant must be allowed to continue to grow naturally until it dies. Think the Native American's have got it right. They eat animals and produce, but respect and give thanks for its life before they kill and eat. They believe everything (including themselves) are a part of the whole.

Am SO sorry going on about all this. I do love to pull a topic to pieces, and if we were sitting round a table I certainly would be 'debating' this for hours (B would call it arguing - which it probably would be, 'cos I do like to believe I'm right - even though in this instance I'm probably not).
Having stepped my toe in the water of many religions, find they all firmly believe they are the only true one, but myself always believe that there can't be only ONE that is true and the rest end up in hell. My feeling is that God would never be as cruel as that, and - for what it's worth - my feeling is that there are many roads to heaven and all lead there. All we need is the faith to keep going.

Always I try to keep an open mind about things - although the above 'debate' may seem I've closed my shutters - which is not true. I understand completely why people wish to be vegetarians and vegans, it's just that I don't understand why the moral issue means they deny themselves animal products that have caused no harm to an animal and have come from no creature that is doomed to be bred and eaten by humans. There, you see I've said in one paragraph what it has taken me a whole page to write. Shirley the Rambling Writer...

Can understand why many take a peek into my blog then hurriedly switch off and move on elsewhere. I'd be bored sick reading about my thoughts. Perhaps time for me to give a recipe or two.

Before that (can't stop talking can I?), Beloved had a really good Paella made for him yesterday. As authentic as you can get (but without the garlic). First a chicken 'finger' (fillet) cut into chunks and fried with Paella rice with diced onions, red bell pepper, and a couple of diced Peppadew. Paella rice then added that had been soaked in a water coloured with saffron. This fried for a few minutes then stock added. As it got close to the finishing post, tucked in cubes of white fish, then at the end slung in some frozen peas and thawed small prawns plus a few large prawns. Finally drained and added the canned mussels that Gill had brought me and with a final sprinkling over of chopped fresh parsley, this was ready for B to eat. It looked a real picture, full of colour and variety of 'meats' (if I dare say the word).
Decided myself not to have any (due to the rice being a carbo) so fried a little pepper and onion in a pan with some peas, added a bit of white fish, some grated cheese then poured beaten egg over and stirred it into a 'scramble'. This was tastier than it sounded.

Although I have yet to grow cucumbers, believe many people do, and whether bought or home-grown, this is certainly a different way to serve them. Normally made to serve as a hot 'snack', this could also make a good 'starter' when entertaining.
Hot Savoury Cucumber Boats: serves 6
3 cucumbers
6 oz (175g) long-grain rice
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 oz (100g) butter
8 oz (225g) mushrooms, chopped
4 rashers lean smoked bacon, chopped
salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten
chopped parsley for garnish
Wash the cucumbers but do not peel. Cut across into two even halves, then cut each half into two lengthways. Remove the seeds (easily done with the tip of a teaspoon). Put the cucumbers into a pan of boiling and lightly salted water and cook for 10 minutes, then drain in a colander and keep warm.
Meanwhile cook the rice in a pan of salted boiling water for 20 or so minutes until tender.
While the rice is cooking, fry the onion in 2 oz (50g) of the butter until softened, then add the mushrooms and bacon. Stir and season to taste. When the rice is cooked, drain and rinse under cold running water, then after draining well, add to the onion mixture in the pan with 1 oz (25g) of the butter. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 - 10 minutes.
Season the beaten eggs with salt and pepper and in another frying pan put the remaining ounce of butter and fry three small flat pancakes. Stack on on top of the other and roll up, then cut them into strips to look like 'noodles'. Add to the rice mixture.
Arrange the cucumber 'boats' on a hot dish (they look good arranged in 'wheel spoke' fashion, ends pointing towards the centre), and spoon the rice mixture into them to fill the hollow centres and pile up above. Garnish each with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

One of my pleasures is making an egg go two ways. The yolks in one dish and the whites in another. As recently have given a recipe or two using yolks only, here is one that will use up surplus whites. An easy way to gain a 'free' white is when frying more than two eggs, always break one egg first in the pan then add only the yolk of the second. As hens eggs do have a lot of white compared to the yolk, no-one will notice and possibly you may get away with using a third yolk and saving another white. For those who are interested in such things, bantams eggs have a 50 - 50% yolk/white, so best fried without division.

