Archive for January, 2008

Other people’s children

*IMPORTANT* This is rather a long-winded, heavy and self-indulgent post – you have been warned!

There has been lots in the news lately about the environment and ‘ethical consuming’ (I wasn’t sure whether to put ‘consumption’ or ‘consumerism’, so I’ll invent a noun for the moment). When I say lately, I mean it has been steadily increasing over the last year or so, and this is a good thing (mostly) as it stimulates debate, brings issues to people’s attention, keeps it on some level in people’s minds, which gives me hope they’ll eventually use the evidence to draw sensible conclusions and do the right thing (after all, I did it, so there’s no reason other people can’t), and provides me with a constant stream of material to rant about in cyberspace.

One side-effect of this is that because people know I’m interested in it all, they tend to talk to me about it a lot, and some of them ask me if Ecover washing-up liquid is any good, and some of them tell me, despite the fact that they have a lot of money, that they can’t afford to buy free-range chicken. Once, someone even said, ‘I don’t understand how fishing quotas stop global warming. Surely they’ve already used the oil to go out and get them, so why do they have to dump all the fish?’

I never quite know how to respond or how to approach it.

The temptation is to fall into an ‘us and them’ mentality – I, who grow parsley in re-used yoghurt pots, am a good, kind, unselfish person, whereas you, who moan about having to recycle or that energy-saving lightbulbs are annoying, are a bad, reckles, selfish person.

I don’t think this is strictly true, though.

Lots of people, taking as an example my family and friends, because I can vouch for their characters, are good, kind, thoughtful and unselfish, even if they do very little to reduce their carbon footprint or their personal dependency on oil. My bf’s mum, for example, who takes several foreign holidays a year (although has family abroad, which, while it leads onto a whole set of complications of its own, mitigates it slightly, I feel), works in one of the caring professions, is an extremely compassionate person and, when the bf was away and we’d just moved in and I was alone for four days and didn’t know anyone, let me come and stay with her, took me in, fed me, talked to me and gave me valuable career advice. Another friend, who also takes several foreign holidays a year, has used a lot of those trips to do voluntary working building and teaching, is a very responsible traveller (i.e. one of the ones who can actually claim to be ‘helping the local economy’ as she uses local guides, stays in locally-owned accommodation etc, rather than people who use it as an excuse to carry on flying while staying in big hotels and not mixing with anyone), was heavily involved in her university’s Nightline and is one of the most generous, big-hearted people I know, whose door is always open to all her friends.

I don’t mean to single them out as examples to be publically shamed and humiliated – it’s just that the flying thing bothers me, as I too love travel, and giving up flying is the only bit of being green that I wouldn’t do ‘anyway’. It’s also commonly held to be the most damaging thing for the environment (releasing the CO2 higher up) and very fuel-intensive, and also quite controversial, because the aviation industry seems to wield a frightening amount of power and get away with blue murder (or tax breaks, at any rate). So, yep, straight for the jugular there!

So, how do you respond to people, whom you otherwise love to bits, when they a) harrass you for your loopy choices, b) get defensive when you mention climate change or peak oil (e.g. ‘Hey, British Gas gave us some free energy-saving lightbulbs for changing to paperless billing.’ ‘Well, look, that’s great, but I’m a very busy and important person and I have to have a job to pay the mortgage, so I need ready meals, a car, supermarkets, labour-saving gadgets and patio heaters and I’m not going to give up my holiday in the Seychelles because it’s the only thing that gets me through the rest of the year.’) or c) say daft things about cod causing global warming?

I generally try and ignore any outright hostility, politely pointing out that recycling isn’t really that difficult or time-consuming, and we’re really very lucky not to have to go and fetch water from a stream every day or cook on a charcoal fire in the back garden, so, all in all, an extra five minutes a week to deal with the consequences of Western over-consumption by sorting your cans into a separate box from your glass is not that arduous.

If it’s unintentional ignorance, such as with the cod/global warming thing, I’ll try and gently explain it, with a studied air of not being a know-it-all…

If whoever is asking genuinely seems interested and eager to learn, I’ll gladly share information.

