Posts tagged ‘cookery’

Food in the news – 27th April – 1st May

Article from the FT suggests that the record profits announced by many supermarkets since the recession hit might have come at someone else’s expense. Why am I not surprised?

Tesco are making suppliers wait 60 days to be paid, rather than 30, and ASDA have, among other things, brought back e-auctions, where suppliers bid for a contract in a blind auction (“While the lowest bid might now win, it may be used as a starting point for the negotiations.”) and the NFU says farmers are noticing contracts are being altered retrospectively more often.

I needn’t tell you that this moves me to murderous fury. I remember visiting a certain large supermarket last summer, during the peak of the food crisis, which proudly boasted that they were magnanimously cutting prices on fruit and veg. I couldn’t help thinking that there were sound economic and ecological reasons why food prices were rising and so if retail prices were being cut, someone somewhere along the line was taking a cut. I suspected this might be the suppliers rather than the retailers themselves (although I believe fruit and veg is often priced quite highly, in order to balance out the narrow profit margins on things like milk and bread, so there might be some room for manoeuvre) and now, guess what, I was right. (Such cynicism in one so young…)

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This, on the other hand, is more reassuring. Apparently, if you make things from scratch, at home, from raw ingredients, instead of buying them ready-made, not only is it almost always cheaper but the food almost always tastes better. Gosh. Crucially, she doesn’t factor your time into her analyses, which is, I suspect, what puts most people off, and it was very revealing that no-one in her family liked the cream cheese because it wasn’t bland enough, but, still, it’s nice to see an article on credit crunch food that doesn’t essentially say, ‘Ha ha, people can’t afford to buy organic any more, they’re all eating at Domino’s!!’ (Which doesn’t even make sense.)

“It’s one thing to eat runny yogurt and flaccid bagels because they’re a bargain; it’s another entirely to pay for the privilege.”

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Finally, more seriously, Grist is investigating the possibility that swine flu might be linked to an intensive pig farm in Mexico. http://www.grist.org/article/2009-04-28-more-smithfield-swine/

April 30, 2009 at 9:35 am 5 comments

In which I realise heirloom vegetables are superior to F1s and experiment with vegetables

Scientist Boyfriend has spent all weekend swotting up on pensions for an exam, so I’ve been trying to find ways to entertain myself that don’t involve making a lot of noise or having to use the sitting room. I haven’t yet got round to making curtains, but I have sewn up the end of my second sock, which looks a lot better than the first. I might take a picture of them to put up next week if you promise not to mention that one of them is a good two inches longer than the other (and than my foot).

I’ve also pottered around the garden, by which I mean I’ve done a bit of weeding and stared at my tomatoes like a paranoid… thing that stares at tomatoes. (Hmm. Must work on analogy.) Three of them are turning red (as, excitingly, is a pepper, which I had more or less resigned myself to eating green!) and I am totally converted to heirloom varieties. All the plants grown from organic seed or given to me by other gardeners (who I know use old, non-F1 varieties even if I don’t know exactly what sort these plants are) are, if not ripe, at least looking mostly healthy and appear to have withstood the sneaky substitution of a deluge for summer, while the F1s, designed for commercial growers who spray with things, have all succumbed much worse to blight and the fruits are going rotten and I don’t know if I’ll be able to salvage much. So there we are.

I also made a chocolate chilli cake yesterday, which was yummy, although there was no evidence of my having put any chilli in it. If you fancy trying it and want a bit of a kick, up the chilli content. I’ve also discovered more things to do with kale, in preparation for a winter of cabbage and parsnips. (Also got the first parsnips since last winter, will be making soup methinks!) Heartily recommend both these recipes for a veg box crisis moment:

Penne with kale, gorgonzola and roasted onions (from www.discoverkale.co.uk), and

Stuffed mushrooms with kale

Didn’t follow them to the letter – had no gorgonzola so just added parmesan (and also pine nuts because we are pine nut fiends and add them to almost everything!) to the first and used brie instead of goat’s cheese in the second – but that’s a much more fun way to cook anyway. Also had two nice squash dishes this week, much more exciting than last year’s stuff-with-brown-rice-and-roast experiments, acorn (I think) squash and hazlenut lasagne a few days ago and spaghetti squash with olives, tuna and tomato sauce this evening.

And once I have snatched Scientist Boyfriend from the jaws of pensions-related doom we’re going blackberrying again and are going to make blackberry wine. Found lots of berries last week on my 11-mile walk last week, so have to hope they haven’t been eaten by anything else in the meantime. (I was trying, incidentally, to decide what I wanted to do with my life, as everything I want to do requires me to have money and everything that pays will make me miserable. All I decided was that walking is fun and I’d quite like a dog. Blackberry wine, I suppose, comes a close second to meaning and direction or hard capital, though.)

