Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Comparing Prices

Thanks Les for your comment. Think it was the 'British Restaurant' you were referring to (World War II) where meals were set at one price, think it was 1/6p so that most people could afford this, and it certainly helped to eke out their rations.
With your interest in research Les, perhaps you can let us know how the prices in the 1940's compared to those of today. Also in the 60s/70s for at that time my B earned £7 a week (to pay the mortgage and keep a family of four children plus me). What would £7 a week be worth today (and for that matter 1/6d in the 1940's?).

Have to rely on others to give info like this as i don't have the time (or inclination) to spend hours at the comp surfing the Internet, three or four hours writing this blog is enough for me. Thankfully have not caught up with the modern attitude that the computer rules our lives and find 'real life' better than any 'virtual'.

There was a programme on last night about the universe, this time not how big it was, but how small an atom is, and even beyond that. Make me think (you know what happens when I start thinking...) and all that information can be held by a computer, and to some extent that is what our minds are: 'computers', only we have something else to add. Perhaps enthusiasm is the word I'm looking for.
It doesn't matter how much information is put into a computer, so far all it can do is just hold the info. A 'real person' can take it further, and then only those interested enough to do so.
This is something I've realised when it comes to teaching. Anything scientific is probably best taught without any 'padding' or 'waffling', just plain facts, and it could be said that a lot of cooking has to do with science - why certain things happen when two ingredients are put together for instance - but it doesn't matter how conversant a cook is with the theory, just passing on what has been learned - almot parrot fashion - it still doesn't make him/her a good cook. There has to be that magic 'something else'.

Top chefs seem to have that magic, and why I consider them to be more knowledgeable, for they seem to appreciate the subtleties that a more expensive ingredient can make, whereas we - the common or garden domestic cooks - wouldn't even recognise the difference between that and a cheaper one when eating the dish.

Chefs are 'graded', and can rise to the topmost rung of their ladder if they have this 'wizardry'. Many never do obtain it and although can cook very well, and try very hard, they just won't reach the level of the Michelin star.
There are many domestic cooks who have very little knowledge of the right way to do things (working with the right temperatures, right utensils, right appliances etc) but who can still produce a dish that would make a top chef almost faint with delight. So this 'cookery wizardry' can come at all levels. We see this happening sometimes in 'Masterchef'. Some people 'have it', some don't.
What is it they say? "Those that can, do. Those that can't - teach!". Where does that put me, I wonder as I can't do either.

Your comment brought back memories Campfire. The grocer weighing and packing sugar in those deep-blue strong paper bags. I once asked my mother why the bags had to be blue and she said it was to keep the sugar white. At that time she used little 'blue-bags' when washing her bedlinen and towels to colour the water to give the same effect - keep the fabric white. So perhaps she was right, or perhaps it was just coincidence/tradtion that sugar was packed in blue bags. Seem to remember my mother wrapping her silver in the blue paper (once she had used the sugar) she said it stopped the silver tarnishing.

Am pleased you missed the worse of hurricane Isaac Lisa, but still able to get rain. As the days get cooler, the ground won't dry out so quickly, so with any luck your crops will now begin to flourish.
In this country we normally are not offered a 'doggy bag' to take home food left that we haven't manage to eat when 'dining out', but then we are not served the large portions as seem to happen in the US so very little would be left on our plates, although have been told that 'doggy bags' are now offered in some of our establishments. Am the age when I would feel embarrassed to take food home (smacks of poverty), on the other hand if it was cream cakes, a gorgeous dessert or something, then probably would grab the bag and be grateful.

Japanese is a language rarely taught in this country (or so I believe). French is our 'second language', another is/was German, and have heard that Chinese is now being taught in some schools due to the belief that China will be the leading (and industrial) nation within a very few years so we need to learn the language to be able to trade.
Myself have often watched the Open University language programmes in the hope of learning some useful words (just in case I visit Spain/Italy/Germany... I do know some French), and find the ones covering Japan are really very interesting as they deal with all parts of the culture as well as just the language (which I have not been able to master other that say something like 'hi!' which I think means 'yes'?).

Do remember us once having a bread strike Brenda. Think people then were silly enough to pay £5 for a loaf (would that be about £15 in today's money Les?). Like you, I made my own bread when none was for sale, although probably then - being caught on the hop with no yeast to hand - it would have been Irish Soda bread.

Think it was in the 70's that we had a shortage of potatoes, either due to a lorry driver's strike or crop failure, can't now remember. Until then potatoes (usually peeled and boiled) were served with every main meal (the usual 'meat and two veg'), and suddenly I had to find alternatives. This led me to hunting out recipes where I could use rice and pasta and have to say since then have never served potatoes with every meal again, just occasionally once or twice a week but never peeled and boiled like in the 'old days'. Nowadays serve spuds in their skins as baby 'new' potatoes, or baked in their jackets (and of course eat the skins - they provide necessary fibre and between you and me could happily scrape most of the flesh out of a 'jacket', and eat just the skin spread with a little butter.
Mashed potatoes I normally make from the flesh of microwaved 'jacket' spuds (and then eat the skins with butter as a 'treat'), normally fry the mash or use it as topping to a meat/fish pie and the brown it off in the oven or under the grill. For roast potatoes usually boil them for a few minutes in their skins, let them cool slightly and then peel away the skin (it is then as thin as paper so no loss of vitamins) to finish off roasting in the oven. As I don't cook home-made chips, these are bought frozen to 'oven-fry'.

