Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Preparing for Action

Thanks to all those who wrote in concerned about my 'allergy'. Thankfully it has now mostly subsided, but not before it spread to my throat yesterday afternoon which then felt like I was coming down with mumps or something, found it even difficult to talk let alone swallow any food. At least it didn't restrict my air passages. By the end of the day was (almost) back to normal, and today just have a bit of swelling left both my cheeks - and this I don't mind because it fills out all the 'old-lady' creases round my mouth and cheeks which is far cheaper than having Botox. Looking ten years (or even thirty years younger) is a good price to pay for discomfort. And the youthful looks lasts several days after the attack.

Yesterday had a phone call letting me know the chosen dessert(s) for the forthcoming RNLI meal. The 'catering committee' had chosen THREE from my list: Profiteroles (5 of these per portion); Tropical Fruit Cheesecake; and Rigo Jansci (this has a chocolate sponge base, topped with thick layer of whipped ganache, and decorated with a thin layer of marbled choc as a 'garnish' (on top of the lot). So am well pleased as they don't expect so many for this meal and only need 10 portions of each (this means 50 profiteroles for a start!) as any 'leavings' they intend eating up themselves (and looking forward to it). Easy-peasy makings as far as I am concerned.

Askng what the 'main course' would be was told it would be a choice of : chilli con carne, lasagne, and a vegetable pie. Other members are making these. For which I am grateful as it takes a load of my shoulders (if it was me I'd be making my own pitta bread to go with the chilli, cooking soaking and cooking red beans also for the chilli, making my own pasta (lasagne) sheets, and not even sure if I'd want to make a vegetable pie (this reminds me too much of Woolton Pie - a wartime recipe).

Forgot to mention yesterday that while our daughter was here we did a 'taste testing' of the three 'mature' Cheddar cheeses that were in our fridge (still in unopened packs and had been bought 'when the price was right' - one was a 'buy one get TWO free'). These being: Pilgrim's Choice 'Wonderfully Strong' Mature Cheddar; McLelland 'Seriously Strong' Cheddar; and Cathedral Window 'Mature' Cheddar.
I cut several small slices from each and then put each variety onto a plate with a number (1, 2, and 3). I had (hidden about my person) another paper with the numbers of the cheeses and their names. We all agreed that there was very little difference between any of them, certainly wouldn't notice if not concentrating, and finally agreed that No 1 was the mildest (hardly any flavour at all) - this being Cathedral Window. The other two were so alike as to be almost indistinguishable. After continuing to sample the remaining two, we together chose the McLelland as having the most flavour. Doubt anyone could call it 'seriously strong' as to us it wasn't even 'strong', and certainly calling another cheese 'wonderfully strong' seems very misleading.
These days it is only the whole 'farmhouse' cheeses, sold from the deli counter, and cut to amount required that seems to have any flavour at all. Anything prepacked is hardly worth eating these days. Unfortunately the best is (as ever) a bit too expensive for regular use.

Am now replying to comments for one in particular led me to giving more thought to what we eat. Firstly sympathise with Campfire who also has an OH who allows the 'lady of the house' to do man's work whilst he sits (or lies) with his feet up. Perhaps the fault lies with us - we let them get away with it.

As to Les's query. Firstly let me say that not ALL men are tarred with the same brush I was busy wielding yesterday (re the male sex). You Les may be the answer to every woman's prayer. However, the fact you blew me a raspberry has put you firmly into the 'women should be seen and not heard' bracket, as this is something my B does when he (always) disagrees/sneers at a women's point of view when heard/seen on TV and usually politicians. Even when they are right he won't admit it. All I can say is Les, view yourself objectively and then, 'if the cap fits' you then will know which side of the fence you feel is the greener (and what's the betting it's the side the man owns).

Whether we like it or not, there is a great difference between the way the two sexes think. The male sex likes things to be straight-forward (in black and white so to speak), the woman's way is to approach her life that has a very wide palette of colours, and - perhaps because of the mother instinct - continually is looking and aware of problems and difficulties that may never happen, but she needs to know what to do if they do arise.
I often worry about what might happen if... and my Beloved always sighs and says 'what's the point of worrying? It may never happen. No point in worrying until it does." Perhaps good advice, but in the past when 'something to worry about' HAS happened it is me B relies on to find the way to get out of the mess because he hadn't bothered to think it out for himself in the first place.

Perhaps what grieves me most is the lack of respect that women lost when they 'burned their bras' and demanded equality. We now have to open our own doors, carry our own luggage, and stand in public transport whilst men still remain sitting down. Fair enough I suppose, but what's the point of equality when we lose so much of what was best about our lives?

