Tag Archives: food

Slowing Down Time

So it’s 2016, which is as much a surprise to me as it is to anyone.  Where does the time go?  A few years ago now, David Gemmell told me about a friend of his, an elderly gentleman, who suggested that we feel time passing more quickly as we age, because we experience less new stuff each day.  As children, everything around us is new, or we’re doing new things, exploring and discovering new knowledge.  As we age, in general, our days are filled with very similar things, and there’s little new or surprising in each of them.  So our experience of time is based on the density of our memories for any given period.  More memories of different things and the passage of time feels slow, fewer memories and the passage of time feels quick.  The aim then, is to keep doing new things, discovering new things, experiencing new things, and thus, slow down the passage of time.

I don’t know how true it is, but I don’t see the harm in trying.

I pay lip service to new years resolutions usually, if I go that far, and although I’d like to think this year is different it probably won’t be.  However, even in the face of obvious failure it’s usually still worth having a shot, so here are my new years resolutions for 2016.

  • Drink more.
  • Eat more.
  • Photograph more.
  • Watch more films.
  • Be happier.

I know that being happy is not really something you can choose (others might disagree), but you can take steps to increase the chance of it working that way – if you have the energy (there’s the kicker).  I don’t drink much alcohol any more, partly because we’re not in the situation where alcohol is often consumed very often, and partly because of the diabetes.  There’s a lot of sugar in beer, and alcohol screws with your blood sugar on top.  However, I do like a bit of whiskey and people keep buying it for me.  So I really should drink it.  I resolve, within reason and within sensible measures, to drink the whiskey I have in the cupboard and to bloody enjoy it.

I already eat too much so the second one might seem odd, but I tend to eat too much low quality food.  What I want to do, is eat too much high quality food (or, a more sensible amount of high quality food, as an alternative).  I want to eat more exciting things and less boring things.

I’ve struggled with getting out to take photographs in the last few months.  Part of this is because my sister died in the latter part of 2015, after a short and devastating battle with cancer.  I was on the road a lot visiting her, and while my battle wasn’t anywhere near as hard as hers (clearly), I pretty much expended all of my energy and had nothing left over.  Most of that travelling took place at weekends, which was the only time I really had for photography, so it took a back seat.  Then Christmas was upon us faster than we could imagine, we had a lot of work to do helping Greté’s mum and step-dad move house, and now it’s the new year.  So, in 2016, I will take more photographs (and I will try and be less negative about the output).

I love films, I should watch more of them.  I will watch more of them.  You can’t stop me!

Part of being happier means expressing myself again, writing, and that means blog posts.  I like writing them, because they help me understand how I feel, even when they’re about nothing more than how my day has gone.  So, I intend to overhaul the blog, replace the template with something a) cleaner, b) less black, and c) easier to maintain.  And I intend to blog, to alleviate stress, to ramble, to solidify my thoughts and to share (maybe) my photographs.

Here’s a funny picture of some cats.

Soup!

I’ve blogged a couple of times about the soup I make (I think, although a quick search doesn’t reveal anything).  Anyway, it seems to be good for my blood sugar which I found out after I’d been making it a while, which is handy for my diabetes.  It took me a few years to get it right – my mum makes it (or used to) with a ham shank, which I could never get around to sorting out.

I eventually settled on a gammon joint as the base and it works quite well.  Since I’m about to put another batch on, I thought I’d write down how I make it.

I buy a gammon join, and some potatoes, carrots, swede, shallots, leeks and lentils.  I boil the gammon joint for some period of time, until it’s done.  Then I chop the various amounts of vegetables, and chuck them and the lentils into the stock. I know I should strain the stock and get the fat out, but I don’t.  I then chop some of the gammon joint and stick that in (I slice the rest and keep it).  I then simmer it for some period of time until the lentils have turned completely smooth.

See? Easy 🙂

I guess if you want numbers, just remember that I don’t look at this by quantity, I just buy whatever looks okay at the time and stick it all in.

