Friday, May 09, 2014

Where Next?

Don't know why but we seem obsessed with food these days.  Can't remember it being like that when I was small, perhaps we had better things to think about.  Or maybe we didn't have such a variety of foods to make meals much more interesting. 

Over the last couple of days I've been re-reading 'Ominivore' by Lyall Watson.  Basically the story of how we develop our eating from the very start of life on this earth, and how food has become more than just a means to keep us alive.

One chapter relates to pair bonding through food, and 'there is no way in which a woman can more easily express her feelings towards her mate than through the foods she prepares for him..... Domestic feeding applies not only to the mate.  A mother reaches her whole family through the medium of a meal. If she provides a particular type of food which requires special preparation or is difficult to obtain, she is expressing her love for them in a very tangible way. ....No amount of education or propaganda can ever shake the family's faith in that symbolism.  No one can ever make it quite the way mother did.'

It goes on to say how today, food advertisers are very much aware of the above and bend it to their own ends and...'there are few television commercials for food that do not have a child with a spoon in its hand, brand X in its mouth and love in its eyes for mother'.

In the final chapter it discusses the evolutionary watershed between the Age of Quality and the Age of Quantity, with the days of the gourmet being numbered, and already the big manufacturers are playing a major part using additives and preservatives to be able to move food thousands of miles and keep it in store for months.
'Prefabricated heat-and-eat meals have to be specially synthesized and treated with sequestrant chemicals that keep fats and oils from becoming rancid. Emulsifying agents have to be added to have foods homogenize. Anticaking chemicals are added to sugar, salt, and milk powder to keep them from clumping.......and all these impurities are concealed behind obscure polysyllables like butylate4d hydroxyanisole and sorbitan monostearate in the small print on the back label.  They masquerade as additives, suggesting that the consumer if getting something extra for his money rather than being deprived of the original flavour and food value.'

If nothing else this proves that home-cooking is the way to go.  Not only can we control the quality and quantity of the foods we prepare and cook, we also gain the love of our family by doing so.  Well, let us hope we do, although to me it has always seemed that good food served is often taken for granted (by the rest of the family) with no thought to how much time and trouble it has taken to make.  Perhaps it is 'out of sight, out of mind', and just because a bought ready-meal only needs heating in the microwave, and few people stand and watch a cook in action,  home-made foods also seem to magically appear with such ease. 

Since my Beloved has taken to cooking his own stir-fry supper, the first time this should have taken less than 10 minutes including preparation of veggies, but took him 45 minutes (!!!), he has now been able to cook the meal in just over 5 minutes (but only because I've got all the veggies ready for him to use.  He likes to chop some using his small cleaver, but these are only a chunk of bell pepper, half an onion, a stick of celery, and a piece of ginger.  The sugar snap peas, cauliflower, carrots, and sweetcorn I've already simmered for about 4 minutes (then drained and refreshed under cold water) so they are not so crunchy.  Even the meat has been prepared for him.  So it's just a matter of putting frying everything in the right order.

Initially B would chop his first veg, then put it in the wok before preparing the second veg, and then the third and he would panic because the first veggies were cooked before he'd really make a proper start, he just didn't seem to understand that EVERYTHING had to be 'prepped' before he starts frying. But he's got the hang of it now. 

It's so easy to assume that everyone can read a recipe and then get right on and cook the chosen dish, but it takes an experienced cook to understand the whys and wherefores.  Weights and measures are not crucial when it comes to many savoury dishes, but timing could be.  On the other hand, when slow-cooking, an extra minute or two (or even an hour) probably doesn't make that much difference.

If I was a young mum again, and had enough money, I'd probably rely a lot more on the 'ready-prepared' (by this I mean buying bags of prepared vegetables, washed ice-berg salad leaves, washed new potatoes, even mashed potatoes, rather than preparing from scratch.  All desserts would probably be bought ready-made.  I'd probably go down the road of buying baby foods and disposable nappies.  Thank goodness I'm not now young and able to understand how much it would have cost me had I gone down that route.  Probably why I've never even thought of doing so now.  It would be so easy to buy a ready-made dessert, but always ALWAYS my first thought is 'how much would it cost?', and then 'how much cheaper would it be if I made it myself?', and you can guess the rest. 

A good idea of yours Ali to include the Scandinavian crisp breads (such as Ryvita?) in the food bank allocations, but as not listed they would come under 'treats' I suppose.  As you say, the foods that are supplied would definitely be improved with the addition of herbs and spices (and onions!!).