I don’t like the idea of being hostile or confrontational, as it’s only going to put the other person’s backs up and make them retreat further into denial. Even more, I hate the idea of being preachy, for much the same reasons, but somehow anger is more honest than smugness, so I despise myself less for it afterwards.

It’s a hard line to tread though.

I tend to go for the option of being really cheerful about how eating seasonally and walking everywhere has made me fitter and healthier, how knitting is wonderfully relaxing, how buying clothes in charity shops is much better value than Pr*mark et al and how big thick curtains or improvised blanket-related substitutes are much more effective and cheaper than turning up the heating, as gas prices are going up, you know.

Because, really, I’m not a better person.* I just happen to have decided to act on the evidence in front of me in what I perceive is my best interest, and sometimes I think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a take-away tonight?’ and it makes me terribly sad that there are whole swathes of the planet I’ll never see and I’m tempted to jump on a plane to go and see them all before the oil runs out. I ate cheap food, I took short-haul flights, I bought cheap clothes, sometimes I got lifts when I could have walked or taken the train, and I still drink lots of imported wine, tea and coffee, eat chocolate, dried mango and apricots and spend far, far too much time on the computer; and while I am in many, many ways happier, healthier and more fulfilled than I was when I couldn’t see beyond the consumerist treadmill, ultimately, I’m just lucky I enjoy reading, gardening and knitting, and if I enjoyed motorbiking, or flying, or parachuting, or recreational deforestation or some other carbon-heavy hobby I’d probably find it a lot more difficult.

As well as being lucky (and having always had a steadfastly unconventional streak), I’m also frightened, and that’s what makes me feel like a hypocrite when I try and convince people to ‘join me’ by merely expounding the positives of my peculiar lifestyle. I am really, really concerned that even though oil depletion will probably be slow and peaceful and managed by market forces, it will still entail a dramatic (albeit gradual) shift in our lifestyles and expectations, and we have not been prepared for that by our society, our parents or our education system. I want my friends and family to be able to cope with it.

I also, selfishly, don’t want everyone I know to come knocking on the door of my smallholding, demanding we feed them vegetables and home-reared pork, the bf brews them beer and I knit them some socks. I’d let them in and share with them, but I’d secretly wish they’d thought ahead a little. After all, I did tell them…

We might not be so lucky with climate change, either. I don’t think peak oil will result in the fabric of society breaking down overnight, but have you seen how Britain (especially the South East) responds to extreme weather? A bit of snow? Everything grinds to a muffled halt. Floods? Chaos and hand-wringing. Wind? Power cuts? End of civilisation as we know it. Long, hot summer? Oh, it’s too hot to do anything – let’s go and buy an electric fan and drink Pimm’s. Last summer’s flooding was bad enough, but if anything really bad (like, New Orleans bad) happened, we’d all be b*ggered.

As a society, we do not know how to cope when we can’t get to the supermarket in the car, when we can’t flick a switch and have light or heat, when we can’t have clean drinking water coming out of the tap. We are not prepared, emotionally or practically, to deal with a crisis, and yet most reasonably intelligent people believe that climate change is happening and know why. Do they not think this might cause crises? Do they think they’ll be immune?

For this is why I do all these crazy things, why I knit mittens, why I grow spinach under milk-bottle-cloches, why I have a cold house and lots of blankets, why I recycle, why I am seriously considering not going on holiday with the bf’s family next summer if they ask me. Because I am scared, and because people are going to die if we don’t act now.

People are going to die if we carry on as we are. Extreme climates, such as the equatorial regions and the poles, where people already live a tough, marginal existence, are going to be hit first. There’ll be droughts and there’ll be floods. Habitats will be destroyed. People will die. If we grow biofuels instead of food, we might be all right cos we can afford both, but other people won’t have enough to eat.

Personally, I just cannot convince myself that the time I spend sorting out my rubbish, or waiting ten seconds for a lightbulb to warm up, or making soup when I could have a take-away, or the holiday I could have in Spain, or the convenience of having a car, or eating more meat and dairy than I need, is more important than the fact that other people, somewhere in the world, might have to see their loved ones die as a result of my lifestyle.