  • Gammon Joint – today’s is around 1.7kg, un-smoked, good quality
  • 300g sweet shallots – quartered
  • 1kg potatoes (I tend to use British Charlotte potatoes, because they don’t turn to mush) – cut into chunks (halved, or quartered if they’re big)
  • 4-6 leeks – sliced roughly 1-2cm thick
  • 500g swede – cut into chunks
  • 500g carrots – cut into 1-2cm chunks
  • 500g red split lentils.
  • This gives 8-10 servings.

Half cover the gammon (in a big pan), simmer for an hour or so, and then while it’s cooling, chop the veg.  Take the gammon out (remove the fat from the gammon, and get the fat out of the stock if you want – easier if you make the gammon stock the day before, I don’t).  Stick the veg and lentils into the stock.  Chop gammon to taste, stick into the stock.  At this point, you need to judge if there’s enough water or if you need to add more.  I make this soup *thick*.  I’m serious, it’s slice-able when cold.  However, if you like it with more liquid you’ll need an even bigger pan.

Heat slowly, stir often to prevent sticking.  It’s done for me when the lentils are virtually a single homogeneous gloop.

Pease Pudding

So, another go at pease pudding last night – no photo this time.  Used a much smaller amount of split peas, an in general, it’s much better.  For a start, it tastes like the pease pudding my mam used to make, and it’s mostly smooth and creamy.  We had to push it through a sieve to get it like that though.  Need to cook the split peas for longer, and not quite so tightly packed together (the ones in the middle were still mostly raw).  But in general, we’re getting closer!

I’m considering just putting the gammon joint into water, with the split peas loose, and boiling it until the peas go soft, and then straining the water away (for stock), rather than putting the peas in muslin.

Pease Pudding results

Made the pease pudding, used too many split peas, and overall it’s turned out a bit bland.  Not totally sure what I can do about that other than getting a different source of flavour.  Anyway, the good news is that the resulting soup (using some of the water from the gammon+split peas stock) is super delicious.

Crap iPhone photo, sorry.

IMG_0395

Got two of those tubs out of the batch.  Think I’ll work on it.

Pease Pudding (again)

I haven’t tried making pease pudding since a couple of goes in 2000 where it was okay, but not brilliant.  Since then however, I’ve perfected making the soup my mum makes, albeit with my own twist and variation.  And tomorrow, I’m going to try making some pease pudding in roughly the same way she makes it.

Basically, take your soaked yellow split peas, put them into a muslin bag, and boil them with the ham (gammon in my case) until they’re soft and then beat them into a paste.

Fingers crossed, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Missing food labels

As you know, food these days is covered in labels.  They tell you what’s in it, what it’s not got in it, how much of stuff it’s got in it, how bad for you that stuff is, how much of your daily allowance the stuff uses up.

But, despite all this, there are some food labels that are missing.  I would like to propose the following additions.

guiltGuilt

All food should come with a guilt rating using the HIGH, MED, LOW traffic light system.  This allows you to decide how guilty you should really feel about eating the product, without having to put in too much effort.  For example, an entire tub of ice cream might have a HIGH guilt rating, and a salad would come with a LOW guilt rating.

unfunFun

It should be clearly indicated on food how much fun it is to eat.  Some food is boring and some food is fun.  How fun are spaghetti letters!  Or macaroni cheese!  Alphabet soup that you spend ages spelling out rude words.  We clearly need some indication on the container about how much fun we’re likely to have eating this item of food.  Clearly in this instance, the regular traffic light system breaks, because HIGH fun should be good.  So, we have to revert to Doublespeak and go for Unfun (which is bad in high amounts).  So low levels of unfun are good (keep up at the back).

burnBurn

It shouldn’t need saying folks.  But some food, well, it’s hot when it goes in, and it’s hot when it comes out, you know what I’m saying.  There should be clear indication on food labels about whether you’re going to need to pack some loo roll in the fridge.

stinkMouth Stink

Food should clearly come with a stink rating, what are your chances of getting a snog after you’ve eaten 6 portions of those kippers?  Does your mouth smell like the bottom of a bird cage, or like a garden of roses?  High ratings are bad – make sure you mint, floss, brush, swirl, and scrub before moving in for some tongue action.  Clearly, garlic roasted kippers in an anchovy sauce are not your friend when you’re going clubbing.

