Category Archives: Food

Dimondale, Michigan in March

If you were to look at me sitting here working right now, you might think I was as peaceful as this shot of the Grand River running through Dimondale in Michigan. This was the main thoroughfare through the land for the European settlers as they found swamp land to drain and trees to clear to create farms in the early 1800s. It was also the main thoroughfare for the Native Americans who found themselves suddenly unwelcome as they wandered through the crops of the white men farmers. I expect this Grand River has seen it all.

I look peaceful, as it does, but I am not; my head is in an absolute spin. Still waters truly do run deep when there’s work to done.

On a point of information, when I took this shot I had just eaten dinner at Mike’s Village Restaurant or some such named place. The homemade bread was amazing, but the waitress was a little scary. When she reeled off the list of fish on the menu my mind melted. I am sure she said catfish at one point. If she had been packing a gun in her leg splint I would not have been surprised. I then went down to an ice-cream parlour that smelled overwhelmingly over deep fried food. (It is at times like these I feel I am strongly channelling the olfactory abilities on my mother’s side.) Not to be diverted, I ordered a black walnut ice-cream, which, when it came, was the size of beach ball on a cornet the size of the actual musical instrument.

To take the shot I had to juggle this monster ice-cream, my slippery phone, and various other items a researcher cannot be without apparently… The ice-cream went in the bin shortly afterwards. I had super-sized just that bit too much.


The winter virus visits

and has reduced me to ordering food from a well-known purveyor of pizzas. To me, this is the pits, although in my twenties such supplies formed the basis of many a meal (usually a late night supper, usually after skipping dinner, usually because I was drinking in the pub).

The children think this dereliction of maternal duty in the dietary stakes is quite marvellous because the pizza came with ice-cream and a fizzy drink. I am too ill to care, other than that they are fed in some fashion. The youngest remarked that the winter virus can visit her again if this is how she will dine. I said it is not because she is ill that we are reduced to eating this rubbish, but because I am.

In other illness ramifications: the dog was disgusted with his lack of walk for the last 24 hours, until I supplied him with rather more than the remains of an accompanying pasta dish the delivery driver enclosed in the pizza box. It seems the way to everyone’s heart is to become too ill to care anymore and feed them all crap.

And now we are watching Matilda for about the zillionth time in the last decade. After the children’s own unwholesome meal they are obviously in the mood for watching Bruce Bogtrotter eat the ‘entire confection’…

Bruce Bogtrotter with a chocolate confection

Bruce Bogtrotter with a chocolate confection

#Pastygate & Jerrycans

I really try to catch myself if I start indulging in a bit of schadenfraude because, like sarcasm, it’s a largely distasteful practice. The last day or so then has been a real effort of will for me, as we have been bombarded with images of MPs eating hot pasties, sausage rolls and pies, talking about hot pasties, sausages rolls and pies and visiting purveyors of same.

I am not sure when I cracked the most. Perhaps it was when George Gideon Osborne was asked in a Select Committee when he had last entered the hallowed portals of a Greggs, or whether it was when Newsnight devoted time to the debate, or indeed was it when our own, dear pasty-faced, spam-headed PM was pictured (with crumbs down his front) eating some pastry product in 2010, albeit not the hot pasty he mendaciously claimed he had once purchased at Leeds station.

When a spokesperson for Downing Street is forced to clarify the Prime Minister’s pie-purchasing habits, then we can only surmise that the world is indeed an absurd place, in all the classifications of the word. When our much-vaunted democracy is employed by the government of the day to place piddling taxes on hot baked products, to bring a high street bakery in line with a global industry such as McDonalds, what else can you think but hmmmmm.

The Conservative Party carry on like a bunch of repressed Billy Bunters at heart, given the way they perpetually get themselves into trouble over their high-handed attitude to the foodstuffs of the rest of us. Who can forget John Gummer force-feeding his daughter a burger at the height of the mad cow outbreak, or Edwina Currie who, despite trying to laugh off Pastygate this morning on the radio – hahaha, has a public persona that will always be synonymous with salmonella in eggs. The only food-related hoo haa I can recall in the Labour Party was when Blair and Brown dined at Granita. It’s hardly the same thing.

