Thursday, March 20, 2014

One Thought Leads to Another...

It's funny how, when something comes into my mind, this leads me to asking questions (B is very knowledgeable), and when I recently saw a programme on the finding of the skeleton of King Richard III (when they dug up a car-park in Leicester), was wondering why bones last so long. 
This led to the discussion of minerals in our bodies, and B was reminded of: CHONSPCAKFeMg (th letters that stand for all the minerals that make up the human body).  In a way we are just a collections of chemicals (plus some vitamins and a great deal of water).   As are all animals and many plants.  No wonder we call it 'Mother Earth' for that's what we are made from - and nothing else.

On quite a different track, when watching the US version of 'Taste', noticed the French chef - who was wearing a short sleeved shirt - had both arms completely tattooed.  This was never seen in the English version, so perhaps they preferred his arms covered up. 

At one time, the only people who were tattooed were sailors.  Now it has become very fashionable, and we often see people who have been tattooed over all their visible part of their body (and probably the rest as well).  Anyone who read a recent 'ramble' of mine on this subject will understand when I say I am now giving the name of 'Living Lampshades' to those pictorially clad.

With so much interest in that book 'Fifty Shades of Grey' (I've yet to read it), am now thinking it might be fun to write a book on cooking with a similar title.  How about 'Fifteen Shades of Gravy'?
It makes sense, for it is amazing how many different types of gravy can be made:  clear, opaque, thick, thin, 'jus', syrupy, all can be made using a different meat (beef, pork, lamb, venison, turkey, chicken, duck.....).

To be serious.  Today (at the time of writing it is still Wednesday) received my copy of Garden Organic's magazine.   In it was a handful of leaflets, one of which I found interesting to read.  It gave info on a charity that had come up with a solution that turns floodwater into a source of food.  Aimed at the Bangladesh communities who suffer from monsoons that wash away anything they are trying to grow,  they now use the flood water to hold cages made of bamboo and netting that hold small fish that grow to full size in a very few months, then produce more fish - some of this being sold and some to keep the family fed nutritiously.

If this can happen abroad, why can't we do something similar in this country?  Not necessarily because of our flooding (my thoughts even turned to growing rice if flooding happens more often), but in the Fen areas where there are a lot of dykes.  Our country also has a lot of rivers and other waterways, so why not put them to good use?
As I said to B, there would be some person who would say that confining fish to a small, netted area would be 'cruelty to animals', and apparently the Thames is not now being dredged as it used to be (to help get rid of excess flood water) because there is a rare species of mussels growing there (mind you, there are thousands of them along the river, so not really 'rare').  Better we let the land get flooded and people lose their homes than dredge up some shellfish. 
Anyway, if they were dredged up, couldn't they be dumped somewhere else?

The 'do-gooders' can often get things horribly wrong.  Anyone remember that time when a group of 'goodies' broke into a mink farm and set free all the minks?  Now they have become a pest, killing off many of our natural species along the river-banks.   Not necessarily because of that (but it might be) wearing real fur became a real no-no, and only artificial fur coats, hats, stoles etc were worn. People used to burn their fur coats rather than wear them.  This I think is a pity, for then the creature died for nothing. 

In our living room we have a big skin run (think it is cow, white with brown patches), and probably taken from a steer/cow killed for meat.  Although not every time I look at it/walk over it, I think of its origin, but when I do I like to think 'this cow did not die in vain, it still gives pleasure'.
However, it did cause a bit of a problem when we were selling the Leeds house as we had many Asian viewers, several who asked if the rug was cow, because in one of the Indian religions the cow is sacred, so they did not wish to tread on the skin.

Many people respect animals so much that many won't even eat their flesh (vegans won't use any part of animals, and must cause great difficulty for them because most strong glues are made from animal bones, used to bind books, glue furniture, fabrics, and almost everything else that needs to be glued together).