It really is that important.

So, yes, of course, we should all be doing these things anyway. They make us happy and healthy. Home-grown veg is more nutritious and gardening is good for us, so we should do it anyway. Cycling is better for us than driving, so we should do it anyway. Being frugal is just common sense, so we should all mend clothes anyway, but if I’m brutally honest, that is not why I do this, and to think that that is what will convince other people to do it too is therefore somewhat disingenuous.

At the end of the day, I do it because I feel it is my moral imperative, because I can’t say that my comfort is more important than the life of a child in the Sahel whose family can’t feed themselves any more because the Sahara keeps on creeping further south.

And this is what I want to say to all the people who ask me why they should buy local food, or walk to work, or not buy clothes made out of oil, or not fly on holiday this year. Sure, I make it look as though these things aren’t hard to do and if you did them too your life would improve dramatically, so what are you waiting for? But deep down, it’s just that these things coincide with what I feel gives me a good quality of life. Really, I simply don’t feel that I have the right to pursue a lifestyle in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be sustainable if everyone on the planet lived like me, and I don’t want to be responsible for other people not having the means to survive, whether they are on the other side of the world, down the road or my own children.

At some point, I made the connection between my short-haul flight, my polyester top and my imported vegetables and the subsistence farmers around Lake Naivasha or in northern Togo and Ghana who haven’t got enough water to grow food. And, yes, I probably made that connection because I’ve seen how small Lake Naivasha is compared to 20 years ago, and I’ve seen the reforestation projects in northern Togo and Ghana, and I’ve met people who live there and they are real people who love their families and want a prosperous livelihood, and that’s because I flew there and that makes me a big, fat hypocrite – shoot me.

I can’t change what I’ve already done. I can only try and make up for it now and not carry on doing it, now that I know.

I genuinely, genuinely believe that this is morally the right thing to do.

It’s joining the dots and making that same connection that will make other people do the right thing too. As I said before, it’s tempting to slip into an ‘us and them’ mentality – I keep doing it myself: ‘people’, ‘other people’, ‘them’; ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘us’ – but there really is no reason that we can’t all make that connection and all do the right thing. I’ve done it before a lot of people, but there were other people who started before me, and they don’t believe that my contribution is worthless because I once flew from Newcastle to London, so I don’t want to judge anyone who still does, and if my friend says she’s going to use Ecover washing powder even though she’s still flying all over the world, then, hell, good on her for using Ecover washing powder!

Furthermore, given the approach of the mainstream media (simplifying and polarising the issues and sometimes publishing outright misinformation) and the government (singularly failing to take it seriously, talking about green taxes, insisting on a confusing, un-joined-up recycling system that even I don’t believe in, and yet expanding Heathrow and taking away grants for wind turbines), I can’t really blame anyone for feeling powerless and uninspired. Also, we live in such an alienated, disengaged society, that we are actively discouraged from thinking about the consequences of our actions or the systems that we implicitly support by buying into them.

I have all this understanding and compassion in me, and I do not want to be all ‘holier than thou’, because I, too, am lazy and selfish, and I thank the lord at times that I live in a society that allows me to be so.

Which makes me feel that perhaps I am doing people a disservice by avoiding engaging with them about the real issues at stake. Maybe I should start talking about floods and droughts, about the people in the third world who are going to die, about the walls we’ll build to keep them out, how they’ll die trying to scale them to get in. Maybe I should mention all the people in the West who are going to die, that might have more impact – maybe I should suggest it could be them, their family, their children, their grandchildren. Maybe I should mention the damage we all do when we wear clothes made from oil or when we drive to work, when we eat that dried mango or spend 16 hours a day on the laptop.

Maybe I should tell them just how absolutely terrified I sometimes feel, how I’m just as selfish as everybody else, and I’m not choosing to live like this as an exercise in self-abasement or in making other people feel unworthy, but that if and when we are forced to make drastic changes or a crisis of some kind hits us, I want to be sure of the best chance of survival for ‘me and mine’.

