Thursday, September 06, 2012

Sitting on the Fence

In may ways consider myself lucky being born at a time of almost austerity and still alive today as feel as though I am sitting on the fence between two worlds, and discovering that although the there are advantages and disadvantages with both ways of life and certainly the grass isn't always greener 'on the other side'.

This made me have another think about 'then and now', and am understanding how difficult it must be for the younger generation to have any idea of 'how we lived then', and how difficult it is for them to cope now - during this recession - whilst we older folk find it much easier.

Seems the blame for domestic financial problems today lie not so much with the ordinary folk who have suddenly found themselves in great debt, but those who urged them into this unfortunate state. In the 'old days' (days I can still remember) goods made to be sold were of excellent quality, and made to last (for years, a lifetime, even centuries), for 'shoddy goods' were considered worthless. Now it seems no-one expects anything to last.

After the war there was a real need to increase production to get the country back on its feet, and the best way to make profits (and continue to do so) was to make goods that didn't last very long, ten years if lucky. Then everyone would be forced to replace them - once, twice, thrice.... This was called 'built-in obsolescence'.
Fpr instance it was perfectly possible to produce stockings that wouldn't ladder, but what was the point in that? Make them ladder easily then be sure of continuous sales etc.

Prices weren't too high so many people could afford to keep replacing. Those that couldn't were offered goods on hire purchase, we paid a deposit and then the rest (out of earnings) each month until paid off. Miss payments and the goods were confiscated. This worked well for me (one of those with little money) as I would buy clothes and household goods from mail order catalogues, allowing my self £20 of goods, then pay back a £1 a week. After 10 weeks would order another £10 of goods and still continue the £1 a week payment. VERY useful when having to clothe four young children and also buy nappies, toys, bedlinen, towels, AND kitchen pots, pan, utensils etc.

Even then most families managed to control their spending as everything had to be budgeted within the family earnings. Known as 'living within your means'. If more money was needed then either a second job was taken, or both parent went out to work - our you made sacrifices and did without. Then the worst thing EVER happened. The credit card was 'invented'.
Almost everyone then was able to get extra money drawn from 'the hole in the wall', usually spending it as fast as possible then drawing out more, often paying back just the interest.
when people were cautious and didn't need that much, also paying any borrowed sooner rather than later, they were offered even MORE money to 'play with'. Myself started with a card that I think allowed me to draw initially up to £1,000, but I never spent much of this, so it was increased to £3,000, then £5,000 and think at one time it even went up to £10,000!!!). A few years ago many cards reduced their allowance and now my limit is £3,000 although I never use the card except for my on-line grocery order and very occasionally ordering from Lakeland.

Who can blame anyone for spending money they 'think' they can have so easily? As long as the interest can be paid people seem to forget the balance is still owing and over many years they can be paying back one, two, three (or more) times more than the money they originally borrowed, but still haven't paid any of it back.
Of course it is easy enough to say that we all have a choice, and it's a person's own fault if they take advantage of what seems like easy money, but today there is so much pressure from the banks, manufacturers, stores, advertising to part us from our money that it has become almost a national occupation to spend, spend, spend.

Thankfully I'm a bit like an unbalanced boat, always listing to one side - this being the thrifty one, although have to admit I too used to spend to my limit (probably because the limit was rather low), but eventually I learned what my mother had tried to teach me "don't spend your spare money, always save it".
Yesterday, after cooking some sausages in the oven (I prefer to oven-cook sausages as they get evenly brown all over instead of dark with white strips down the sides), the melted fat from the 'bangers' was automatically poured into a little pot to set, this then kept by the hob and used when frying. Used some to fry B's eggs last night when he chose to have 'sausage, egg, beans and chips' for his supper.
Do others save all the fat that comes from cooked meat in this way? Probably not as it is 'saturated fat' and we are told this is not good for us. So far it has not done B any harm at all so I continue to use it because it saves me money and I also don't like 'wasting it'. All fat such as these were used in war-time and didn't seem to do any harm then.... oh dear, just wish the nutritionists would stop making me feel I'm always doing the wrong thing.

Unfortunately missed the first 15 minutes of the Hairy Biker's prog. on Wartime Rations and a bit disappointed in the food they cooked as although it was based on what was made then, they had updated it to fit into the 21st century by adding ingredients that were in short supply then.
Tonight is the first episode of Wartime Farm, so hopefully the farm kitchen will be producing more foods cooked at that time.

As an great fan of Dallas the first time round, am not sure whether I'll be staying with the new series, the premier episode shown last night. Amazing how 'Bobby Ewing' still looks much the same (although with grey hair) and even 'Sue Ellen' (probably with the help of facial surgery) still recognisable. Once 'J.R' had roused himself from what I thought was Altzeimers (apparently he only had depression) he was more like his old self. The 'Poisoned Dwarf' made a small appearance, and perhaps best left at that, she hasn't aged well (probably I haven't either, but then I'm not making a TV reappearance). Maybe, if I can forget about the missing years between 'then and now', it could make a good series, but - like visiting towns many years after we have lived there - better to keep away as too many things have changed, and not to our liking (or at least mine). Sometimes it is better to just keep the happy memories.

