Monday, 3 April 2017

Comfort Food

For years when people asked me what my comfort food was I told them Chinese Take Out.

I thought that was my answer. So I answered it thusly.

Then I got asked why I found that comforting? 


No, no, you wanted to know what my comfort food was. And comfort food means stuff you remember from childhood, right?


Think about it Melanie, not everything you had in childhood was enjoyable, or enjoyed indeed. 

Well, I was a bit spoiled, so I was never really given food I didn't like.

So, if you like, everything I had a as a child was comfort food.

No, you aren't getting it, it's a specific thing associated with happy memories.

Well, you've got me there then. All my childhood memories are happy memories. Not that I associate food with any of them.

So, off I went on a different tack.

Comfort. I know what comfort is, it's the opposite of discomfort.

Therefore it's food I enjoy. That's a long list.

No, you're still not getting it, it's food that makes you feel good.

I only eat food that makes me feel good. Why the fuck would I eat food that doesn't make me feel good?

You're being difficult. 

I'm being honest.

You know very well what comfort means.

Actually, I'm not sure that I do. I thought I did. This chair is comfortable. It doesn't hurt. This shirt is comfortable, it's not too tight and it has no itchy label! So comfortable doesn't mean that?

No, you're really being difficult, I'm annoyed now.

Hey, you started this. Not me.

Maybe I just have a different approach to pleasure and non-pleasure. I'm all for pleasure. It feels like sanity. 

But too much pleasure can be pain. That's why I don't over-eat. That makes me uncomfortable. I hear about people who say "Oh God, I'm so stuffed". That isn't pleasant. That's fucking stupid. So I don't do it. Sorry about the logic, but I don't like being uncomfortable. Same applies to everything. Tight shoes are uncomfortable so I don't wear them. Hats are uncomfortable so I don't wear them. Long sleeves annoy me so unless I'm freezing, I wear short sleeves or push my sleeves up. I could come up with a really, really long list of things that are uncomfortable, aka things I avoid. And if I'm cold, I'm very uncomfortable. So I avoid being cold. Yes, I'm like that.

And as for food, I simply don't eat food that isn't delicious. Why would I?

Listen, I am overweight. I'm not a barrel but I'm a lot fatter than I need to be. It's genetics and there's fuck all I can do about it other than starve myself, and that's not going to happen. See comments on pleasure.

At the same time, I don't NEED extra calories. I'm not starving, I don't have any need to eat "whatever - it's food". So, I don't eat things I don't enjoy. This seems logical to me. If all that is available is not delicious, I will just skip eating. I have fat reserves. Trust me, I'll be fine. If the bun on the burger is nasty (they mostly are) I'll just eat the fillings. If the pizza crust is plain (usually) I'll leave it.

So, as I have meandered into that topic, I may as well continue. Here's what I eat on a typical day.

For breakfast on weekdays I have half a grapefruit, a slice of toast (buttered), and two egg yolks. And a glass of water. Not juice. I'm not a juice lover. If you put a glass of orange or grapefruit juice in front of me (no other) I'd drink it, but I don't bother. I don't drink milk, I don't drink coffee or tea. Give me water. Yes, cold. Yes, first thing in the morning. Because that's what I enjoy. (On weekends, add a sausage. To the meal - not to the water, silly.)

This requires more detail due to the topic at hand. I have my grapefruit without sugar added, because I have an underdeveloped sweet tooth. This is therefore a very health conscious way to start the day. BWHAHAHA. No. I eat it because I enjoy it. If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't eat it, and if I had a sweet tooth, I'd add sugar.

I have my toast buttered because there's no fucking way in hell I am eating unbuttered toast. And I insist it is buttered all the way to the edges. And I don't eat the heel of the loaf because I don't like it. And I eat only the egg yolks because I don't like the white. (Are you getting the idea yet?)

These are fried eggs. It doesn't matter that they are fried BTW, oh judgemental reader, because the yolk doesn't come in contact with the fat it's cooked in. Sunny side up (still runny, just how I like it).

For lunch I have a wrap. Tortilla, chipotle mayo, some meat or fish, cheese, and whatever veggies are available. If we're out of tortillas I have a sandwich. I could just have a salad, and sometimes I do, but I'm not going to turn into a supermodel from one less tortilla a day, so fuck it.

For dinner I have whatever. A small portion - I don't have a large appetite. A child size portion is fine. I like my plate to be 50% veggies. That's preference, not virtue.  No dessert. I don't bother with dessert.

I don't snack.

To re-cap.

I refuse to eat less than this.  I don't consider it excessive, actually.

I remain overweight.

Therefore, as I clearly don't need the calories, eating things I don't enjoy is illogical.

And I have no intention of not enjoying my food by taking out all the good bits (butter, cheese, meat, mayo).