If anyone asked me, I’d say we were never going to make anyone change to being greener by lecturing them. If someone says to you, ‘You shouldn’t use plastic bags, they kill wildlife and pollute the environment,’ you’re likely to feel judged. If someone says to you, ‘Those new recycled Sainsbury’s bags** are really rubbish, aren’t they, the handles always snap*** – I take my own, now, much sturdier and don’t hurt your hands,’ you might think they had a point.

But, when it comes down to it, my purely selfish, animal desire for survival and for my children’s survival has got nothing to do with skipping home with organic carrots in a hemp bag, knitting a yoghurt or two and then recycling a cat into a garden ornament, and if that isn’t the lifestyle that appeals to you, then you’re not going to want to do it. (Conversely, you might do it anyway – my envirosceptic parents have always cooked from scratch, grown vegetables, eschewed the latest gadgets and disposable fashion and holidayed in the UK, just because it gives them greater pleasure.)

Perhaps by suggesting that you should enjoy all the things I enjoy, I’m being far more patronising than if I simply said, ‘Look, we all need to make some tough decisions, for ourselves, for our parents, who will be elderly and vulnerable in a few decades time, for our children who have as much right to a future as we do, for their children, and for everyone else, everywhere in the world whose lives we are risking by carrying on claiming it is our ‘right’ to lay waste to the planet by doing all the little, tiny things we do every day without thinking.’

Perhaps I should stop being so afraid of making people feel judged, or suggesting that I’m right and they’re wrong, because I don’t want them to enjoy knitting and gardening and stop enjoying going on holiday. I want them to wake up and acknowledge their moral responsibility.

——–

Sincere apologies for the long, boring, heavy, ranty post. It’s been troubling me a lot lately. I’d ask for your thoughts, but I’ve covered so much and gone on at such length that you probably wouldn’t know which bit to respond to even if you did want to.

I’ll write about cakes and knitting again next time, I promise! =D

* And if you want to read it put more eloquently and succinctly than I ever could, here are a couple of posts from one of my favourite blogs: http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com/2006/10/theories-of-exceptionalism_09.html and http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com/2006/10/more-on-exceptionalism.html. In fact, read the whole blog through from beginning to end, because it is inspiring, heart-warming, terrifying, thought-provoking, intellectual, beautifully written and very, very human. It’s like someone’s saying to me, ‘It’s okay that you have a degree from Oxford and all you want to do is knit and grow vegetables. You are not wasting your brain doing these things. You are in fact very wise.’
** Only, last time I checked, 1/3 recycled and still using a lot of virgin plastic and a bit of chalk. Oh, greenwash, thy name is J Sainsbury.
*** Actually, maybe it isn’t greenwash, maybe it’s a very clever conspiracy to annoy us all into stopping using plastic bags.

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January 30, 2008 at 12:13 pm 3 comments

Start the week….

Ever felt like banging your head against a brick wall?

Click here.

January 28, 2008 at 9:50 am 3 comments

Weekend pottering

The weather down here has been quite astoundingly pleasant lately. It’s been sunny and crisp, but not too cold, and the evenings are getting lighter. Nights have been cold (partly cos I sneakily turned the heating down when gas prices went up…. ssshhhhh, don’t tell bf…..) but a cosy duvet and hot water bottle (among other things) soon sorts that out.

Was out in the garden yesterday, clearing up other people’s weeds. Grrr. I know nature abhors a vacuum, but, honestly, I swear that just before we came to view the house someone went round and got rid of all the weeds, but didn’t do so properly, so within about a day of moving in, they’d sprung up all over the place again. Due, probably, to successive shortish-term tenants who see no point in investing in the garden when they’re going to move out in a year or so, the garden just hasn’t been managed well. Hence, I have to spend a lot of time and energy keeping it tidy (cos it’s in the contract to ‘maintain the character of the garden’), but have very little scope to actually do anything productive with it.

