Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ethical Eating

Must begin today by replying to your comments. All who wrote in are rapping my knuckles re my mention of buying cheap eggs. It has to be free-range or nothing. Up to a point I agree with this strongly, so why do I still buy cheap? Firstly, I understand (mentioned in an earlier posting from an article in the trade mag) that no eggs today are allowed to be sold from caged hens any more. There has been a massive change recently in the way hens are kept since Jamies prog, and the barn-reared have now to be allowed ample space for the birds plus bales of hay for them to jump up and down from, even 'toys' to play with. Their eggs ARE sometimes sold cheaply as a 'loss leader'.
Unfortunately hens abroad are still allowed to be caged, and there is an appeal for British manufacturers to stop importing these cheap eggs to use when making their products (mayonnaise, quiches, and baked products such as cakes, biscuits etc. When this importing has been stopped we are warned that this will increase the price of the products as the eggs used will then be dearer. We won't mind paying more (or will we?) because for once there is a good reason for the price rise.

Please don't get misled by the term 'free-range' (even though it makes us feel as though we are 'being kind to hens' when we buy only these), for there is a very strong possibility that the hen that laid the eggs never did step outside a barn, and this purely because the hen didn't wish to. This could mean they are quite content to remain inside the barn, and - strictly speaking - their eggs should not be called 'free-range' (but they are allowed to be).
Also there has been a lot written (again in the trade mag) about free-range hens that do run freely outside but on land that has no grass or even worms/insects for them to eat, they just run on old ground, gaining nothing but stronger muscles. So even when I buy eggs in packs marked 'free-range', (as I try to do more often than not - usually using the cheaper eggs for 'experimental cooking' - or when 'costing'), I don't necessarily believe I'm getting 'what it says on the tin'. I just hope I am. The only way to find out is go and check out the farm that sold the eggs (the details are written in code on each pack - or should be).

We should still be able to sort the wheat from the chaff - so to speak - when we break an egg. A 'happy hen' should give a rich yellow yolk, but most eggs sold today have pale yellow yolks. This is a sign of 'indoor feeding' I have been told, pecking outdoors and eating worms and grubs etc, plus any greenstuff around will make the yolks a deeper colour, and if the ground does not provide, then the hens have to rely on grain provided (the same as that fed to those in barns). People who keep hens in their gardens will agree that their hens have wonderful - almost orange - yolks.

Suppose I should point out that as this is a 'cost-cutting-cookery' site, this means what it says, so although I can prove how cheaply we can make a meal, this does mean using ingredients sold at the lowest price. This could mean using the normally cheap 'basic' ingredients, or those 'on offer'. and this can include eggs and poultry meat. This is why I suggested buying the cheapest eggs for the '£1 a day on food and drink' challenge. We don't HAVE to buy eggs at all on this challenge, but was aiming to prove that we can provide ourselves with necessary protein for low cost. Milk also provided the protein, as did the cooked chicken from the 'free' carcases (and we can always ask for these from a butcher who sells only free-range hens).

People with a very small amount of money need to spend it wisely, and often the only way to provide proper nutrition for their family is to buy the cheapest (and this doesn't mean junk food). When it comes to food value, an egg is an egg, and poultry meat is poultry meat (we pay extra for flavour and nutritionally that doesn't count), so once the costing is done - and if we have money left over - it is then up to each one of us to decide then how far up the ladder of quality we can go, or even whether we can afford to be selective at all. And no shame if the latter applies.

'Ethical eating' is a minefield anyway, because it's not just hens we have to be concerned about. Do those of us who buy only 'free-range' eggs and poultry take as much trouble to find out how the meat is raised before we buy it? Even though I do buy my 'quality' meat from a producer who states where it comes from, this doesn't mean I always check when buying elsewhere. Probably I should. Certainly if I had money coming out of my ears then everything I buy would be 'the best'.

As you say Sarina, the good old days were best when it came to food and quality. Everything free-range and organic then, and the older we are the more we miss it. Nothing tastes as good as it used to.
In the wartime, my Beloved's parents kept hens and rabbits in their tiny back-yard, and not for pets. When the hens stopped laying, they were cooked as 'boilers', and the rabbits were bred for meat. B's mother would do the killing, people couldn't afford to be squeamish in those days. Butcher's used to sell horsemeat for our consumption, and I think the fishmongers sold whale-meat. In those times you just didn't ask what the meat and fish was, you were just glad to get it at all. My mother was convinced that some sausages were made from rodents, as she once found what she thought was a mouse tooth in one sausage she had cooked.
Some people would be keep a pig, but only allowed to retain half of it after it had been killed, the butcher had to have the rest to bulk up the rations for the rest of the community. If you kept the whole pig there was a HUGE fine. We were not even allowed to throw away a stale bread crust. If one was found in the dustbin, the dustmen had to report it and that mean another HUGE fine.