painComfort

It’s obvious to anyone who’s ever eaten a kebab on their own at 2 o’clock in the morning, walking back to their one person flat, alone, to spend the night, alone, that food isn’t just something you consume for the protein content.  It’s for comfort.  And some foods are more comforting than other foods.  Ever heard of someone who’s sad going on a celery eating binge?  Me either.  To save us wasting a lifetime of eating the wrong food when we need that comfort, we need a label.  Again, due to the traffic light system, you need something which is good when it’s LOW and Green, so we’ll go for erm, Pain.  Low PAIN food is comforting.

smugSmug

There’s nothing more annoying than someone next to you eating something which makes them smug.  Maybe it’s a salad while you’re stuffing down a burger, or they had organic hand made vegetarian bacon while you’re eating the head off the nearest cute pig.  Maybe they don’t even know it’s making them smug.  Perhaps, if there was a clear indication when picking up a packet of organic free-range fair trade couscous that it would make you smug and your friends sad, people would be able to avoid it and would instead reach for that pre-packaged (in non-bio degradable plastic) microwave hotdog.  Made from real dog.  Anyway, avoid HIGH SMUG foods people.

poshPosh

Finally, and related to SMUG, there’s posh food.  You will look like a prat standing next to your friend with a tin of Caviar in your basket, while they’re buying BBQ pickled egg sandwiches.  To avoid this, avoid HIGH Posh foods.

Redefine success

When you’re overweight and diabetic, when you know you should be losing weight and controlling what you eat, ordering take-away food could be seen as failure.  It certainly feels like failing.  It doesn’t mean I don’t do it – and in fact, because I feel like it’s failing I usually end up ordering the worst possible thing (more calories than you can shake a stick at), because since I’m failing, fuck it, might as well fail in style.

But it’s not a good place to be mentally.  Food and emotions are already tied together too much (feeling good, why not eat to celebrate, feeling down, why not eat to cheer yourself up, eaten too much, better feel guilty, feeling guilty, why not eat to cheer yourself up.  repeat).  So feeling like a failure every time you order take-away food doesn’t help, it just drives the circle even faster.

So I decided to redefine success.

Now, the normal position is ordering take-away food.  That’s normal.  Success is not ordering take-away food.  There is no failure option.  Every day I don’t order take-away is a success.  I’ve achieved a goal.  I eat the chicken and veg or whatever other bloody meal I can pretend to enjoy and I succeed.  If I get take-away then that’s okay, it’s normal.  Tomorrow I have another chance at success.

It’s a much better head-space to be in.  Might feel like cheating, but I think that it doesn’t matter.  You have to be in control of how you feel to some extent, in order to manage what you eat and actually survive.  If I have to cheat by moving the goal posts to do that then I will.  It hasn’t (and won’t) lead to me eating more take-away food, but it’ll certainly lead to me not feeling so bad about it if I do (which in turn means I don’t eat even more crap), and every day I eat something boring and tedious and with the vague semblance of being healthy I’ll feel like I made progress rather than being stuck with the status quo.

Reviewing Fast Food as if it was Haute cuisine

I’ve posted a few blogs about this recently and in the past, and I’m doing it again although I’m taking a slightly different slant.  The world of food is full of variation and range.  Within different types of food there are certain qualities that are universally accepted as bad (does the food give me food poisoning? does it make me want to vomit?) and qualities that can vary between different types of product.  I reject the idea that only one type of food is considered right and that all other foods are inferior.  I believe that depending on the situation, the person and the immediate desire different foods can deliver the required experience (enjoyment).

Sure, there’s no doubt that certain foods have the right nutritional quality and some don’t, but if what you seek is enjoyment from eating then I posit that some days you may get that enjoyment from a Burger King Whopper and other days from  Haute cuisine Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce.  If what you expected and wanted was a Whopper and what you got was Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce then you may end up being disappointed and vice versa.  Of course this doesn’t always work out, if you expected a Whopper and got Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce, you might really enjoy the Quail and be pleasantly surprised, but it doesn’t mean you don’t like Whoppers.  It is possible to enjoy a whole range of different food types on their own merits without dismissing the existence of other foods types.

