Friday, September 28, 2012

Always Something...

Watching 'Wartime Farm' yesterday again brought back memories of those 'austerity days', and how difficult it was to manage on the meagre rations allowed.  People who lived in rural areas could get a lot more 'free food' by foraging for herbage, fruits and fungi, and killing some wild-life to supplement their meat ration.  Even seen soapwort gathered as a substitute for soap was an advantage for the rural folk.  Townsfolk must have had it very hard.
My B remembers his family keeping chickens (mainly for eggs, eating only those old birds past laying) and also keeping rabbits in small hutches, again for meat - and this in a tiny back yard at the back of a row of terraced houses.  But both helped to eke out the ration.  People who kept hens were allowed a 'ration' of chicken feed to help out, and I've got a book, first published in wartime, that give many economical ways to feed chickens that would work just as well today.

Watching programmes such as the above should constantly remind me that life now is pretty easy compared to what it was in my youth.  So why do I keep finding something to moan about when I should be sitting back and being grateful for what we have now?   Like the lady in the above prog. I am always thankful for having a washing machine that can be loaded and then left to get on with it all by itself (except that our very old one now does need a nudge after about 5 minutes once started or it stays stuck on the first cycle).  Memories of having three children (the third born before the first was three years old), and the mountains of washing (think of all those nappies, terry towel and muslin, changed several times a day), all having to be done by hand in the sink, bath, or boiled in a large pan on top of the stove, the rinsing, the wringing out by hand, and the praying for good weather to hang out the washing on the line that went round three sides of our garden.  When the weather was bad the washing had to be dried indoors - and we had no central heating, just one coal fire (with a large brass-rimmed nursery fire-guard round it).  Yet somehow it all got done.

We all get depressed about the cost of things now, and rightly so, but perhaps a lot of it could be our fault.  Compared to life how it used to be - making things last, then handing things down to children when they got married so they didn't have to buy 'new', well who does that these days?  Everyone wants to start from scratch and it also has to be 'new' even though really good quality (and I do mean QUALITY) furniture, crockery, cutlery etc can be bought for very few pounds from auction houses, where the same things could cost £100s if bought 'new'. 

The other day B had been chatting to 'upstairs' and he said he'd take the rubbish they leave in 'their' shed (sited at the side of our back door) - as they don't have transport.  In the shed was a set of bookshelves and B asked if they didn't want it, could we have it?  They said we could have anything in the shed that we wanted (also in their garage). 
Yesterday B brought in the bookshelves and I was amazed.  These were large and well made with solid wood and also very heavy.  These have ended up in our bedroom - along with a set of drawers that someone else also didn't need, and now B can keep all his books tidily (he always reads in bed before going to sleep, one reason why I got to bed later as I fall asleep more rapidly in a dark room), and he can also keep all his clean laundry in the drawers instead of piling it up on top of the linen basket in the corner.  He has fitted wardrobes across the other end of the room, half for my use, and half for his, but he just can't be bothered to put his clothes in his drawers as this means he has to walk across the room to do so when he wants clean ones.  And yes, I know it is my job to put the laundry away on the correct shelves and in the drawers, but B still prefers his clean 'smalls' to be very close to hand when he gets up in the morning.

Dave, the upholstery man who B had been working with, phoned me yesterday (whilst I was blogging), and said he'd another bag of remnants for me.  B fetched them later that day and now I have a huge pile of the most wonderful quality furnishing fabric (many a 'plush' type) that I'm hoping to be able to use to recover a Victorian rocking chair, and also a 'pouffe' as the colours are perfect for our living room. Will also make cushion covers, and  'throws'.  The really thick/stiff fabric would make good bags.  Am sure our daughter will be able to use some of it.  The rest am not sure what to do with, but all far too good to throw away.

We have a welcome to give to Little Rosie, who has the same problem as I do - not understanding modern day music.  She is also concerned about the crop failures, but we have to think positive as in pre-war day we had to rely mostly on locally grown produce, nowadays we are fortunate to be able to import food from all over our globe.  So we won't do without, it could just cost us more. But not necessarily.

Before I move on to the next comment, must say a few words about B and myself as we are now both losing weight, slowly but surely, and only since I began having the veggie box delivery.  Is this a coincidence?  Think what is more likely is that as I'm now serving more veggies (the fresh HAVE to be used up rather than stored as otherwise it is not worth paying the extra for the quality), so meals are now more 'old fashioned', meat and two veg etc (or in the Goode kitchen more likely to be meat and four - or more - veg).  Far less pastry, pasta, rice, cakes and biscuits have been consumed by B, and in my case think it is the extra fibre that is doing the trick.

