Eat Real Food

I hope I’ve been honest about how I cook and eat food because it’s important. What we eat is important for our health but it’s not only that. We live in a world that is experiencing climate crisis. Where not enough of us have enough to eat and yet ,in this country, food that farmers grow is often sold for less than it costs to produce. Where some of the farming methods used to grow it are actively detrimental to the health of the soil and wildlife. Food isn’t just about food.

When you have £20 to feed a family of four because the rent and the bills are just too damn high. Then you may not be able to care about the type of food you buy and I get that.

I’ve been there, I spend 2016, right here documenting what I bought and ate and cooked on a budget of £15 a week. And to be clear before that when I was unemployed, £15 a week wasn’t just for food it was my entire disposable income. I started cooking from scratch, partly because it’s what I grew up watching my mother do, because I enjoy it and, because I was unemployed and had the time.

Now I do it because it’s what I do and I feed myself so if turns out wrong or not so great so what? To quote Nigel Slater, “we are just making something to eat’. I also learnt to can, changed what and how I bought things, started to eat a lot more of what I grow and all of that has had an impact on my food choices.

All of this to say and explain, I know I’m privileged with, knowledge, time, equipment and the freedom that comes with not having to please anyone but myself but I still think it’s important.

Jess at Roots and Refuge has started a You Tube series about how to start cooking from scratch and if you were thinking about it, this would be a good place to start. Jess is from the American South so some of it might not resonate or be practical for the UK but I think it’s a pretty reasonable place to start.

I started with bread and hummus, because I’ve always been funny about bread and eat a lot of hummus. But of the examples listed, I make mayonnaise, buy ketchup, use mostly olive oil and butter, don’t eat margarine and, grate my own cheese.

I do buy processed food, I don’t like milk, so banana nesquik is a compromise that gets 200ml of organic whole milk and my collagen peptides in me every morning (because collagen is working to help my joints and wrinkles and I’m of an age that

I do buy processed food, I don’t like milk, so banana nesquik is a compromise that gets 200ml of organic whole milk and my collagen peptides in me every morning (because collagen is working to help my joints and wrinkles and I’m of an age that osteoporosis is a worry). My food standard is do the best I can for my health, the planet and the farmers. I try to eat seasonally and mostly when I don’t it’s Oddbox, there are huge reasons I’m not vegan but I do try to be fussy about the type of meat I buy, which is mostly from The Dorset Meat Company.

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Sunday Music: Scritti Politti – Umm

It just popped into my head this week so here it is…

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Friday Links: If you think everything is fine, you’re not paying attention

Happy Friday!

I don’t know about everyone else but it feels like 1992 (I’ve been saying that for a while), back then, things felt awful but I’d not really known anything else, Thatcher came to power when I was five, I was 24 before I remember living in a country without Tories in charge. That lot were terrible, the wonder of the uselessness of the current bunch, it that they are making Thatcher, Major etc look competent, intelligent and reasonable. It’s horrific..

High inflation is to blame for these strikes, not trade unions

Don’t tell me that David Carrick’s crimes were ‘unbelievable’. The problem is victims aren’t believed. Marina Hyde nails it again…

The story of Britain’s pools and leisure centres is one of neglect, decay and the lies of levelling up

Those on the left fell for the property dream too. The first letter is what I have basically saying for 20 years because that’s how long it’s been a problem. I’m going to be the last generation of my family born and raised in London because of it..

“Large numbers of us have been suffering from this inequality-fostering system for 20 years or more, but it is only now that it is affecting upper-middle-class circles that it is being talked about”

Has Ofgem grasped the scale of disconnection of people on prepayment energy meters? I can safely say no, I also would like to note that rent and energy bills are the bills I pay firsts. Also that I have a direct debit plan with my energy provider because it’s easier (though slightly more expensive) to make sure that you’re paying instead of a quarterly bill.

How is it right that MPs are still free to receive money from lobbyists and second jobs?