I tackled it a while back and after what seemed like hours yanking up comfrey and trying to make sure I’d got it all, I got so frustrated I got a bit trigger happy with the Roundup. Rather lazily, I’d just left all the dead matter where it was, so yesterday I scooped it all up, and the rockery does look a lot better now. I had a bit of difficulty trying to work out what was ‘ornamental grass’ and what was ‘weeds’ at times. But, really, so many of the plants that are there are so sickly and unhealthy looking anyway, that I’m quite tempted to ring up the landlord and say, ‘Look, food and fuel prices are going up… global warming… peak oil… biofuels… please can I dig up all the spindly dying things and plant something useful? (And, while we’re at it, can we get rid of the flimsy metal blinds and put up some curtain rails, and get a woodburner, and can you insulate the loft please?….)’

I’ve had a line of a poem troubling me for a while. It’s to start, ‘Dig up your lawns and herbaceous borders’ and it’s going to be about peak oil and relocalisation and how we all need to dig and knit and mend things and connect with our local communities and store food and start, literally, in our own back gardens, a bit like during the war, but I can’t think of how it’s going to go on. I could rhyme ‘borders’ with ‘hoarders’, I suppose, and maybe the tone could start off quite scathing and cynical, and gradually become more positive, and it could end something like:

‘So dig up your lawns and herbaceous borders
something-y something-y marching orders.’

Yes, very much a work in progress, I feel.

I made a cake yesterday and as I’ve had rather patchy results in the past decided to experiment with oven temps and times, and it didn’t rise. You win some, you lose some… I have a very dense, 1 inch thick Victoria sponge, which I am far too embarrassed to serve to my bf’s family today and can’t cover in icing sugar cos we’ve somehow managed to lose the sieve. Oops.

Anyway, I said I’d start being useful at 10, and it’s just after, so I’d better go and add ‘have shower’, ‘wake up lazy, hungover bf’ and ‘make crumble topping’ to my list of things to do.

Also, chill wine…. =)

January 27, 2008 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

Inspirational blog

I’ve found a great blog recently via INEBG. ‘Auntie Plastic’ set herself the challenge of giving up the supermarkets and not throwing anything away, and I have read her entire account of her experiences right through from beginning to end. It was absolutely fascinating, and has made me realise how much more I could be doing in my own drive to reject consumerism and not produce any waste. I feel like I’m doing so much in comparison to so many people and it’s easy to get complacent, but, if I think about it, I still rely on oil to a frightening degree.

This quotation, from early in the blog, was one I found particularly inspirational. It seems to sum up exactly how I feel in the very concise and accurate way that other, cleverer people often do.

“I am purely selfish in my desire to see Neath regenerated. I cannot walk five miles to pick up my little bit of shopping. I need to retain my independence. I refuse to give a supermarket whose profits go to obscure places my money. I want to give my little bit of money to ther person who will plough their profits back into the town and give me a smile and appreciate my custom and I want people to see the benefits of keeping our local areas alive. In a time of crisis it is these people who will help one another not the supermarkets, who when there is no money to be made will ditch areas without a thought. We need self sufficiency with food.”

I remember when we first moved to Northumberland. I went from being just down the road from Safeway’s and the High Street and a short drive away from Waitrose and a shopping centre to being in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere with a pub the only commercial premises within a 3 mile radius. When we arrived, in 1989/1990, there was, every week, a butcher’s van, a baker’s van, a fish van, a mobile library, a milkman and three buses into Morpeth and back, one on Wednesday (market day), one on Friday and one on Saturday. These services gradually declined and now there is one bus a week, and you have to ring in advance to get it to stop in the village.

There’s a lady who lives in the village who never learnt to drive because she never needed to. Why would she? She had all those services on her doorstep for her day-to-day needs, a garden for fruit and veg, people nearby for eggs, she ran the post office out of her front room, and for everything else, the town was a short bus ride away. How was she supposed to know things would change so much? Now, in the twilight years of her life, widowed and a long way from her children, she has to rely on the kindness of friends and neighbours to give her lifts into town or to pick things up for her. Of course, it’s the sort of friendly place where people still do that kind of thing, but it must be hard, especially as she is still very active and mobile, to be so dependent.

