Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Cost of Convenience

Had a lovely morning yesterday scooting around Morrison's. No Les, I didn't check their website to find their offers, for once I was sticking to my shopping list, plus buying a few 'treats' for myself that in no way came under 'offers'. I even ignored the foods much reduced, as although tempted, didn't really need them and few were 'storeable' (in other words perishable),

Of course I couldn't get the scooter working, so had to ask the aid of an assistant who also had trouble, but it eventually worked (she said it was 'temperamental') and luckily behaved itself until we got to the checkout when it would start up again so had to call another assistant - she made out I didn't know what I was doing ("poor old lady was running through her mind"), and she said "all you have to do is this..." and so did 'this' and it still wouldn't start. How smug I felt!!
Eventually it did start so was able to pay my bill and take it back to its place where B filled up another trolley for me to push to the car (the trolley does help support me, he wasn't being bean).

I took a great deal of time 'wandering' around the store, and what I did notice was that there were a lot of 'convenience packs'. One close to the entrance had packs of all sorts of 'fresh' all priced at £1. B said they were good value, but they weren't. Bags of salad leaves £1. Bags of 'stew packs; £1, bags of mixed veg for stir-fries (all prepared of course) £1. If the veggies/salads had been bought separately the amount used would have cost under 50p, probably a lot less.
So I give a thank you to Sue15cat for her mention of the cost of her home-grown veg being only 10p! This proves that it IS worth growing even a few veggies if we have the space (and this includes the windowsills if we have no outdoor area to grow things).

Further in the store discovered a sort of 'cheffy' stand where lots of ready-prepared meals were displayed, not ready to heat 'n eat, but just the raw ingredients prepared and ready too cook. Again costing MUCH more than if we bought the raw ingredients and prepared them ourselves.
It does seem that any preparation of ingredients these days is something people wish to avoid. Paying for someone else to do it (even a manufacturer) is almost the same as pre-war (when servants were so cheap almost everyone 'middle class' could afford at least one) when kitchen maids did all the 'prep.
We see the same thing today on TV cookery progs. The chef has everything weighed out and placed in dishes before him (this is called 'mise en place'), and then all he has to do is just throw everything together in the right order, and hey presto, the dish is assembled. All he has to do then is cook it (usually in the oven), while he gets on doing something else. And of course, he doesn't do the washing up after. If only the 'good old days' were back, and I could have my own kitchen 'skivvy'. My B thinks he already is one as he does do the washing up for me (well sometimes) but he never puts the clean pots and utensils away, and if (on rare occasions) he does, they are always in the wrong place.

Mind you, I'm getting almost as bad. Each morning I have to take half a dozen different pills (medication), and keep these in a little bag in a special place on the kitchen table, so I can sit down with my cup of coffee, take my pills and only then do I come in here and start my blog. This morning made my coffee, sat at the table, and reached for my bag. And it wasn't there! I looked EVERYWHERE on the table and still couldn't find it. You would expect me to see it immediately if it was there, but as ever, the table was a bit cluttered and I do have a habit of putting one thing on top of another on top of another, so quite a bit had to be moved before I was sure the bag wasn't hidden under a pile.
Then I got up and checked the rest of the kitchen, still couldn't find it. Went back to drink my coffee and have a think then suddenly saw the bag close by my left elbow. Realised what had happened. Late yesterday evening had a feeling my allergy was returning so went into the kitchen to get another anti-histamine and had moved the bag to where I sit and had not returned it to its rightful place. What amazed me this morning was the bag was quite visible, but I never thought of looking on the corner of the table by my elbow. Just everywhere else.

