A Foodie Childhood?

When I was a small girl in London food was a big part of my life.  I don’t mean eating, but shopping for food and cooking it – I’d made my first Christmas cake when I was four after all.  It’s possible I had some help.  And I certainly licked the bowl.

This Sainsbury in 1950’s Streatham is a close cousin of the one we visited in Victoria (sainsburyarchive.org.uk)

Because my mother taught all week, weekends meant a Saturday morning trip to Sainsbury’s in Victoria. I would watch as the shop girls reduced large yellow slabs of butter to half pound blocks using large wooden butter paddles – look, we still have some domestic-sized ones –

while others weighed sugar into dark blue paper bags. I looked on impressed as the man on the bacon counter turned the whining, shining wheel of his slicing machine – ‘Thick or thin madam?’.   After she’d bought all we needed, my mother joined the queue for the cashier’s window and fumbled in her purse to find the right change.

This is the kind of sight that greeted us as we shopped for groceries – counter service only (sainsburyarchive.org.uk)

It was the greengrocer’s stall on the market next.  I liked collecting the decorated tissue squares that oranges and tangerines were wrapped in.

This is a market stall in Cádiz 2020, not London in 1950-something. But you get the idea.

 I liked helping to choose the weekly vegetables, and learnt when to expect the different apples coming into season.  Discoveries came first, even before the autumn term started. Then James Grieve, Worcester Pearmain, Laxtons (Supreme and Superb), and round about Bonfire Night, the brown-skinned Russett.  Oranges and tangerines were for Christmas time.  I always hoped that there might be enough money left to buy a seasonal treat – perhaps a single peach.

Best of all  was the delicatessen.  This shop wasn’t at all the preserve of the moneyed middle classes, reviving holiday memories by buying exotic food stuffs.  Instead it was a refuge for the stateless, rather rudderless foreign populations of shabby 1950s Britain.  There were huge numbers of Poles who’d served out the war in the UK  –  my father was one; Italian ex POWs;  Hungarian Jews –  all the flotsam of Europe.

A cheese counter, probably in present-day Germany. (Waldemar Brandt Unsplash)

Here we’d buy Polish boiling ring, cooked simply in water and eaten with buttery mashed potatoes and sauerkraut or cabbage. I loved the wizened dried sticks of kabanos, a thin sausage that my school friends assured me was made from donkey meat.  There was Polish rye bread, speckled with caraway.  It was at the delicatessen that my mother learnt about pasta. We started eating spaghetti bolognese in about 1954, long before it became a British standard.  We bought Samsoe from Denmark which makes the best toasted cheese in the whole world. My school friends found our food odd.  That was alright.  I found theirs odd too.

A selection of sausage, quite possibly from Argentina (Edi Libedinski, Unsplash)

Very occasionally on Saturday afternoon  we would catch the tube all the way to Trafalgar Square and walk into Soho and the Italian store there.  Those impossibly long packets of spaghetti!  Those solid piles of Italian sausage:  pink fat-studded mortadella; Neapolitan salamis the colour of dried blood!  A great wheel of parmesan from which some cheery Italian with lots of smiles but little English would hack crumbly fragrant slices with a seriously stout and heavy knife! Aromatic roasted coffee beans clattered into special scales used for nothing but weighing coffee! And Italian voices, laughing, chatting, shouting and thoroughly at home. I don’t think we ever bought a great deal here.  We were there for a spot of sensory overload, and a few small treats.

Impossibly exotic in the 1950s: pasta neither hoop-shaped nor in a tin with tomato gloop (Markus Spiske, Unsplash)

Many of my childhood memories centre around preparing the food that we bought.  But that’s a story for another day.

Top Scran

I had a friend once, boarding school educated (I thinks that’s relevant) who used to describe a good meal as ‘top scran’.

Definition from Dictionary.com

This is top scran.  It tastes good, and it’s mainly free. I foraged this wild garlic found alongside yesterday’s Top Dog.

Here’s a recipe: Simi’s Wild Garlic and Potato Curry.

An entry for April Squares #Top

 

A Nice Cup of Tea … or Coffee

Oh, I’m so glad you’re here – welcome to my little party.  Look, I’ve made coffee already, but if you’d prefer tea, I’ll pop the kettle on.  Darjeeling?  Ceylon?  Do you prefer milk or lemon?

