Sunday, November 04, 2012

Better or Worse?

Just a couple of comments today, both from Les.  Regarding technology - of course SOME has improved our lives immensely, but what I (personally) do find we could do without are the electronic 'gadgets' that continually flood the market and that most youngsters seem to feel they need, and every year need the more 'updated' version.  Myself cannot see any sense in having a mobile phone that can hold thousands of songs/music etc. 

There have been great advancements when it comes to health, but although some of this could be equipment, a lot of 'curatives' come from natural products, and it is the knowledge of these that help to keep folk well.  The natural products have always been there, it is just learning more about them that makes the difference. 

People live longer these days, this is true.  But how much of this is to do with medicine (and natural drugs)?  During the war, rationing food seemed to help to build a much healthier nation, and as everyone had much the same to eat, there was far less 'food poverty', and overall people did become healthier.  People began to live longer without much advancement in medicine.
Nowadays there is far too much food, and with a lot of it junk food, we now have both adult and child obesity problems, and there are concerns that many children will not live to a ripe old age because of this.  The 'technology' that helps to produce the processed foods that do us harm is one we could do without.

A lot of diseases can be caused by pollution.  We have got rid of the toxic smoke from chimneys, with central heating taking the place of coal fires, but instead we now fill our streets with petrol and diesel fumes, which I'm sure are worse. 

Going back to the medical profession, it is interesting that the surgeries are now replacing their electronic blood pressure 'machines' (I hated these as they kept pumping to a very painful level) painful), to using the old 'traditional' hand pumps again.  Why?  Because these give a more accurate measure. 
Also I was told that there was now no need to fast before having my blood checked (previously had to avoid food and water for at least 8 hours before having the blood taken).  Now it is only a two hour gap between eating/drinking and the test.  Another set of goal-posts moved.

Saw an article about a new washing machine that could wash a very few soiled clothes in just a very few minutes.  After a trial it was shown the clothes came out sparkling clean, although after the spin not as dry as hoped.  However, a great saving of electricity.  Yet, if the machine had to take a full load, apparently it would take over two hours to wash them.  Using a lot more electricity.  Got a thumbs down from the 'tester'.

Apparently we are all 'persuaded' to buy several (many?) of the domestic appliances, gadgets and utensils on sale these days.  Think it was in Victorian times that it seemed to be essential to have at least one gadget to do one thing, and another to do something else.  I had a huge book full of drawings of each and every one of them.  They must have needed huge kitchens to store them all.

The same thing is happening today, and in a recent article it said that all we need to cook a meal is a chopping board, a sharp knife, pair of scissors, a fork, bowl and a pan to cook the food.   And of course some form of heat for the cooking.  This is true. 
Perhaps we should go for a week seeing just how few 'gadgets' and utensils we can get away with using.  Myself know I have one large drawer full of knives, forks, spoons and umpteen bits of equipment (melon ballers, canelle knives, cherry stoners, ring pull can openers, tin openers, skewers, cake testers, pickle forks, micro graters, cheese 'parers', butter 'curlers', and another dozen  or so things I can't now remember...   In smaller drawers I have assorted graters that fit into the food processor, also others for the mouli-mill, even though I often prefer to use one of the two very old graters (belonged to my mother) to hand-grate cheese, vegetables etc. 

Technology helps to save us time, and a lot of time.  So why is it that we never seem to be able to find time these days to spend cooking meals from scratch?  In the 'old days', people used to clean their homes using a regular routine (they got very dusty due to smoke from chimneys etc, and without vacuum cleaners it took ages to clean rugs and carpets). Yet there was still time to go shopping for food each day to make the evening meals, and also stock up the larder for other meals.
There was time to knit and sew, and even days set aside to do washing (by hand) and ironing.

With all our gadgets this releases womenfolk today to do other things, like going out to work to earn money so they can buy the domestic 'essentials' such as the latest plasma TVs, laptops, mobile phones.  This is the 'technology' that I feel we don't really need to 'survive'.  None of which would increase our life-span (it is said that using mobile phones too often will cause brain tumours, and too much time sitting in front of TV and computers is bad for our sight and our health). 

There is much we could do without, and if disaster strikes from one direction or another, and it is left to us to cope, we really ought to be able to manage with just the basics.  But how many today could do just this.
Seeing on TV, and reading about the way people are now reacting to the recent American disaster makes me feel that something has gone wrong with their society.  People being shot when queueing to put petrol in their car.  Fighting each other for the last foods in the store.  Looting starting almost immediately, and still going on.

