Friday, January 13, 2012

Life Doesn't Run Smoothly

No sooner has the phone line been repaired that I understand there may be problems with my Broadband connections in the near future, the 'server' if that is what they are called, having its own problems. Possibly I may need to change the 'server' which will probably mean a further delay before it is all sorted. This is just to warn everyone that the blog may disappear again for a time without me being able to give advance notice the day before. But be assured I will be back.
Hopefully, the problems will be sorted and my connection stays with me, but just thought I'd give it a mention. Eileen will, I'm sure, always put up a comment to help keep us all together if necessary.

Yesterdays trade mag comparison of the cost of food 150 years ago and how much we pay for it now was - I think - a bit misleading. For one thing they based this on the 33 items in last week's 'shopping basket', and not all products listed would be available in those days, or even if they were would not be considered as 'necessary' by the average working family.then - as they seem to be today.
Just for interest am showing the items in the list (in alphabetical order), the ones coloured blue are what I consider 'possibles' (some may wish to buy, others wouldn't want to pay the money), the ones in red considered by me to be too expensive for the average family. The ones in black would almost certainly have been bought. My thoughts written at the side.
Bread (possibly might have been made at home)
Demerara sugar (similar in price to white granulated)
Dove Cream Bar
Drinking chocolate
Dry London Gin
Extra Mature Cheddar
Garden Peas (might be home-grown)
Garibaldi biscuits (could also be home-made)
Gouda slices
Guinness Draught (possibly drunk only in a pub)
Ham slices
Hand-rolling tobacco
Lettuce (possibly home-grown)
Loose tea
Original Sherry
Root Ginger
Salted Butter
Self-raising flour
Squeezy Honey (whether squeezy or not, too costly)
Whole chicken (chicken was a luxury)

Today - with the increase in food prices - we believe by buying a little less we are depriving ourselves, but believe me there is still plenty of food out there we can afford and that our ancestors would believe to be pure luxuries that they could never have afforded to buy in their life-time. We have just become far too used to eating what we want rather than concentrating on buying only what we need.

Here are more extracts words from the trade mag. please read them for it gives us a chance to think 'outside the box' rather than carry on living the way we do.
"Last year was a challenging one for the consumer, with rising unemployment, tax increases and high inflation squeezing disposable income."

The first of a series of reports was conducted to provide an insight into the latest consumer trends, as well as to understand more about consumer spending habits...."The findings in the first report were stark. One to five households has seen a reduction in income in the last quarter alone, while 7% of households have experienced someone losing employment. Fifty three percent of consumers feel pessimistic about their disposable income, 28% negative about personal debts, and 23% about job security."
"Consumers are responding by aggressively cutting back....41% spending less on entertainment, 36% spending less on clothing, and 28% are cutting back on holidays. About 17% of consumers say they are making fewer impulse purchases and one in four say they are spending more time at home".

Food apart, hope you all agree that entertainment, clothing and holidays do come under 'luxuries', and it almost seems to suggest that spending more time at home is something people prefer not to do, but forced into it because of lack of money. To me - spending more time at home, with the family, is a GOOD thing. But back to food.

"Partly as a result of this last point (spending time at home) food retailers and consumer packaged goods industry were relatively sheltered last year. More than 40% of people are spending more on groceries than they were three months ago, and while this is largely driven by inflation, a significant minority of people are spending more because they are cooking at home more."
"While there has been a drive towards value, we are also seeing some consumers treat themselves to a DVD, a bottle of wine and food from supermarket premium ranges."

Another article also points out that "Sales of chilled ready meals have risen 24% in the past two years as shoppers swap eating out for eating in......and there is an increasing trend for consumers to grow and cook their own food, inspired by TV chefs......Indulgence will be a major sales drive, although there is a longer-term trend towards health.....and, convenience will remain key for shoppers, but health is also becoming influential in impulse."

