‘Never eat anything bigger than your head’
hmm…. seems like fair advice don’t ya think! Have a great Monday 🙂
‘Never eat anything bigger than your head’
hmm…. seems like fair advice don’t ya think! Have a great Monday 🙂
Every now and then my husband and I (ooh hark at me sounding like the Queen) take ourselves off for a ‘date lunch’. We like food, and it is good to spend a bit of quality time together now and then, so we find ourselves somewhere nice to go and pig out (it may be a date lunch, but we don’t stand on ceremony… well, we’ve been together for over thirty years now so we should just about be used to each other’s sloppy eating habits). Yesterday we ended up in a really cosy pub, the log fires being just what we needed after being out in the gale force winds and unseasonal blizzard that suddenly appeared from nowhere.
All the food was yummy, as was the real Ale that we washed it down with, but what stood out for me was the chips.
Now, I’m not usually a big fan of chips. They can be a bit soggy, or in French fry form, a bit burnt and over crispy. I don’t have them often, but when I do, I drown them in salt and vinegar to give them some flavour, or if I’m feeling fancy, a bit of mayo a la Francais way. I’m not a big fan of tommy k (tomato ketchup to you), so never that big red blob on my plate thanks. Yesterday’s chips didn’t need anything though, they came ready seasoned and really crispy on the outside and soft in the middle (like an Armadillo as we say in our house…don’t ask… there was an advert once I think), 10 out of 10 for the chips then!
Of course, we ended up discussing what constitutes a ‘proper’ chip. Do french fries count??
Anyhoo, what with the chips/French fry debate an’ all, it got me thinking about foods that aren’t like what their supposed to be, and how sometimes they are really yummy despite being completely weird and unrecognisable. Like these goodies:
These are just a few examples, off the top of my head, of weird yet wonderful foodstuffs that are filled with e-numbers and calories to start you salivating. I’m quite sure there are many more (I bet I think of them as soon as I press the post button!). I’d love to hear your favourites!
My dad used to go to the pub a lot. I think it would be fair to say he liked a drink. As a child, I didn’t necessarily know where he was going, if I asked he’d only say he was going to ‘meet a man about a dog’. I have no idea where that saying came from, all I know is that I spent many hours excitedly anticipating the arrival of a new puppy that never came.
On Sundays, he used to go to the pub while my mum and nan cooked a huge roast dinner. We’d always have to wait for him to come back before we ate, but nevertheless we were always pleased that he went because the fish stall used to park outside the pub on Sunday’s, and dad would always come back weighed down with bags of shellfish for us to have for tea.
After the obligatory Sunday afternoon watching a weepy on TV from the floor while Dad snored on the sofa, I’d go and help mum and nan prepare the salad. No fancy salad bowls brimming with multi-coloured mixed leaves and chopped vegetables for us. Oh no…our salad’s constituted:
a pile of lettuce leaves in a bowl
a pile of tomatoes in a bowl
Some very thin slices of cucumber in a bowl
Some cress in a bowl
Some full length sticks of celery standing up in a glass (how posh)
And a bottle of salad cream
These bowls would be distributed about our gingham-cloth covered table leaving space in the middle for the stars of the show, the shellfish.
Oh how I loved the messiness of the shellfish tea. Getting pink prawn husks and eggs stuck to our fingers, shelling the scampi (fresh ones the like of which I’ve not seen since), using dressmaking pins to lift the grey ‘lids’ off the winkles and wheedle the curled fleshy bit out, and the peculiar yellow cockles, that looked like the result of a violent sneeze, yet with a shake of salt and splash of vinegar tasted like the finest gourmet food.
I loved to see my fastidious old nan digging in and getting just as mucky as the rest of us, even licking the fishy juice from her fingers like I did. .
Afterwards, the bin would be full of the smelly shells, and mum would have to take the table-cloth out to the back garden and give it a vigorous shake to get rid of the stuck on bits of prawn antenna and legs, and winkle lids.
There was always salad left over, and more often than not the next day, all I’d find in my lunchbox was a cucumber, lettuce and tomato sandwich, with a stick of celery nestling alongside it.
Those days are long gone, and it seems that, these days, we have become over-sensitised to eating anything that looks a bit strange, or having to do anything as weird as wheedling out a winkle to get our food. But I remember those family teas as a bonding time. It was the one time of the week, when we sat down and ate together, little was said, and we all got on.
It seems that, despite my best efforts, I have fallen into the routine trap. Monday is writing and catching up on correspondence, bill paying etc day, Tuesday ironing and housework, Wednesday swimming and long walk day, Thursday shopping and yoga, Friday winemaking and gardening.
