Saturday, January 14, 2012

Struggling to Keep Up

The anniversary copy of trade mag has so many historical facts about the way we both eat and buy food over the last 150 years. Suffice to say, as it is written FOR grocers, not consumers, much is pointing the way to how to get us to keep buying more variety, not less. As Theresa commented: 'the more variety we have, the more we seem to want'.

A large article in the above issue covered advertising and celebrity chefs, each pushing us (consumers) more and more towards the food the stores wish to sell. Even to the extent of making us feel we are something we are not, a Birds Eye campaign in the 60s encouraging housewives to pass meals off as all their own work. 'They'll make a dishonest woman out of you' was the pay-off line.

Today we see oven-ready chips and instant microwavable meals, and cook-in sauces. With 'ethnic or quasi-ethnic food in ads. With the strong following for the most respected cooks such as Delia or Jamie, they now appear in supermarkets ads (no doubt for a respectable fee!) and show us what to cook, where to buy the products (from that particular store of course). Now - perhaps to appeal to men who cook, we see the 'powerful pairing of Delia and Heston/

Many of us can remember the OXO campaign about giving food 'man appeal', and even before TV the Bisto Kids with their 'Aaah Bisto' appearing in periodicals. I myself was an 'Ovalteeny/Ovaltini' (can even remember the song!). And - as the mag says, where do we go next?

Well, the latest mag has just been brought to me by B (it comes with the newspaper) and the headlines on the front cover are 'our new campaign to revive your old forgotten favourite'. My heart almost leapt with pleasure, at long last we can start making our own Plum Duff again....but when I take a peek at the article, it is headed by 'Bring Back a Brand', with such once-loved and now lost items as Camay Soap, Spangles, Vim, Sunlight Soap. Many that have stayed the course such as Heinz tomato soup still at top 'sellers', but more often these days sold in a different package (the trade call this 'the future is in the past'). Thankfully Marmite still seems sold in its original shapely jar, yet I believe it can be bought in 'tubes' (or was that just an idea that never really got off the ground?). Whatever the future holds for old favourites, you can be sure it will be packaged in some way (old or new), and we are still persuaded to buy rather than make anything ourselves.
Even I have a (very old) tin of Colman's mustard powder on my shelf, yet still buy the 'ready-made-in-jars', for our use (and it is also sold in tubes!). But then they did say that Colman's made its millions from the mustard left on the side of the plate, so perhaps we do use less than if made 'as needed' from the powder.

Do sympathise with you Rachel having a husband that doesn't always want to eat what you have lovingly cooked for him. Perhaps the easy way out is to do what I do and ask your OH what he would like for his evening meal. If he then doesn't like it, explain you can't afford to waste food, so next time will give him the ingredients, then he can make it himself and show you how it should be done. If a meal (made by you) is really disliked, then again explain it costs not only the ingredients but also the time you have spent in making it, so the least he can do is give you a rise in housekeeping. OR suggest that from now on he has his share of the food budget and buys his own meals from that then he can eat exactly what he enjoys (take-aways, ready-meals etc). By the end of a week he will probably have run out of money and have to spend the next three weeks using his own money to keep up 'his standard of eating'.
Sometimes I think that men have this attitude of 'I don't like' just to put us down, it makes them feel more powerful, in control. Well, if that's what they want, then let them be like that - just so long as it hits them where it hurts - in their pocket.

Have just remembered a time - many years thrifty years ago - when my B began to dislike much of what I cooked. He wanted 'meat and two veg and none of that fancy stuff'', so one night made the meal he wished for, but for myself a superb 3 course meal with a big glass of wine to drink as well. He was really miffed, as he thought my meal looked really appetising, and thought I was spending a whole lot more on my meal than his. He wanted wine too AND a dessert. 'Sorry' I said, 'these meals have been costed out, and my 3 courses in total - including wine - actually cost less than yours, so the kitty doesn't run to giving you wine with your meal as well . Try eating the same meals as me and you can have the lot!. From then on he ate the same as me, and was then able to have a glass of wine now and then.
As I always say "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" and "all's fair in love and war"...