People did have warning of the storm, they could have left the town earlier to a safer area (especially if they had a car), as they were advised to, and in any case are cars 'essential' at the moment?  What is wrong with walking?   Food could also have been bought in advance and stored (as so many citizens were sensible enough to do). 
Instead of fighting, people should be pulling together to help each other throughout the worst of the crisis, or is it that now selfishness rules OK and everyone else is of no consequence whatsoever?

A brief mention about Les's other comment.  Regarding keeping humidity down in the house.  When we lived in Leeds we were able to do this, and it had adverse effects.  My throat was always dry and I kept getting a dry cough.  The doctor suggesting hanging damp towels over the radiators to put moisture back into the rooms, and this helped immensely.  One of the reasons why we always keep a window open in each of the rooms in our house and also in the conservatory as we learnt it was very unhealthy to have rooms without a current of fresh-air flowing through them, and especially so if the windows are double-glazed as the rooms can heat up and dry the air quite rapidly. 
In the 'old days' the only time a window was closed was if we had 'smog' outside.  Smog is something that is never seen these days, and we hardly ever have fog any more, at least where we live now.  A slight mist is the most we can expect.  But of course nature can play more games and who knows what will arrive each day.  After several days of dreadful weather, today has dawned with a cloudless sky and so the garden is bathed in sunlight, and how pretty it looks with the last of the leaves on the trees all shades from green to yellow to bronze.

Am pleased to say that at long last I'm finding interest in food again. It's taken me a whole week to get back on track, just shows how 'canape corner' took it out of me.  B has invited the 'catering committee' for an evening meal here so we can discuss the social Christmas Meal.  Let us hope that this will be easier and that others can do some of the preparation (although I don't mind doing it all as long as the food is more 'bulky' rather than 'bitty'.  Large amounts of a few dishes are much, MUCH easier to prepare/cook than hundreds of individual 'bites'.

There will be a Craft Fayre at the social club this month (in two weeks I think), but will be making only jams, marmalade and probably gingerbread for that, so not a problem.  Could make more, but think I'll pace myself a bit as have our own Christmas to work towards.  But knowing me, I might just make more things - esp. as the proceeds will go to charity.

There was a recent request for recipes using oats, and so here is one that is simple to make and utterly delicious.  I'm very fond of making drop scones (aka Scotch pancakes), and the recent making of 'blinis' (mini drop scones) reminded me to start baking these 'pancakes' again, but the normal size. 
This recipe is above and beyond the basic drop scones, and best served warm (but can be frozen).  Eaten at tea-time with butter and jam, or as dessert drizzled with maple syrup or honey, we can even make and eat these fresh for breakfast (again with syrup or honey) American fashion.
As each pancake is cooked, lift them onto a cake airer that has been covered with half a clean tea-towel, then fold the other half of the towel over the pancakes to keep them warm and moist (otherwise they dry out quite rapidly).

These drop scones should be made with fine oatmeal, as I don't normally keep this in store I use porridge oats that have had a quick whizz in a blender or processor to turn them into a coarse 'flour'.
You could use other dried fruits than raisins (sultanas, finely chopped no-need-to-soak apricots or dates...).  If you don't have cream, omit this and the water and use 14 fl oz (400ml) milk.
Oat and Raisin Drop Scones: makes about 16
3 oz (75g) self-raising flour
half teaspoon baking powder
2 oz (50g) raisins (see above)
1 oz (25g) fine oatmeal (see above)
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
grated zest of 1 orange (opt)
2 egg yolks
half oz (12g) butter, melted
7 fl oz (200ml) single cream
7 fl oz (200ml) water
Sift together the flour and baking powder, then add the dried fruit, oatmeal, sugar, and orange zest (if using).  Gradually beat in the egg yolks, butter, cream and water to make a creamy batter.
Lightly grease a large, heavy frying pan or griddle, then drop rounded tablespoons of the batter onto the pan, keeping each spaced well apart.  You should be able to cook about six or seven at a time. When bubbles show on the tops of the pancakes, they are then ready to turn.  Flip each over and cook for a further couple of minutes until golden.  As each are removed, put them onto a cake airer lined with a clean cloth, then cover with a cloth to keep them warm and moist, adding more as they become ready.  Best served warm with either butter, syrup or just dusted with icing sugar.

Late finishing due to Gill's phone call (I got up too late to make an early start to my blog), so will give more 'oaty' recipes over the next few days, and probably others (without oats) as well.  So watch this space.  Hope the weather is as good for you as it is here (Gill says it is raining in Leicester - so we can't all be lucky), and if you find time, drop me a line and let me know how you are coping with the weather and rising food prices.  We can all do with sharing some more of our economy secrets.  Tomorrow can't come soon enough for me, so hope to see you then.  TTFN.