Have to admit that although I can happily joint a chicken, and even chop up half a lamb if necessary, anything with eyes I cannot tackle. When buying a pigs head (to make brawn, etc), had to aks the butcher chop it up for me and remove eyes and teeth. Even now cannot face a complete fish and have to ask B to remove it's head/guts before I cook it. The only 'full fish' I've managed to cook for B is the very wee ones called 'whitebait'. Not sure what it is about eyes that puts me off, probably because it reminds me that the creature once lived as a 'being'. In some countries people are served a meal of sheeps' eyes, YUK!. Much prefer my 'meat/fish' to be 'anonymous' when I begin to cook with it.

In this country we are fairly good when it comes to rearing animals for food. In the far east it is much MUCH worse. Dogs are kept in cages crates so small they can hardly turn around, and then jpacked into crates still alive, to sell for killing and eating. Snakes are skinned alive before being cooked and eaten. Even in Australia (by the Aborigines), witchety grubs are eaten whilst still wriggling. Suppose here in good old Blighty we could say we eat oysters while they are still alive. But then there are people who refuse to eat eggs because they are 'an unborn creature'.

Your comment was again inspiring Sarina, you made a good point that however much has changed since 'the good old days', we can still bring back 'the good life' within the confines of our own home and garden, and do hope that many readers are doing so.

You really took me back to my youth Catriona when you mentioned holding hanks of wool for your mother to wind into balls. The times I used to do that for my mum, and remember now, holding my elbows tucking into my waist, my hands outstretched as wide as possible holding the wool tightly between them, would swing my arms from left to right to help release the wool as it was wound. Back and forth, back and forth until the ball of wool was complete. Then start another hank. My mother knitted at speed, and during the war would get an enormous amount of khaki wool provided by the government for her 'knitting group' of ladies that came to our house to knit into balaclava helmets, gloves, socks, goodness knows what else. I remember sitting with the ladies, and myself knitting scarves in garter stitch (I was only 6 years old and didn't know any 'clever stitches' then). So a lot of wool had to be wound as you can imagine. That khaki wool was also a bit scratchy. Some ladies used to tuck a piece of paper with their name and address into whatever they'd knitted, in the hope of getting a letter back and then beginning a 'pen friendship' to keep up the spirits of the lads.

Oh the bliss when - after the war - wool suddenly began to be sold in pre-wound balls. The pleasure of using these was about the same as we got from being able to buy (for the first-time) sliced bread.

Hope you are enjoying 'The Darling Buds of May' Susan G. The mother (played by Pam Ferris) reminds me a lot of me, cooking for a family and then all sitting round a table to eat. She was about the same shape as me too (don't think I've changed much since!).

Beloved came back last night from his 'social evening' to inform me the numbers had risen slightly for today's 'do', so now have to make more profiteroles this morning to allow for that. The other two desserts are so rich, and plenty there anyway to cut extra portions if necessary.
B left this morning at 8.00am to 'help' with certain things that need doing at the club, not sure when he will be back, but he will be back as he has to collect the desserts. At least this gives me freedom in the kitchen to 'get on', and 'get on' with a vengeance, as there are other things to make than the profiteroles. Like a batch of lemon curd. Bake another loaf as we have run out(extended again to make one large and one small), have to do a pile of laundry, then cook some other things. Defrost meat ready to cook tomorrow (in the slow cooker), and also soak a gammon (overnight) to cook tomorrow. Plus probably make a quiche (with free-range eggs!!), and some marmalade.

The tomato plants are now very tall and still in their tiny pots so these too will have to be repotted sometime today. It's all go! But I enjoy it most of the time.

One things I have to do is check up on how to get rid of ants! Don't know how, but suddenly we seem to be finding ants in our living room. They are very tiny black ones, don't seem to bite, and never see them except when B has put a plate at the side of his chair (or I put one on the stool by my feet) and then suddenly these have little ants swarming all over them. Must see if I can find out more about them on the internet, and maybe there will be a way to get rid of them.

So excuse me now if I take my leave, the Rigo Jansci needs to be topped with the ganache, the chocolate shredded to scatter on top as garnish. The Tropical Fruit cheesecake needs to have the fruit arranged on top, and another batch of profiteroles needs to be made. Then all the profs. have to have their caps dipped in melted chocolate. In between I fit in all the rest I have to do.

At least today has begun sunny and I believe will stay that way. I might even manage to find time to go and sit out with a cup of coffee! That's what can happen when I get an early start to the day. Hope you too have a 'profitable' day, and also get a chance to bask in the sun. Join me again tomorrow and let me know.