Having been told of B's weight loss yesterday, he then asked me not to bake 'treats' for him, as he is trying (successfully) to stop his incessant snacking after his main meal,  so that makes life a bit easier for me really.  Tonight he will have a pan-fried steak with salad (easy-peasy as he now likes to fry his own steak), and myself will make a gynormous salad for my own supper, maybe eating it with a bit of home-cooked ham.

Back to the comments.  Thanks to Catriona who has offered to download Graceland to me via my email, and thanks for the offer, but for many reasons I prefer not to give out my email address.  As I can normally listen to any music via one of the Internet sites, can always listed to what I want, when I want (which I have to say is rarely).
Not taking "No" for an answer certainly worked at your bank Catriona, and I think far too many of us give in a bit too easily these days as more and more we get fobbed off when we want some immediate action.  A threat to remove our funds to another bank (or patronise another supermarket/shop) usually works well when we feel we are not getting enough attention to our needs.

A welcome to Jackie, who finds life today is full of the 'annoyances' I wrote about yesterday. But as to being a guest blogger on your new site Jackie, thanks for that but maybe there could be a way I can just send what you need via your comment box, or by another route because as I said above, I don't give out my email address.

Sunny Anderson (Food Network) is becoming another 'annoyance'.  I quite like her speedy method of cooking and the food she prepares, but her constant and very fast 'chatter' is getting on my nerves.  Yet, having done TV myself and always told not to stay silent between 'activities' - always explaining what is being done, and why - can understand the need to keep talking, but best keep it to the culinaries and not squeeze in so many anecdotes.  By the end of her half-hour my head is whizzing round and I've just about forgotten how she put the meal together.

The Barefoot Gourmet (Ina Garten) is a good example of how a cookery demonstration should be, she is relaxed, casual, and if she can keep away from using the word 'perfect' so often, this is a series well worth watching.  She talks throughout but only just enough.  Possibly it is the production that make the difference, with Sunny we see everything done 'in the moment' and usually at a distance, with B.G. we often see close-ups of chopping etc (usually these are edited in), so words don't always need to be spoken over.

It does sound as though Vancouver was originally from the Netherlands Sairy, and came to England to help build the dykes in the Hunstanton 'Fen' area.   Were Dick Van Dyke's ancestors also from Holland (as we tend to call the Netherlands) I wonder?  He is one of the well-known film actors that I really admire as he seems to have a very stable family life (unlike most of the rest, although the 'Bridges' family (Lloyd, Beau and Jeff and siblings...) also close, and this I know as Lloyd was the uncle of my daughter's best friend (he married the friend's mother's sister).

Hope your family have good weather this weekend at Scarborough Jane, and also you manage to get a good day on your trip over next Monday, even though only for the day.

Now that the wind has brought down apples from the trees, we need to find a way to use up the 'fallings', and the first recipe today makes good use of these, but can also be used with ordinary 'bought' apples.  This is a perfect pudding for this time of year as it can launch the start of the more comforting desserts we need once the weather turns cold.

Eve's Pudding: serves 4
1 lb (450g) cooking apples (or use dessert fallings)
3 oz (75g) soft brown sugar
grated zest and juice of one small lemon
1 tblsp water
3 oz (75g) butter, softened
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
approx 2 fl.oz (50ml) milk
Peel, core and slice apples and put into a greased 1.5pt (900ml) ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle the brown sugar on top, add the lemon zest, juice and water.
Put the butter and caster sugar into a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg.  Fold in the flour with enough milk to give a dropping consistency, then spoon this mixture over the apples.  Place in the oven and bake for 30 - 35 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until the sponge topping is risen and golden.  Serve hot with cream or custard.