None of this should come as a surprise to most people, in my view.  I think most people realise that enjoyment varies and that what gives you enjoyment on different days can be different things.  Where we get a clash is when people who express an opinion about Food as a subject matter fail to realise that different foods all have their merits and they review that food with a single palette of words and expectations.  If you review a Burger King Whopper using the same standards as Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce then the review might claim the Burger King is a watery mush of over excited tastes smashed together in a microwave oven which no one could possibly enjoy. If you reviewed Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce using the same expectations you had when you reviewed a Whopper you might conclude it’s overly fussy expensive chicken in a sauce you wouldn’t feed to the dog.

Good reviewers and good critics understand the context in which the product or food they’re reviewing exists.  If you do nothing but review haute cuisine then sure, you’re free to stick to a single palette of experience and vocabulary and likewise if your job or hobby is to review fast food then your comparisons are all at the same level.  However if you’re keen to review a range of food types you have to be very careful with your expectations.  Yes, you should demand and expect fast food to be of the highest fast food quality, but you shouldn’t expect it to display the same qualities as Haute cuisine, and of course if you found haute cuisine to be delicious despite the fact that it took 18 seconds to cook and came in a bun you might think you’re reviewing fast food all over again.

Additionally, and again this should not surprise anyone, it’s perfectly possible to not enjoy any fast food.  To decide the whole genre of food is bland and tasteless and beneath you.  It’s also possible to decide that haute cuisine is pointless over frilly and can’t be beaten by a good home cooked sunday roast.  But you shouldn’t dismiss them as valid sources of enjoyment for other people just because you don’t like them.  Nor should you get upset that some people can make a good living out of making food you don’t enjoy, or that people you know enjoy food you hate.  Does making Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce require more skill than a Burger King Whopper?  I don’t think anyone would deny that was true.  It certainly requires a specific set of skills.  Does serving a Whopper require no skill?  Certainly not, they’re just different and more readily attainable than those required to be a top chef.  And of course if we look at the middle ground, perhaps a local restaurant then the skills required are similar to those of top chefs with an added hint of the speed and customer service required in a fast food joint.

What’s the point of this overly long, tedious statement of the obvious?

It’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, clearly.  To some extent it’s also Star Trek and Terminator Salvation.  Those films set out to entertain.  They set out to engage an audience and provide a couple of hours of escapism and fun.  They did not set out to question your beliefs, to expand your conciousness, to develop your interest in physics, they did not set out to make you question history or help you understand your place in the world.  There are films that do that, they set out to do exactly that.  There are films which want to tell the truth, to make you look at the truth in a new way, to make you weep and cry and question everything.  There are films which tell stories where the characters matter and films which tell stories where the explosions matter.  All of these films are valid.

Different people enjoy different movies at different times for different reasons.  But reviewing a film and describing it as awful because it’s missing certain elements is silly, if the film wasn’t even trying to bring those elements to the screen in the first place but is still entertaining.

Was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen entertaining?  Yes, I had a really good 2.5 hours of popcorn movie enjoyment.  I laughed and sniffed a little, and I felt engaged and interested and, well, entertained.  I don’t expect everyone to feel like that, and I expect some people who do understand the context of the movie still thought it was a bad example of the genre.  That’s fine, but I don’t accept people think it was a bad movie because it didn’t give them what they expect from a drama or a noir crime thriller.

This is a good review of Transformers 2.  I don’t agree with all of it, and I rate the movie higher.  I was able to ignore the bits the reviewer didn’t like and they didn’t ruin the movie for me.  But the guy writing the review got the context and reviewed the movie within that context.  He didn’t review Transformers 2 as if it was a period drama.

Pizza!

We bought pizza from tesco (along with a lot of other stuff) to cover us until Monday while Tracey is here so we don’t need to go shopping.

And then got pizza delivered instead.

It’s just that. much. better.

I think I just ate half the European jalapeño mountain.