Oct. 21st, 2016 12:55 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Shopping for apples today, I saw a shelf label that read "Smitten apples." None of the nearby apples declared themselves smitten on their sticky labels. Could I identify them by behaviour? Were any apples sighing sadly for the nearby pears? Were they saying to a Granny Smith that she was the apple of their eye? Every apple sat resolutely still, none of them showing any sign of pining. The apples nearest to the sign were pre-packed in fours, but the package itself refused to admit what sort of apples they were. I decided to buy them anyway. I heard no sighs as I picked up a pack of 4. No little fruity voices wailed, "Boris! NO!" as I snatched them away from the fruity multitude.

Maybe theirs was a silent love. Or maybe they were smitten with each other, those four nameless apples that shared a pack. If so, it was a doomed love, since my recipe called for 3 apples. I took one and chopped it. No-one wailed. 2 more followed it into the grave of the mixing bowl. Now only one remains, the last of its kind, surrounded by enormous Braeburns and tiny clementines, with a colossal Bramley looming nearby like a bouncer outside a nightclub. I am watching the bowl closely for drama, but nothing has happened thus far.

It reminds me of the time I packed my fridge with what the Co-op was advertising as "territorial cheeses," and sat back and waited for war to result. That never happened, either. It was most disappointing.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I saw Christmas sandwiches in the shops today! Part of me wants to say, "Already? In early October! It's barely stopped being summer! I've not started wearing a coat yet!" But the rest of me is too busy capering joyously and shouting, "O frabjous day!" I mean, stuffing and bacon? This is just my two favourite food items in the universe, all presented under one roof* - a roof they're sharing with turkey and sausage, which aint half bad themselves. The only downside is that I'm currently trying to lose a few pounds in between summer overindulgence and the coming overindulgence of birthday and Christmas, and the nicest Christmas sandwiches - one of the M&S ones was my clear favourite last year, but I look forward to comparing and contrasting this year's offerings - provide rather more calories than I want to eat for lunch at the moment. The low calorie alternatives are Right Out, since they are built on the premise that piles of fresh greenery are an acceptable substitute for stuffing. The horror! :-O

* Every year, I have the following conversation with my Mum. Mum: "What do you want for pudding on Christmas dinner?" (I don't like Christmas pudding.) Me: "More stuffing and bacon rolls." Mum: "No, be serious. What do you want for pudding." Me: "I am being serious. More stuffing and bacon rolls with my main course, and no pudding." Mum: "No, be serious. I already serve you a veritable MOUNTAIN of the things, and there's no room on your plate for more. What do you want to eat while we're all eating Christmas pudding?" Me: "Okay, if I've got to have something at pudding time, just keep back some stuffing and bacon rolls and serve them to me, cold, in a bowl." I try this every year. It never works. Last year I ended up with ice cream. It was not stuffing flavoured.

So that's two posts in a week about stuffing. :-D
ladyofastolat: (Curly Honey)
I've decided that I ought to post every day (or almost every day), no matter how inconsequential and silly the subject matter. So here goes...

Walking to the corner shop this evening, I saw a gorgeous young cat, a tawny and black tabby, really pretty. "Meow! Meow! Meow!" said the cat, clearly meaning, "Hello, hello! I want to be friends with you!" I slowed down, bent down, and lowered my hand. "Hello, hello!" said the cat. "I really want to meet you!" It ran up, smiling, and touched its nose to my hand... only to recoil, and run away at a rate of knots, with traumatised ears. Baffled, I sniffed my hand... and remembered that barely minutes before, just before leaving the house, I had used my hands to shape balls of sage and onion stuffing. I did wash them afterwards, but the smell remained. Clearly gorgeous tawny tabbies like sage and onion stuffing considerably less than I do. Although, really, I think almost any living being on this planet probably likes sage and onion stuffing less than I do. Posh shop-bought stuffing is all very well, some of it really quite nice. Homemade stuffing can be delicious. But basic Paxo sage and onion stuffing is, for me, one of the best things in existence. I could quite happily eat it with every single meal.