QED: EVERY FUCKING THING I EAT IS COMFORT FOOD. It keeps me comfortable. Not hungry and not stuffed. Comfortable.

I am not stupid. I know that's not what it means. I just don't do comfort the way you do comfort. You do it your way, I'm fine.

Why I Don't Make Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

When I was a young newly married woman in the early 80s I bought a toasted sandwich maker. It was all the rage, and it sounded exciting, so I thought I'd give it a try. What's not to like, after all? I loved cheese on toast but this was a bit different. Why not.

The end result was pleasant enough. And then I tried adding other ingredients. I experimented for about a week then lost interest and the thing languished in the back of a cupboard for years until I threw it out. It wouldn't be the last gimmicky small appliance I'd ever buy, but that was the story of the toasted sandwich maker.

In 1993 we came to live in Canada, and shortly after that I got a babysitting job for a child in my younger daughter's class at school. It was before and after school, but obviously on days when there was no school I had her all day. Her mother told me she was picky but easy to feed. Just make her a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. I told her that I didn't have a grilled sandwich maker, but I'd be happy to give her cheese on toast.

We both looked at each other blankly.

I was then instructed on the art of a standard North American grilled cheese sandwich. It wasn't difficult, but it seemed a bit odd. For a start it was fried, not grilled. And for this child the filling was processed cheese slices. And she ate it.

That was the only time I made them for years. For my own family I made cheese on toast. Far less work.

Internet years arrived. I learned that it was actually normal, common, and popular to make grilled cheese sandwiches in North America. Well, fried cheese sandwiches really. On a couple of occasions I decided to give it another go, but frankly, it just wasn't worth it. Cheese on toast has a much higher cheese to bread ratio (i.e. this is better) and is less effort. I could see no advantage to the grilled cheese sandwich whatsoever. More work, less cheese. Nope.

Then people started to tell me about eating it with soup. I had heard of having soup and a sandwich before, apparently a popular lunch option. Well, two lunches really. At first I assumed it was two courses, but then I learned it was served together. This confused me. I couldn't quite picture it. Did you dip the sandwich in the soup? Or did you double fist it? Spoon in one hand, sandwich in the other? Whatever, too complicated. Sandwich for lunch, fine. Soup for lunch, fine. BOTH...sounds like too much food anyway. I'm sure it would be great for a working man, but I don't need two lunches.

But to COOK a sandwich and heat up soup too? FOR LUNCH? Geez. Well, clearly many people make far more effort for lunch than I do. For me it's a quick snack. There is no way in hell I'm cooking two things at that point in the day. If I feel like eating cheese and toasted bread I have cheese on toast. I have absolutely nothing against grilled cheese sandwiches. I just don't have a use for them. If you make me one, I'll eat it, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it, but it's just not something I make.

(I've also learned that some people eat chips with their sandwiches. It's a nice touch on a special occasion, but daily? There's another blog post right there, but I can't.)

Then, I heard of people having this for dinner. And I gave up.

It is none of my business what other people eat. That has been made very clear. OK. Unfortunately this doesn't work the other way around. It is perfectly acceptable to question or berate me on my food options. Hey, it's fine. So, now you know, this is why I don't make grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Follow The Fucking Recipe

Inspired by a friend this morning. This blog was created to share recipes, although I hereby confess:

a) I haven't exactly used it very much, and
b) Much of what I write is more of a guideline than a code (said in pirate voice)

But I want to talk about recipes.

Once upon a time recipes came in two forms and we knew the difference. They either came in books - collections of recipes by established cookery writers, tested and checked by a team of people, edited, professionally photographed and published - or they came on the back of envelopes in the handwriting of an elderly relative, with thumbprints and jam on it over time. And we trusted the latter more.

These days we find them mainly on the internet but we can never be quite sure which are worthy or not until we try them. It's a bit of a crap shoot. Because of this, there's usually some feedback involved. Reviews or comments, where people before us have tried them out.

Some of these are very helpful.

"I found this very sweet, and adjusted the honey down to one tablespoonful the next time. It was better, even my children thought so."


"Yield says 2 dozen, but if you fill the cups to the top as directed you will only get 18"

Fair enough. Practical suggestions by sensible people.

Alas. Not everyone who takes part is altogether.......right in the head. My friend found one comment from a woman who objected to creamed corn because she's lactose intolerant. You can't help some people.

But what pisses me off is this:

"I followed this recipe except that I had no ground beef so I used a can of tuna, and I can't eat gluten so I substituted rice for the breadcrumbs, and I don't like spice, so I left that out, and it was really horrible. Bad recipe."

Over the years, I have discovered that people do this stuff a LOT.

I share a recipe, get told it doesn't "work" and then I dig a bit deeper.

"Did you follow the instructions?"