Hmmph…that wasn’t supposed to happen. I naively believed that when I left work, I would leave all routine behind. But no, the alarm still goes off and I still get up at the crack of dawn so that we can breakfast together before my husband goes off to work for the day. The dog still needs walking first thing in the morning else she gets tetchy. There is still washing up to do, the bed still needs making. But hey ho… that’s fine. Actually come to think of it, a good routine can be a very fine thing.
When my twin girls were born they were a bit on the small side, at least one was, so they spent two days in in the special care baby unit. I wasn’t able to visit them, let alone feed them, so through necessity the nursing staff fed them like clockwork every four hours. Consequently when they were returned to their excited mummy they were absolutely and resolutely in a four hourly routine. It was great. None of that feeding on demand, which frankly, would have been a nightmare, for me. Nope, they woke up at the same time, got fed at the same time, and slept at the same time, giving me some much needed rest in between.
It also meant, that as they grew up they instinctively knew what ‘mealtimes’ meant. They weren’t snacking because they ate regularly, at the right times. Now, I know that ‘feeding on demand’ is the big thing these days. Babies cry, you feed ’em. But I have a theory…
I believe that maintaining a feeding routine right from the word go, could be the answer to the twin (though diverse) pandemics of fussy eaters and obesity.
I have heard children (and adults) described as ‘grazers’. They just spend all day popping bits of food into their mouths, but seem unwilling to sit down to a ‘proper’ meal. ‘Course not. They’re not hungry. It seems to me, that if they have been fed every time they’ve felt a bit, well, peckish, since they were born, then they really wouldn’t know what an empty stomach feels like. I’ve seen kids crying that they’re starving, and being given a packet of crisps to keep them quiet, even though lunchtime is nigh. Wouldn’t it be better to push them to go without a little bit longer? If they were really ‘starving’ surely they would be more likely to appreciate a plate of healthy food?
As adults we all feel ‘peckish’ or what my nan used to call ‘fanciful’ sometimes (I frequently fancy a bar of chocolate, and no, I’m not necessarily hungry), but hopefully we recognise that that is all it is and don’t necessarily indulge those cravings. We mostly are fortunate enough not to be starving, but if we don’t eat between meals, we are more likely to properly recognise hunger.
As you know, I’m following the 5:2 diet, and whilst sometimes it does test my willpower to go without lunch, the lightness of an unusually empty stomach is energising and pleasing in its own way. I feel ‘cleansed’ by giving my tummy a bit of a rest, albeit only for 12 hours or so. And the light meal I have in the evening after my fast is the best meal of the week. My tastebuds, starved of stimulation for a day, are exceptionally receptive to the nuances of the herbs, spices and flavours of any and all foods (‘cept jelly and coffee obvs!!)
Anyhoo… I fear I’m straying off subject. What I’m trying to say though, is that allowing myself to fall into a routine, in both daily life, and eating, I’m giving myself the pleasure of anticipation, be it knowing that the ironing will be done and dusted for the week once Tuesday morning is over, or that I will enjoy a delicious meal at the end of my fast. In the words of John Lennon ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’ so teaching ourselves, and our children, to appreciate a daily routine of mealtimes and work, together with down time (not to mention a bedtime routine for kids), should ultimately make us more content surely?
Every now and then we get invited to a dinner and dance or a ball.
‘ooh, how lovely’ I hear you say. Yes, the chance to get myself dolled up in a posh frock used to get me excited. Now, as a cynical, grumpy old woman, you’ll just hear me sigh and moan at the thought.
For a start, these ‘do’s’ are usually work related. The ‘Celebration Dinner’ or the ‘Awards ceremony’ during a conference. You’ve already had a day of smiling nicely, and all you really want to do is go and sit in a bar with your chums and a bottle of wine. The reality however, is that you get less than an hour to get yourself sorted and ready for an evening of torture.
You have a quick shower, then attempt to do your hair with one of those stupid hairdryers you get in hotel rooms. You know, the one’s where you have to hold the button down to keep the air flow going. What air flow there is – they invariably have the power of a fly flapping it’s wings past your ear. Consequently, hair isn’t that of a tennis girl-friend (how do they get hair like that?), more of the not-so-fashionably tousled variety. You put ‘
product’ on to try and tame it. It looks like its been dipped in grease and sticks out at right angles. Hair should not have corners, should it? Ho hum… on with the dress…
You will have chosen a suitable posh frock to wear. A nice posh frock, I have found, invariably needs some pretty mega underwear to make it look half decent on me. Strapless bra that digs in, and has potential to slip either up or down, and make you look squashed in funny places. Big keks. Big, big, keks. Big keks that hold you in so much you go cross eyed, and feel sick if you eat so much as a stick of celery at the dinner – neither can you go to the loo quickly, so can’t drink too much either (I have discovered though, that a certain brand of big keks has a special gusset that kind of opens so you can do what you need to without taking them off – who knew??? It’s made me look at red carpet celebs in a whole new different way). The dress is long…bit too long, need high heels. You’ve bought a beautiful new pair, that make you feel a million dollars. You’re tall, you’re elegant, you are a Cinderella look-alikey, you’re held in, and your feet bl***y hurt.
