Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Men from Mars, Women from Venus?

Was not really surprised when I heard on the news today that there is 20% more domestic abuse after a sporting contest (partic. football) when England have lost.   Mentioned this to B and asked why? He replied that men always get upset and over emotional when their home team lose (presumably only men who follow sport). 
Brought back memories when I used to work in the local pub, and prayed that Leicester would win their Saturday match, for is so the landlord was on cloud nine, nice as pie.  When they lost he was always in a foul temper.  Not abusive, but not nice to be near.

Now that women are expected to be equal with men, perhaps we should also allow ourselves some 'sporty emotion) and said to B that perhaps he should keep out of my way as I could be wielding my rolling pin if Andy Murray doesn't win Wimbledon!  Just joking!  After all it's only a sport.  There are worse things happening in the world to get emotional about, but in a controlled way.  Harsh words (and deeds) butter no parsnips as the saying goes.

One thing I forgot to mention about those chicken meatballs at 'Hey Meatball' (in Toronto) was that they were served on bed of pureed potatoes.  Very definitely a puree, the spuds looked very sloppy, and not a lot different in texture to the mushroom sauce (aka 'gravy'), served on top of the meatballs.  Pasta would have been a much better (more traditional) way to accompany the chicken 'balls' and the mushroom sauce would then be perfect, but probably this 'diner' wanted to serve things differently, and as the customers really liked the dish, then who am I to criticise?

Yes, do remember 'pass the orange' game Hazel.  Think, during the war we did the same game using small balloons (as then no oranges due to rationing).  If I remember they did 'passing the balloon' as one of the games in the Christmas episode of 'The Good Life'

One game I remember, suitable more for keeping one or two children occupied rather than at a party, was to fill a matchbox with as many different things as possible.  Surprisingly it can be hundreds. Start with a grain of rice, a crystal of sugar, on split red lentil.....you get the idea.  Keeps them occupied for hours.

Had a vision of you hiding under the piano Granny G.  Let us hope it was a baby grand, the space under an upright is mighty small.   A good place to hid is in a wardrobe, behind all the clothes, especially long ones so legs can'[t be seen.  When I hid there the children never found me, even though they slid the doors open and moved a few clothes (I was tucked in the corner - and a lot thinner in those days - or should I say 'slimmer', I was never thin).

Watched two interesting programmes this evening.  The first was Jamie's Money Saving Meals,  the second was Benefits Britain - life on the dole.
Jamie's cookery prog was - as ever - very good, but not would I would call 'money-saving', although could see how it worked that way.  Problem with me is that I would have to see a meal demonstrated that would cost less than £1 to consider it thrifty.  Generally Jamie didn't go much lower than £1.50 for a portion, and often quite a lot more.

Maybe that IS low cost by todays standards, and I'm still living in the past when people didn't eat quite so much and not so many ingredients were used.  I'd like to hear from as many readers as possible as to what they think merits being called 'money-saving', not necessarily an actual dish, just how much they feel it should cost.   Even if not commented before (and never again), the more readers that are kind enough to let me know what they think would really help me to give recipes that would fit into today's cookery world.

The second programme was depressing.  This episode mainly about families that had several children.  One man fathered a LOT (by 10 different women I believe), and seemed to be claiming benefits for all.
There seemed to be only one lady - who had six children all fathered by the same man, but he never made an appearance - seemed to have a fairly stable family life.  All the children seemed happy enough and well cared for.  In all the cases it seemed the accommodation was too small, as two or more children had to share a room.  The parents were demanding larger council houses with more bedrooms to accommodate the family - and many were getting them.

Reminded me of my Beloved's childhood home.  A terrace house where you walked into the front room from the street (no hall).  This room was used by his grandma.  The back room was lived in by the rest of the family - two parents (father working), five boys and one girl.  A tiny kitchen (more a scullery, and no bathroom (they bathed in a tin bath in front of the fire).  The loo was outside, next to the coal shed. 
The oldest boys slept in the upstairs front bedroom that held two double beds, so the boys slept two to a bed.  The youngest son (my B) slept in the smallest bedroom with his older sister.  The parents slept in the middle bedroom.
Yet, from what B said, this was common in those days, and they had a reasonably happy childhood. When I first met B and later was taken to meet his family I really enjoyed it, even though the room was full to bursting once the table was laid for tea and we all sat round to eat (and later played cards).  Much more fun than my own home which was large, had all the amenities, and a miserable atmosphere as my mum and dad always seemed to be having 'words' and much of the time never spoke to each other - I was the messenger boy sometimes taking written notes from on to t'other and waiting for a reply.

It was noticeable that several of the houses had large plasma TVs, and some of the bedrooms also had a TV for the older children.  Also it seemed that they were able to afford cars.  Yet many of them had been on benefits most of their married life.   From snippets seen from another episode, several of the people said they were better off living on the dole, and had no intention of giving up benefits.
Maybe the benefit system makes things a little too easy for some.  Not all - for often people have become unemployed through no fault of their own and have to rely on benefits until they can get more work. It is just those that abuse the system that is of concern.  And there are many.