A quite economical dish made with apples is the 'Charlotte' as it can use up stale bread.  This classic dish has been served for many centuries I'm sure, and is due for a return to our table.  Am assuming a large loaf is the one used, and if already sliced, then you would need approx 10 slices.
Apple Charlotte: serves 4 - 6
half loaf white bread (see above)
2 lb (1kg) cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
4 oz (100g) white granulated or demerara sugar
1 lemon
1 tblsp water
half tsp ground cinnamon
4 oz (100g) butter, melted
1 tblsp caster sugar
Remove crusts from bread and if using an uncut loaf, cut into slices.
Put the prepared apples into a pan with the gran. sugar, zest and juice of the lemon, the cinnamon and water. Simmer until the apples are softened and just breaking up, then remove from heat and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, dip the bread slices in the melted butter and line a greased baking dish with some of the bread, cutting to fit if necessary, then fill with the cooked apples and the liquid in the pan, placing more bread on top.
Cover loosely with greased baking parchment (or foil) and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for half an hour.  Invert onto a plate (so the bottom then becomes the top) and sprinkle over the caster sugar. Serve hot with cream or custard.

One more apple recipe, this time more of a 'savoury' soup that is filling enough when served with a little grated cheese and chunky bread to make a hearty meal in its own right.  As parsnips can vary in size from thin to thick, myself would use the largest, then peel and remove core before using the flesh.
Apple and Parsnip Soup: serves 4
3 eating apples, peeled and cored
1 onion, chopped
4 parsnips (see above)
1 oz (25g) butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1.75 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
4 fl oz (100ml) cream
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Put the apples, onions and parsnips into a pan with the butter over low heat, then saute (sweat) for 10 minutes until softened and just beginning to change colour.  Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minute, then add the stock.  Add seasoning to taste, bring to the boil then reduce heat, cover and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
Either transfer pan contents to a blender and whizz for a few seconds or use a stick blender and bring soup to a puree in the pan.  Either way the soup needs to end up in the pan to be reheated.
When ready, check seasoning, stir in the cream and serve in individual bowls, sprinkled with parsley.

Final recipe today is a great way to get children to eat veggies they often say they dislike, and although this version is based on carrots, it would also work with parsnips, and maybe include a few shredded Brussels sprouts?
Carrot Fritters: serves 4
1 lb 6 oz (600g) carrots, coarsely grated
1 onion, grated
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
3 tblsp flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 fl oz (50ml) single cream
7 fl oz (200m) milk
2 tblsp sunflower oil
Put the carrots, onion, cheese and cumin into a bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste.
In another bowl put the flour, then gradually beat in the eggs, cream and finally the milk.  Fold this into the carrot mixture. 
Heat a large frying pan, and when hot add the oil, then drop in large spoonfuls of the mixture and fry over medium heat for approx. 3 minutes on each side or until the fritters are golden brown.  Remove using a fish slice and drain on kitchen paper.  Keep warm whilst frying the rest of the mixture.

Since we've begun to use the central heating have discovered that once the rooms are warmed up early in the day, they do tend to keep their heat until bed-time, so we've now begun to have the heating on for just a couple of hours each morning, and then over-ride the timer so it doesn't come on later in the day.
That's probably been the problem with me - always sitting in a very cold room that just needed warming up a bit.  Our bad and wet summer has been partly to blame as the house seems to hold the damp cold, and this doesn't help.  A quick dry out and all is well again.

Perhaps we should have been aware of this dampish atmosphere as B discovered and industrial 'thingy' (name forgotten) that extracts damp air from rooms (de-humidifier has just come to mind). Unfortunately he got rid of it (sold it I think), but it was probably needed in the past when our apartment was left empty over many months.  It was empty a year before we moved in (and it still doesn't feel like home - will it ever?  How I wish we had stayed in Leeds, if Ernie comes up with a big win I'll probably move back there and B can either come with me or stay put).

You see, I'm almost having a moan again.  Other folk would be GLAD to live in a lovely home so close to the sea.  But shouldn't life - at least at the end of our days - be what we wish it to be and not what others want?  All through life I seem to have given up almost everything trying to raise my family in often the most difficult circumstances, yet it's all taken for granted.  'Get a life' seems the expression of today, well I've yet to get one.
And there you go - again not satisfied with my lot.  But then would I ever be?  Others will say I should make the most of what I have, and they would be right. If I can do that with food, why can't I do that with 'real life'?   Am fed up with feeling like the Lady of Shalott who sees nothing of life other than through a looking glass.  I don't even bother to look through the windows much any more, so really must do something about it.

Deary me, what am I moaning about?  All I need is to change my routine and find something else to do other than write my blog and cook for B.  Step into the outside world and see what that has to offer.  Have just about talked myself into have a scoot.  Let us see if the weather keeps fair enough for me to do so. 

But whatever the weather, my blog will again be written tomorrow, so hope to see you then.