Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Too Much Time?

My mind keeps harking back to the past when I can remember when food did not have such an important place in our lives as today.  Perhaps it was because people worked longer hours, with a six and a half day working week,  so cooking was counted as an uninteresting domestic 'chore', to be done as quickly as possible.  

Even though in those days women with children stayed at home, without the technology we have now, it took many hours to do the washing (like all day!), the ironing (half a day), cleaning the house (all week), and shopping (took several hours if no tradesman came to the door),  so there was little time to think about what to make for supper that night, far easier to do what everyone else did in those days, cook a roast on Sunday, then use up the leftovers the rest of the week (bar fish on Friday and egg and chips on Saturday). 

Now we seem to have too many hours to twiddle our thumbs (yes, we do - think of the hours we spend in front of TV's, computers etc). What took a day for my mother to wash and (hopefully) dry her laundry, this can now be done in not much more than an hour.

Having said all that, it does seem because we now have such variety of foods to choose from (many of those now imported that my mother had never even heard of), that we have a chance to really enjoy the foods we eat.  Trouble is we want to enjoy every meal, every snack, so tend to spoil ourselves, and like anything else - when we can eat what we want when we want - taking something for granted removes the pleasure of having something to look forward to. 

Did anyone watch the 'new' Supercrimpers 2013' yesterday evening?  I was very disappointed as most of it seemed to be snippets taken from previous series.  The 'living on £50 a week' food challenge was the best bit, although we didn't see most of what was bought, the home-cooked meals looked rather unappetising. 
Am still of the opinion that having a 'take-away' now and again is good because this gives the cook a day off (home-cooking is just as much 'work' as any other, and who would go out to work without expecting at least one day off?). Suggesting we cook a similar 'take-away' at home could make life even more tiring for the cook.  
Dining out (on the cheap) also didn't seem THAT necessary.  Perhaps having a take-away would have been almost 'as good as',  and work out cheaper than the meal in the 'caff' (or was it restaurant?).  Or why not combine both and 'dine' at one of those Chinese restaurants where you can 'eat as much as you like' for a set price (often incredibly cheap)? 

Much emphasis - and money - seems to be spent these days taking children to theme parks etc. Superscrimpers touched on this. Am trying to remember how we used to amuse our children when they were small.  Think the only trips 'out' were to a local zoo, or maybe the local cinema.  No TV in our house in the early days of marriage.
Children seemed far able to amuse themselves in the old days, especially with their siblings or friends.  Those who have read the Arthur Ransome books (Swallow and Amazons), or 'Just William', and the numerous Enid Blyton books, will remember how good a time children used to have in those days.  The stories may have been fiction, but most of it based on real 'life.
Today our 'nanny state' - with its numerous 'elf and safety rules and regs - seem to want to prevent children having the freedom and fun they used to have.  They are not allowed to 'do things' in case they hurt themselves, when - as far as we all know - in the past, no child ever got hurt doing it in the first place.
Not a lot I can do about it though, so had better plod on with my own life and be glad I do have some happy memories of 'how it used to be'.  

Today have been a very good girl.  Got up early (about 5.15am) and shortly after baked a tray of flapjack, followed by a tray-bake fruit cake.  Couldn't cook both at the same time as the oven temperature needed to be different.  Even so, it was lovely sitting in the kitchen with the gorgeous smell of 'cake' wafting around, and was able to do all the washing up, tidy up, and prepare other ingredients for my next batch of baking.

Came to sit in front of the comp at 7.00am, but there were so many emails that needed my attention (replies etc), it was almost a couple of hours later that I began writing my blog, so not really had the early start at the comp. that I hoped for, on the other hand, no need now to make cakes once I've published.   It is ALWAYS so much easier to do baking as early in the day as possible, for by mid-morning I quite honestly don't feel like doing it at all.  So usually don't.
The smell of cakes still hanging around, and that's an extra bonus (at least for me) although the aroma is making my B unhappy as he's been told the cakes are for the 'gathering' at the Foodbank this coming Thursday, and he has been forbidden to touch them.   