After tidying up the make-up you’ve smudged inadvertantly at some point of the getting ready-ness, you totter off, clutching your clutch bag, which you will have mislaid by the end of the evening. Arriving at the reception you grab a glass of free champagne and swill it down. Then you grab a second. You immediately regret that second one. It’s ok now, but the first glass of wine with dinner is going to mix with those darn bubbles and send you giddy fairly swiftly. Never mind, you are charming, though wish you could remember the names of the people you don’t recognise at all who seem to know you quite well.
Then there is the dinner.
You are sat at a round table with some eight other people, none of whom you have anything in common with, except perhaps the woman opposite, who you think you might get on really well with, but you can’t actually hear anything she’s saying, because the enormous table decoration separates you. Instead, you’re stuck with the slimey Mr I Am sitting next to you for the evening. Have another drink.
There’s the food to negotiate. Soup for starters. Eating soup daintly is a knack I’ve yet to learn. Then there’s the chunk of meat for main, and who thought strips of pasta was a good idea – are they having a laugh? Slippery and sloshy with sauce, guaranteed to slither down your chin. Pudding is so often that little row of three teeny tiny same but different things. One is so so, one is revolting, and the third is the smallest one, that is delicious and you wish you could have just had a big portion of that. Then there’s the coffee…..don’t get me started…see previous post…!!
Speeches. Oh hoo bloomin’ ray! Does anyone, ever like the speeches. Sure, everyone laughs politely, claps a bit, but really we are all wishing we could get to the bar (the wine on the table went very early on). Awards to be given out. Endless awards, with endless photos to be taken. By this time, I am nodding off, possibly with a bit of dribble coming out of the side of my mouth. Then the ENTERTAINMENT. A misnomer. Need I say more.
Of course, there is always the disco at the end. Dad dancing at it’s finest! It does liven everyone up a bit though, and I actually start enjoying myself. Of course, it’s enjoying myself with the abandonment of more than enough glasses of wine enjoying myself. Heaven knows what I look like. My shoes, taken off discreetly during dinner, lie abandoned under the table, I’m tripping over my frock and trying to shimmy despite my big keks, and slippy bra. Doubt anyone else remembers anyway, and it’s giving me the chance to bitch about everyone else’s odd choice of clothing for the evening. I wonder why that woman’s boobs are such a funny shape – could it be her bra?
Oh god, it’s a mirror…
‘Can’t eat ’em. Don’t like the look of ’em!’ the checkout blokey said to me at the supermarket the other day (yes, it was an older gentleman on the checkout, we’re very pc ’round these parts ya’know). He was referring to some mussels that I’d bought for our tea. I love mussels, funny looking bits an’ all. In fact I like pretty much most sea food, although on further discussion with said blokey, we decided whelks were overall a bit too chewy, unless you’d got the odd half hour or two to eat them.
I’ve always thought you shouldn’t be put off of trying anything by the way it looks. Seafood in particular can look a bit, err, shall we say, challenging (come to think of it, so does a lot of my cooking… you should have seen my summer pudding the other day. The special effects team from ‘Bones’ would have been proud). It got me to thinking about likes and dislikes, foodwise, though.
We all have things we don’t like. I have two brothers-in-law (brother-in-laws?? well, you know what I mean). Even though he’s 50 and should know better, one of them won’t touch any veggies except the odd teeny bit of a carrot, and is a proper carnivor, the other one doesn’t like meat all that much, much preferring to pile his plate with the green stuff. My little niece rejects practically everything she is offered, except sweet things and…. black olives. How weird is that? My daughter’s wouldn’t touch olives until they were in their twenties. They seem a grown up sort of taste.
Is there such a thing though? We tend to give children bland uninteresting food, or sweetened stuff, or things in funny shapes – alphebetti spaghetti etc and then wonder why they are fussy. I never did make different food for my children, they had what we had, and on the whole they ate it…curry’s, cous-cous, stir-frys, chilli – olives were one of the exceptions. We didn’t give them much in the way of sweets (I know, I’m a cruel mother) but they are thanking me these days as, at the age of 26 they are still filling free, and they are open to trying all types of food both here and when they are in foreign parts.
Personally, there are two things I really don’t touch (three if you count coffee…see previous posts). Steak and jelly.
I have had an aversion to steak since seeing my dad’s plate graced with a whopping piece of meat that was oozing blood – he liked it rare. Put me right off it did. I’ve no doubt that if I tried it again now, I might like it, as long as it was cooked gently and not too chewy. I just can’t be bothered to try. However, jelly is a different matter.