"Well, yes...mostly"


"I didn't leave it to rise quite as long as it said because I ran out of time...."

Well, that's why it didn't work.

Some years ago a friend asked for my lasagne recipe, which I duly provided. She said it was runny. Turns out that to get the last of the tomato sauce out of the can she filled it with water, swooshed it around, AND THEN ADDED THAT. But apparently this was a long-standing habit. Another friend told me that everything she cooked had a bland, watery taste because of her practice of doing this sort of thing. I suggested she stop doing it with every ounce of tact I could muster, and not only did she look at me like I'd grown an extra head, she said "I'm just being frugal". There's REALLY no helping some people.

But she isn't rare. No.

Almost every single time that somebody has complained about a recipe I've given them, when we get into a conversation about it I discover they did not follow it. In some way or other they changed it. Either more or less of an ingredient, or a substitution, or a step they didn't follow. They deny changing anything, but sooner or later confess they did. And then when I say "AHA!" they make an excuse.

It may seem like a minor detail (use a pre-heated pan to make Yorkshire Pudding) but it's not. If it says do this, then do it, There is a reason why it is in the recipe. Recipes are not merely guidelines unless you really, really know what you are doing.

And some changes matter more than others. If you use chicken instead of turkey, or vice versa, you'll hardly notice, quite frankly. But you can't use dandelions instead of basil, even though they are both green leaves.

Here's some "authorized" substitutions:

And don't forget that when baking, i.e. bread, cookies, and cakes etc., proportions can be critical. You can faff about with the stew but follow the brownie recipe to the letter. Even the size of an egg can make a huge difference.

If you struggle with this stuff, experienced cooks are always willing to help.

But we get frustrated with you if you lie to us about following stop it.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Cranberry Granola Bar

Not all recipes you find online actually work out. This one turned out PERFECT. N.B. We didn't use non-stick cooking spray, I don't trust that stuff. We used butter.

Cranberry Granola Bar
16 bars
2 c. old-fashioned oats
½ c. honey
½ c. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. water
2 large egg whites
2 tbsp. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
¾ c. wheat germ
¾ c. chopped walnuts
¾ c. dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray 13- by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
Line pan with foil, leaving 2-inch overhang; spray foil. 
Spread 2 cups old-fashioned oats on plate; microwave on high, in 1-minute intervals, 4 to 5 minutes or until fragrant and golden, stirring occasionally. 
Let cool. In large bowl, whisk honey, vegetable oil, water, egg whites, light brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until well blended. 
Fold in oats and toasted wheat germ, chopped walnuts, and dried cranberries; transfer to prepared pan. 
Using wet hands, press into even layer.
Bake 28 to 30 minutes or until golden. 
Cool in pan on wire rack. Using foil, transfer to cutting board; cut into 16 bars. 
Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days or freeze up to 1 month.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Johnny Depp Naked

I realise this is not for all tastes, but some of you are diehard fans. Yes, even those of you who claim not to be. So get your magnifying glass out.

As you can see, this was actually a test of the Facebook notification system, to see if my posts are being seen by my friends. If you can see this (no, you can't see THAT, far too small) please reply, ON FACEBOOK, something like "WOW" or "Dear God" or whatever. Don't spoil it.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Strawberry Bed

As I've been neglecting this blog (too much doing, not enough recording for posterity) and I have a lot of photos of this small project, this seems the best way to do it.

I grew strawberry plants from seed*, and they did well, so I needed somewhere to put them. We had an old raised bed from years ago that was totally lost to weeds, so I decided that was the place, but I hadn't reckoned on the weeds having other ideas.

It was a thatch of vetch and grass, and despite soaking it for several hours, I couldn't get the bloody weeds out.

So, I discussed it on Facbook as I planned to smother the weeds. I got some good advice from friends who'd tackled similar challenges.

The first suggestion was before doing anything to cut the weeds right down. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that myself, but actually that became step 1.

Which was a lot of hard work, as you can imagine.

OK, maybe not. Martin did it with the weed whacker. Once he had you could really see what we were up against.

There was literally a mat of roots.

The next suggestion was to cover this with newspaper rather than my idea of landscaping fabric. The thing was I had no newspaper, but I did have landscaping fabric. Then somebody said that's what I did.

I opened up boxes and filled in the gaps with other bits.

Then we filled it with soil. OK, Martin did.

And finally I planted the strawberries and watered them in.

This is the end - or the beginning , depending on which way you go - of our new "fruit walk". Fruit bushes and trees are going along both sides of a path through the wildflower meadow, along the back of the pond. I'll show you all the steps in this ongoing project.

*My latest "thing" is growing everything from seed.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

What The Phok?

