Batman broccoli,wok and work

I’ve been trying my hand at growing some new vegetables in the garden.
These choices have been based on a value for space ratings provided in Joy Larkcom’s excellent and informative ‘Grow Your Own Vegetables’.

One of the vegetables that got a high rating was broccoli raab aka broccoli rabe aka rapini aka cime di rapa . The name ‘cime di rapa’ means ‘turnip tops’ in Italian. I planted about 0.5 sqm around  mid March and about 2 months later this is what I got, a sort of raggedy leaf with spindly shoots and florets…Image

Ideally I think that the plants are supposed to have more of a floret but as they where starting to flower it seemed like a good time to bring them in.

I’ve cooked it twice, once in a pasta and sausage dish and today with a beef stir-fry  It tasted good to me, like a sort of Batman broccoli, dark and broody, sort of bitter and complex.  I like it and will grow it again though it might be a bit heavy/bitter for some taste.

( broccoli raab = 430g)

For the stir fry I also took the 2nd cut of some stir fry greens after getting about 100g of young leaves for an oriental salad a few weeks ago.

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The main thing I couldn’t help noticing about the stir fry greens was how beautiful the leaves are to look at. It seems a shame to eat them.

(370g stir fry greens)

I was out watering the vegetable beds this morning at about 8am, it was so beautiful and peaceful, the closest I’ve had to a ‘quiet time’ in a long time.
Then my sense of peace and contentment is nagged by thinking that it’s all very well for me to watering plants at 8am but if I was a real man I wouldn’t have time for so much gardening, I’d be careering of to a job like my neighbours, I wouldn’t have time for faffing around with mizuna and broccoli raab or writing a blog.

So often I wrestle with God in the garden. It is an odd mixture of guilt and delight, pleasure and pain.  What is work? What is a job?

The questions comes thickest in the carrot bed. I’ve weeded that carrot bed so many times already, the weeds keep coming up.I’m aware of the threat of carrot flies. If I’m lucky for hours of work I’ll get 50 about carrots. I can buy a bag of  them up at Joyce’s for 39c.Is it worthwhile investing precious hours on growing something which has  a combined worth of about €4 according to Joyce’s?

They might be loss leaders or whatever but that nearly makes it worse. Carrots are being treated as a commodity or bait to encourage people to spend their money on other more worthy groceries and good.
In a world where our value and worth to society is  measured by the benchmark of money and the Market weeding a carrot bed for 50 carrots throws up questions, questions about what is worthwhile work or who gives value to work, what work should you be engaged in.
Are you crazy or is the world crazy?
Is this just a middle class privilege thing or is their work of true value in growing a turnip?
Turmoil in the turnip patch, serpent in the garden.

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remembering

re-blogged because it’s true..

canal ways

..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’

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Last Homely House east of the Sea

I’m re-reading Lord of the Rings. The first time through it was a rushed job just to say I had read the book before the films came out.Now it’s a more a leisurely stroll through The Shire. I’ve just arrived in the House of Eldrond where Frodo is recuperating after a hazardous first leg of the journey.

Reading Bilbo’s description of the ‘Last Homely House east of the Sea’ I thought to myself  ‘I’d like our home to be something like that. ‘

‘Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. The house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, “a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all”. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.’

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made in ____?

This horse meat scandal has shown how hard it is to trace where your food actually came from and where in the world it was actually processed. It is also a classic case of it being not our fault, oh its not our fault it’s their fault, it’s not our fault, we bought it from them, its not our fault, we got it over there, its their fault, we clearly followed the rules, its their fault, etc etc.

When I was a student I spent one summer working night shift at a large pig factory. My job was to power hose the plant after production in preparation for production the next day.
I used to see the Cookstown products clearly labelled and beside those pallets of identical sausages labelled as well known supermarket own label brands. They would lbe labelled as ‘Made in the UK’, somewhere in the UK. I didn’t care too much about these sorts of things in my younger days but I’m not sure if the ‘Made in UK’ label said anything about where the pigs came from. The sausages might have been made in the UK but it said nothing about the pig or the other ingredients.

I’ve a bag of Tesco own label coffee that says ‘Packaged in Belgium’ on it. I’ve tried to track down where this factory might be in Belgium and who actually processes it, but I can’t find that information out. I bought a bag of Co-Op coffee beans last night and they say ‘Packaged in Belgium’ on it. Is this the same factory processing own label coffee beans for Tesco and the Co-Op?

Another smaller example is of Coleraine cheddar which isn’t made in Coleraine, it’s made in another factory.

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Do these things matter?

It could all considered a 1st world problem, a case of we should  just be grateful that we can go into a shop and afford to buy food freely without having to worry about where our next meal comes from and not be so fussy that what is sold as beef might actually horse.

Or you could take it the other way and say that being in such a privileged position should actually make us think about where our food comes from . In our church each week we pray the lines ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ .
Do  we wonder  enough about how God is actually supplying our daily bread or are we happy enough to think that God is using corporations and supermarkets (who are chiefly concerned with profit) to supply our daily bread without bothering to see what is going on behind the scenes?

Should we be thankful that we can buy a chicken for £3.99 in the supermarket and ask no questions or should we start poking behind the scenes a bit to see how the chicken is so cheap?

