Thursday, May 10, 2012

How It Was Then - and Now!

A reasonably early start today as I HAVE to do quite a bit of preparing for the 'social's desserts'. Yesterday intended to make the profiteroles and freeze them, but had a sudden attack of extreme tiredness towards lunchtime and just couldn't be bothered to do anything more the rest of the day. Recognised the 'symptoms' as anaemia (again!), and after a couple of iron pills did find later I got back to almost normal, but then too late to start cooking. At least have the ingredients all ready measured out ready to make the profs the moment I have published this blog. Also want to make the chocolate sponge (for the base of the Rigo Jansci).

Thanks for comments. Both Sue15cat and Sarina agree with me about how people today don't seem to find it easy (or even know how) to economise. Sarina's comment arrived twice in my 'in box' for some reason, and rather than repeat some of what she said, as it's all worth repeating hope that readers will take a look at her comment.

Also thanks to Les for pointing out that the prices I gave for the '£1 a day for food and drink' challenge (mentioned in previous postings) can be even lower - as when the ingredients are bought from Lidl. And that is London prices! An article in our newspaper the other day showed how the prices of many things can differ by a considerable amount depending on whether they are sold in the North or South. The North always being cheaper apparently.

The '£1 a day' challenge has interested me greatly. Not from the sponsorship/charity aspect, but just proving how much can be bought/made within this limited budget.
The cheapest flour is hardly more than 1p per oz/25g, so there would be enough pennies left to include some flour along with original purchases suggested yesterday, and then we could make a Yorkshire Pudding or several pancakes to bulk up a meal. If we used ordinary plain flour and bicarb we could make Irish Soda bread more cheaply than that suggested made with a bread mix, and the extra savings then gives us more money to spend on more ingredients. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't do us all good to live on £1's worth of food and drink for (say) a month. If nothing else, we would learn a heck of a lot about the price of all foods and how inexpensive many of them can be, and still not end up hungry.

As minimiser deb says, 'scrimping and saving can be fun'. Myself believe it truly IS a lot more fun than just having the money to go and buy what we want, unless of course we've deliberately saved for it. 'Easy come, easy go' seems to be the rule today and all too often 'the Bank of Mum and Dad' allows children to get everything they want, and they only seem to appreciate what they have when they have to save up and buy it from their own pocket money. THEN they are much more careful with what they have bought.
Parents who constantly buy their children things might find it works out cheaper all round if they give their children MORE pocket money but only on condition that from then on they have to pay for what they want out of this. Even better, get the children to do more chores around the home to 'earn' the extra. This also helps them learn how to save money.

I'm not sure the lack of 'economic' knowledge today is always the fault of parents. For one thing for several generations 'since I was a gel' many people have become used to this 'spend, spend. spend' approach to life (because this was what was encouraged after the last war and continued), and when people earned enough, nothing wrong with that (it helped the industries to get back on their feet).
Because of this most of the old 'scrimping and saving' skills began to be forgotten and when not passed on (as then there seemed to be no need), this then led to almost complete inability to cope when a recession hits us (as it is doing today). To me it seems incredible that people have never learned to knit or sow or make their children's clothes, let alone know how to cook a meal from scratch, and although my mum taught me how to knit and sew (and even read) before I went to school at five, cooking WAS something I had to teach myself and this after I was married, mainly because wartime rationing meant there wasn't even enough food to risk wasting on teaching children to cook. Rationing ended about the time I got married, so had to start from square one.

Fortunately there are still folk today who have had the good fortune to be taught by parents who learned from their parents/grandparents how to be thrifty, and when programmes such as 'The Good Life' put self-sufficiency back on the map, for a while people did have a go at that (but soon gave up), and although we are encouraged now to again be as self-sufficient as we can, there is not a lot of guidance given via the TV (and today more people watch TV than read books), and many people with 'the knowledge' are no longer with us.

