web analytics

It’s a gingerbread duck

From our local bakery. For whom we are very grateful.

They fled town a couple of years ago because the rents were exorbitant. Now they’ve opened back up in the middle of all this (in a much smaller shop without an eat-in section) and we make a point of stopping there every few days.

Their bread is excellent. They make a mean doughnut. I’m a little iffy on the gingerbread ducks.

More to the point, we’re trying to be as thoughtful as we can about where our money goes.

No matter how good your intentions, you can’t avoid buying goods from China. I doubt there’s a zipper factory left anywhere else in the world, and I don’t look so good in a toga.

But I can certainly avoid giving my money to Bezos. We’re still lucky enough to have a local butcher and greengrocer and several excellent farm shops, and now our baker again, so we can cut down on supermarkets.

I don’t have much power, but I’ll enthusiastically swing my tiny axe.

February 15, 2021 — 7:55 pm
Comments: 11

I have found them!

Grape-Nuts, that is. Not always easy to get here.

My mother’s favorite cereal. She told me they were twice-baked bread. She was wrong.

Sort of wrong, anyway. They’re flour, salt and yeast (and water, presumably) baked to the consistency of Roman cement and put through a grinder. They add vitamins, too, these days.

Did you know you were experiencing a covid-induced Grape-Nuts shortage? At least, I think it’s the States (it’s in USA Today) and I think it’s now (2021/01/27 is in the url). I hate it when they don’t explicitly say location and date.

How did I live in New England all those years and never encounter Grape-Nuts icecream? And it’s not a stupid modern fake Ben-and-Jerry’s flavor, either – it goes back almost as far as Grape-Nuts themselves.

But Grape-Nuts is not my favorite cereal. That would be its textural opposite, Rice Crispies.

I feel better for sharing.

p.s. I guess I’m off of Twitter now. It’s demanding a phone number before I can log in and I can’t be bothered to find out how to fake one. The shakes aren’t too bad yet.

February 3, 2021 — 8:10 pm
Comments: 24

Happy Burns Night!

Haggis! Neeps and tatties! Those are the things in this picture!

We’re having chicken fingers and instant mashed potato.

I like instant mashed potato. Don’t judge me.

I might have a whisky, though. Especially as I have to go finish filing my taxes now.

January 25, 2021 — 8:13 pm
Comments: 9

For real this time

So this time I followed the recipe. For the wraps anyway. I didn’t have many of the ingredients for the filling. Who has Chinese chives on hand? (Don’t say “Chinese people”. You’re better than that).

I did have ground pork, so I’m not surprised they tasted pretty close to the commercial ones despite substitutions. Pork is the thing.

So, yes. They came out well. Steamed for 15 minutes in a bamboo steamer, then lightly fried on one side. Perfect-o.

I made an absolute pig of myself and ate twice as many as I intended, and did it in that weird late afternoon time between proper meals. That’s dinner screwed.

January 5, 2021 — 8:35 pm
Comments: 17

Farewell and good riddance…

Yay! These came today! They’re for making Chinese dumplings AKA potstickers AKA gyoza AKA Jiaozi AKA 餃子. Yes, of course I looked that last one up.

I love these things. Now I can make them!

I didn’t have any ground pork, so I didn’t bother making proper wonton wrappers either. I had some leftover puff pastry from a disastrous turkey pie I made the other day. That was totally wrong for potstickers but made pretty okay tiny sausage and cheese pasties.

I’m whistling and cooking and slowly backing away from 2020. No sudden moves, people, and we might just make it.

December 31, 2020 — 6:00 pm
Comments: 11

Death by turkey

We did it! We conquered the turkey!

Cold turkey for supper last night. Turkey sammiches for lunch today. Three meal-sized portions of mixed white and dark meat vacuum-packed and frozen. Then I boiled the carcass all day (my, doesn’t that stink?) and extracted enough broth and back meat for several pots of soup and a pie. Which we’re having tonight.

If we can face it.

A couple of tweets to share. Divine: this amazing Welsh church.

And, well, this. It made me laugh.

December 28, 2020 — 8:57 pm
Comments: 13

All set

Picked up our turkey this afternoon. Eye-watering price. Partly because we had competition this year for a small bird – most years, people want bigger birds than we do – so it’s larger than usual. Partly because things are just stupid expensive here. Still, it’s a farm we’ve bought from several times in the past few years and they’ve been really excellent.