On the other hand, during this recession do feel that as many of us as possible SHOULD try to return to at least living as though in the past, just between our four walls (and garden boundaries with a venture now and again into the countryside to 'forage'). Certainly when it comes to home-cooking, crafts etc, little seems to have improved, other than a much wider variety of fresh and 'foreign' foods being imported into this country, so at least we have a wider choice. On the other hand, more choice often means more money eventually being spent, so again it all boils down to self control and the usual 'making the best of what we've got'.

Today many people seem to feel that spending more than an hour preparing food (during a whole DAY) is almost too much to be bearable. And there is me spending almost the a day cooking this, that and the other. But then I enjoy doing it, and have the time.

Spending precious time shopping (perhaps daily) for 'ready-meals' (that can be reheated quickly in the microwave to save cooking supper) can often take more time (and stress) than cooking a similar dish from scratch, AND cost a lot more. But then shopping for food (esp in supermarkets) is just another 'habit' we have been almost forced into by the advertising and those with an eye to profits. There are ways to release ourselves from these chains that bind us. My favourite ones being 'grow your own' and 'make your own'.

Every day still has 24 hours, and while some people cringe at spending an hour doing some cooking, they will happily spend hours doing 'something else' that has little use whatsoever. This could be doing hair, painting nails, and applying makeup (and yes, some ladies do take HOURS to do this when going out, or even before venturing downstairs first thing in the morning). Others spend hours watching TV (and I have to admit to doing this myself), other in front of computers Twittering or Facebooking, and others play computer games. We all have the same amount of hours in the day, and we all differ in how we use them. All I am saying is that we CAN find time to do a bit more home-cooking if we really want to. The easiest way is just to get up an hour earlier in the morning and make a start.

Beloved is out working again today, helping to deliver furniture to he doesn't know where, so neither of us know what time he will be returning, and am planning a Cold Meat Platter for his supper (corned beef, plus a couple of sausages left over, and some sliced cooked chicken breast that I will poach this morning). Will also make a cheese quiche (or if not add hard-boiled eggs to the Platter). All served with a mixed leaf salad, with radishes, beetroot, and maybe some warm baby 'new' potatoes. Pudding has yet to be thought about.

Had LOADS in my email 'inbox' this morning, including the usual readers comments, so had better get on replying to these.

It must be lovely having your young grandson living with you Jane. I used often to collect one of my grandsons from school and take him home while his mother was working. Later he used always to come to our home each day for his dinner (we lived close to his school) rather than have packed lunches. Later, when his mother moved further away and didn't wish him to change schools (later she moved to Ireland), our grandson lived with us for a few years until he finished his education. Still miss having him around.

Do all schools now have a website that gives details of their 'school meals'? If so it is a great help to mothers for then they can be sure not to serve the same food for an evening meal, and also know if the child is likely to eat less if they don't like the school meals on certain days, so give them a larger helping for the later meal.
There was a young schoolgirl recently who photographed her school meals and put them on a website. Got into a bit of trouble about this and was (for a while) banned from doing so, but the powers that be relented and so she was able to continue. Think it helped the school a bit as then they were more inclined to realise that some meals were not as good as others, and as everyone was now able to see what was served this made them raise the bar.

Welcome to Sheridan our first 'commenteer' from Australia. As my uncle and aunt emigrated to New South Wales (about 60 miles short of the Queensland Border) and a very good friend of mine lives in Brisbane, feel I already have a connection with the country. Interesting to hear that there are no 'doggy bags' in that part of the world, and probably wise not to as it can be very hot in that region. My aunt unfortunately contracted food poisoning after eating pork at a diner in the north of Queensland, and her severe sickness apparently caused her to have a stroke and she never recovered.

An interesting suggestion Les re putting a rubber band round an opaque container to mark the level of contents. Somewhat similar to me showing the level of spirit is on a bottle of rum (etc) as B has a habit of taking a swig of my cooking spirits when I'm not looking, so use my marker pen to show the level).
Practically all my 'dry goods' are stored in glass containers (Kilner jars given to me, or all the empty 200 and 300g Nescafe jars), so the level is easily seen. Instead of labels I write the contents on the glass using my marker pen, then easily washed off when empty and the jar filled with something else. Plastic containers also are usually clear or semi-opaque.

One kitchen 'utensil' that could do with being 'premarked' is a saucepan. How often do we put in some liquid to 'reduce down by half' and then never sure when 'half' has been reached? If there were inch (or cm) markings etched into the inside wall then we could easily work it out. Perhaps I should use my marker pen to show where the level is (marking the outside of the pan) and then make another mark halfway down and bubble the liquid away until it reaches that point.

Many years ago I used to make sugar mice for my children Rachel, but have forgotten how. Will hunt for a recipe and hopefully tomorrow (or certainly by the end of this week) will put it on this site for you.