September 21, 2008 at 7:54 pm 2 comments

Apples and oranges

I had meant to go to the farmer’s market yesterday, but I dithered about a bit (i.e. decided to have lunch first as going when hungry could lead to financial ruin) and by the time I made it everyone had packed up and gone home except the indefatigable fruit farm from down the road. It was only about 2.30, so I hope this doesn’t mean rising food prices have turned everyone off local food. I wanted to get something nice for dinner (inc. inspiration!) and a joint of beef or something for Sunday when Scientist Boyfriend’s family will be here, but all I ended up with was some raspberries and strawberries and a money-off voucher for PYO for each of the next three months.

Not that I’m complaining, though – my kitchen smelt wonderfully of raspberries! I think we’ll go and pick some more on Saturday and make raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake for pudding on Sunday. I rarely make anything with strawberries or raspberries, mostly because if you buy really tasty ones, I feel very little can improve on their fresh, gorgeous simplicity. I used to think that about meat, though, too – that marinades and sauces couldn’t improve (and might even detract from) a really good pork chop (or whatever), but after Scientist Boyfriend suggested it might be nice to have pork chops cooked in some other way than browned in the pan then baked in the oven with a glass of white wine and six cloves of garlic, I branched out into almost its polar opposite, some sticky marinade involving all manner of strongly flavoured ingredients such as ginger, chilli and various spices. We both agreed afterwards that actually the chilli enhanced it and that rather than masking the quality (I’ve long agreed with HFW’s statement that supermarkets sell you cheap meat, but you then have to buy their expensive marinades to make the spongy, watery flesh taste of anything) it actually brought it out.

So I’m going to apply the same principle to soft fruit. And marinade it in Chinese five spice powder. 😉 Hmmmm.

I also got a steak in the decadent Italian deli of which we had half each. Their cheese is really quite reasonable though and they sell seeds, exciting things like borlotti beans and yellow beans and romanesco, which it’s a bit late for now but which will be useful next year. Thursday (veg box eve) is normally ‘Uninspiring Dinner Day’ – usually a concoction of tired vegetables that don’t go together in any form of unified meal but need eating up – but we actually did rather well, with the new potatoes not too tired and the mouldy broccoli put into the compost and replaced by some salad and about 3 pak choi leaves each from the garden. Total self-sufficiency still quite a way off, I feel…

I must stop being surprised that the cheese at the deli is so reasonable. Every time I go and buy cheese I wince as he tells me how much it’s going to be, and then think, ‘Oh, actually, that’s cheaper than the supermarket,’ and I haven’t tried the goat’s cheese yet but the Parmesan is also vastly superior.

My friend pulled me up on something the other day. Apparently I have two arguments in favour of local food: firstly, that we should be prepared to pay more for decent food and secondly, that local food generally costs less.

I hadn’t thought about it before, but yes, that does seem rather contradictory.

I would now like to amend my statement to add emphasis to the prepared in ‘prepared to pay more for decent food’. 🙂 We should be prepared to pay an honest price for what we eat, and sometimes (in the case of chicken, for instance, or anything that someone else has to make, like cheese or bread or jam) that is a lot more than simply buying the cheapest option available (and although I’d add not comparable, not everyone would agree with me) and that we just have to live with. But at other times, like with vegetables and, apparently, cheese from the Italian deli, you might be pleasantly surprised.

I would also add that we need to change how we eat as well as what. If you eat a chicken breast one night, pork chops the next, steak the next, lamb chops the next and so on and so forth, yes, you’d get a nasty shock if you got all that from a local farmer! But if you buy meat in bulk and eat it less often (which is a damn sight easier when your vegetables taste nice) you can save a bucketload of cash. I’ve replaced the time spent shopping with time spent baking bread and making jam, so rather than paying for someone else’s time when they make my jam, I get the raw materials cheaply and do it myself, which again is easier when you haven’t got to go around checking the label of every single jar of jam in the shop and trying to find out where the fruit came from and why the hell they have ingredients other than just fruit and sugar in them.

You can’t compare like with unlike. It’s like saying ‘showers use less water than baths’ without looking at, say, my grandparents. They never shower, they always take baths, but they have about three baths a week and share the water (they take it in turns to go first), unlike most of my generation who all shower every day and feel disgusting if they don’t. I bet my grandparents use much less water overall. Nor have I personally ever noticed my grandparents smelling (other than of normal grandparent smells, like Old Spice or talcum powder). A shower uses less water than a bath, just as a free-range chicken costs more than an intensively-reared chicken, but the practice of bathing rather than showering doesn’t have to use more water, nor does the practice of eating sensibly-produced food.

July 4, 2008 at 8:55 am Leave a 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."