That and a few bits and pieces in the other shops and we’re ready to go.

My mother used to put little red cellophane booties on the turkey to distract from the stumps. Brits, they don’t even cut it at the ankle, they snap the feet off raggedy and stuff the stumps up the giblet ‘ole. Festive!

December 23, 2020 — 8:05 pm
Comments: 17

I remember this!

McDonald’s fries used to be cooked in beef fat. And they were unbelievably delicious. Do you remember?

Here’s a long-form article about the search for the original recipe. And by “long form” I mean “you just might not be this interested in Mickey D’s so I’m going to give you an executive summary.”

In 1966, a man named Phil Sokolof had a heart attack and went on a crusade against animal fat. From the time he got out of the hospital until 1990, he spent $15 million of his own money shaming companies into dropping “unhealthy” fats in favor of “healthy” ones. It was all part of a broad national orgy of (dietary) fat shaming.

Fun fact: this is when Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC, because “fried” was such a dirty word.

At the very end, he finally succeeded with McDonald’s. I remember it well, mostly because their cherry pies were also cooked in beef tallow and have never been edible since. Broke my heart. And yet, and yet.

Exchanging beef tallow for pure vegetable oil in high-temperature frying introduced consumers to a different and arguably worse dietary threat than saturated fats: trans fats, which, as we now know, are a major cause of cardiovascular disease, digestive issues, and weight gain. Despite the best intentions, Sokolof ultimately made a bad problem worse, one that McDonald’s has spent decades trying to fix.

Anyway, the article isn’t really about that. It’s about the search for the old fry recipe. This led the author to a series of elderly McDonald’s employees, online forums and eventually to a somewhat mysterious online pdf called McMenu: Do-It-Yourself McDonald’s Restaurant Recipes.

If you want the exact recipe (he thinks, with a fairly high degree of certainy), it’s at the bottom of the article. And if you really are into Mickey D’s, I recommend the whole read. But here’s the gist:

•Cut the potatoes into shoestrings and soak them in sugar water with a bit of Karo syrup(!) in the fridge for 30 minutes
•Fry them at 400° F in six cups of Crisco(!). Wonderful, magical, fully hydrogenated Crisco
•Let them cool in the fridge for ten minutes
•Add 1/4 cup beef tallow to the Crisco
•Bring it up to temp and fry another 5 minutes, until brown
•Toss with powdered salt

So that explains why the dripping flavor wasn’t overwhelming.

It’s hard to see how this process would work in a fast food setting, so I’m going to guess that the soaking and initial frying was done earlier and the fries were delivered to the restaurant part-cooked and chilled, where the final frying happened.

I’d try it myself, but I live in fear of deep fat frying. In my heart, I always knew the Fryolater was out to get me.

December 1, 2020 — 7:55 pm
Comments: 22

I couldn’t resist…

The lamb from yesterday’s adventure. There aren’t many speckled flocks around. Incidentally, the lambing starts in earnest in about three weeks. Spring is coming!

I had some elderly bananas hanging around, so I have just made banana bread. This is one of those American foods that confuses Brits. For one thing, it’s clearly a cake, not a bread. They have banana cake here, but it’s light and fluffy not heavy and dense. At least, all my banana bread recipes are heavy and dense. And very rich.

I think they’re just being polite when they compliment it. They’re embarrassed for me and my inability to bake a light cake. If I called it a ‘heavy banana loaf’ or something, I bet it would go over better.

They have a thing called Soreen, which is denser even than banana bread, so it’s not outside the realm of British foods. There’s even a banana flavored Soreen.

It’s all in the marketing.

I would like British bacon 100% more if they relinquished the holy name of bacon and called it ‘chewy pork slices’ instead.

March 4, 2020 — 8:15 pm
Comments: 13

Romaine calm; lettuce not panic

Iceberg lettuce shortage. We went to two different supermarkets today with no success.

I Googled it when I got home and, sure enough, there were half a dozen articles about the February shortages of vegetables, particularly iceberg lettuce, due to colder than average temperatures in Spain.

In February 1997 and 1998. As an enthusiastic consumer of iceberg lettuce, you’d think I’d remember shortages every February, but no.

Which is why you can sucker people into believing this year’s hurricanes, wild fires, rainy season or any other regular weather phenomenon are the ZOMG Worstest Ever. We don’t remember for shit.

So I got a nice crispy looking romaine.

February 17, 2020 — 9:23 pm
Comments: 7