I know a man who previously worked with the poultry industry here in Ireland and used to visit various farms with the job. During Christmas he told us that he used to tell farmers that if they found the conditions in a chicken shed unbearable and unpleasant then it was unfair to keep chickens in the same conditions. I was surprised at this as I imagined that back 30 or 40yrs ago nobody cared so much about these issue and where more concerned about selling chicken feed.

But enough of that, I won’t rest easy until I find out where this coffee packaging factory in Belgium might be.

 

indexing blackcurrants and courgettes

spiceI’ve been sitting here  in this freezing cold house for the past hour indexing all my recipe books so that I can find my recipes quickly. Yes, Thursday night is obviously party night at Dave’s house.

I enjoy recipe books but despite enjoying them I can never find a recipe when I need it which makes me resent my recipe books. It’s just too much bother to look through things when you’re tired and so you might stick on a bowl or porridge or eat a can of tinned rice.

If I bring some courgettes for example home from the market I quickly get tired flicking through book after book until I stumble across courgette recipes I can make with the ingredients that I have. So I’m making a big book that has recipes labelled under different vegetables and fruit and various meat.

My main reasons for doing this are:-

1) I’d like to try and make more meals around whatever vegetables or fruit are in season. If I ever get space I’d like to try growing some of my own. So it’s sort of getting used to the natural rhythms of the seasons and cooking around what we can grow in the UK and Ireland.

2) I’m trying to eat more foods that can be grown locally but seeing if they can be made more exciting or tasty. For instance is there a nice recipe for carrots or cabbages which doesn’t use much energy to prepare and is easy to make but doesn’t taste bland. There are some vegetables which you can get in your local corner shop pretty much anywhere but they don’t seem sexy or appealing on a cold February evening.

3) I’m trying to eat less meat, but better quality meat when I do. Also to try and get as much value from that meat when we do buy it. So are there any good recipes for using cheap cuts of meat like beef shin or livers and that sort of thing.

At the same time flicking through recipe book after recipe book and having your mouth water at glossy pictures can make you more than a little ashamed and guilty.
Here you are indexing recipe books and thinking about how you’re going to try that cassis and blackcurrant recipe while millions and millions of people around the globe go to bed starving and malnourished.  Here you are with all these options and ideas and others are trying to scrap a living from poor soil and land that suffers drought. So I’m trying to remind myself to be thankful for every thing in the cupboards, for water tapped in and energy for cooking at the flick of a switch.

I guess that all this indexing is an attempt to find out if I can eat in better ways than I have been doing, in a way that is more thankful for my daily bread and less destructive to creation. Am I cooking in a way that isn’t wasteful of energy? Can I get 3 meals out of a chicken instead of 2?

But at the same time to be able to cook well because I’d like to be able to cook well for hospitality in the future, especially for wherever we move to next or whatever happens there. Because I’ve heard a lot sermons about the Good News in my time but I’ve experienced the good news most around dinner and fellowship with friends.  Which always reminds of Babette’s Feast.

Jesus and the supermarket – community

When I get my meat at the butcher we have a bit of banter. He is a nice guy.
When I get my vegetables at the market the guy at the counter knocks a bit off because I’m a regular customer. No need for Tesco Club card points.
When I get my spices at the stall the French lady asks me what I’m cooking and puts some extra in.
When I get my fish from the fishmonger he calls me ‘big lad’ and also recognises that I am a regular customer.

There is joy and even excitement in the weekly shop because there is an element of human relationship. It feels like a fair exchange has taken place in community which strikes me as a very important and even Christian way of doing things. We’re in the relationship business are we not?

However when I go to the supermarket the whole process is anonymous and alienating. It is almost impossible to build up human relationships as the store is too big, the staff wear the same uniforms and have been processed like the fruit they sell so that one staff member look identical to another, in much the same way as one soldier looks the same as another soldier.
It’s not their fault either, they have to do it so that they all uphold brand values and allow the pile of Mammon on the end to keeps on growing. They don’t have time to talk because they are treated like the  commodities they sell by the system. Time is money.

It doesn’t make for a joyful experience as the human relationship is deemed unimportant. Ideally supermarkets and big stores would like you to scan in your groceries which would eliminate the one opportunity you have to talk to another person.  Even then the person on the tills often doesn’t have time for banter as there is a queue building behind and the general manager is watching from a top window. That is why self scanning tills are the pits.

That’s not to say that small store owners are destined to be nice or particularly friendly, but at least it’s on a human scale you get a handle on. They’re maybe rude but perhaps it more like your neighbour being rude. In a large store it seems more like a stranger being rude.

Supermarkets want to create some type of brain washed super human who only can be nice to customers. I know this because I worked as the door greeter in B&Q for months being the friendly smiling face that greeted the customer at the door. It didn’t matter if you are having a shite day, you had to smile and be nice. And it was the same on the tills or in the flooring section. You had to be nice because the ‘Mystery Shopper’ was always on the prowl, waiting to give the store a poor mark based on your lack of people skills.

You never knew who the mystery shopper would be as the store was too big and too many customers passed through in a day. People are largely anonymous. In a small store or shop a stranger might be noticed.

Not sure what I’m saying. Maybe just that despite their bluster supermarkets and large stores aren’t helpful for community, or not as helpful for community as small independent stores.