‘The shifts and strategems of nutrition experts have provided one of the recurring amusements of the past thirty or so years:
We ought to take more vitamins, We’re taking too many vitamins. Milk is the aqua vitae. Milk is a killer. Potatoes are good for you. No they’re bad. No, they’re good after all. Why bother with food – we can nourish you better and more scientifically (whatever that means) by pills and tonics. Tonics are unnecessary, pills are harmful, what you need is natural food.
Well, no claims for beef tea of onion gruel have been made for a long time, but I will risk saying that, when you feel wan and peevish about food, beef tea will go down agreeably. If you are are suffering from a feverish cold, a boil in an awkward spot, pink eye or any other of those minor ailments that together with the awful weather make you wish you were dead, onion gruel will warm, console and affirm your status as a martyr. Neither can harm you.’
Georgina Horley, Good Food on a Budget
I am typing this and eating my dinner, a bowl of leek and potato soup with some cubes of free range, woodland reared etc etc pancetta style bacon from St George’s Market.
I have rarely, if ever bought free range, organic meat before for two main reasons.
1) It is more expensive and when you’re watching the pennies those extra pounds that an organic, free range chicken would cost (and it would be pounds)are a big deterrent.
2) Sometimes there is an atmosphere middle class self righteousness when around free range, organic meat which I don’t like and puts me off.
But having said all that the reason I am typing this during my dinner is that I was amazed by the difference in the grease and fat that came from my grill when I was cooking my free range, woodland reared bacon compared to what I normally would get cooking some bacon from my local Spar, or even from my butcher.
First up, there was much less steam coming from the grill. Normally there would be clouds of steam coming from the grill, so much so that when you lift it up it could burn your hand.
There was also much less water running into the bowl. Normally there would be a layer of dirty grease water floating on top of the bacon fat. Tonight there was a much less steam from the grill and the fat which ran seemed much clearer.
I guess what I’m saying is that there was something noticeably different to the bacon I cooked tonight compared to the bacon I would cook normally.
‘..it is curious how seldom the all importance of food is recognized. You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks or bacon-curers or market-gardeners.’
George Orwell in ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’
I’d been spending the last few weeks waiting for my radishes to mature when suddenly the thought hit me
‘Dave, you don’t actually like radishes do you?‘
Also I had planted them very thickly which meant that few had matured. So what was I to do?
Try making some radish pesto, that’s what.
I took about 50g of walnuts from the cupboard and toasted them,whizzed that with half a clove of garlic (I’ve gone off garlic a bit this week after a bout of sickness last week), blitzed that with about 35g of radish leaf, added some extra virgin olive oil in a stream to get a nice consistency, stirred in some Parmesan-esque Sainsbury Basics cheese, a bit of lemon juice and salt and pepper for seasoning.
I had it with pasta and it didn’t taste as bad as I first feared. It was definitely better than eating the radish itself.
I think I might like herring more than mackerel (though mackerel is very good as well), just grill for a few minutes with a bit of salt and pepper, grab some salad leaves from the window box and a add a bit of beetroot ‘jam’ that you mistook for pickled beetroot in the Polish shop. Add a lemon for colour (well, no need to add a whole lemon or even half a lemon as above) eat and enjoy.
Onion skirlie would have been perfect as well if you had remembered to make it.
I decided to try a meal on the rocket stove, H___ will go looking for her quick pasta mix one day and not find it because it’s gone, boom! eaten in 20mins, 10mins to get 125mls of milk, 300ml of water and a knob of butter boiling and 10mins to cook the pasta. I was happy with that, it didn’t use too much stick and the smoke died down. I think that less is more when it comes to feeding the sticks. If there are too many sticks the stove will smoke, the trick seems to be getting a steady flame without letting it die out.
I’m also wary of fumes and stuff, but bear in mind that this is the life for many of the worlds poor. If you’ve ever been to the Ulster-American folk park one thing the sticks in the mind is the smell of smoke and turf from the fires in the poorly ventilated homes of centuries ago.
Technology does many things, but one thing that it doesn’t do (yet?) is appeal to our sense of smell.
Smell is surely the most neglected of the senses, or it is in this house at any rate.
So if needs arise grind and bash some toasted coriander and cumin seeds, or a few cardamon pods and smell. You’re life won’t turn around but it might be enough to make you pause even for a second.