The Sun: caption competition?

And then there is the language of the Conservatives, mentioned in the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning. Whilst the Labour contingent Eds Miliband and Balls hot-footed it down to Greggs to by a bag of sausage rolls, Francis Maude from the Conservatives was suggesting we fill up our jerrycans before we had supper in our kitchen thus painting a vivid picture of a landed gentry snacking on quails eggs and still holding a grudge against the *Germans.

To be honest, I am not in shock about that which their language purportedly reveals, most of us had worked it out anyway without an analysis of the Cabinet’s lexicon. They are what they are, the Conservatives. Yes, the big sticky clue is in the name. To conserve means to protect from loss or harm, to use carefully or sparingly, to avoid waste. It also means to make jam, chutney and pickles. Of course our Prime Minister shouldn’t bother to tell us whether he eats a hot pastry product, and he shouldn’t really need to avuncularly advise us to ‘top-up’ our cars in the face of a fuel tanker drivers’ strike. But the thing is the Conservatives just can’t help it, it’s in their DNA to protect us nitwitted ones from harm, to avoid us wasting their jam and petrol. As much as they want to shrink the state locally, when it comes to their own fiddling at a national level with the very fabric of our lives, down to what we might want to eat for lunch, or at a football game; or telling us when we should be prepared for things we could easily deduce for ourselves, well they just can’t help themselves.

And finally, aside from the nannying and the language, my more serious point is: how has it come to this? The absurdity of last week’s tinkering with the tax system resulting in VAT on hot pies on one hand, whilst with the other they hand back money to millionaires. And, we pay them to do it to us.

*Wehrmachtskanister is the German word for their invention that we call the jerrycan – literally translated as a canister that makes a dam or a weir. Who of us has one, or indeed the garage to put it in? My linguistic objection m’lud is: what would we be calling it in the Conservative Party today if it had been invented in Italy or Spain or anywhere else for which we could coin a derogatory nationalistic term as a prefix?

Trouts’ Pout

It’s not a compliment is it? Why has the poor trout been chosen for insulting others I wonder? After all, as you can see, a rainbow trout is a beautiful fish.

This pair are the Catch of the Day and come via i Phone, via Blackberry, via email to the blog directly from Wray Barton Wrecking Crew’s rod. No flies on her…

In other weekend news

The Wray Barton Wrecking Crew, aka The Devon Home Cook, wrecked a kitchen.

Her excuse was that she had cooked a meal for one hundred people.

Tut, tut…

She should know, however, that me and her other older sister are pretty impressed with her.

More from the Anti-Photography exhibition (with a Blackberry)

The new space has a window and out of the window you can see this apple tree.

I like that tree but I have never seen it hanging onto its apples with such grim determination before…

A surrealist telephone conversation

Me: Hello

Dad: Hello. You know he’s left then?

Me: No (do not mention I cannot see into alternate realities (yet))

Dad: Did he leave some bananas here?

Me: I don’t know (see alternate realities: bunch of bananas section)

Dad: Well, if not, that means we have a mysterious banana leaver coming in here… and… leaving bananas…

Me: Ummm

Me: Do you want to take them then? (give me a break – I’m working with what I’ve got)

Dad: No I don’t want bananas! (*with feeling* I knew he didn’t like melon much, but I had no idea about this banana hatred)

Me: Oh

Me: Hmmmm

Me: Dad, this is a rather surreal conversation y’know

Dad: *laughs* I suppose it is. Ok, well see you soon *slams phone down as per familial MO*

There was a brief interlude about wardrobes, but that would just confuse matters further.

Following the Star a bit more (Pimp my Gravy)

I can now soberly report that the practically zero effort Christmas dinner was well received. Nothing wrong with it, and better than that: not as disappointing as previous ones where heaven and earth were moved beforehand.

