Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Making a Start

Just popping in for a quick chat as I won't be blogging tomorrow (then - hopefully - back again on Friday).

A reminder to those who enjoy Nella Last's books, that the prog. 'Housewife 49" is on ITV3 tonight (Freeview 10) at 9.00pm.  I've watched it several times, and hope it doesn't clash with anything else so I can watch it again.  Even if readers are not familiar with her writing (wartime diaries of her life) am sure they will enjoy watching this programme, especially as Victoria Wood plays Nella (anything with Victoria Wood in it is worth watching - as is anything with Julia Walters, who is in 'Jury' the programme that follows the one above).

Am having to rethink my approach to cooking as it is becoming more and more obvious (watching TV progs) that there are so many people now who have no idea of how to cook at all.  Yet I still believe that those who wish to, will find a way to learn.  After all, I was 40 before I really understood anything about cooking, and this only because I was forced to learn to cook from scratch (because I'd run out of money).  Previous to that I HAD served home-cooked meals, but always the plain and simple, with no knowledge of how to make bread, pasta, yogurt, and all the little 'necessities' that we normally buy. When your stores are close to running out you either have to learn how to make using the very little left (such as flour), or starve.  In those days there were no 'foodbanks', and perhaps just as well or I'd never have learned enough to start me on the road to where I have arrived now.

Unfortunately, the more nutritional knowledge that we are given can often make life more difficult for novice cooks.   I've just been reading a long article about our 'five-a-day' - which seems fairly simple until I discover that some foods should be twinned with another to get the best from both.  I did know that our bodies can absorb more iron from iron-rich foods when taken with Vit. C, but never got further than drinking orange juice when eating an egg (at breakfast for instance).  Knowing that we can gain more iron from spinach when eaten with Vit-C rich fruit or veg (lemons, oranges, peppers...) widens my cookery horizons I suppose.   
Anyone who enjoys eating broad beans should also eat parsley as the two together helps our bodies to absorb the essential whatevers.  Is that why - in the old days - broad beans used to be served with parsley sauce?  And I bet then the nutritional reason was not known, it was that they just tasted good together.  Perhaps that's nature's way to get us to eat the right things - if they 'go well together' then they do us good.

The article also has a page showing 30 different fruits and vegetables, each with the correct amount for our 'five-a-day'.  Many are what I call 'expensive' (asparagus, avocado, grapes, melon...) and it annoys me that if I eat half an avocado, that counts as one of the 'five', but eating the whole avocado won't count as 2 of the 'five'. 

It seems harder these days to eat at least five-a-day (and that is the minimum - the recommended amount is seven, and in Italy I understand they eat 12 - just because they grow so much fresh fruit and veg I suppose).
Maybe summer meals - all those salads - will give us our recommended amount (lettuce, celery, tomato, cucumber, radishes, bell peppers, mushrooms....) without even having to think much about it.  We also have plenty of fresh fruits around at this time (summer berries etc).  Baked beans also count, but annoyingly potatoes DON'T (although 1 large sweet potato does).

My mind goes back to pre-war (and post-war days) when little was known about nutrition other than serving 'meat and two veg' plus pudding seemed to be the order of the day.  Even then, suppose we did get our 'five-a-day' with prunes (to keep us regular) for breakfast, carrots, onions, and maybe a green veg with our main meal of meat (we always had spuds but as I said, they don't count), an apple a day (keeps the doctor away) as a snack, probably a tomato or cucumber sarnie at tea-time, and not forgetting the fruit puddings for 'afters'.
In those days it seemed the rule was always to serve 'a balanced meal', and that's what my mother did. Like all of use old enough to remember, how those meals were boring compared to the dishes we have learned to cook since then.  But at least the 'old-style' were healthy, what we got was what we needed, nothing more, nothing less (other than wartime rations when we did get less - but still got enough to keep us well).  How different it is today when we now seem to live to eat, rather than eat to live. 

