Tag Archive: food


… but not necessarily on it!

I have mixed feelings about the sea – I have nothing against it personally. However, this is the person who gets seasick on the Isle of Wight ferry (mind you, I also felt a bit nauseous on a boating lake in East London but I think that had more to do with the state of my rowing as there were no wind and waves to blame.) On the other hand there are some positive experiences, to name but a few: paddling in shallow water at the seaside, exploring rock pools, simply sitting gazing out towards the windswept horizon and boat trips to visit wildlife. There are some magnificent creatures in the sea though many of them are notoriously shy and to see such as dolphins and whales is a rare treat. And where would our fish and chips be without the sea?
Come to think about it, where would our foreign cars, bananas, mobile phones and other gadgets be without someone to cross the sea to import them? Let’s spare a thought for all those who work on, in or under the sea to help our nation’s trade, to provide us with food, to take us on holidays and to keep us safe.
Apparently, it is said that we know more about the surface of the Moon than we know about what is under the oceans’ waves. (If you do the arithmetic, I think you will find that that is in part because there is more ocean than there is surface of the Moon – but you get the general point). There is so much we do not know about the sea. There are myths and legends aplenty – we have very little idea what is to be found in the deeps. For example, over centuries there have been stories about a giant squid which were thought to be entirely myth – until eventually someone managed to bring one to the surface for all to see. (More on giant squid at New Scientist). God knows about the seas’ hidden depths and is fully aware of the risks and benefits that flow from working on the sea.

For some churches 12th July is “Sea Sunday” when the prayer-focus is on those who live and work on (or under) the sea. It is also a chance to learn about the “Mission to Seafarers“. We do well to acknowledge how much we depend on the resources of the sea and on the work of people to harvest them.

When we think of the sea – whether on a seaside holiday or at other times – let’s remember that it is not just so much water full of creatures to fish; it is also a place of mystery, beauty and danger. Thank God for the sea.

There is the ocean, large and wide, where countless creatures live, large and small alike. The ships sail on it, and in it plays Leviathan, that sea monster which you made. (Psalm 104 verses 25 to 26)

… and thank you to Mandy who made it. It is fair to say that I am fairly fussy about what fudge I eat (not keen on the glucose syrup which is often used in commercial types and which I think ruins the texture). However, this particular homemade fudge with its unusual ingredient, beetroot, worked well both in taste and texture. Had I not been told, I would never have guessed that there was any vegetable in it.

Unfortunately, I do not have the recipe to share with you.

As a moderately health-conscious (don’t laugh, I do eat a healthy diet as well as an unhealthy one) person, it is with mixed feelings that I mention our trip to a milkshake bar in town. It was a treat for a special occasion for a member of our family and I was also curious to see what it was like.
Low fat, low sugar and low-calorie is not what I saw when we first walked in: a wall filled with pretty much every brand of chocolate bar and biscuit/cookie you could imagine.
After a split-second of soul-searching I decided I would try one of their milkshakes and ordered a Malteser one. I watched it being made. First a packet of Maltesers was emptied into a plastic jug. Then a few swirls of ice-cream were added from a machine in the corner (my heart sank at this point because that usually means non-dairy ice cream which I think of as frozen margarine). Finally some semi-skimmed milk was poured in before the whole lost was “blitzed” i.e. blended in the jug. After a minute or so the drink was put into a cup and was ready.
To my surprise the drink was thicker than I anticipated but as the ice cream melted I was able to drink it through the straw. Incidentally, the straw was of the type that has a kind of small scoop at the bottom end so all those bits of chocolate at the end were not lost. Further to my surprise, it actually tasted quite nice. It was sweet enough for my sweet tooth and I enjoyed it. I think next time I might ask for added malt unless I choose a different chocolate bar – a Mars bar for instance.
I won’t comment on the pick ‘n’ mix except to observe that I think I’m more fussy about my sweets these days. By definition pick ‘n’ mix is rarely value for money but I would say that in this case the prices here were average.
As for the fruit smoothies, the leaflet tells us that they are made with “100% fresh fruit”. I’m not sure if it is the freshness which is 100% or that the drink is only made with fruit. Although the language is ambiguous I don’t think they’re trying to pull a fast one. Perhaps I’ll try one some other day.
I suppose my main reaction can be summed up as “pleasantly surprised”. Or, to put it another way, “the milkshake was actually rather good and I intend to go back again another day.”