I was hoping you’d come along, so I’ve baked a cake.  I thought carrot cake would kid us into believing we were having one of our five a day, and this recipe from the Guardian looked good .  But I’ve got biscuits too: I made these with teff flour in case anyone’s gluten-free, but I love the slightly malty taste.

I hope Su will come along.  These virtual tea parties were her idea.  Is my carrot cake like yours, Su? And Jo.  Jo always appreciates a slice of cake, though usually at the end of one of her Monday Walks.  Which aren’t happening anywhere just now. Kiki wangled an early invitation, so … come on in! We don’t have to practice social isolation on line.  Let’s have a good time!

 

Inspired by Zimmerbitch’s Invitation to Tea.

And – oh look!  I have a six word post title.  Do you think I could persuade Debbie to come along for Six Word Saturday?

Pay-As-You-Feel, Eat a Good Meal

Let’s begin at the beginning.  A couple of years ago, Alison and her husband were in Saltaire, looking for a late lunch.  They found it at the Saltaire Canteen, and soon realised it was no ordinary café.  Here, the ingredients used were all past their sell-by dates, and had been intercepted from landfill.  They’d been transformed into appetising meals, mainly by volunteers, and customers were encouraged to pay what they thought was fair, or what they could afford.

‘We could do that in Ripon’, thought Alison.

Actually, that’s not the beginning of the story.  We need to go back to December 2013, when The Real Junk Food Project opened its doors in Armley, Leeds,  as a café offering meals made from food destined for the tip.  People ‘paid’ for their meals with money, by offering skills or even food.

It was the brainchild of Adam Smith, who had a Road to Damascus moment on a pig farm in Australia, where the pigs were eating discarded food he’d have been happy to put on his plate.  Back in England,  The Real Junk Food Project was born, firstly as a café: then as an ever-expanding movement helping others develop their own models; as a Sharehouse sourcing and distributing waste food for those cafes; pay-as-you-feel supermarkets of discarded food; Freegan boxes of intercepted food designed for families; for distribution in a school setting (breakfast clubs, or for families in need for instance); even outside catering.  I’d like to get married all over again for the pleasure of having a Junk Food catering team deliver the party!  You can see why Alison needed to talk to Adam.

She found a co-conspirator in her friend Janet, and between them they located premises at Community House, equipment, cookware, crockery, cutlery, napkins… everything you need to feed the masses.  I’ve dismissed that task in a sentence, but I don’t underestimate the achievement.  They found volunteers too.  I wasn’t in at the beginning, but I’m part of the team now, and I wouldn’t miss my stints for anything.

A year ago, the café opened.  It’s on Thursdays, Ripon’s Market Day.  People start to drop in from 11 o’clock for a coffee, maybe a cake.  From 11.30 they’re eager for lunch.  Seating is at refectory-style tables, so whether you come with a friend, family, or on your own, you’ll be sitting with others and soon be talking to those around you.

Look!  Here are a few sample menus.

The cooks for the day will have been to Wetherby the day before to collect supplies, considered the random collection of ingredients and devised and cooked a varied and tasty menu to suit everyone: there are always vegetarian and vegan choices.  There’s nearly always a soup or two, and good old fashioned nursery puddings are hugely in demand.

The volunteers have been in since 10 o’clock, setting tables, chalking up the menu, getting everything ready.  At 11.30, they become waitresses and waiters: taking orders, collecting and serving the food to the diners, taking turns to wash up, and finding time to chat and be welcoming.  Newcomers become regulars: regulars become friends. We have office workers; young families; elderly people who welcome a hot meal in friendly company; visitors to the city …

At the end, people put what they feel in a box by the door.  The point is to save food from landfill, not to make money, so those who can’t pay don’t need to feel embarrassed.  Some offer services instead – there were some electricians in one week ….  There are costs of course – notably the rent: so far donations have kept us in the clear.  Any profits are re-invested in improved services.

Then, for the volunteers, it’s time to wash up, tidy up, put things away, swab the kitchen floor, pack away the tables and chairs, vacuum … and finally go home for a rest and a nice cup of tea.

Wholemeal has become a real asset to Ripon community life. And look at the food that’s been intercepted from landfill!  Win-win.  Thank you, Alison.  Thank you, Janet, thank you Adam … and everyone else who’s made it possible.