Time Is on Ukraine’s Side, Not Russia’s

Underground resistance: Dads from front-line Ukrainian city build deluxe bomb shelters

Andrew Tate isn’t feminism’s inadvertent bastard child. He’s sexism’s last gasp. I remember the backlash to the idea of all female shortlists, it was apparently ‘outrageous and unfair’ on men and boys. I remember an article about it (sorry I can’t remember who wrote it) that asked us to consider, whether after 2000 years of patriarchy, perhaps it was just women’s turn to benefit from favouritism based on sex. More recently, something I use in my own life is to remember that when privilege is taken away, it feels like discrimination. Tate and his fans basically want to behave badly, without consequences and life shouldn’t, and for the most part doesn’t, work like that. (Unless you’re a member of the Royal Family or Boris Johnson).

Unraveling the Secrets of the Sarcophagi Found Beneath Notre-Dame Cathedral

Why Chickens Need to Stop Breeding With Their Wild Cousins

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Allotment Adventures: Soggy and Bedraggled

Despite the rainy weather, all the packing and moving and, the excessive socialising I did at the weekend. Ma and I did get a very short trip to the plot last Saturday.

It was wet and looking bedraggled. It’s in dire need of some clear weather that needs to coincide with when I have some free time (at this rate it’ll be sometime in March!).

My poor jasmine

I brought the new table around and installed it at the back, we are definitely going to buy another!

We fed the birds and I need to go and top them up again this week because it’s been really cold for the poor things.

This knautia macedonia is trying…

As the weather was predicted to drop again this week, we harvested all the sweetheart cabbages, some kale, some brussels sprouts, some salad leaves and dug up some parsnips.

That done we ran home before it started raining again!

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Monday Miscellany: Tired Already

Happy Monday!

It’s Blue Monday today, the point at which the New Year stops being full of optimism and starts to feel like a grind! It’s fair to say that I’ve been feeling like that for at least a week! I’ve been in the office more and the commute and the dark is a grind but it’s also the time of the year where the only way out is through and I’m channelling that energy for the next six weeks or so.

Last week really felt like the beginning of the year. Work got serious and quite busy as I’m covering my old boss as well as my current one and the team and home got busy as we started to pack up the flat. The contents of cupboard of doom are now in the living room, all of the pictures in the kitchen, bedroom and hall are down. This week my friend Richard is going to do a trip to the dump for me, so I need to clear the chest of drawers in the bedroom this week and at the weekend I can start to sort clothes out into donate, storage, or I’ll need them in the next 6 weeks. Then I have to start to pack up the kitchen.

Photo not by me!

Yes, I am feeling very discombobulated but there were good things last week too. We managed a short and rainy trip to the plot, I got to Grace on Saturday night, on Sunday I went to lunch at Tom and Yoey’s, with both of the utterly delightful Kenny grandchildren. Watching Christina put herself in baby jail to read to them was highlight (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to put Christina and Tom in baby jail – thankfully not in the last 20 years or so!)

This week is all about work and packing and in amongst that trying to find some mental calm. Because the weekend was busier than usual, I’m struggling to catch up on mundane things like laundry! I also hate change and while I could probably cope fine with just moving out for a couple of weeks it’s all the other stuff. It’s the two weeks I need to spend packing everything up and having my space all messed up while trying to do normal life, then the two to three weeks I’ll be at Mum’s without knowing when I can move back and then the probable two weeks to sort it all out before the flat is sorted and I can actually enjoy the new kitchen and bedroom.

I know it will happen and barring disaster, by March it should all be back to normal but better because new kitchen, painted bedroom and new furniture. However, it’s all the things, I don’t cope with, lots of transition, uncertainty and lack of control. Also, my therapist is away for all of February so I’m going to have process myself out of this mood! One of my saving graces will be that once everything has been packed I’ll be at Ma’s and I’ll revert to doing what I’m told (early training kicks back in!).

Have a good week!