Sometimes I feel we can be a bit hypocritical when it comes to animal welfare.  If we care so much then we really shouldn't even swat a fly, and this brings me to my own predicament (I love animals and will never kill a spider...), the slugs we have in the garden, that also come into the house.  B kills these by sprinkling them with salt.
Apparently, because of the mild winter and all the rain, this year we will have LOADS of slugs, with worse to come, as in 2012 - for the first time - the Spanish slug was discovered in a garden in Norfolk.
This slug can grow to 15cm (is that 6"?) and produces twice as many eggs as our native species, it also enjoys a more varied diet including crops not normally susceptible to slug damage.
The above mag has an interesting article re this and says that there could be a possible Spanish slug infestation due to its presence in unusually large numbers (more than 100 in a small garden).
Newly hatched slugs will likely to be seen in groups of ten or more, and have two dark lines down their backs.

Although not said, possibly the first slugs arrived in this country with imported vegetables, and - like the minks - once they got away could now cause a great deal of damage and maybe difficult to get rid of if 'cruelty to animals' raises an objection.
SlugWatch UK is keen to find out how widespread the Spanish slug has become, so please report sightings.  For further details visit

A thanks to all who sent comments.  A welcome to Chris.F. who did some comparison costings of loose v pre-packed broccoli.  An interesting result that shows how we really need to check and never take anything for granted.  
Buying on-line still allows us to choose as almost everything (including canned foods) has the price given 'per 100g', so we can still choose whether to buy loose or pre-packed fruit/veggies etc.

Margie gave us interesting facts on offal available in Canada (and of course in the UK).  When it comes to liver, ox liver has a very strong flavour, but does make a good pate.  Lamb's liver is cheaper and much milder - B's favourite.  Calves liver is the mildest of all, extremely tender, but - here at least - very expensive. 

Once a cook has gained some experience, it is not always necessary to follow a recipe exactly (although with some cakes it probably is better to do so).  As I always say, Granny G. use a recipe as a guide, so we can improvise using ingredients that have reached their 'use-by and best-before' dates (although I tend to ignore these, preferring to do the 'sniff and taste' test to check they are still edible).

A welcome to Lizzie who is another reader who lives in Australia.  Thanks for giving that link.
Have to say that I haven't tested ALL the recipes that I give (but a good percentage of them), but have enough experience to know that they will work, even though will have adapted them slightly to suit my purposes (using less meat, more veggies etc to keep the costs down).

There are many foods that neither B nor myself enjoy eating, but knowing that there will be readers who DO like these (although I don't know what foods these would be) I try to include as many different ingredients as I can, offering alternatives/substitutes so that the recipe could suit most, rather than just a few. 
Just thinking about this has reminded me of a good friend of mine who would never cook fish because she said she didn't like to eating it, and even though her husband occasionally asked for fish, she still wouldn't buy any because - I  suppose - she hadn't thought of cooking what her husband wished and then making a different meal for herself.  Her lord and master was of the age when men always left domestic duties to the wife, so would never cook a meal for himself. 

Well, rambled on far too long as it is now well into Thursday, and so forgive me for not giving recipes this time, you'll have to make do with the info on slugs.  Well, you can't have everything).
All being well, should be back again writing my evening blog in another 23 hours.

Oh yes, before I go - something interesting happened.  While watching TV - early evening - the electrics went off, but only for a split second before coming back on again.  This - fortunately didn't upset the oven clock so it didn't need resetting.  We live in a detached house that has been turned into two apartments, ours on the ground floor, the other upstairs (first floor).  Our 'upstairs' neighbour called round to tell us his electricity was off (as had happened in some of the other houses in our street), and had to wait for the electricity board to get it fixed.  Why we weren't cut off surprised us, our house must then be connected to two different cables in the street (fortunately for us).

It rained today and - horrors - frost is forecast for some areas so lets hope that doesn't mean us or our pear blossom might be ruined.  At my time of life have got past caring.  All I wish for is to wake up each morning to discover I haven't died in the night.   With that joyful thought am hoping I'll be here blogging again tomorrow.  See you then - I hope!