I'd be interested in hearing reader's views on the nutritional advice given today.  Maybe experienced cooks already know it, or at least have learned enough to understand what is going on.  Novice cooks I'm sure would be put off cooking anything when faced with too much information.  Who can blame anyone for preferring to buy a ready-meal when all the work (including the 'balance' of ingredients) has been done by someone else.  All I can say is thank goodness I learned to cook before the supermarkets arrived in this country.

We give a welcome to Mo who has sent her first comment.  Hope to hear from you again Mo. It is good to have different views on the various foodie subjects I chat about. Especially good to know I'm not always right!!

Did watch an earlier series of The Hungry Sailors Sairy, but so far have not yet watched this new series.  Thanks for the tip about how to extend the washing up detergent.  Every penny saved soon mounts up.

At the time my series was on TV Pam, I did record the programmes, but somehow the cassette (tape) got recorded over by one of the family, so I lost them.  Not that I enjoyed watching myself, so perhaps better they disappeared.  I'd also set the recorder to tape the live Pebble Mill at One progs and also Bazarre when I was appearing on these shows, but somehow these tapes too have disappeared.  Anyway, cassette tapes seem now obsolete, everything is on CD or is it DVD or maybe I'm still behind and we now record on something else (like the TV set itself?). We only seem to catch up and decide to buy when things have gone out of fashion, so have stopped buying recording equipment altogether.

Received the latest copy of Lakeland the other day and very pleased to see they now have a slow cooker that also does 'sous-vide', and FAR cheaper than the original sous-vide appliance they had before.  Only problem when cooking at the very low temperature for sous-vide is that we also need a vacuum-pack appliance to bag the food to be cooked, and this - at the moment - is dearer than the slow-cooker.   I have seen several cooks tightly roll chicken etc, in clingfilm, twisting the ends tightly to close (and some also tie the ends with string), then slow-cook/poach them, so maybe this could be a cheaper way to 'sous-vide'.  Am sure Les would be the man to tell us if this cling-wrap suggestion of mine would work.

Well, have had my chat (longer than intended but enjoyed every minute of it), so now much pop outside and re-pot my lemon and avocado 'trees' that are fast outgrowing their pots.  I understand that lemons need pruning in the spring, but may have to do this now as the lemon (grown from a pip) is now about 4 ft high, with just one long stem, and a small offshoot branch very much lower down.  It doesn't look attractive the way it is now, so I won't miss the bit taken off.  Who knows, if I shove the top bit into the soil at the side of the original plant it may even root.   

A gardener once told me that geranium cuttings root more easily when pushed into the soil at the sides of the pot that held the 'mother' plant.  It's nice to know that the 'babies' thrive better with a guiding hand from mother hovering close nearby.   Perhaps many other plant cuttings also grow better when in close proximity to their 'parent'.

One way to prevent 'leggy' seedlings, usually grown indoors on windowsills where they strive to reach the light, is to gently brush the seedlings back and forth with the hand, once or twice a day.  This gives them similar conditions that they would get if grown outdoors with the wind blowing over them, so they grow sturdier to cope with this 'stress'.  I've tried it, and it does work.

Well, that's it for today.  No blog tomorrow as Norma the Hair will be here early, and I may go out afterwards.  Should be back on Friday (if I've got anything interesting to day). 
So far a reasonable day, cloudy but fairly bright.  Had a real 'thunder headache' yesterday (this feels like I've a pile of house bricks sitting on top of my head), but apart from slight showers of rain and a very distant rumble of thunder, barely noticeable, we had none of the storms that the rest of the country seemed to have suffered with.  My headache disappeared after the 'rumble', so it probably was a storm some miles away, but hopefully not a bad one.

Two of the baby seagulls seem now to have flown the nest (or rather flown the roof) but one still there sitting sulkily alone, perhaps not yet sure what to do.  Let us hope its mother doesn't forget it, or perhaps if she does this will make it decide to take its first flight.

Whatever the weather throws at us today, there are more high pressures over the continent that appear to be moving our way, so once this rain belt has moved up and over, we may be back to more sunny days again. Let us hope so.  

Enjoy your day, hope to meet up with you again on Friday.  TTFN.