Radio York transmitted its whole morning show from Wholemeal last Thursday.  Anyone who’s super-interested can listen here, on BBC Sounds.

Light-headed? Blame the Gin….

… because it’s Seville orange season, and time to make next Christmas’s supply of Seville Orange Gin, that perfect winter warmer after a day walking in the bright frosty air.

January Squares, # January Light

PS.  Several of you have asked for a recipe.  There are any number on the internet, but they are all similar to this one from The Cottage Smallholder.  I saw a different recipe that suggested cardamom, so I have used this instead of cloves.  And I only used 150 g. sugar.  Also.  Three years?  Not a chance.  We’ll be drinking ours at Christmas.

Nostalgia is a Freshly-Baked Loaf

The queue’s gone down outside Vanora’s now. You could pop in for a loaf.

A couple of months ago, a new baker’s opened in Ripon.  Goodness, it was welcome.  A baker’s shop as a baker’s shop ought to be.

Vanora and Andrew get up in the small hours, when all the world’s abed, to fashion and bake their loaves.  The great pails of dough will already by then have been slowly proving and rising over a period of hours.  This is sourdough, fermented from  the natural yeasts present in the air we breathe, rather than using the commercially-available yeast usual in British breadmaking.

And oh – the bread it produces!  A wonderfully chewy crust, and a loaf with a slightly sour, characterful taste.  Riponians have taken this extra-special bread to their hearts, and ahead of opening time (only Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at present) an eager queue forms outside the door.

How this reminds me of our years in France.  The first job of our day was to queue outside the baker’s for our morning bread, croissants or pains au chocolat.  It was an unhurried task.  We’d all stand cheerfully in line, catching up with neighbourhood gossip, swapping recipes: generally having a sociable time.  And so it is outside Vanora’s.  We meet old friends, make new ones, and once inside, are greeted by name by Vanora and Andrew as we take the time to chat to them too.  This, we all agree, is shopping as it ought to be.  Oh, and on Saturdays, Vanora makes croissants too.  Don’t tell anyone in France, but …. these are the best croissants we’ve ever tasted. You could stock up on brownies, focaccia, sausage rolls and pork pies too.  These last two aren’t our thing, but I’m told they’re far and way the best in town. (Please note:  I am not being paid by V&A for this shameless piece of advertising.)

Vanora serves a customer….
… perhaps with one of these loaves.

This isn’t the only reason for my feelings of nostalgia though. Brought up in London as an Anglo-Polish girl, east-European-style sourdough loaves were as much a part of my life as baps, cottage loaves and wholemeal tins.  Good memories.

This is an entry for Lens-Artists Challenge #75 – Nostalgic, despite the fact that I was limited to using my non-smart-smartphone to take my snapshots.

 

Cabbage glut? Be Korean – make kimchi!

Kimchi jars outside a house in Seoul.

If Korean, serve at every meal.

Fermented cabbage: sour, pungent and addictive.

To prepare … set aside whole day …

Ever since our holiday in Korea, I’ve wanted to make kimchi.  Every house had its earthenware kimchi jar, or jars, with various kinds of pickled vegetables fermenting happily away within.

This week I had a cabbage mountain, and two days ago, had the perfect excuse to get started, even though, strictly, it wasn’t the right sort of cabbage.  I watched this YouTube video by Maangchi, who’s the Korean cook to watch if you want to acquire a bit of know-how.  You can watch it too, but if you don’t feel like it, here’s my summary underneath.

Between soaking chopped cabbage, salting it for long hours; cooking and cooling a sauce base; preparing and processing onions, garlic, ginger; chopping piles of vegetables finely and adding Korean chilli flakes; mixing the lot together; packing it into an airtight container – you won’t be doing much else between breakfast and a very late lunch.

Now … now it’s beginning to ferment.  Sour already, it’ll become more pungent as the days and weeks go by.  Try a bit? If it’s your first time you may not like it.  But you may come to love it: fermented, sour, spicy, soft yet crunchy, it’s a meal in its own right or a fine addition to a simple plate of rice or noodles.  Just as well I made a lot.  It was a bit of a palaver.

Making kimchi takes a long time.

It’s worth it – don’t you think?

An offering for Six Word Saturday.