Next will be King Edwards or Salad Blue. The warm Spring gave our potatoes a head start so that one lot of main crop appeared to be ready earlier than the earlies. Although the Spring was warm it was also very dry; meanwhile Summer has been largely warm and wet. According to a weather person on TV it is perfectly normal for our Summers to be warm and rainy: hot dry ones are the exception rather than the rule but British people still seem to think they are usual and are disappointed when they are not. The ideal for most of our crops is, I suppose, warm sunshine and showers.

This is not the first time I’ve mentioned our potatoes (see here) but I am pleased enough with this year’s crop to put it on the record.

Meanwhile, our potatoes so far have had flavour and worked well either baked or sautéd. The Lady Balfour are a new variety to us and have tasted quite good but they were expensive compared to other varieties – probably cheaper to buy them from the supermarket by the time we’ve improved the soil, watered them etc. The kestrels do OK in the sack method, have not succumbed to disease and also have a reasonable taste. The Madeleines are not ready yet. I believe they are a new variety so I’m not sure whether they are an early, main or late crop. My guess is that they are a main crop and won’t be ready until sometime in September.

Somewhat to the Elf Queen’s bemusement

Rincewind’s greatest desire was for a plateful of potatoes. Now, I don’t think I get that excited by them – picture soggy mash or boiled potatoes you could bounce off the wall (old school dinners any one?) and I’d rather have pasta. On the other hand, I like crisps as a snack, chips (from a decent chippy) and roast potatoes with a meal are another matter. Another attraction is that for someone like me, who does not have green fingers, they are relatively easy to grow. Of course there is the proper way to prepare the soil, earth up etc but you can get a crop if the best you can do is benign neglect. Last year was an exception because, although the weather could have been worse, it was warm too early and cold midseason and it rained at the wrong time – I ended up watering our potato plants much more often and ordinarily it would not have been necessary. Still, we got a crop.

This weekend HDRA (also known as Garden Organic) held their annual Potato Day. OK so it’s a bit of a niche hobby, perhaps, but the advantage of it is that you could buy individual seed potatoes if you just wanted to have a go.Some in the crowd were like me – more of a hobbyist than a gardener. Some were obviously taking it more seriously and left carrying several bags of different kinds of potato. There was even a presenter from BBC’s Gardener’s World (Alys Fowler, I think it was) chatting away while the camera panned up and down a display of potatoes. I would think that a fondness for potatoes has gone too far if you start admiring their good looks – potatoes are for growing, cooking and eating.

My first attempt at growing them was a single potato in a large (45 cm) pot. Recently I have discovered that you can plant two or three tubers in a large pot or sack and get reasonable results. The keen gardener or allotment holder will buy sacks of them and do several rows.  Sorry but not only does that seem too much like hard work but I really haven’t the time. Perhaps half a dozen in a corner somewhere this year but it will have to be according to the “benign neglect” school of gardening.

But it can be fun trying out different varieties of potato. Yes, I really did type that last sentence. If you’ve ever tried Salad Blue, which are a purplish-blue in colour and watch the colour change as you cook them, you’ll see what I mean. They don’t really work boiled as they tend to fall apart but you could see if your friends will eat blue mash. And it really can make a difference as some varieties are better as a salad potato (if you like that sort of thing) and some are better for chips. Despite the name, the aforementioned Salad Blue potatoes are best sautéd.

I don’t necessarily expect great success with growing potatoes but growing pasta just isn’t an option.

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