Only this week was watching a 'foodie' programme where fish was discussed. Apparently the British 'favourite' fish - the cod, is disappearing from our seas and moving further north to be replaced by fish from warmer waters such as red mullet and sea bass. It was said that soon everyone would be eating sea bass as we used to eat the (once much cheaper but not now) cod. Well, sea bass now keep cropping up in cookery progs, and now on sale on all fish counters, but it is not cheap.

We see other programmes encouraging us to 'buy British' with much mention of free-range, organics, and the best (often rare-breeds) meat we should be eating, without a thought as to how much it would cost us. Those who make the programmes seem to think it is 'affordable' to all - which makes me inclined to think they also earn a considerable salary and have no idea how the 'other half' lives.

Cookery mags (and cookbooks) are just as bad. Recipes are becoming more and more complicated with longer and longer lists of ingredients, and even though the mags are now cosidering our budgets by telling us the cost of a 'budget dish', their idea of low cost is not mine. 'Make a meal for four for £5' keepa cropping up as though this is a real tightening of purse strings, and my feeling is this would make readers feel that it would be almost impossible to make the same (or similar or other meal-for-four for less cost, rather than suggest they might have a go at doing just that.

To prove the point I've just picked up a cookbook (I have a pile at my side) and opening a page at random see a recipe for Brie and Spinach Croissants. Another flick of a page or two and what comes up? Halloumi with Broad Beans and Artichokes! A couple of pages on is a recipe for Tuna steaks (fresh not canned!) with Avocado Salsa. Then I see one for Asparagus, Walnut and Goat's cheese Salad. And all in a little cookbook that admittedly is more for those who can't be bothered to cook and want to get the meal on the table in the shortest time possible. Even today it seems cost doesn't matter. Spare time apparently does.
Mind you there was one recipe that could be expensive if we didn't do my usual 'cheating', and when I put my mind to it can usually pare away most of the money, so think it is worth giving my adaptation as it this proves much cheaper than the original but still comes under the 'quick and easy' and ends up virtually the same. And we can all do with a bit of the quick sometimes.

The chicken in this dish originally required a chicken breast roasted and then torn into strips. Myself am substituting chicken scraps torn from the bones of a carcase (roasted or cooked for stock), and why? Because it is MUCH cheaper, and cooked chicken is - after all - cooked chicken.
The chicken stock available 'fresh' from supermarkets is - in my recipe below - always home-made and where the chicken scraps originated in the first place (in other words two 'freebies'). The white wine - well, use it if you have it or use less (canny cooks freeze a spoonful or two in icecube trays when a bottle is opened to us in a dish such as this). Instead of Parmesan cheese, leave a few lumps of Cheddar or other hard cheese to 'air-dry' in the fridge until really hard, then this will grate up as fine as Parmesan and usually (to me) has a better flavour.
Roast Chicken Risotto: serves 4
knob of butter for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
12 oz (350g) risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
white wine, 1 large glass (see above)
1.5 litres home-made hot chicken stock
2 good tablspoons frozen peas, defrosted
7 oz (200g) approx, cooked chicken, torn into strips
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated (see above)
Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften, then stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Tip in all the rice and give a good stir so it is coated with the butter, then add the wine and simmer until evaporated, then keep adding hot stock a ladleful at a time, adding more as each is absorbed by the rice, until the rice is cooked to 'al dent' (just slightly firm in the centre - this takes about 20 minutes), then add the peas and chicken and cook for 5 minutes longer to heat through - by which time the rice should be creamy and just cooked. Stir in the grated cheese and serve immediately.

The kitchen is calling me, so I metaphorically roll up my sleeves (am wearing short sleeves this morning and shivering because of it, but I don't like to wear long sleeves when I cook), and will now go and make those 50 profiteroles and one large chocolate sponge 'slab'.
I aim to get most of the cooking for each day done in the morning as at the moment like to watch 'Instant Restaurant' on at 1.30 BBC 2 (although have tended to nod off half-way through if I've made a sarnie for my lunch - eating carbos make me sleepy), After watching that prefer to read a book rather than cook although have to rouse myself up later to make B something nice to eat. Yesterday felt so tired I got B to bring in a Chinese from the local take-away for our supper. How lazy is that? But it was nice and he didn't mind as I paid for it (well it did save me having to cook!).