Your weather is interesting Lisa, for each time it seems you are having the same weather as us. We too are now having much colder and frosty weather.
Jerk Chicken is something Jamie Oliver seems to enjoy, he has been seen making this quite a few times on TV (and gives recipes in free booklets).
As you commented, it does seem that older men (and probably women too) prefer to eat the meals they ate as a youngster. 'Meat and two veg with gravy" almost certainly. Unfortunately the meat - in those days- was from a roast joint, and myself find this too expensive to buy, so served only once or twice a year from the actual joint, although when I do buy a joint, buy one large enough to slice (giving many slices) after cooking, then pack in containers in its 'gravy', to freeze, so this can be served later with Yorkshire pudding, Brussels sprouts etc in the old fashioned way.

It is a great pity minimiser deb that if we really need to be mega-thrifty, we then have to topple off our pedestals and buy less organic food, free-range, Fair Trade, and animals that have lived life as nature intended. When it comes to the crunch, we have to decide what is important, feeding the family healthily within a small income, or serving much less of the best.
People with a high moral issue about what are the 'right' things to eat, can make their own choice as to what they buy for their own consumption. Or - when money is tight - they could buy only the best for their children and eat foods of lesser worth themselves. Myself have to sit on the fence here, for when money is really short then I'm not THAT concerned as to the provenance of some foods, it is only the nutritional side that concerns me. 'Quality' foods admittedly have better flavour but it is this is that we pay for, not what the food contains nutritionally.
In the old days, everything had good flavour, for almost all fresh foods (meat, veggies, fruit, fish etc) were grown, reared, fished for in and around this country. So you could say we were definitely eating the best, everything organic, free-range, rare breeds as well. Now that such a lot is imported, the flavour of all fresh produce seems to have been lost in the race for perfection in appearance.

My one great wish would be to buy 'only the best' when it comes to fresh produce. But no way could I afford to do this. I do buy free-range eggs for B, but the cheapest eggs for my baking. Quality meat yes, but then save up for this and buy it on-line only when the price is right (which it often is when bought in bulk). Wherever possible I make and grow as much as I can (although garden space is very limited), and hopefully will be able to increase my crops this year by sowing seeds of 'upward growing' veggies (beans etc) as these take up less ground.

The words 'locally sourced products' in the comment, reminded me of how careful we need to be when it comes to understanding what is actually being said (maybe on notices in a shop window etc). Meat pies (say) sold as 'made from locally sourced products' only means that the ingredients have been bought locally - often from a supermarket a few miles away, who themselves have imported the meat, veg etc. Yet we all tend to believe it means made from locally grown (and we can often be charged more because of this).
The owner of a local 'eaterie' recently told me that on his web-site he put his meals were made from 'locally sourced' ingredients, and admitted that it was only the beefburgers made by his butcher that had anything to do with 'local', the rest of the foods he used being bought 'locally' from a supermarket or Makro etc. But he knew he wasn't stepping outside the law. He said it as it is, and - as ever - it was up to his prospective customers to understand the true meaning behind the words. We can all be swayed by what we think a notice or advert says, but clever wording can mean it means something entirely different, so we should always be on our guard.

A welcome to Jim, who is interested in the trade mag I read. Although interesting at times, not really useful for a normal consumer, as it is not cheap. Extracts can be read for free by logging on to The Grocer website. A local corner shop may have an old copy (most grocers seem to have them), so you might be able to get one free, or pay a few pennies for old ones they have once they have finished with them (they aren't the sort of mag that can be referred to again and again, the anniversary edition being the exception).

Looks like being another lovely - but very chilly - day. Will probably brave the cold as I need to scoot out with Norris for half an hour or so, not having been out for weeks, aiming - of course - to keep away from any retailers that sell food!!! Perhaps I should leave my purse at home.