Tricksy supermarkets. They promise us choice, the freedom to buy all these exciting products, offer us service, whereas in reality they have slowly eroded diversity and independence, particularly for the most vulnerable among us.

—————————

At 5 o’clock it was still light enough to see by. We have a box of sprouting beany thingies in the veg box and a UK green pepper (yep, I thought it seemed very early too!). On Sunday, we will have root vegetable gratin and broccoli, but tonight I’m going to do something fresh and green and stir-fried. Tomorrow I will sit down with my gardening notebook and my spade-shy bf and try and interest him in growing things and then order some seeds.

Next week I will try and learn how to write concise blog posts!

January 25, 2008 at 4:20 pm Leave a comment

A suburban field guide to the identification of packaging

I went for a walk yesterday, leaving the town by the winding, high-hedged road that runs past the grand houses, climbing the echoey steps over the railway bridge and suddenly feeling in a different world. Oh, it is a peculiar, south-eastern illusion of countryside to be sure, the horse-jumps scattered in the fields betray the fact that it would have been built on long ago if it hadn’t been for the wealthy and powerful equestrian set, and it is a far cry from the hilly expanses of my youth (and even the slightly less expansive and less hilly West Berkshire countryside), but it feeds the soul better than nothing and within walking distance of my front door.

I met a friendly chocolate labrador on the bridge and chatted to its owner about the weather.

After the bridge, the path divides. Straight on takes you past the brambles, to the prep school and eventually the farm shop, and you can come back along the road and stop for a drink in the pub on the way. I come from a line of keen hill-walkers and have a genetic distaste for going home the same way I came from.

Alternatively, you can turn right, and the path disappears downhill behind some bushes. I have been tempted by this path many times, but I have always been on a mission to pick blackberries or go to the farm shop, or it has been boggy (this is Berkshire – it’s flat and rains a lot) and have never explored it. Yesterday it was still boggy, but less so, and I was undaunted. I branched off to the right and squelched down to the field. Crossing the field brought me to a path. Left seemed to take me towards someone’s house, and although signed as a public footpath, I’m not sure of the etiquette down here, so I turned right again, past the stables where some small girls were running about industriously with bridles and shovels.

The path brought me out next to T*sco. I knew where I was, but I felt conscious of my muddy boots and ruddy cheeks, and didn’t fancy walking home through the town centre with the yummy mummies on parade in their eerily clean landrovers. I turned back and noticed litter everywhere, plastic bags hanging from trees, cans thrown into the stream.

I meant to take lots of pictures, to show that there is beauty here if you look. The evening light hitting the Victorian red brick terraces in an explosion of misty gold; the painted-pink wall of a house flaking away to reveal the bricks underneath at a rakish angle next to the water butt; the pointed windows of the convent; the hazy grey of the long, thin gardens in the morning; there may only be one field, the rest of the countryside a middle-class playground of PYOs, stables and school grounds, but it’s still full of rabbits, there are still robins if you’re patient enough, the trees are still majestic and soothing, there is still a carpet of scrunchy leaves…

I listened to the bird calls on the way home, how familiar they sounded, how I hadn’t bothered to learn what they were when I heard them all the time. I ached to know what they were now, the way you ache when you know what you’re missing. When we moved to Northumberland my parents bought a set of pocket guides to birds, wild flowers, mushrooms, trees, and they sat, pristine, on the shelves, because we had all the time in the world to learn about birds and mushrooms, because we soon learnt you could ask someone instead of relying on books. It was only in Oxford that I really appreciated the smell of cherry blossom in spring, because until I was 19 I’d never known there were places that the smell could be special, extraordinary.

The things we take for granted.

I only took one photo, and I hope it’s clear enough to read the exhortation to care for the environment.

I hope someone with a less keen sense of irony and a few inches more in height takes it down some day soon.

January 25, 2008 at 12:05 pm 2 comments

Well, the errant beetroot never turned up. Curious.