Can still visualise the windmill on the Downs Susan G. Now not sure if you (or any reader who is familiar with Rottingdean) have seen a building that - at the time (and this was just after the war) - was on the right-hand side of the road leading up to Rottingdean from the coast road.
This was a huge building with the name 'Tudor Close', and was built round a quadrangle. At the time it was almost derelict and the front door was not locked, so my mum and dad and I went to explore inside. From the front it looked one level, but this because the front door was on the first floor, and the rest of the building built on ground behind the road that was considerably lower. It was a huge place and can't now remember much about it other that it must have been beautiful, but after the 'occupation' by American soldiers, it had been completely ruined, graffite everywhere, paper stripped from some walls and damage to wood panelling. Am sure it was probably a real Tudor building, it had all the signs - those lovely chimneys etc.
If this is still there, it must now be a 'listed building' and carefully preserved, maybe a hotel (a bit too large for a private home). Do hope it was not demolished and flats built there. Anyone know of it?

Before starting my blog today did check up on the www.cowbellrestaurant.ca Margie. Was able to see a video of the 'butchery class'. Looks a very interesting place to visit. Having only eaten once in an American restaurant, can't really comment on the food (other than the meat was great and the veggies so 'al dente' they must have just been blanched rather than cooked. We were not impressed.
A visit to a US diner was a bit better, but the 'full US breakfast' gave me heartburn for a couple of days after, and the glass of water had so much chlorine in that it tasted like drinking swimming bath water.

This weekend watched another 'Man v Food', as although I really am disgusted by the amount the presenter continually forces down his throat, am quite impressed by the way the meats are cooked. A lot of time and trouble seems to go into this, much more than would happen in this country. My mouth continually waters when I see the barbecued ribs and slices of rib-eye, and all these places seem to serve huge portions for relatively cheap prices. One slice of rib-eye alone would cost us at least £4 here and possibly a lot more - and that's without all the trimmings.

The presenter this week ate a type of filled baguette (the US name was different), think it had lots of cooked meat filling topped with fried onions and then a huge amount of some American cheese 'sauce'. Not sure of the name, but it looked like English mustard squidged from a squeeze bottle, but cheese not mustard. Apparently a very popular dressing in the US over beefburgers etc. Have never eaten American mustard. English mustard is very hot, Dijon mustard is quite mild, Whole Grain mustard is 'gritty' and fairly mild. So please let me know what the US mustard is like. Is it sold here?

The 'treats' I bought myself yesterday were three different cheeses. One was Cheddar with pickled onion, another was 'Mexicana' (slightly hot), the third was 'Red Hot Dutch', a Gouda (I think) with chopped and very hot chillis mixed in. Boy, was it hot! Just loved it. Think it must be the 'feel good' factor that chillis have (also oats), that have got me hooked on spicy foods.

Did buy a few other things of course - all on my list and was very pleased to find the Spam on sale at a lower-than-usual price, so bought four tins instead of the two I intended (the intention is to store it in my larder, but only if I can keep my hands off it. Wish they'd make a chilli flavoured Spam!).

Have to say that going to Morrison's early (we arrived at about 9.30am) was a very good time for me to 'scooter' around as there were few customers getting in my way (or should this be vice versa?). Also at the checkout there was only one in front of me, and then everyone seemed to disappear and no-one followed me and other check-outs had no queues.
The worst thing about supermarket shopping is having to wait (and wait, and wait) at the checkouts, so if this bugs you, then try early morning shopping. If bargains are the main reason to shop, then shop later in the day (such as early evening) when the 'perishables' are usually marked down.

There is no need to apologise minimiser deb for showing your feelings about buying only free-range etc. We all have certain things we feel very strongly about. Although I usually write about food, my grievances are more about how people prefer to buy the convenient rather than bother to cook at all, and my 'spleen venting' is often more about the state of the nation, the stupid 'elf and safety' rules etc and the way the young behave today, and the way people waste their money and then blame everyone else because they are now feeling 'deprived'. And how good it was in the old days. And so on and so forth.