Yesterday cooked a batch of Spag.Bol. meat sauce.  Beloved had some with pasta penne for his supper.  The rest has made a couple more meals, chilled overnight and will be frozen today (although I might have one as I didn't have any yesterday).  It really does help to have the 'readies' in the freezer as recently I've got quite fed-up of having to cook B a meal every night, especially as I usually eat something different (and easier to make - like a salad with tuna, or cheese/hardboiled eggs etc).  Sometimes I have my 'main meal' at lunch-time, then very little else later, other than fresh fruit (doesn't need much preparation). 

Beloved keeps suggesting he will cook his own supper, but still doesn't seem interested in learning how to, other than perhaps manage to get himself a bacon sarnie, with or without a fried egg, maybe open a can of soup, and once or twice made himself a Chinese stir-fry (as long as I've prepared all the ingredients ready for him to put into the wok).  He also likes sardines on toast, but makes nothing more than what I call a 'snack'.  Making a 'real meal' still is beyond him, and he doesn't really seem to feel the need to try harder.  So 'ready-meals' will be a boon. Am sure he will soon learn how to reheat these.

Having - rarely - left B alone for more than a few days (when on holiday etc), have discovered that although I had left meals for him in the freezer, he never ate any, bought himself takeaways, or 'managed' to get someone to invite him to supper.  Or - even better - invite him out to eat at a restaurant! 
Men are very good at getting ladies to feel sorry for them.  It's our 'mother instinct' I suppose.  I feel the same stirrings when I meet a man whose wife is no longer around (for one reason or another), worrying that he isn't feeding himself properly, and inviting him round for a 'good meal'. 

Pushing men firmly to the back of my mind, must concentrate on today's recipes.
The other week there was a mention of a 'jellied salad' (often served in the US I believe).  I've made them myself in the past, and they really are nice.  Perhaps more for summer eating than winter, but good when entertaining as individual ones make a good starter.
Here is a recipe to make a similar dish - perfect for buffets (even winter ones).   Once you get the idea of how it comes together,  you can then experiment.  Myself like to make a 'sweet and savoury jelly' by making up the 'base' jelly with a flavoured one.  Maybe a lemon jelly or a pineapple.  This saves messing around with gelatine (not that there is a problem with that, but using the ready-flavoured bought jellies speed things up). 
As the recipe is tomato based, you may wish to spark it up with a dash of Tabasco.  But before venturing into the realms of the 'spicy', first taste the recipe as it stands.  You may prefer it as -is.

This dish is lovely served with a Lemon Rice Salad (recipe also given) piled in the hole in the centre of the 'ring', and served with a salad of your choice, and with maybe cold meats or cheese and crusty bread as part of a buffet, really does 'ring' the changes'.
Canned plum tomatoes are used instead of the already chopped. This because these' have much more flavour and colour.  Once upon a time the 'plums' were more expensive per can than when chopped, now are the same price.
If you wish to make it less 'rich', use half mayo and half Greek yogurt.

Jellied Tomato Ring: serves 8
2 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
half oz (15g/1 sachet) gelatine
1 tblsp hot water
5 fl oz (150ml) single cream
half pint (300ml) mayonnaise
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
half a green bell pepper, chopped
half a yellow bell pepper, chopped
half a cucumber, peeled and diced
3 ribs celery, finely sliced
1 egg white, stiffly beaten
Put the canned tomatoes (with the juice) in a food processor or liquidiser. Blitz to make a puree, then pour this into a bowl. 
Put the hot water into a cup, sprinkle over the gelatine and leave for a few minutes until it has begun to dissolve, then stir.  When completely dissolved, pour into the tomatoes, then stir in the cream.
Whisk the mayonnaise into the tomato mixture along with the lemon juice, adding seasoning to taste, then stir in the prepared vegetables, finally folding in the beaten egg white.
Pour into a 9" (23cm) wetted ring-mould, then place in the fridge for several hours until set.  Turn out onto a serving platter and fill centre with Lemon Rice Salad, or what you will.