As long as we have cream in the fridge (or freezer), and have (sensibly) pureed surplus apples to also keep in the freezer - this dessert only needs a few store-cupboard ingredients to help turn it into a lovely dessert.
Chilled Apple Mould: serves 4
1 pint (600ml) apple puree
1 level tblsp powdered gelatine
juice of 1 lemon
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
1 level tblsp caster sugar
2 - 3 drops vanilla extract
Put the lemon juice into a cup and sprinkle the gelatine on top. Place the cup in a pan of hot water and leave to warm up. When the gelatine has dissolved, stir it into the apple puree and fold in the egg whites. Pour into a 1 1/2 pint (just under a litre) mould, and place in the fridge to set (this should take about 2 hours).
To serve: unmould the apple 'mousse' onto a plate. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla and depending upon your choice, either whip it thickly so it can be piped round the mould, or whip more lightly and serve separately so it can be spooned over each portion.

Most children (and adults) will eat bananas in their raw state, but now and again it is nice to serve them up in a more interesting fashion. Try this one for size.
If using large bananas you may get away with using three, cutting each in half across then cutting each half lengthways.
Banana Fritters: serves 6
6 small bananas
4 oz (100g) plain flour
1 large egg
5 fl oz (150ml) milk (or milk and water)
caster sugar
half pint (300ml) whipped cream
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Beat the egg into half the liquid and - using a wooden spoon - beat this into the flour until smooth, then gradually add the remaining liquid until the mixture is perfectly smooth and the consistency of pouring cream. Although not absolutely necessary, the batter will improve if allowed to rest in the fridge for one hour before using.
Peel the bananas and cut them in half lengthways. Dip each into the batter to coat completely then deep-fry three at a time in hot oil until crisp and golden (should take about 2 - 3 minutes). Drain on crumpled kitchen paper and keep warm whilst frying the remaining bananas.
Serve on a warm plate and sprinkle with caster sugar. Serve the cream separately for everyone to help themselves.

Despite the forecast saying it would be cooler and less humid, our gauge still shows the humidity at 71% this morning (yesterday it was lower), but it certainly is cooler. The day began with rain but it seems already to have cleared up and the skies are showing a bit of blue so there is hope. Am wishing to go out with Norris this afternoon to take some rosemary to the butcher, but won't prune the bush until am sure - there is always tomorrow - or next week (or the week after).
It's certainly turned a lot windier - and I HATE wind for it always blows the curls out of my hair (I have naturally very straight and baby fine hair and when it flops flat look like a very sad spaniel). Yes, I could wear a scarf but then that flattens my hair and it never stands up again despite brushing (which then removes the curl) so am very much a fair-weather person when it comes to venturing forth into the world of people. As my only good feature was my hair (and only in Leeds when it was done to my satisfaction, here in Morecambe Norma can only do 'cauliflower head' styles) there is nothing of me left that is worth revealing to the general public. Have I got an inferiority complex or what?

Enough of me and my thoughts. Time I stopped the niggles about others beliefs and sorted my own life out. Am trying to be good - even letting B watch all the programmes he wishes to see and denying myself the ones i prefer. Will that get me to heaven I wonder? Doubt it. At my age heaven's pearly gates are already appearing above the horizon, and that's a bit scary. We all believe we will live for years and years more and it's not very nice knowing that any day now the grim reaper could strike and no-one will mind "because she lived to a great age anyway". Well, I'd mind.

Goodness me, what is leading me down that path. Had better turn at the next T junction and do more with the rest of my time. So today had better make a start. Think positive, there will always be a tomorrow. See you then. God Willing!