Thank for sending the recipe for Fruit Dumplings Lisa. Really will have to try this. Will also hunt out some wartime recipes to pass on for those interested. Shayna also interested.

A welcome to Christine from Canada. Sorry you have no success in getting any left-over ham bones or chicken carcases where you live. Usually the ham-bone is available only from the deli-counter of a supermarket (where the meat is carved to order from the bone), but any shops that carves ham from the bone should be able to save one for you.
Margie (from Toronto) says she is able to get both (ham/chicken bones) so maybe a bit of shopping around is necessary, or it just might be one region has them another doesn't.

Heard on the news yesterday there is a bit of an uprising in Quebec between the French and the English population. Didn't realise how strong the feeling was regarding this. Seems that Canada is almost like two feuding countries, one French, one English (although did think that it was the Scots that went to settle in Canada and the English were in the minority). There has never been much love between the French and English due I think to all the battles fought between them (which I think most we won), although the French do like the Scots. Mind you there is often not much love lost between certain Scots and the English, the Scots now wanting their country to have their own government and be a 'country' in its own right.
Our son married a Scottish lass and do remember when we visited her family one older member saying they were sad she was marrying a 'Sassenach' (their name for us English) instead of a Scottish lad. Actually their family were half Irish half Scottish, and with my B's family havng both English and Welsh ancestry then our son's children would have been 'true Brits' to their very core.

You queried whether flapjacks could be frozen Brenda, and thanks to Shayna for letting us know they can for myself have not yet frozen any, although expected it would be possible.
At least it gives me the opportunity to remind readers that when not sure if anything will freeze successfully (everything WILL freeze but not always thaw out to be attractively 'edible') then freeze a small amount of something intended to be eaten 'fresh', then thaw it out a couple or so weeks later and see how it turns out. Nothing much will have been wasted if it 'splits' or ends up soggy.

Large things like gateaux that are intending to be frozen, but probably only a slice needed at any one time, then impractical to thaw out the whole cake as it would then not able to be refrozen. Instead, chill or freeze until the filling is just firm, then cut into portions and interleave each with baking parchment so that one (or more) can be removed as when needed, the rest being kept solidly frozen. Always wrap the above well when frozen to avoid drying out (freezer 'burn'). For that matter ALWAYS wrap food well when destined to be frozen. And remember to label!

Have not yet been out with Norris. Two reasons (there always has to be a reason). We are expecting a delivery and someone has to be in to sign for it. Normally B is here for at least half a day most days of the week but this week has been out all day every day. Tomorrow he may be able to spend time here in which case I will be having a scoot out. Not a problem as far as this week has gone as have plenty of things to occupy me in the kitchen and this I find more enjoyable than any 'scoot out'. How sad is that?

One recipe today and - as far as I'm concerned - a worthy one for those who like to eat sausage rolls as this version makes the sausages go a lot further. You can make the sausage rolls any length you like, standard size or mini-rolls. Using different flavoured sausages you make different flavoured 'rolls'. Instead of bothering to skin sausages to make these, buy sausage meat, either way you can add different herbs or spices/curry paste/W.sauce/Tabasco.... to the meat mixture to add extra flavour.
Home-style Sausage Rolls:
12 sausages (or 2 lb/1kg sausagemeat)
3 slices white bread, blitzed into fine crumbs
2 tblsp chopped sage (see above)
1 x 500g pack puff pastry
3 tblsp caramelised onions
2 egg, beaten
Remove skins from sausages and put the meat into a bowl with the breadcrumbs and sage, work together with your fingers until thoroughly mixed.
Roll out the pastry thinly into two oblongs each about 8" x 20" (20 x 50cm). Spread the onions over each sheet leaving an inch (2.5cm) border along one of the long sides. Brush this with beaten egg.
Roll the sausage mixture into two rolls to fit along the length of each sheet of pastry and place over the onions, then fold the excess pastry over so the sticky, eggy strip seals to the rest. Place the sealed edge to the underside so that it holds together, then brush the top with the rest of the pastry also with egg. Cut each roll into the size you wish.
Place sausage rolls on baking sheets and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 35 -40 minutes until golden and cooked through. Cool and keep chilled until ready to eat, or freeze and defrost overnight in the fridge.

Now how to get on. It's lovely having almost a whole day to myself again, have to say I prefer my own company, but not for much longer than a month (B had occasionally gone on holiday with the Tall Ships for that length of time), then I get withdrawal symptoms and wish I had B home again to look after and especially cook for.

Despite the forecast, yesterday turned out to me mostly cloudy with the best of the sunshine appearing late afternoon. Today is a bit better, but with a lot more wind, so am probably better staying close to home (really hate being out in the wind unless - for some strange reason - standing on top of a high cliff overlooking a rough sea).
Soon be the weekend again, doesn't time pass fast when we grow old? Feels like it was only yesterday that I was thinking it will be Monday tomorrow. If you know what I mean.

As ever, enjoy your day and keep those comment coming. TTFN.