The minute any of our foods are grown/reared purely on a commercial level, little thought is given to what really matters. The wonderful flavours of fruit and vegetables has now almost been lost due to the 'need' (and who says we need it anyway) of everything conforming to a perfect shape, and within each variety, all looking like clones. The whole thing about food is its flavour. So why lose it?
Few vegetables are served without any preparation, so if they have to be prepared then cut/sliced/chopped...it matters little what its shape was in the first place.

Meat/fish/poultry and some game are now commercially reared (by this I mean in large numbers and not often 'naturally'), and when this happens we lose quality and flavour because it would cost too much to produce everything the 'natural' way. Intensive farming and the creatures (or even the vegetation) become of little individual importance, profit making is what the producers are after and if they pump the animals full or hormones to give a better yield, and spray chemicals over the plants to keep away the pests, then so be it.

It has been said (by scientists, so almost certainly true) that when people die their bodies do not decompose as rapidly as centuries ago due to the amount of preservatives in food that has been consumed over the years and that still remain in our bodies. In other words those who from toddler age onwards who are fed and continually prefer to eat the 'readies' will probably end up pickling themselves. That's a thought. If things go on as they are, maybe coffins will be obsolete and huge glass Kilner jars take their place. Must apologise for my warped sense of humour.

Not sure why, but all of a sudden I've gone off cooking. Yesterday just managed to throw together a salad for B with several slices of the cooked ham. He also had some of the Rigo Jansci that he brought home, plus snacking on something else later (but by then I'd gone to bed). Think today I'll make chilli con carne for supper (then I can have some too), and add a chilli 'Beanfeast' to bulk it up (cheaper than using more meat), so there will also be enough to freeze. Tesco's don't seem to keep the 'Beanfeast', but Morrison's do, so bought several packs (plus a couple of 'Beanfeast Spag. bol. as well. Eaten made up as per instructions on the packet you wouldn't now it wasn't 'real' meat (the 'meat' part being TVP).

Was a bit tempted to try the Quorn products on sale, but these were just as expensive as the same thing made with meat. There were even little Quorn 'Scotch eggs' on sale (presumably a Quorn 'sausage substitute' coating the eggs). Did not care for the appearance of the Quorn sausages, but alongside was another vegetarian sausage (cannot now remember the brand) and although cheaper looked a lot more like a sausage. One day may try these as unless we buy sausages from our butcher, very few of the branded names taste like sausages should. Unfortunately butcher's sausages are now becoming very expensive. But then everything now seems to cost a great deal more than it did, and not just food. The only way we can still eat well and serve great food to our family is shop around for 'best prices', then prepare and cook it ourselves. Plus 'growing our own' whenever we can. And why not keep a few chickens as well?

B says my last loaf is making wonderful toast, so this means I'd better bake another today, maybe add extra flour again then slice and freeze the extra loaf. The only problem with home-made bread it does stale up (dry out) faster than the pappy sliced sold in supermarkets, but at the speed B eats it my bread never gets that far, but an extra loaf would need freezing to keep it in 'fresh' condition.

Not even sure I want to cook at all today. My 'shopping spree' has got my fingers itching to spend a few more pennies. Or at least so some window-shopping, so might go out with Norris this morning to the local shops and see what there is on offer. Could do with some 'free' chicken carcases, and even that would make me feel I'd 'shopped'. Just goes to show how addictive shopping can become, and knowing how tempted I can get, one of the reasons I find on-line shopping not only saves me money but also saves me time to cook, thus saving even more.

Oh yes, one bit of good news. On our return from shopping yesterday discovered the postman had put a letter through the door for me, and on opening it found that Ernie had come up trumps again, so that almost paid for the shopping I had just done. It was only a few weeks ago I got the last 'bonus'. Let us hope I'm on a roll.

If you can be bothered to join me again tomorrow you will then find out whether I've managed to get myself organised today, or been very naughty. Think I rather enjoy being naughty - it doesn't happen very often so might as well get it out of my system while the feelings there. What fun awaits me. All will be revealed tomorrow. Hope to see you then.