However we feel about the above (which to me seems to prove we prefer to live a life of luxury and will do anything to keep it going), my own thoughts are it proves beyond doubt that we still are being almost force-fed the idea that we can still eat well as long as we buy the stores premium products, and that we don't even need to have to learn to cook when we decide to 'eat in' rather than 'eat-out'. Also I don't believe we are spending more because we are cooking at home more (as mentioned above). We are spending more only because everything costs so much more. The more we can cook - from scratch - at home, the less money we will end up spending on food 'products'.

The way our tastes have changed since 1862 have also been mentioned in the trade mag, and it makes interesting reading, Here are some snippets from a very long article:
"Variety was for the wealthy, whereas eating for most was purely a matter of practicality - and for many, a matter of survival.
The national diet was based around cereal crops, vegetables, dairy, beer and a little bacon.
Meats were more an occasional ingredient than a daily expectation - prime cuts or offal, depending on what you could afford.
Pies and stews were often bulked out with vegetables, and a joint was not one meal but a few. Soups, bread and dripping, potatoes, pastry and cheese were the daily supplies. Sugar was expensive.
Women on the whole did most of the cooking and for all - whether in town or country - our far more physical lives meant food was a commodity to keep the human engine burning, rather than a snack-munching distraction in a swivel chair. This is not to say we did not enjoy our food, but it was monotonous by today's standards and a space age away from the confusing range of flavours we experience between breakfast and dinner in 2012."

"Today, seasonality is a buzzword that implies common sense, becoming an aspirational idea of anti-choice and the good life. In 19th century Britain, despite imports, British cooking was seasonal purely by necessity."

"People living in rural communities rarely travelled out of their localities. Each county was famous for its fruits or meats, dairy or fish, and regional dishes evolved from these. On the whole, people ate what they were immediately surrounded by and little else. Practices and recipes were handed down from generation to generation."

Due to the growth of cities, with more people moving away from the countryside, more food was imported and available to be bought, but even so over the next 100 years the foods we ate as a nation did not change much over this time. Until the First and Second World Wars....

"Rationing after the Second World War continued until 1954. Dig for Victory had been a huge success, with people growing vegetables in every available space, and the pre-war poor who had suffered serious malnutrition had benefited from the assurance of weekly rations. Maybe not through choice, but the nation was healthier than it had ever been."

"Then came the 60s. Boom! A rush from famine to feast....we had never seen anything like it, and this was the beginning of the food renaissance that we only credit with beginning now.... To have fun was to have taste. British food was suddenly boring. Now it was fondue, avocado, Chicken Kiev, garlic, baked Alaska, eating out and keeping up with the Joneses. Foreign food was no longer 'muck', and cooking was the in thing. But not necessarily prepared from scratch the way we had before."

"Immigration was encouraged to help mend the British economy......leading to increased numbers of Chinese and Indian restaurants open and flourish. This was the new age of Italian restaurants, and Pizza take-aways. American-style fast food was new and fun, with KFC 'hatched' in 1965 and Wimpy flipping burgers since the mid 1950s."

"The supermarket concept had evolved from individual grocers to chain stores such as Sainsbury's and firmly taken hold by the 1960s. Purchasing power giving affordability and choice meant that, where once prime cuts had been the privilege of few, now they were all to be enjoyed. Why have ox-tail when you could afford steak or a cheap frozen chicken?
This era of convenience in abundance was the dawn of the throwaway culture and squeamishness."

And so it goes on, and on, and on. We are told of the help given us by scientists to save us time in 'the post war hive of activity'. Many instants and ready-mades ended up on our kitchen shelves, such as Fray Bentos pies, Smash, Angel Delight, Arctic Roll, Vesta curries and numerous canned products 'to relieve the laborious domestic duties of women, so they could enjoy more time to themselves or find cooking easier when returning from work'. Cheaper prices meant we could eat more too. We had never had it so good.