I did peel and chop my own carrots and sweetheart cabbage, and I did eschew the bag of brown turkey gravy at the BP. There are some depths to which even I cannot sink

a) buying their Wild Bean Coffee – no matter how much they beg me to
b) buying pre-made brown poultry gravy in a clear pouch *slight retch*

One of my most simple pleasures in life is boiling up a chicken carcass to make stock. I love picking out the bones and the gristle and the remaining skin and bits of meat to give to the dog, after thoroughly steaming up the kitchen. And I love the way the stock can sometimes turn quite opaque, and how the liquid turns to a golden jelly when it’s cooled. So, I would be happy to have you believe that I always have quantities of frozen chicken stock (in ice cube trays, if the prophet Nigella is to be followed on the matter) to call on for Christmas gravy.

The Pimping bit is chef’s secret…

Yesterday, when I was not buying BP gravy, but I was in the garage buying some other bits, I was happy to be served by the fella with waist-length hair. I prefer him, or Dan who reminds me of another Dan I know, to patiently bear my messing up the card machine for the umpteenth time. One of the women, Charlotte, is the most earnest coffee and pastries flogger ever and I am a bit intimidated by her; she makes me feel I am only a heartbeat away from caving in to her demands and ordering four coffees and twenty doughnuts. Anyway, yesterday I greeted yer man seasonally, to be polite, and asked if he minded working on The Day. Not at all, he said, it gets me out of things. Presumably pimping the gravy being one of them. Then he said

Bah Humbug and gave me this.

Now that’s a quality Christmas transaction.

A bad workman…

In my case, an in and out sort of cook, always blames her raw ingredients.

Take potatoes. And not any potato either. You can’t grow up in the fens of Lincolnshire without getting to know a bit about spuds. Maris Piper, Desiree, the King that is the Edward. We spit on Jersey Royals in the fens. Of course, things move on and the sacks of muddy King Edwards we used to keep in the garage are now more likely to be fancy pants varieties like Marfona, Vivaldi, Kestrel, Cara and Red Kerrs, scrubbed and fresh-faced in plastic.

On a Sunday it has to be King Edwards for roast potatoes. I went through a phase a few years ago where I roasted every kind of potato to be found in the “Heritage” section of potatoes, just to see if the mighty King Ed is really the best for roasting: it is.

So, imagine my dismay yesterday when they were all sold out. No Maris either which is a reasonably able substitute. No, there were “White Potatoes”. Now what the hell of variety is that? “White Potatoes?”.


I had to rummage around the shelves and in the end turned up a bag of Red Duke of Yorks. (The first Red Duke rocked up in a crop of White Dukes in Holland in 1942 in case you were wondering.) The first test for a roasting potato is how well it holds up to some vicious par boiling. The Red Dukes were ok. They held their shape, softened up some and were fairly amenable when I shook them in the pan to rough them up a bit. So far, so good. The received wisdom is that a good roasting potato should be floury and not waxy. This is true. However it should not be too floury otherwise they either collapse in the par boiling, or they are dry as the desert and demand too much fat in the roasting process.

At some point I had a couple of glasses of wine, so once the Red Dukes were chucked in the oven with some duck fat to roast (is goose fat better?) they pretty much had to fend for themselves. They survived, they were eaten, but I am still devoted to the King.

Red Dukes of York

Roasted Red Dukes

A Holding Pattern Post

I have this post in the pipeline that is taking ages to do, it’s not even that long, but it’s causing me problems. I thought I might finally have cracked it this morning but actually I haven’t.

So rather than leave a blank space on a Saturday morning I thought I would share this.

The kids wanted pancakes for breakfast, a reasonably regular request. The thing is, since the kitchen got plastered, everything has been in a state of flux. Half the kitchenalia is hiding in the dining room and things are commuting between the two rooms on the misery line. In fact, I have given up trying to keep track; the kitchen is like the enemy within at the moment. So the pancake batter is made, but we can’t locate the frying pan. In complete harmony with my defeatist outlook, I sat down and the kids went off to investigate. They came back initially and reported that it should be by the toolbox: it was not. Then after some time had elapsed they came back and said it had turned up and could I go and get on with making a breakfast stack.

Where was it? I said.

Under the dog’s bed! they replied.

How, how is this possible? I wonder.

Just don’t go there… what is left of my rational mind whimpers.