Yesterday took my chair over to 'Boris' (American style fridge/freezer) and sat in front of the open door of the freezer busily moving food around to give me more room. It is surprising how much more space WAS found once I had sorted things out. There were far too many half full containers of the same thing (stock etc), so decanted one and put it into another box that held the same, thus saving much needed space.
Discovered a bowl of cooked rhubarb, so thawed that out, added sugar and chopped ginger and topped it with a crumble to bake for B's 'afters'. Have quite a bit of soft fruits (all small amounts of each) so will probably use those for either desserts or to make more jam.

After the freezer side was sorted, then moved over to the fridge. Again able to clear out a lot of bits and bobs, and am hoping from now on that I can keep a bit more control over what I keep in chilled/frozen storage, it's no good keeping 'leftovers' if they are not used for days (or even weeks/months).
Also discovered several opened jars of the same thing (redcurrant jelly, mint sauce/jelly etc), all due to B not looking for them carefully enough when he went to the fridge so thought there was none and fetched himself a new jar from the larder. My fault in a way as have several opened jars and they get pushed to the back, and if small are then not seen. Think I'll stand the bottles in shallow boxes so they are kept together (and with a card tucked in to say what is there).

B has a 'new' job, working for three or so days for a sailing 'mate' of his who owns a furnishing upholstery business. He is short-handed due to either illness or holidays and had a work-load piling up. My Beloved used to work in furnishings (and also sell fabric), so is glad to help. I've asked B to see if there are any offcuts that might end up in bags that the owner might let me (or my daughter) have so can myself make cushion covers (for myself) from them, and daughter can make loads of things (as she does) for charity. Said to B I'd give the man some home-made marmalade and jam as a 'thank you'.

Made a couple of loaves of white bread yesterday and today think will make a small brown loaf and some 'baps'. Have almost given up trying to lose weight, as although keep losing inches and the skin on my hands is now so thin can see all my blue veins (this I find not pleasant to see at all), my weight remains the same, so feel that if I lose more weight goodness knows what will happen, as can now feel my ribs and see my hip bones. Will have to ask the nurse when my next check is due (October) whether it is OK to stay at the weight I am for a while. Do hope so, for then I can eat home-made bread again. Well, more often anyway.

One recipe today, a 'Coffee Cake' but this time as a 'tray-bake'. To turn it into a chocolate cake, omit the coffee and replace with 2 extra tablespoons of cocoa.
Although butter was used in the original recipe, have adapted this to using half butter, half marg purely for economy. All marg could be used if you wish to cut the costs down further. Stork margarine makes really good cakes.
Cappuccino Traybake: makes 24 slices
4 oz (100g) butter
5 oz (150g) marg (see above)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 tblsp instant coffee granules
2 tblsp warm water
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
4 eggs
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Put the butter and marg into a bowl. Dissolve the cocoa and coffee in the water and add this to the bowl with the sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder. Beat with an electric whisk for 2 minutes, then tip into a greased and lined Swiss roll tin (28 x 18cm) and level the surface.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35 - 40 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin before turning out and removing paper.
Either serve as-is, cutting in half lengthways, the cut each half into 12, or 'gild the lily' by topping with a butter cream or chocolate frosting (recipe below) before cutting.
chocolate frosting:
4 oz (100g) white chocolate
3 tblsp milk
6 oz (175g) icing sugar, sifted
cocoa powder
Break the chocolate into small chunks and put into a bowl with the milk. Stand over a pan of simmering water (but don't let the bowl touch the water) and heat until the chocolate has melted. Add the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Spread this over the top of the traybake (above) and finish with a dusting of cocoa powder.

Now off to the kitchen to do more tidying and sorting. Lots of blue sky outside and if not too cool may sit and have my brunch/lunch in the garden. Can always wear a shawl to protect me from the fairly strong breeze.
Time for me to start thinking about repotting my geraniums ready to bring into the conservatory before the first frost, then prepare the many tubs/containers to hold the daffodil and tulip bulbs that I've yet to purchase. Do want to have a good show of spring flowers next year, they really do cheer me up.

It occurred to me that I seem to have passed on all of my cost-cutting tips to readers, and wondering if now I've become a bit boring or even repetitive. Am not one to give just 'plain facts', as when I read books, blogs that do this they never inspire me, just make cooking feel more like a chore that has things that need remembering. But to make this blog really 'useful' it would help if readers can point me in the direction they wish me to go. With many readers this could mean taking many directions, but at least this would be more interesting and I'd also have a starting point. So you tell me - what do you wish me to do next?

Looking forward to hearing from you soon, have a good day, and we'll hopefully meet up again tomorrow. Usual time as Norma the Hair will not be here (cruising the Med at the moment en route to the Black Sea - lucky girl). TTFN.