As I've mentioned before, my Beloved can't resist a bargain when he shops at Morrison's, and the other day he came home with a pack of four fish cakes 'because they looked good value'.  They cost £1, and the weight was 400g (just under 4 oz each).  We ate them for supper today, with oven chips and peas.

Not worth the money I thought.   Cooked in the oven at the same temperature and time as the chips, the coating of the fishcakes was nice and crispy, but the filling was very 'mushy'.  Definitely a taste of fish (and not sure I liked that), but it was more like a thick puree, no definable flakes of fish.

Decided to read the label, and although the name was given as "Alaskan Pollock and Bacon Fishcakes" there was no flavour of bacon that I could find (and I do have a sensitive palate).  The amount of fish (33%) was not bad, considering the mashed potato (22%) and bacon (7%) made up the other half (fishcakes should be made from equal quantities of fish and potato, better still more fish than potato). But what made up the remaining 38%?  It had to be the 'batter' (aka the crumb coating), and reading the ingredient list this contained so many additives and preservatives that it made me realise that home-made fishcakes (cooked fish, mashed potatoes, with the addition of chopped fresh parsley and sometimes lemon zest/juice, plus salt and pepper) contains very few ingredients compared to the bought.  Better and healthier to eat and cheaper to make. 

I was going to write out the full list of ingredients, but written in total it would fill as many lines (9) as the above paragraph.

When I spoke to Gill at the weekend she told me that she had made a cake in the new oven that her son had bought her for mother's day.  It turned out well.  Then she admitted it was made using a cake mix.  She couldn't remember the make, but it was Lemon Drizzle.  "Well" I said "at least you were able to use a real lemon and sugar to flavour the cake and make the drizzle topping".  But Gill said that wasn't necessary, the lemon drizzle was included in the pack, and just needed water adding to it.

Really, this is what can happen when we eventually have to live alone.  Gill has four children (no grown up of course), and was a wonderful home-cook, I loved her meals when I stayed with them. Now she lives alone (her family live in the same town - she sees them all the time), she tends to eat out a lot.  Driving friends around, they pay for her lunch (so she is a real 'lady that lunches'), and has little need to cook for herself, just eating salads, sandwiches, and sometimes a chilli con carne or spag bol that she has made in bulk then frozen away in single portions to reheat in the microwave when she feels like having a hot meal.

I have to admit, that when I have been on my own (when B has been on one of his four-week sailing trips some years ago), that I never bothered to cook a meal for myself, other than perhaps fry an omelette.  Possibly making up chilli and spag bol for freezing, but I'd be like Gill, probably end up going out on Norris to the local pub or café and eating there.  Or making sarnies and salad, and opening can after can of fish, soups, baked beans, and certainly would make my daily tomato soup using canned tomatoes.  Possibly ordering ready-meals from Tesco to store in the freezer.
During the winter I'd probably have those Wiltshire Farm Foods meals (frozen, for us older folk), delivered, and just reheat in the microwave. 

So it would be good to hear from readers who live alone whether they too prefer the 'readies', rather than spend time cooking a proper meal for themselves.
It could be that mothers who have always cooked for at least three or four, and often more, do enjoy cooking for the family, and taking a lot of care with what they make.  As is always said, this is the way mothers show their love, cooking for THEM, not necessarily for themselves.

Am reminded of serving up meals for our four children plus B.  By the time they had all been served, I had very little time (if any) to sit down to my own meal as they were just about ready for their 'pud'. So I always ate in haste, sometimes not eating until the meal was finished - and then, due to economy - usually the left-overs.  So once the family had flown the nest, the joy of cooking with love was over, and it seemed nonsense to carry on cooking just for ME. 

People who prefer to live alone, or who have had no children, probably are used to cooking a meal for themselves.  Or maybe not.  I would be good to know, and the only way I can find out is if you can tell me.

Just one recipe today, a storecupboard one if you use frozen broccoli.  Use a cheese sauce and grated Parmesan (sold in packets) and omit the broccoli and substitute canned peas and quite possibly this dish could be made from the foods allocated by the foodbanks.  Instead of potato crisps we could use cornflakes.
Instead of using the condensed soup (plus milk) we could use ordinary canned soup (mushroom or a creamy tomato soup).

Tuna and Broccoli Pasta Bake: serves 4
10 oz (300g) pasta penne
14 oz (400g) broccoli, small florets
1 x 200g can tuna, drained and flaked
1 can condensed mushroom soup
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
4 oz (100g) cheddar cheese, grated
1 small packet potato crisps, lightly crushed
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions until almost cooked (it will cook further when mixed with the other ingredients). Add the broccoli for the last 3 minutes of cooking.   Drain well, then tip into an ovenproof dish.  Scatter the tuna over.  Mix the soup and milk together, then pour this over the pasta/broccoli and tuna, tossing it or stirring gently together.
Sprinkle two-thirds of the cheese on top, then top this with the crushed crisps, scattering over the remaining cheese.  Bake at 200C, gas 6 for 15 minutes until the topping is golden.  Serve immediately.

That's it for today.  Weather still holding, and should remain so for the next few days give or take a light shower in a few small areas of the country (we need these for the garden). 
Am going to the church meeting this Tuesday afternoon, more on that when I write my next blog later that evening.  See you then.