Tag Archives: food

Dreams of country kitchens, pea wine, vegan banana cake

Yesterday’s post got me thinking of food and cooking. I used to do more cooking. With children it is a necessary part of life if the children are to thrive. When I was a child my mother did all the cooking. The only way we children helped was pick some vegetables from our garden or wash and peel potatoes. I do not remember ever cooking anything when I was living at home with my parents. Not even when I was an adult visiting my parents.

The food at my childhood home was very simple. Potatoes and bread were the staples at every meal. Perhaps not always – sometimes we had a macaroni dish baked in the oven or a main soup made with macaroni and vegetables. When those were served we did not have potatoes. But bread was always on the table. My mother baked really good bread. We had always rye bread (I think it might be what is called sour bread, although any sour bread I have had here is nowhere near as good) and either mixed flour bread (oat, wheat, barley) or bread made with just wheat or mainly wheat. At least two kinds of bread were always at any meal table.

Meat was never the main dish, it was more like a garnish. Well, that is not the right word. A side dish – perhaps. Some meat could be added to the gravy or we could have some sliced meat to put on bread. Even the roast pork I mentioned in the last post was not the main thing of the dinner. With the roast pork we would have a potato casserole, a carrot casserole, a cauliflower casserole, a turnip (rutabaga) casserole, bread and pickles. And lets not forget the fish dish that I never liked.

I never learnt cooking as a child. I sort of picked it up later on following recipes – more or less. I have always been more of an experimental cook. I might follow a recipe once, but next time change it a little or not bother measuring ingredients exactly. It all depended what I happened to have available. So one time a dish might be really good and the next time not so good or really horrible. One thing I became an expert on was pancakes. When I moved away from home to my own rented room with a little cooking corner I lived on pancakes during the week and went home for weekends to eat other food. I might have cooked something else occasionally, but the main thing I remember cooking and eating was pancakes and more pancakes and yet more pancakes. And I still like pancakes (vegan pancakes made with soy milk) although I do not make them much at all nowadays.

The reason I have not done much cooking in my present home is that the cooking facilities have been somewhat limited. When I bought this house there was a working kitchen and I discovered the original unusable kitchen in the cellar with rusted iron things inside the big hole in the thick wall. Neither of those was what I wanted (if the original had been in working order it might have been – I now have a sauna there).  The working kitchen was really badly designed and really badly put together. The units were coming apart, never having been properly done. I got rid of that kitchen giving the gas hob and the oven to a friend and burning the units (could not do anything else with them). That room is now a kind of store room with the new toilet taking a corner of it.

My new kitchen is inside the main house now. I had a stove company build a wood burning stove and a wood burning stove/room heater going through the wall and heating the room next to it too. Unfortunately, the company doing it was not up to scratch. I commissioned them for two reasons: I read about them in an environmental magazine and they were the only company in this country installing the sort of stoves I wanted. The magazine gave me the impression that they were doing good work building and installing good environmentally friendly products. The literature of the company claimed to build and install the sort of stoves that were and still are very common in my country of origin. Lesson No 1: Do not trust environmental magazines to have checked the products of people and companies they have information for. Lesson No 2: Do not trust what companies say of themselves even when they claim to be for the sort of ideals you hold dear.

The company has been back once to correct something in the stoves. Still not working as well as they should. And the company refuses to come and correct anything else unless I agree that the biggest problem with them is not their fault and I would have to pay to put it right. The biggest problem is the water heating element in the cooking stove. It is not correctly positioned. In all the boilers that I know of the cold water comes from lower down than the pipe taking the hot water up. In this one they are level. The result is that the water being heated goes up both ways and then at some point tries to adjust, I assume, and makes horrible bangs doing it. The noise is truly scary. It is slightly less now that the pipes are better attached to the wall. I had to correct that as the company left them a little loose. They had forgotten their better drill they told me and could not work the screws properly on the wall because of that.

I do not use the cooking stove very much. The oven/room heater stove I use every day in the winter and not at all in the summer. The oven in that is not as good as I had expected. I have not really tried many dishes in it as the ones I have tried have not worked as well as they should have. The cooking facilities I have here that I use all the time are: a kettle, a toaster, a sandwich toaster, a microwave oven I bought a few months ago, a two ring electric hotplate I bought a couple of months ago. I almost forgot, a friend gave me an electric slow cooker recently. I have ideas of how to improve the stoves I have but no money for it at the moment.

I had such dreams about my new kitchen. I thought I would have a proper country kitchen – an environmentally friendly country kitchen. I even dreamt of doing proper cooking more than once a year. I thought once the house was finished I’ll cook (if I cannot have someone else to do it for me), I’ll bake cakes as I used to (I did more of them – my vegan banana cake was delicious), I’ll learn to do the rye bread and other breads my mum made, I’ll make wine again (pea wine, apple wine, berry wine – all soooo good).  There is a tiny, little spark of hope of that still in me. Maybe …. one day.