I've not been to Italy (but would love to visit) but do admire the way the menfolk there seem to put their womenfolk (especially their mothers) on a pedestal. Italians also respect the family as a whole, all sitting round a table (often outdoors) enjoying the meals 'like Mama used to make" (and probably still does). The French can be a bit that way too
Possibly home-cooking for a family in the old-fashioned way has much to do with the Latin attitude, and maybe if we lived more like that in the UK then we wives and mothers too would gain more respect. Serving our children 'bought' meals, 'take-aways', and allowing them to eat from their laps in front of the TV or up in their rooms whilst playing on their computers, really isn't the same as a family gathering together to eat at one table.

My final words on this male-female divide are a mention of one time when I went to visit a lady who (via Radio Leeds) had requested me visit her to help her reduce her weekly food budget. She lived in a small council house, and it must have been a Saturday when the visit was arranged for when I went into the (small) living room, there was hardly room to cross to get into the kitchen for both her husband and (large) adult son sat on the couch with legs outstretched and feet propped onto a coffee table, each clutching a can of beer (and packs of cans at their side to 'top-ups') watching a football match on TV. They wouldn't move their legs so I could pass, and the lady told me I'd have to squeeze past round the back of the couch to get to the kitchen "as they didn't want to miss any of the match!!!"
An experience like that pushed men further down my list of 'favourites'. Like almost to the bottom. Having worked as a bar-maid for a few years also taught me a LOT about men (and how they viewed their women-folk). So you can see where my jaundiced views have come from, and probably I've just been unlucky in not finding enough 'good men' to balance it all out. I have met a few, but - over my (long) life - can count these on the fingers of one hand.

Interested to read that you too Sue15cat are doing the 'living below the line' challenge. It was your comment that gave me 'food for thought' yesterday evening and I spent a happy few minutes wondering what I'd be eating if I took on the same challenge. More on this after I've finished the rest of my replies...

Hope you manage to get your plastic greenhouse up and running Jane, we need some protection for our veggies even though it is still May. The weather forecast is still saying that we could have snow in the north of Scotland, and although warmer further south, it is still quite chilly for the time of year.

Not quite sure what 'cherries' you are able to pick at this time of year Lisa, in the UK it would be blossom time now and have to wait for the fruit until later in the year. At least we both seem to have 'seasonal' rhubarb.

Thanks to Catriona and Sarina for their comments. It is surprising how many people today seem to be suffering from the same type of allergy, and probably this is much to do with the many 'additives'/preservatives in the manufactured products today. Apparently these can build up in our system over the years and eventually our body has had enough and lets us know by way of an 'allergic' reaction.

Now then - back to the 'living below the line' challenge (details about this are given in the comments section of yesterday's posting - so if you missed it, then worth taking a look).
Dare say we all approach this type of challenge in different ways, and with me it would have to be the easiest and simplest way to give me plenty to eat that doesn't cost more than £5 total (the challenge being to live on £1 worth food and drink a day for five days).

What I would do would be buy/make as much (nutritionally) good food as I can using a budget of £5, then share this between the five days.
Without too much effort, experience has proved to me what can be done with a little, and for those who might wish to take on a challenge such as this you might be interesting in my personal 'shopping list'. As ever - used the lowest prices available at this present time (but depending upon the supermarket/supplier the costs could be even lower as I have over-estimated with several ingredients because this then gives me/us a few more pence to play with).

6 eggs (10p each) 60p
1 home-made loaf 70p
vegetables £1.00 (carrots, onions etc)
4 pints milk £1.18
pearl barley/lentils 20p
porridge oats 40p
2 tins baked beans 60p
chicken carcases (free from butcher)

Total: £4.68p

The way I would use the above is first make chicken stock from the free carcases. This would also provide chicken fat that I could then use for frying or spreading on toast instead of marg.
Breakfasts could be varied: possibly porridge on alternate days, then poached or scrambled egg on toast the other days. Or beans on toast and save the eggs for the 'mains'.

The chicken stock would be used to make a vegetable soup (diced carrots, onions and a diced rib of celery), with or without pearl barley or lentils to make it more 'filling'), and this would probably be eaten for lunch or as a supper dish and would make enough for most days.
Alternate 'mains' would be either egg-on-beans on toast, even a stir-fry (made with some of the veggies) with a thin egg-only 'pancake' on top. Tesco sell packs of Chinese noodles (these include a sachet of chicken seasoning) for only 11p, so enough money left over to allow for at least one of these. Also don't forget there would be a fair amount of cooked chicken we could pick from the carcases after making the stock, these could be added to the soup or to the stir-fry.

Probably we would have to deny ourselves the normal cup of coffee or tea, but even those are cheap enough if we already have 'the makings' and just cost what is used. On the other hand there is nothing wrong with drinking plain water (I do this often even without any reason other than it does me good). But with plenty of milk, some can also be part of the 'drinks'.

It would be possible to spend less on the veggies, and use the surplus money to buy a bag of 'value' apples, and eat one of those a day as 'dessert'. Thing is, when working out the above, realised that many days I eat so simply that the above suggestions would be about the same amount (and the same things) that I eat normally and still and find satisfying enough to keep me from wanting to eat more.