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Recommended: Soda Folk

My love of root beer comes from 1980’s McDonalds trips, you might think it tastes of the dentist, but I love it. Unfortunately for me, it’s a love not many of my countrymen share and so it’s not a popular drink. Getting it from the US became harder because there is an additive in US soft drinks that is banned in the EU (yes I know the UK isn’t in the EU anymore but as with all of the promised ‘sunlit uplands’ promised by Brexiteers, root beer has not materialised on our shores.

Which is why I’m so happy that we have Soda Folk. I came across Soda Folk Root Beer in Bryon. Basically if I go anywhere that has root beer on the menu, I order it, then I discovered that they deliver! I’ve been in the office a bit more and have been finding myself resorting to a 3pm diet coke and snack. It’s not the world’s best habit and so I decided to buy some Soda Folk cans and bring a snack in from home. It’s the same thing, slightly cheaper and with slightly better ingredients but with an added bonus of root beer! I bought root beer and a couple of other sodas to try. (I like the Cream and Cherry sodas, really not keen on the Grape).

24 cans is £23.99 plus delivery so it’s not cheap but ordering it every other month and making it a treat is probably the way to go!

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Friday Links: Enough Already

Happy Friday!

I’m tired of everything at the moment! Here are this week’s links

Ministers could help the patients dying in NHS hospital corridors right now – they just choose not to

Rishi Sunak v Keir Starmer: battle of the speeches revealed the critical choice facing Britain

When state services fail, citizens pay extra or sink. This is Sunak’s Britain now

Are you siding with Harry or the palace? Either way, you fall into the royalist trap.

‘I was alone. Abandoned. With only a hundred million in the bank’ – Spare, digested by John Crace

The burning question about fungi: what happens to them in extreme heat?

English farmers turning to cultivating nuts as climate heats

Not just hot flushes: how menopause can destroy mental health. I had my first anxiety dreams a while ago

Take more breaks at work, put your head in the freezer … an expert’s eight simple tips for better sleep

‘I’ve heard it all: she’s a fraud, a liar, a thief’: Jack Monroe on alcohol, addiction and answering her critics. Her stories never quite add up.

The state of Gin in 2023

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Friday Night Cocktail: Quick and Dirty Gin and Aperol

So it’s not Friday but I thought that Thursday might be a good day to post about a cocktail so if you’re not doing Dry January, you could gather the ingredients for this for Friday!

Taken at my desk

January for me is about clearing out the kitchen, and that means using things up, I had some Aperol and I’m not in the mood for Spritz. So a quick google let me to this. I was not in the mood to be shaking things and egg white, so this is the lazy person’s version. You can be as elaborate as you like

Gin (I used Roku), Aperol, lime juice, honey simple syrup, orange bitters. I used equal amounts and a dash of bitters but play with the amounts until you hit a combo you like, I stuck it in a glass with ice and took a photo halfway through drinking it when I realised how nice it was!

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Allotment Adventures: Review of last season

In January and February, work has and will slow down, Ma is only coming over every other week, we’re only collecting produce every other week and I won’t be near the plot for at least half of February. All of this is a long winded way of explaining why there isn’t much to write about the plot this week.

However, although doing things on the plot is slowing down, my brain isn’t. So I thought I’d write about our plans for this year and to do that I’m going to talk a bit about how last year went.

Overall it was a pretty decent year, it was extremely hot. Keeping up with the watering was difficult and I did most of it and I basically did it every other day. The plant death due to heat, included some of the camomile lawn planted in the ‘wild area’, the sweet peas, the wild garlic I bought in the spring and the viola bought at the same time, just didn’t survive.

Some things were watered but didn’t do well at all, the Jacob’s Cattle beans managed to produce about six beans, the french beans were the same, we got loads but only for a few weeks. The winter squash suffered a bit too, we got more squash than the 2021 season but they were tiny in comparison. In 2021, I took 9 squash home in a wheelbarrow, but this year I took 20 home in two buckets!  The summer squash had a weird year, we grew a crookneck and a straightneck squash, and two patty pans which did well, but the courgettes were a problem. I used one of the many packets of free seed and they were a cross with a winter squash I think, we had 4 plants and got three different shapes and colours and they ran all over the allotment, like a winter squash . They were edible and we used them but sometimes that’s how it goes, in terms of supply some weeks we were over run and some weeks we didn’t get any.