I'd love to stay and 'chat' to you for longer, but duty calls. With any luck will be able to spend more time on the comp. tomorrow. Hope to meet up with you then. Enjoy your day whatever the weather.

Suppose many people still feel that too much thrift and pennypinching is going a step too far in this 21st century. Putting us firmly into the poverty camp of the downright poor. Being poor is only a state of mind. There are many people who manage to exist on very little food just becuase this is they way they wish. I doubt Bhuddist monks eat very much (and that is usually given as 'handouts'). I believe Victoria Beckham also eats very little and she certainly doesn't do this because she can't afford to eat more. She just wants to keep her figure.

When we see (as mentioned in one comment) the amount of food that parents thrown into their shopping trolleys in the supermarket, one then wonders why so much, especially as most of it is junk food. 'Junk food' buyers (and eaters) seem to need it more for 'comfort eating', and have no interest at all in providing proper nourishment for themselves and family. It is if they think that ALL food is nourishing "well it has calories doesn't it?" Calories seem to be given too much importance nowadays. 'Healthy' eating deems we eat just so many calories a day, no more no less. So calories are therefore all we need to think about. We could get those calories just eating nothing but bars of chocolate.

So without going into the ins and outs of diets/nutrition etc, it's not difficult to understand how easy it is to fall into the trap of buying (and eating) all the wrong foods, still believing we are doing nothing wrong. And if it is all 'the readies' so much better for then that saves us bothering to do any cooking at all - like ever! Believe me - at one point in my life can say I've almost 'been there, done that', fortunately common sense, shortage of money (and raising a family), soon put me on the right path and since then have never looked back.

I know I go on a lot about how it isn't difficult at all to manage on 'short commons' (and that includes the basic state pension), and possibly this is because most of my life has been lived 'the simple way' purely because - since marriage - money has been very short. So it's not as though I've had anything much to give up. The only thing I do miss is having my own car (and this only affordable then because I bought it with the money earned when I did the TV - and it was, at that time, the cheapest car available and it really was a 'cheapie' especially considering it didn't cost a lot to run (could do up to 60mph on a long run), and was in constant use for over 20 years before it became too expensive to repair (in fact it would still have been worth it to have it repaired (£700 at that time) rather than do without a car altogether. But I was persuaded it wasn't worth it (and guess by who?). The cost of fuel today rules out the sense of buying another. I'll just have to make do with Norris and getting a lift in B's car (which we can still afford to run as he hardly goes much further afield than Lancaster these days).

What a dismal day it is turning out to be. I could hear strong winds blowing when I went to bed last night, and it was also raining and I think continued to rain all night and is still raining. Well, the UK did need rain and now we are getting it. All I hope and pray is that it doesn't rain at the Jubilee weekend in early June with all those street parties planned. There must be contingency plans made to still hold these under cover if necessary. At least if the women are the organisers they will have made sure of this.

Morecambe is aiming to have one of the longest 'street parties on Sunday June 3rd, as it will be held along the prom (the prom is 5 miles in length but the party only on part of it). The sailing club have been allocated six tables (each sitting six), and we have all be asked to dress up in red, white and blue and book a seat. Not even sure if I want to. It all depends upon the weather! The prom can be bitterly cold when the wind blows from off shore, even during the summer months. And we all know what an English summer can be like.
Not sure about 'elf and safety'/food hygiene rules etc when it comes to street parties. Need to enquire whether all the food has to be bought from registered caterers, or (for once) people are allowed to provide the food (being a 'tea', this probably means cakes, biscuits, scones etc). If we can provide some food, then this means I'll probably be asked to making loadsa 'themed' cup cakes etc. That I WOULD enjoy doing.