Had I gone into the 'costings' more deeply, might have changed a few things, included using some flour, and then gone on to make pasta with this, or some oatcakes, savoury pastry (using chicken fat then making a chicken pie with veg). Perhaps enough money to use a little rice (then make a veggie and or/chicken risotto, and/or rice pudding (allowing a few pence for sugar to sweeten where necessary).
This is the good thing about learning how much all ingredients cost, then using the cheapest in the best way possible. We can even include in the challenge 'free' food that is seasonal - such as dandelion leaves, or maybe some young nettles... As I keep saying it is what we do with what we've got that counts.

Norma the Hair is on holiday this week, which is why I'm able to sit and 'chat' to you at this time on a Wednesday. This gives me time to mention something read recently that began with feelings of delight, followed a day or two after reading a reply that really saddened me.

In the Daily Mail 'reader's letters' last Thursday there was one from a man who was explaining how he and his wife managed to live quite happily on a joint (state) pension of £270 a week, and explained how. They a wood-burning stove (getting free wood from a farmer who lets them have his fallen trees - and they take wood from skips, with owner's permission etc, and having a car helps them to bring home the wood and shop in supermarkets to get the best bargains. Surplus 'bargains' are stored in their deep freeze to help feed their six grandchildren who visit once a week for tea. They even holiday abroad once a year and go out to lunch once a week. Plus managing to buy a bottle of wine more often than not.

As myself and B also have only the state pension to live on (although Ernie has given us a helping hand from time to time and B does have some savings from the sale of our previous house but most of these have been invested) myself can confirm that it really should be possible to do all that was said in the above letter without too much scrimping and saving. Yet, in yesterday's paper (in the 'reader's letters' section) there was a reply to the first letter, this from a lady who finds that living on the same income is - to her - almost impossible. Much I supposed depends on 'life before pension' and the wish to continue in this way. Then any deprivation could possibly lead to a life of misery if we don't face it with the right attitude.

The most recent letter was explaining the bother of having to go out to find wood for the stove (let alone not being able to afford the stove in the first place), the having to cook fish and chips at home instead of eating them 'out', cooking everything now from scratch, and knitting a blanket using 'old wool' to save putting the heating on. Also not being able to afford a holiday.

To me, having a holiday is not that important. Can't think when I last had one, it must have been over ten years ago, maybe longer. And a holiday is nothing I miss. Using 'old' (aka 'recycled' wool) to knit up is pure common sense to me, I'd even do this if I could afford to buy new wool. And having to take the time to bring home fuel for a stove makes complete sense when it is 'free'. For that matter, what is wrong with cooking all food from scratch?
Also eating a really substantial - and very cheap meal for what you get - at a carvery, means we can eat enough so we need eat very little the rest of the day and the following day and maybe the one after that. This could work out cheaper than a home-cooked full 'meat and two veg' over that time (and there are a lot more than 'two veg' at a carvery, usually up to 8 different veg, and as much of these as we can eat).

Is it just me, or do many people feel that 'living on the breadline' has given them more pleasure gained from a sense of achievement, and that they find that certain parts of life can actually improve. Or do more tend to gain that feeling of misery that the writer of the last letter seems to have. Her final words really saddened me: "The outlook for us is nothing but gloom, Mr. T (the writer of the previous letter) does no service to the thousands of pensioners such as us who've worked all their lives with no chance to join a pension scheme at work and are now just existing, not living".

The strange thing is, the older a person is the more likely they are to have experienced 'living on the breadline'. We have only to think about war-time rationing and all the other deprivations. Yet, how old is old? The writer who was not coping well with a pension retired at 65 (and this three years ago), so she would have been born towards the end of last war, and although rationing carried on until the early 50's, she would probably not remember much about that. Her earliest memories would have been later when things improved so much, and in the words of (was it) MacMillan ~"we've never had it so good", and maybe her mother went out to work and the then popular 'convenience' foods became part of life and less home-cooking done or even taught to youngsters. In those days people stopped learning it was wise to save 'for that rainy day' and encouraged (for the nation's prosperity) to 'spend, spend, spend' and with 'built in obsolescence' to everything man-made, we would continually have to keep buying the same things as they wore out.
It is not surprising how the 'younger folk' (by this I mean anyone under the age of 65) have little idea of hope to cope on a small income (unless of course their parents were canny enough to follow their own parent's guidance and pass it on down to their offspring). If their grandparents were still alive they'd soon show them how to live extremely well on a shoestring. It can be done. It's just sad that nobody seems to know how to any more.

You can see how this has given me yet another bee in my bonnet and it will probably stay buzzing around for quite a few days more I feel that strongly about it. My final words today are we should always be glad of what we have, not continually being sad because of what we haven't. Our cups should always be half full, never half empty. So enjoy your day with a smile and we'll meet up again tomorrow with hopefully comments flowing in so we can share our thoughts. See you then.