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Food, Glorious Food with Good Friends and Music

My social life has got much busier lately. For the whole of last winter it seemed that I only saw my children when they came over (my youngest still lived here officially, but stayed at her boyfriend’s three or four nights a week) and my neighbours if I happened to go outside on the road at the same time as they did. Most days I did not go out at all. My outings were mainly once a week to the town for errands and once every six weeks to a meeting of the wholefood co-op I belong to and order food from. The meeting usually lasts about thirty minutes and then I get a lift home from another member. I also belong to a social group which meets once a month. However, I had not attended any of these social gathering for a very long time. In fact I only attended a first couple of them when we moved here. The main reason for that was that public transport here has at times been very infrequent in the evenings and for a period was non existent. In spite of non-attendance I was kept on the mailing list for events and so was always aware of what was happening.

A couple of years ago the organising was taken over by another person and the nature of the gatherings changed from meetings with speakers and discussions to a more social events.  For the past couple of years they have been potluck picnics on a beach; walks with potluck picnics or visits to some member’s home with potluck lunch. The one aspect of all these that has put me off has been this potluck eating – taking some food with me just is not my thing. Just thinking about it blanks my mind totally.  Food – I like it. I enjoy eating good vegan food, but please, could someone else cook it for me. I make an effort and cook really good meals at one time of the year, and that one time only: 24th of December I cook a meal based on what we had when I was a child (I have adjusted everything to be vegan and instead of roast pork I have taken another recipe and made it into a special thing for that evening) and 25th of December I cook a really wonderful nutroast with roast potatoes and vegetables. My mouth is watering now just thinking of these feasts.

Back to my social life – I suppose the change started around May this year. I got a newsletter about an event planned for a Saturday for the whole day. It involved visiting a forest garden of a friend (one of the people we knew before moving here) on the outskirts of a little town an hour’s walk from here (ten minutes in a bus). And as the day involved doing some work in the garden the food was provided. There was no need to think of what to take. My poor brain was ok with that.

The day arrived with bright and warm sunshine. Until then I had not been able to decide if I could face going there. But on that Saturday morning I felt a real need to get out and see someone – anyone. It was now or never: I had to break my isolation and face the world. I had not informed (as was requested) the organiser of my attendance as I had not known of it until that morning. I set off catching a bus and walking from the bus stop to the friend’s place. When I was almost there a car stopped next to me. It was the friend whose place I was going to. The event had been cancelled as only one person had shown interest in it. My friend invited me to go on an errand with him and then go and have lunch which he had prepared just in case someone came. I got in the car and duly burst out crying. I wanted to be out of there – anywhere else. Well, not just anywhere, but anywhere at my home where no one could see me crying. My friends was really nice which just got me crying more. But all things come to an end and so did my crying. We ended up having a really lovely time eating and talking when we got back to his place.

My next outing was this same friend’s birthday party which was organised by his mother and was supposed to be a surprise. Only someone had let it slip and my friend had told me that he knew about it and asked me to come asking me not to tell anyone that he knew. Until then I had thought of not going. One of the problems being transport – again. The party was held in a hall a little further away on a Sunday when there were no buses. I and my youngest got a lift from another friend and so we attended. I got through the party mostly sitting on the side and waiting for people to come and talk to me, which quite a few of them did. I think I managed to hide my awkwardness quite well.

Another episode of crying – in the bus this time – led to another social occasion. And later on to an arrangement with a friend, who plays both a guitar and a violin and also sings, to meet at my house weekly for dinner and music practice. She had not played or sang for about 30 years, but wanted to get into it again.  I do not do music; I provide the space and listen very appreciatively.  This music practice led to her finding and joining a folk club which practices weekly and  has a monthly public event in a pub. The first of these monthly events for us was last Sunday. As the place is about an hour’s drive from this village my friend asked another friend with a car to come along.

We had early dinner at my house first. This musical friend is also a good cook. She used to cook in a co-operatively owned and run cafe years ago. She does all the cooking for our weekly meetings and did a cooking for our dinner on Sunday. After dinner we drove through beautiful countryside in the bright evening sun to this distant village pub. There were eight members of the folk club present and three of their guests (including two of us) plus the public in the pub. At first the club members played some music. Then they each took a turn to sing a song others joining in the chorus. They did a few rounds like that. People in pub joined in the singing when they knew the words, quite quickly catching onto to the choruses. It was a most enjoyable evening. I look forward to the next monthly event.