Apparently, when I was just a few months old, my mum tried giving it to me as one of my first steps towards solid food. I spat it back at her with contempt. It was revolting then, and it is revolting still. All jelly. Strawberry, blackcurrant, orange, that gelatin stuff that holds the fruit together in flans, that grey wobbly stuff that makes a perfectly good pork pie into something totally inedible for me. Any of it. All of it. Yuck. Don’t know why, just, well, yuck.
My mum always insisted we had jelly and blancmange at my birthday parties. I used to look at the hideous wobbling monstrosity, and was often tempted to push it from the window sill where it sat setting in the sun, but the thought of gobbets of the ghastly stuff splattered across the garden path, and me probably having to clear it up, stopped me. The blancmange was equally bad by the way. Basically thick milky jelly. Yuck, yuck, yucketty yuck (to paraphrase Hugh Grant in Four Weddings).
Anyhoo, next time you invite me ’round, remember, I’ll eat most things, but for goodness sake don’t serve jelly, you might get it spat in your face.
Reading my last post back, I noticed that I failed to mention that although I don’t drink coffee, I am, in fact, a tea connoisseur. Even I didn’t realise that until after I’d written it. Perhaps it was when I counted the different teas I have in my cupboard. Twenty. Yep, twenty different teas. There’s the bog standard fairtrade everyday tea bags (I like Diplomat ones from Aldi by the way!) and then there are packets of:
Camomile, Peppermint, Pomegranate & Raspberry, Cranberry & Raspberry, Fennel, Masala, Ginger, Selfridges Afternoon Tea, Boh tea from Malaysia, Tetley’s Earl Grey, Jasmine, Kiptagich Highland Tea from Kenya, Darjeeling, Fairtrade organic Breakfast tea, Sarawack tea from Borneo, a packet of herbal tea from Sri Lanka, Fortnam and Mason’s Orange Pekoe, Pure Ceylon from Sri Lanka and Highcrown BOP from Sri Lanka.
A fair selection I think you’ll agree. Some of them have been hanging around in my cupboard for a while, but I’ve tasted them all. Many are brought from distant shores and remind me of holidays.
I’ve sipped a thick sweet black tea in a make-shift corrugated iron cafe by the sea in Turkey. Warmed up with Jasmine tea after nearly being frozen to death, even in the brilliant sunshine, on the Great Wall of China.
The mint tea in Morocco was served from tiny silver teapots into little glass cups, in a sweetsmelling and peaceful courtyard tucked away behind the exciting and exhausting madness of Jemaa el Fna and the Medina’s.
Recently I had my first taste of Masala tea in India. The slightly curried warmth of it will always remind me of collapsing by the pool at one of the fabulous hotels after a full-on day of exploring the mosaic cities, wonderful palaces and extraordinary rivers that make India such a fascinating and wonderful place to be.
Ginger tea was taken on a rooftop terrace in the sunshine, while contemplating the world of people wheeling around the brilliant white Boudhanath Stupa in Katmandhu, Nepal.
Without a doubt though, the best cup of tea I have ever had, was after a very long and arduous journey in a jeep up into the mountains of Sri Lanka. We’d travelled through rising seas of tea plantations, lush and green, dotted with women in colourful sari’s plucking the leaves. We were hot and sticky when we eventually stopped to visit one of the factories. The manager there greeted the four of us (me, husband, two 14 yr old daughters) warmly, and took us to one of the fields where we learned about the bushes and their growing habits, and the different types of tea. We then saw the tea itself in different tubs depending on quality (always look for Orange Pekoe!) and were told, somewhat disconcertingly, that the tea bags we get in England are made of the equivalent of the sweepings from the floor!
After the, fairly brief, tour, we were shown into a beautiful, fan-cooled room, where there were huge soft sofa’s that we were ashamed to plonk our grubby selves on. We did nonetheless, and sat and enjoyed the comfort after the bashing around we’d had in the jeep. Tea was served to us by a beautiful young Sri Lankan lady dressed in an simple orange sari. She poured from a proper teapot, into proper china cups. The tea was black, and untainted by sugar. It would be impossible for me to describe the flavour, but I would say that it was exquisite, subtle, and refreshing. To top it all it was served with a slab of perfect chocolate cake. I was in heaven.
Of course, as well as my travels, tea reminds me of a nice cup of tea with my mum after a hard day at school, and all the time’s when I’ve come home from work feeling grumpy and a cuppa has made me feel better. Some of the tea’s in my cupboard have been bought for me by my daughter’s when they have been on their travels (Malaysian BOH, and the Sarawack from Borneo for instance), which makes me proud and happy too.
So yep, I admit it, I’m Kaye and I’m a Tea-aholic!
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