Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Never too old to learn

As I sat eating tea tonight, I had an idea to turn what I've learnt to someone else's advantage. I keep hearing horror stories about people's diets and cringe at some of the things a lot of us eat, thinking that it's the only thing affordable.
Yes, money can be very tight for a lot of us.
Yes, time is at a premium and most of us believe we have no time to cook.
And sadly, yes, few of us learnt any cooking skills as we grew up in a fast food age.

I was one of the lucky ones as I grew up in a family obsessed by food and learnt to cook at a very young age.
By the time I was a teenager, I could confidently cook a two course sunday lunch.

I am basically lazy too. You see, in our family, if you did the cooking, you got out of the washing up. That was a no-brainer! No wonder I became a young chef :)

Add to that mix parents who came from diametrically opposite classes (my father was a scholarship boy and one of 10 children growing up in a poor family, my mother, an only child from a privileged family) a country upbringing and you get me (and two sisters and a brother).

We all learnt how to manage on what was available. We were encouraged to shop for food when we were on hols once a year in Spain. No tourist trap then, we were a curiosity in Franco's Spain, examined nightly by the Guardia Civil in case we were spies or terrorists. In fact, I got to sit on a Guardia horse, whilst dad got the wine flowing and we all had a nice chat!

I saw food we didn't have in the UK at that time (pre supermarkets, although we did have the co-op!) and learnt to taste and experiment.

Compared to most people, we were blessed with strong building blocks of knowledge to stand us in good stead in our adult lives. All the family cooks still. None of us would dream of going to MacDonalds, EVER.

So what do I eat? How do I find time to cook? I am not a stay at home housewife, far from it. I run my own business and my partner and I have three allotments to tend.

So that's the first clue - fresh food, locally produced and in season, or home preserved.

Currently the allotment is a bit sparse - early spring - but the spring cabbage is looking as if it will be pickable soon, the sprouts are still edible and the parsnips and swedes - just. The sprouting broccoli is in full swing and there's an abundance of herbs to pick.

In the freezer there's still runner beans, tomatoes in various guises, peas, leeks, sweetcorn, apple slices, plum halves. raspberries and strawberries.

In storage we have potatoes, onions, garlic, pumpkins, squash, carrots and beetroot. In bottles and jars we have more plums, pickles, jams and jellies.

Now I'm the first to admit that not everyone has green fingers, or is at all interested in gardening, but once you get used to the difference in taste, there's really no alternative.

I gave away some parsnips recently and the thanks were a bit lukewarm. However, the next time we met, the recipient was effused with gratitude " how can you grow something that tastes so sweet and gorgeous? They were nothing like the parsnips we got from A**a"  I'm sure you can fill in the blanks!

We produce so much I have to give away loads, have hungry people round to dinner and still have plenty.
We live like kings and spend an average of £25 a week on other groceries. That's for the two of us.
But then, as I already told you, I had a lucky upbringing and I know how to cook.

So this blog was born, to enthuse, to create a love of food and to teach frugallity without sacrificing flavour or health.

My partner was hard to convince at first, coming from a plain cooking family. His tastes were for plain simple food and was often found eating KF's chicken more often than not, so it's been a bit of an uphill battle. The long faces, the tantrums, the food left on the plate untouched were sometimes heartbreaking, but I persevered until we now have a core of mutually enjoyed dishes.

As a flourish at the end of each recipe, where relevant, he has encouraged me to put  APPROVED BY KEITH. :-D 

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