This rice salad is a lovely golden colour as the turmeric is bleached slightly by using lemon juice. Instead of the pine nuts you could use finely chopped cashew or almonds, or include sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
Lemon Rice Salad: serves 4
8 oz (225g) basmati rice, well rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp turmeric
1" (2.5cm) piece of fresh root ginger, peeled/grated
juice of half a lemon
2 oz (50g) pine nuts
6 spring onions (or 2 shallots) chopped
Measure the rice and put in a pan with just under two measure of water to one of rice. Tuck in the bay leaf and stir in the turmeric and ginger. Bring to the boil and boil for 8 - 10 minutes or until the rice is tender.   Drain, then leave to cool slightly before adding the lemon juice, pine nuts and onions.
Chill before serving.

We had a heavy frost last night, but so far the snow has decided to settle elsewhere.  According to the weather map, not that far away, but - unfortunately - not in Morecambe.  There will be plenty of people glad about that, so I shouldn't really complain.
Other parts of the country have not been so lucky, with quite deep snow in some parts, so let's hope that this doesn't disrupt those who read this blog. 

As you say Marjorie, keeping a good variety of ready-meals in our freezers is always a good idea, especially when illness strikes the cook, or unexpected guests arrive.

Good that some of your 'Approved Food' purchases were able to be used for short notice 'catering' jane. Proves that keeping a good selection of 'dry goods' means that when caught on the hop we can usually - and often quickly - turn them into something really worth eating.

Drinking before a meal would certainly help to fill us up Sarina, though have to say the idea doesn't appeal to me (although I really ought to try it).  Perhaps fizzy drinks would make us eat even less, although now - allegedly - carbonated drinks are not supposed to be good for us.  Can't say I would wish to have a cold drink before a meal this weather, but perhaps a thin and hot soup would work in the same way, giving us more nourishment than just water, and perhaps when eaten with some crusty granary bread would take the place of a 'real meal'.

Do agree with you Jane W. re the 'traffic light' labelling, although have a feeling I might now take more notice of the 'red', but whether it would stop me buying, I cannot now say.  When ordering on-line am not able to check what's on the labels anyway, so if the supermarkets/manufacturers find some products are left on the shelves because of the 'red' labelling, they may try to persuade customers to start shopping on-line (perhaps offering reduced-price delivery).  It could be that many offers will now be of the 'red label' variety.  It will be interesting to see what happens. 

Can't say that I take too much notice of the front of can 'info' that shows the levels of carbos, salt, sugar etc.  Sometimes I do read the nutritional guide on the reverse of the can, mainly to check the salt content, and if too high (it rarely is), then might not buy the same again.  Most brands have the same nutritional content, it is only the flavour (baked beans etc) that varies, and this then tends to be reflected in the price.  We are not so interested in the actual food product, it is the taste that matters most, and better this is, the more expensive it will be.  This is what I mean - we now prefer to spend our money 'living to eat' (because we feel the need to enjoy what we eat), rather than buying food so that we can 'eat to live'. 

There are some people I've met who have lost their sense of smell.  Others have lost their sense of taste. Probably there are folk who have lost both, and have a feeling that they probably eat very little (compared to the average today), as for them it would be more 'having to', rather than 'wanting to'.  I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but then - maybe - because of this, they could end up very healthy.   Every cloud etc...

Despite an early start, seems I've got into the habit of tapping the keyboard until well after 11.00am. Really not a good idea, there has to be more to life than just 'talking to myself' (this, I suppose, is what writing a blog really is).  At least happy in the knowledge there are a few of you still out there happy to 'listen' and 'chat back'. 
Obviously now time for me to take my leave.  Today sees the start of another week (and there was me thinking today was Sunday - all days are the same to me), so hope you all have a good one, and find time to 'drop in' to the Goode life, and spill the beans all about yours.   Hope to meet you again tomorrow - so, see you then.