Hazel mentions much the same, and I'm pretty sure that stock cubes, tomato puree, dried herbs etc are donated from time to time, but as not regularly they again would be given as 'treats'.

When it comes to having a small supply of 'storing food' at the workplace (to nibble when lunch has been forgotten to be taken), oatcakes are a good idea, also Ryvita, and possible some tubes of cheese spread to smear over them. Some of my favourite nibbles (if you can call them that) are rice cakes.  I like Tesco's salt and vinegar flavoured.  They are as large as those chocolate Wagon Wheels, and fairly thick.  I spread these with cream cheese, often eating half a dozen as my supper (they are low in calories).  Maybe jars of meat/fish paste would also be useful to keep at work, the small jars only hold enough for one meal, spread over several biccies. .  
Nigella Lawson is known to always carry a tube of Colman's mustard in her handbag, and this would also be a useful addition to 'work stores', also to the 'food parcels'.

Today cooked the belly pork - this had first has the skin removed then left to marinate overnight in a lovely Oriental sauce (made by mixing Hoisin sauce with honey, soy sauce, and tomato ketchup).  Slow cooked the pork in the marinade for 3 hours (at 140C) it came out beautifully tender.  After draining off the marinade into a small pan it was then boiled down  until it was thick and syrupy, this then spread over the pork and I popped it under the grill until it had made a sticky glaze (it could have been cooked at 200C in the oven for 20 minutes but I decided the grill was taster).  A tub of the marinade has been left so that is now in the fridge and will be used tomorrow as the Oriental sauce to pour into the wok when B makes his stir-fry.  Some of the pork will also be chopped and added, the rest of the pork will be frozen.  Think this pork might be similar to the 'char sui' that is often mentioned on the Chinese take-away menus. 

As Mary says, most people do have odds and ends in their store cupboards, and am pretty sure that even those who don't cook at all will keep brown sauce (HP), and tomato ketchup, vinegar and salt and pepper somewhere handy as these are almost essential to add to burgers and fish and chips that have been bought 'out'  to take home to eat. 

Am not feeling guilty about the missing tea/coffee in my £5 list for as I said - we always have water to drink.  At this very moment have a large glass of water by my side, and I keep having a sip.  It's only when we are 'deprived' of what we normally drink that we feel we are missing out.  I have tea and coffee in the kitchen, also a box of red wine and a box of white wine (bought for cooking but B tends to drink these), not to mention milk, and some unopened cartons of fruit juice, yet still I choose to drink water, and as I do so am now thinking that even this shouldn't be taken for granted - there are many people in other parts of the globe who don't even have clean water to drink.   And I'm not thinking of those in the Third World, but many affluent countries have tap water that is not drinkable, so have to resort to using bottled water.  

There was a really good article in the Daily Mail this Friday, about halal meat.  Written by a devout Muslim, who explained that meat does not have to be killed the halal way (no mention of that in the Koran), but a prayer has to be said, and so any meat (with the exception of pork) can be eaten in any household (Christian or any other faith) as long as a prayer is given prior to eating the meat when served at a meal. It is the prayer that is important, and can be said at a meal in much the same way Christians say grace.   The article is well worth reading, and am sure it will be on the Daily Mail website (9th May).

It's now after midnight, so already Saturday, and tonight will be going to the spiritualist church with my neighbour, so although I'll be taking a day (maybe two) off writing my blog, hope I'll have something interesting to tell you when I return.  Now that the days are getting longer and the dawn chorus wakes me at first light, I'm now tending to rise earlier so might return to writing my blog early rather than later in the day.   So if you are an early reader, apologise if you find you may have to wait and hour or two before my blog appears on your screen.  Even now not quite sure whether to continue writing late, just have to play it by ear.

We've had some miserable weather these last few days, rain and more rain, with quite high winds and it has turned very cold again.  I'd switched the heating off, intending to switch it back on again in October, but yesterday put it back on again for a couple or so hours in the morning and again at night. It seems silly at our age to have to sit and shiver under blankets and put on fleece jackets to try and keep ourselves warm when all we have to do is turn the heating on again.  With this winter being a particularly mild one, we never had the heating on all day as we have done over past winters, so we haven't used as much gas, and we pay the same amount each month by direct debit we have built up quite a bit of credit over the year. 

Anyway, time for me to take my leave.  Hope you all have a lovely weekend and I'll be back again shortly.  TTFN. xx