I have found another wintry vegetarian recipe, veggie chilli with cornbread topping. Unfortunately my cornbread topping sank when I spooned it on as the chilli was too liquid!! Aargh! Anyway, I shall pray it’s still edible and post the recipe when I have passed judgement.

Had a busy weekend with friends from uni visitint. It was so nice to see everyone again, and made me a bit sad that I haven’t really met anyone round here that I get on with. Still, am meeting up with someone from SSish and joining a knitting group. One day….

My dressmaking skills were praised very highly at my class last night. I now have all of the skirt cut out and will actually be let loose on a sewing machine next week! One of my friends very kindly threaded mine on Friday, but I still can’t get the bobbin thread to work. Grrrrr! How can this be so complicated?! Luckily, I’ve found a book in the library with really clear pictures.

Should also be getting some work at the end of this week, which means I might have some money to buy seeds with soon. Hurrah!

Hmm, am wittering on a bit here. Just wanted to let you know I was still alive. Best go check dinner hasn’t met with any more disasters in my absence!

January 23, 2008 at 8:20 pm 2 comments

Oh beetroot, where art thou? (a.k.a. veg box vegetable of the week)

Somewhere in my kitchen lurks a beetroot.

Of that I am quite convinced.

I know five came in the veg box last week, and I cooked four on Tuesday, and I can’t for the life of me find the other one.

Alongside my ambitious New Year’s Non-Resolutions and my commitment to give 10p to the RSPB for every plastic carrier bag I am unable or too embarrassed to refuse (although I haven’t inadvertently acquired a single one yet!), this year I am also trying desperately to find exciting ways to cook the contents of the veg box, that doesn’t just involve: stir-fried greens, sauteed greens, roasted root veg, boiled ‘n mashed root veg… In my defence, it is January…

I am gradually trying to convince my bf that eating less quantity and better quality with regard to meat (well, with regard to everything really, but I’m quite happy if he stuffs himself with chard, cos it’s cheap), which he is quite happy to go along with, as he agrees in principle, and sees the financial benefits. Unfortunately, while for me it is something akin to a guiding philosophy, I think he sees it as something that is fine while we are young and skint, and every time I place a chickpea casserole or a bean risotto down in front of him, there is a certain tangible disappointment to his demeanour, a slight sense that British masculinity has been affronted in some way…

(And the Waitrose magazine which included a section called ‘The Winter Vegetarian’ was full of recipes involving peppers, fresh tomatoes and aubergines. In a magazine called ‘Seasons’, I ask you…)

So this week I have made:

Cauliflower, lemon and tahini salad,
Bubble and squeak rosti

and a roasted carrot and beetroot salad of my own invention.

I made it with couscous, but it would have been better with bulgar wheat.

You will need:

1 large carrot, chopped into large slices (approx
4 small beetroot
enough bulgar wheat or couscous for 2 people
juice of 1 lime
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 large chilli
olive oil
fresh oregano
small amount of goat’s cheese (optional)

Basically:

Roast the veg (beetroot wrapped in foil for approx 40 mins, carrot tossed in oil for approx 30).

Meanwhile cook the bulgar wheat and lightly fry the onion, garlic and chilli.

Peel the beetroot, while wearing gloves or you’ll end up with a lovely natural purple nail polish, and chop it into similar sized chunks as the carrot.

Pop everything in a bowl, add the lime juice and enough olive oil to make it…. look like a dressed salad (I’m never going to cut it as a celebrity chef). Stir through the oregano just before you eat it.

All the above were met with resounding approval.

This week we will be getting: potatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, a bag of brussells tops, a cauliflower, a head of celery and a mystery vegetable that will take the place of the turnips we vetoed.

So, if anyone has any exciting veggie recipes that don’t involve roasting, boiling and/or mashing the carrots and potatoes and stir-frying/sauteeing the brussels tops and broccoli and uses the cauliflower in a way that doesn’t involve boiling it to death or smothering it in cheese, please feel free to suggest them.

Also, if anybody sees a rogue beetroot, please send it back to my kitchen pronto. I want to roast it!

I am most perplexed.

January 17, 2008 at 10:24 pm 1 comment

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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."