Friday, October 21, 2011

'Tis the Season...

With autumn now having settled its feet firmly under our table, looks like the next few months will see me preparing warming dishes and all the 'treats' associated with (first) Hallow'een, shortly after comes Guy Fawkes (aka Bonfire Night), and then Christmas, with New Year's Even a week after that, not forgetting Twelfth Night in early January. Some of us may celebrate only Christmas, but why not enjoy all the festivities - as this makes the cold autumnal and winter days something to look forward to, not huddle in blankets waiting for Spring. After the winter solstice (a few days before Christmas, the sun returns, the days lengthen and deep within us should begin the stirring to - at least - think about sowing seeds as early as February (indoors at least), so winter has much to keep us occupied and - even - happy.

Only two comments, so will reply to these first before my 'rambling' begins.
How sad you never got to taste that lovely carrot cake Lisa. It often seems that 'Mum' is the last on the list when it comes to 'offerings'. Know the feeling. Hope you didn't just pass it off - we need to let family know we are not just part of the furniture (as many seem to feel we are).
The weather here seems much like yours (is it Texas where you live?). We are now getting frosty nights in some areas, but during yesterday the temperature (here in the N.West) rose to 20C (not sure what that is in F).
But out of the sun, in shady spots, it was quite cold.
Liked the sound of your choc.chip cookies and banana bread. Must make some of those cookies next week to hand out to the Trick or Treaters at Hallow'een.

Not sure if I have any special tips re baking a rich fruit cake Julie. I don't know Delia's recipe, but hers are always good, so if you follow it nothing should go wrong. It's best to use a strong (thickish) cake tin, and I would double line it with baking parchment/greaseproof cut so that it is higher by an inch or two above the sides of the tin. It's also recommended to wrap brown paper round the outside of the tin when cooking fruit cakes (that have a long cooking time) to protect the edges of the cake becoming over-cooked, before the centre is 'set'. Otherwise use more paper inside the tin.

Rich fruit cakes require long slow cooking at a low temperature, and I normally place a 'tent' of foil (shiny side up) over the top of the tin (the extra paper over the rim helps to keep this well above the cake as it rises) to help prevent the top of the cake being cooked before the inside - otherwise the surface could crack.
Not that a cracked top really matters as I always turn the cake upside down so the base then becomes the top, this makes for a smooth flat surface to later cover with marzipan and icing.

I worry about the 'state of the nation' - and more to do with the younger generation's (to me that's anyone below 50) with their seeming inability to cope with situations that to us 'oldies' think of as nothing more than a hiccup. Very little of this is their fault. Anyone who has not been taught 'how to', will never know what to do.

The main problem with today's world is that what we 'oldies' have always thought of as luxuries, now seem to be 'the normal standard of living'. Seems we should expect a plasma TV to be part of our life-style, plus holidays abroad, and certainly computers and Really expensive mobile phones that take photos and have loads of apps and can hold a million favourite 'musical moments', are a definite 'must have' .
Doing without any of these is now being thought of as 'deprivation'. It makes you wonder what the average person thinks IS a luxury these days. Probably a handbag that costs a few thousand pounds. With our benefits system, it is unlikely any of us will ever get so low as to be 'deprived' of the necessities of life.

Oddly, the meals eaten by many these days seem low down on their 'priority' list - at least certainly when it comes to home-cooking. Either people choose to 'eat out', or buy second rate 'ready-meals'. Everything we buy these days (and this includes non-foods) seems to have to have been made by someone else. The thought that we MIGHT be capable of making most of it ourselves would never enter some minds.

Thankfully, some common sense is beginning to filter through. It's now becoming 'fashionable' to buy second hand clothes (many designer fashions) at low cost from charity shops. With many celebrities now picking up the pins, knitting is another old skill that is - like the phoenix - rising from the ashes. The best thing is that the recession has caused us to tighten our belts to such an extent that we have no choice but to stop 'eating out', and instead entertain at home (even though many still buy the 'ready-prepared' to do this). People are also learing to cook again, and eating home-made round a table instead of snacking in front of a comp. So the recession, depression - call it what you will - is not all bad. And I haven't even mentioned the thrill gained by 'growing our own'.

Most readers to this site will already be living my world of yesteryear, and know how good it can be. The important thing is to make sure everyone knows this. We need to show the outside world that life has never been as good (for years) as can be, even now (despite the financial problems we are having). Then - hopefully - more will follow our example. Even going into the butchers to buy a really cheap piece of (say) belly pork would give us the chance to smile and say to the other customers, "can't believe how much money I've saved this month since we've been eating the cheaper cuts, AND they taste GORGEOUS!" The butcher may not be too pleased if someone then chooses to buy stewing steak instead of fillet, but as long as what we say gives food for thought, then we should mouth off when we get the opportunity.

Remember once, when doing one of my challenges, how surprised everyone queuing at the supermarket checkout was (and even more importantly - interested) when they saw the huge amount of products in my trolley being unloaded, with the cost for all this coming to only £5! My challenge had been to see how much could be bought for this amount - and believe me, it was a LOT.

It's easy enough for many of us to cope within our own four walls, and by sharing our results, we also help each other. If we can move away from computers, still no reason why we cannot share our knowledge with as many as possible. Much depends on age and situation, but why not have 'cook-ins', and 'tasting sessions' instead of just a 'coffee-morning'. In the old days we had 'knitting bees', and patchwork quilts were often made by a group of people rather than one person. Allotments can be shared, and garden 'gluts' can be bartered. Bring back the community spirit I say. Or is it too late?
They say 'charity begins at home', but don't let this stop us sharing what we can. A little extra know-how also helps others to spend less.
We should never become sorry for ourselves, for every cloud has a silver lining - all we have to do is start finding it. Often this discovery leads to a wealth that is far more than gold. Such as the great feeling of achievement we can get, and 'old fashioned' happiness and contentedness.

Not sure what is happening to me today. Never meant to 'preach', yet - as ever - am writing what comes into my head at that moment in time. 'Should not say this' or 'perhaps should say that instead' is not how I write. What you read comes directly from my brain and out through my fingertips onto the computer screen before I have even time to decide whether it is interesting or not (mostly it isn't). Maybe it is old age that makes me feel there is a need to keep explaining how sensible things were in my youth and why can't it be the same today? I blame credit cards for the upward trend (spending more than we could afford) for whatever stage in history, when we spend more than we earn then misery will follow. Was the same in my youth, and in my mother's day and grandparent's day no doubt. Fault of the banks perhaps? But no point in blaming anyone, we have never been forced to spend more than we have. Why we can't learn from previous mistakes beats me. But we never do. As they say 'the buck stops here' (that means me/you - no-one else). So it's up to us now to pull up our socks and not expect everything to be given us on a plate. We need (as a nation) to stop throwing our toys out of our pram when things go wrong and start growing up. Bite the bullet as they say. 'Nuf said!

With visitors arriving tomorrow and Beloved going away on Sunday, my 'normal' weekend will be disrupted to some extent, so will be taking both Saturday and Sunday off to allow me to get myself back into my old routine (and hopefully a better mood). If the trade mag arrives on Saturday (as it should), trade secrets will be given on Monday.
Enjoy your weekend, hope to have loads of comments sent in during that time, and will try to get back on track re more domestic Goode life and less of 'how it used to be'. Until Monday, see you then.