When we are talking about likes and dislikes in food, inevitably I get called picky. I'm not actually any pickier than anyone else, it's just that the the things I won't eat tend to be very specific (I'll eat a hard boiled egg white, but no other egg white) or things that are generally very popular. To make up for this latter issue, I love many foods that are often unpopular. So for example, given the choice between liver and chocolate, I'll take the liver. So, it's not a question of me being pickier than average, I'm just non-mainstream. And nothing new there.

In fact I eat most regular foods. There are, for example, very few vegetables I don't like. In a world where some simply don't eat vegetables, or only do so because they feel they ought to, rather than enjoying them, I am far less picky there.

But in fact I don't find anything wrong with being picky about food. It isn't like I only eat a short list of food items, the type of picky I usually see. I just don't see the point of eating something I don't like. My entire philosophy about food is that if it's not delicious (i.e. not a question of being passable, I must actively enjoy it) I don't eat it. Life is too short for bad food and I don't need the calories.

I'll give you an example - burger buns. Most of them are pretty awful, actually. I'm told it doesn't matter, it's just there to hold the burger. Well, you may as well eat a napkin then, because eating a food holder is ridiculous. When I eat burgers I will either:

1. Obtain a good bun.
2. Go without a bun.

The latter is a great low carb option anyway.

Pasta on its own leaves me stone cold. It's not unpleasant, but it's just dull. Adding butter only raises it a level. Add cheese and it's good. Therefore if I eat pasta, there must be cheese.

I don't eat plain boiled rice because it's dull and sucks away flavour from other things. Fried rice, risotto, or pilaf are all just fine. I don't eat brown rice because I don't like the taste. Some say it tastes "nutty". Well, so does dirt. If I seek a nutty flavour, I eat nuts.

I love fish, never met seafood I didn't like. I love all meats except venison, and I wasn't keen on moose but it may have been the recipe. I don't like slow cooked poultry, but I do love it fried or grilled or roast.

I bet I eat, and enjoy, a longer list of foods than most people, actually.

No, my tastes issues are quite specific. Mostly to do with quality. I don't eat stale or dry food. I don't eat burned food. I don't eat overcooked food. I don't eat bland, watery food. This isn't picky this is discerning. Gourmet even. Anything wrong with gourmet?

The real problem is that the specific flavours I don't like keep cropping up these days.

There are fashions in food the same as in everything and people are discovering the wealth of foods from around the world. Being English, I grew up with curry, but it was a specifically English version of it, using a limited range of spices to suit the English palate. But now, thanks to TV chefs and people being more adventurous, a more authentic Asian cuisine is arriving in the west.

Enter a long list of flavours that I really can't stand.

You can group these into three categories:

1. Flavours that I might well enjoy in sweet items/desserts, but find completely off-putting in savoury dishes, often to the point where I simply can't eat it, depending on quantity.

This includes spices such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, ginger, and also most fruit.

Tiny amounts of cloves or ginger in a spice blend, you may get away with. But too much and I'm pushing it away. My taste buds say no, and my gag reflex wakes up ready to go if pushed.

I can tolerate raisins in SOME savoury dishes, pickled fruits in chutney is sometimes OK, and citrus is usually just fine, but if you start mixing raspberries into my salad, I am not going to eat it.

2. The aniseed family. From fennel to licorice, and even dried basil (fresh is fine), I simply don't do that flavour. I can't even bear the smell. This also means no pastis or ouzo, thank you. Can't do it.,

3. Cardamom. It gets its own category because that shit is just nasty. It tastes like furniture polish. No, I've never eaten furniture polish, so don't be difficult. Taste is mostly done in the nose - actually - block your nose and you can't taste anything. So there. Cardamom tastes the same as furniture polish smells, and I don't even understand why anyone would think to use it in food.

I've heard people say it has an "interesting" flavour. Well so does bleach.

So, last week quite by chance I learned about Pho. I've never had Pho, and after reading about it, I'm never going to.

I learned two things about it.

1. It contains several of the above mentioned spices,
2. It is pronounced "fuh".

I'm used to oriental languages being spelled in ridiculous ways when using the Roman alphabet, because I'm attempting to learn Mandarin, and it is written in pinyin using a system invented by a madman. This is why Feng Shui is actually pronounced fung shway. Because using vowels that made sense would have made it all too easy for those of us already struggling with Chinese characters and 4 effing tones. Don't even get me started.

But if it's pronounced "fuh" then I can put a k on the end, and you know what that means? Yes it means I have found another way of spelling the word that gets me into trouble.

Now I can write What the Phok?

And indeed, while I often say "WTF"? when told many things, if they are food-related, it is more appropriate to say "WTP?"

So when I hear about balsamic pears next time, you know what I'm going to say.

EDIT: This was supposed to be a humorous piece. I've already had one complaint and it was only published a few minutes ago. Please find your sense of humour and read it again.