The soft fruit had an amazing year, we got decent amounts of gooseberries given that the poor plants were almost smothered with cornflowers, the blueberries really produced and we had a great crop of blackcurrants (about 4 kgs), even the strawberries and the new blackberries did alright, prompting our expansion plans this autumn! Speaking of expansion I bought myself a cherry tree and a small lemon and, a lime tree, I don’t know how they will survive the winter yet so the jury is out on that!

The garlic and onions also did well, it was dry when we picked them and having the polytunnel to dry them really helped. Last year we grew a ‘long season’ collection but we do have leek rust on the site and it really showed with the early garlic doing really well while the later garlic no so much. The onions were great too.

The potatoes started well but also suffered in the heat, but we grew so many we had good crops!

We grew more beans for drying up the arches in the winter squash beds last year and that was partially successful. The ‘lazy housewife’ did better than the gigantes, but we didn’t get the masses of beans promised, I think the heat really affected pollination too, because on the gigantes, the flowers just fell off before we got to bean stage.

The tomatoes suffered because of my watering regime, I had more tomatoes with blossom end rot this year, but more tomatoes over all. In terms of what we’ll grow again, the Amish Paste, Tigerella, Gardeners Sweetheart and Tumbling Toms are all on this years list, but I’ll talk more about that when I talk about what we’re growing next year.

The polytunnel was a huge learning experience this year. We got some early crops (including some surprise potatoes!) and I do think having the tomatoes in the poly helped when they were seedlings, it wasn’t without some hiccups, May was very warm and some of them got a bit fried when we were in Newcastle! Overall though, the tomatoes went out stronger than usual. The sweet potatoes did not do all that great in the polytunnel and it was a lot of space for not much result. But we did grow a melon, which I was very excited about!

The brassicas and leeks, haven’t faired so well this year and that’s largely down to me. I didn’t manage to grow anything from seed last year. We bought plugs and then they languished in the polytunnel, because most of the time I spent on the plot in the heat was spent keeping up with the watering and collection, so they went in late and while we’ve had crops they’ve not had a fantastic year and the leeks are still very small and thin. On the plus side we grew sprouts! So I have some learning points for next year and while I’m not over the moon about how we did, I’m still pretty pleased with it.

That’s the food side of the plot, the flowers did really well too. There were all the usual suspects, verbena, california poppies, calendula, borage, cornflowers, knautia and the bulb flowers (daffodils, narcissi, grape hyacinth, hyacinths, blubells, crocuses, irises and the alliums. The roses didn’t do so well but the peony and the bleeding hearts came back which I wasn’t convinced about. The flag irises finally blossomed too.

I had some petunias and zinnias this year too and some nasturtiums but they suffered in the heat. The lavenders did well as did the thymes and it was nice to have things for the bees through the year.

It wouldn’t be a review of the year without mentioning that I won a silver medal for the state of the plot (and I wasn’t even trying this year!)

I learnt a lot this year and it’s going to affect how we do things this year, but this post is long enough right now so I’ll waffle on about that another time!

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Monday Miscellany: It’s still dark

Happy Monday!

I’m back in the office for some of this week and I’m deeply unhappy about leaving the house in the dark, it’s not one of my favourite things to do!

I’m really back in the thick of January again and the only way out is through, but I will admit it’s a struggle to find the energy and enthusiasm it requires. However, I did struggle through last week and I’m sure I’ll survive this week. Although I have to say that Chelsea’s woeful performance this weekend as well as the news that Gianluca Vialli died last week haven’t improved my mood.

Last week’s highlights were a walk with Sue, taking the Christmas tree down and catching up with Yellowstone, now I can watch the prequels! I also managed to properly food prep on Sunday which should make this week easier!

This week is going to be about being in the office, getting back in control of work and thinking about and starting to pack things up. There are nicer things to do too, some time on the plot with Ma and lunch at friends on Sunday!

Have a good week

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