The money-saving recipe today is based on food I have in store, so easy enough for me to make, but the ham (well you know I've now got LOADS of that), can be replaced with flaked canned tuna or salmon, cooked peeled prawns, or maybe some chorizo or even crispy bacon rashers. If no meat/fish, then use chopped or grated cheese.
One way to make the most boring of salads (mainly lettuce leaves) taste good, is to drizzle the leaves with salad dressing, then toss with grated cheese. The cheese then sticks to each leaf so each mouthful then has at least some flavour. And food is all about flavour despite what I've said earlier.
Myself would use one 'vacuum pack' of cooked beetroot, but freshly cooked beetroot could be used instead. If you haven't horseradish or tartare sauce, use a bit of mustard (English if you like it hot, Dijon if you prefer milder).
Ham and Beetroot Salad: serves 3 - 4
6 oz (175g) frozen peas, thawed and cooked
4 - 5 cooked beetroot, chopped
half a small red onion, finely sliced
3 tblsp Greek yogurt
3 tsp horseradish sauce or tartare sauce
1 tblsp boiling water
half an iceberg lettuce, shredded
6 oz (175g) thinly sliced ham, cut into strips
Put the peas, beetroot and onion into a bowl and toss together. Blend the yogurt with the horseradish, then stir in enough of the hot water to make a 'pouring' dressing.
Pile the lettuce into 3 - 4 individual bowls, then top each with a share of the beetroot mixture. Drizzle over the dressing, then plonk the ham strips on top.

For a hot meal why not try this one for size. It has few ingredients, yet together are a marriage made in heaven. Simple enough for even a husband to cook. So why not let him have a go?
Sticky Apple, Bangers and Bacon: serves 4
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
8 (quality) pork sausages
1 tblsp sunflower oil
2 red eating apples, each cut into 8 wedges
mashed potatoes for serving
Wrap each sausage with a rasher of bacon. Heat the oil in a flameproof roasting tin on the hob, then place the sausages/bacon in this while the oil is hot, then immediately put the tin in a pre-heated oven 220C, 425F, gas 7, and cook for 20 minutes. Tuck the apple wedges between the sausage and roast for a further 10 minutes until the sausages are cooked and the apples are caramelised and sticky. Serve with mashed potato.

For a sweet treat (dessert or tea-time cake) worth bringing back an old favourite. Most of us have an apple or two in the fruit bowl, and if they are Bramley's all the better. Butter will give a better flavour, but a soft margarine could be used in its place. If you haven't the spices as given, then use 1 tsp mixed spice, or instead you could use cinnamon, ginger....
Spiced Apple Cake: serves 6
5 oz (140g) butter, softened
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
8 oz (200g) self-raising flour
half tsp ground cloves (see above)
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb (450g) Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced
icing sugar
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, a little at a time. Put the flour in a sieve with the spices and sift this over the creamed mixture, folding it carefully in with a spatula or spoon.
Spread half the mixture over the bottom of a greased and lined deep 8" (20cm) round cake tin, then cover with slices of the apple, then dollop the rest of the cake batter on top of the apple, levelling the top without disturbing the apple slices.
Bake for one and a half hours at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean). Don't be concerned as to the colour as it will get quite dark on top before the centre is cooked. Leave the cake in the tin to cool - it may sink a bit in the middle, but that is normal - then turn out. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Well, that's it for this sunny morning. Will now go and wrap up well and scoot off before returning to a bowl of hot soup or maybe will even pop into the cafe and have one there. Why shouldn't I treat myself for once - or does this count as coming out of my not-allowed-to-spend food budget for this month?

Beloved informed me yesterday that his sailing club would like me to make 20 portions of Tiramasu and 20 portions of Sicilian Cassata for their 'Italian Evening' (these being his 'donation' to the meal), but thankfully that is at the end of February, and so I won't need to buy the necessary for several weeks. Am hoping that B will offer to pay for the ingredients. Trouble is - if I order from Tesco on-line, then they will be part of my bill. If I send B to buy them from Morrison's he will pay for them but almost certainly bring back the wrong things. They need to be fairly exact, and exact B is not. Anyway, that's in the future. Today will be dealing with the present.

Tomorrow hope to bring you up to date with more trade secrets. So see you then.