Now - it seems - we can, pretty much, have all the food of the world, at any time, wherever we are. When once we ate just to keep ourselves alive, now we rarely experience hunger. It does seem (to me) that too much emphasis IS being given to food (and maybe I'm at fault here too), but when I read that "my butcher told me the other day that he changes his display daily according to what foodie programme had been showing the night before" it makes me wonder just how 'brain-washed' we can become.

You would think, by now, the manufacturers would avoid giving us more 'temptation', not that a jacket potato is THAT tempting, but it seems that we are now able to buy a frozem ready-cooked jacket potato that just needs heating up in the microwave "to save all that time we have to wait to cook one ourselves". Presumably they believe we cook 'jacket's' only in the oven where it can take at least one hour (more like two - although if you boil a large potato in its skin for 10 minutes before putting into the oven it will then take only half an hour to cook through). Personally I cook mine in the microwave anyway, which takes no more than 8 minutes, which is probably not much different to cooking the frozen pre-cooked spud. What's the point of paying four times a much for a spud (if not more) to save maybe a minutes cooking time?

Do hope that you have not been put off by all the extracts given today in place of my usual 'ramblings', but it covers so much British food 'history' and the way we have developed (not for the better) in the way we approach our food and shopping, that I have found so interesting and hope you will too.

As Susan G (and others) are needing to supplement their stores from time to time (fresh foods only I hope!), it is a good idea to write down everything bought and the cost, so that at the end of (say) three months we can then work out if we truly have been able to spend less than normal, and also work our way through many of the supplies already in our larder. Then perhaps we will be able to be more selective about how we re-stock and only buy what we need - and only when on offer. Which is another way to keep costs down in the future.

It was only yesterday Les that B said he thought he'd like to have a go at fly-fishing. Think he fancied catching trout for his supper. He hoped he might be allowed to fly-fish at trout farm locally, the only thing he can do is ask. Myself would prefer to have him catch some sea-fish - such as mackerel.
We do see many fishermen with sitting with their rods along the prom, presumably - as the water is fairly shallow even at high tide close to shore, they will catch flat fish. Not my favourites, I prefer 'chunky'. But I might have a go myself as any 'free' food is worth striving for, and you can't get fresher fish than any just caught.

You got some good bargains Woozy from the supermarket, and it does sound as though it really is worth going to the supermarkets after 7.00pm to find knock-down prices. Probably this is a slack time as most people by then have returned home and either eaten their supper (or preparing it), and preferring to sit with their feet up watching TV rather than go out again. It is not the time I myself would wish to go grocery shopping, but if it is worth it - then why not? (just let me make sure there is nothing I want to watch on TV at that time on that day!!!).

Yes, yogurt can be used to make 'ice-cream' Lynn. I've successfully made a frozen dessert by folding together equal amount of flavoured yogurt and Italian meringue. It can be frozen without any further stirring, and although very similar to 'ice-cream' in texture/flavour it does not include any cream at all (so officially cannot be called ice-cream). I've also made ice-cream by using half whipped cream and half yogurt as this makes the end result less 'rich'. Worth experimenting.

This weekend we have a couple of our offspring visiting us for the day, so am looking forward to cooking for them. Think it will end up as a casserole as am not sure of time of arrival due to one living a long distance away (the other lives locally) Casseroles can sit happily for hours in the crockpot. Must think up a nice dessert, although have to say it will possibly be a trifle as that is a family favourite. Or maybe a Sticky Toffee Pudding. Could make both!

Yesterday's meals were as mentioned the day before. I had the Minestrone. Can't now remember what I cooked for B but he ate it anyway without a grumble (I would have remembered if he had grumbled). Not sure about today, B is leaving early this evening for his club social where they have something laid on (think it is a talk, but food might also be provided), at least this means I can watch ALL the TV progs that I want, normally would have to give some up so that B can watch his favourites. But that (I suppose) is only fair.

If the 'server' doesn't throw a spanner in my works, then hopefully this blog will continue tomorrow, if so - hope to meet up with you all again. If I 'disappear', then just keep in touch with each other via the most recent comment box. But fingers crossed.....TTFN