In other news, we have been playing Mage Knight for the last 6 hours, struggling to remember the rules. We played it quite a bit last year, but Christmas brought Mistfall (another co-op fantasy RPG board game) and Pandemic, which led to the utter awesomeness that is Pandemic Legacy (Best. Game. Ever) and many, many Pandemic expansions. Since we were struggling to remember the rules, we're playing the long co-op version, not the shortened one, which we felt demanded a certain amount of competence right from the start, rather than random flailing. The long game is looooong, so we've retired for the night only half way through. Much of the game was done to the soundtrack of 50s rock and roll, which is not perhaps the most obvious soundtrack for assaulting mage towers full of ice golems, but somehow... works.

One day I will post some more about our Venice holiday, but today is not that day.

Now watching Hooten and the Lady, which is incredibly silly, but rather fun. Also drinking some strange, nameless bottles of homemade multi-coloured booze that Pellinor salvaged from a recent LARP weekend. This might not be wise...
ladyofastolat: (Evil otter)
Whenever we go to a tapas restaurant and order things like croquetas, they come in threes. There are two of us, and we always order all our dishes with a view to sharing them equally, but they always come in threes. Always. Invariably.

Today we had supermarket tapas. One dish came in a set of five. The cold meat platter came in sevens: seven each of three different meats.

Why do they do this? Why? The answer is obvious. Everyone involved in the production of tapas is a mischievous troublemaker, who cackles evilly as they put their prime numbers of food stuffs on the plate, then settle back chuckling, eagerly imagining the discord that they have sown. Couples will split up in acrimonous fighting over the Third Croquette! Families of fewer than seven members will descend into squabbling as they find that there is no fair way to distribute the Seven Slices of Chorizo!

It is but a small step towards achieving the discord and despair that will pave the way for the Dark Lord's sujugation of all mankind, but every little helps, as the Dark Lord himself is wont to say, (along with a cheery theme tune and a jingle.)

70s food

Mar. 18th, 2015 01:03 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
We watched a programme last night in which a family were "sent back in time" to 1950, and made to cook and eat as a British family in 1950 would. Year by year, they moved through the decade, getting newfangled products at the appropriate times. It was a bit gimmicky, but I found it rather interesting. Next week, they're moving into the 60s, and then on to the 70s and 80s (and 90s?)

It prompted us to try to work out what food stuffs and gadgets and food-related lifestyle changes were unique to the 70s and 80s. The trouble is, when you're a child in a decade, you don't know if the food stuff you eat all the time is unique to your generation, or if it has been eagerly enjoyed for years. If you stop eating it in 1980, you don't necessarily know if you've stopped eating it because it's no longer available, or if you've just grown out of it. Certainly, when looking for 1970s party food for Pellinor's 40th, I was amazed at just how many of the products were still available, although I hadn't eaten them for years - and, in many cases, am quite happy never to eat them again, thank you very much.

Food nostalgia )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Here's something that's annoying. It's when you get a box of chocolates or a selection box of biscuits, and on the back of the packet it lists all the ingredients for the entire selection, and it reads, "stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, THING THAT MIGHT KILL YOU!, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff." Inside the box, 20 different chocolates or biscuits stare innocently at you, and you know that at least one of them contains the THING THAT MIGHT KILL YOU! but you have no idea which one(s), or how many. Sometimes one draws your attention by waving dramatically at you, saying LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! I'M COVERED ALL OVER IN NUTS! but maybe it's just a distraction. Maybe it's like all those people in movies who leap out and shout I AM A DIVERSION! FOLLOW ME SO THE HERO WITH THE McGUFFIN WILL GET AWAY! (and the baddies always fall for it! Why? It's always so obviously a diversion, yet they invariably drop everything and chase after these people who so obviously want to be chased. It's almost as if evil minions are invariably stupid, or something. Oh. Wait.)

Anyway, back to those innocent chocolates. One of them obviously has nuts all over it, and another has no obvious nuts, but is called "hazelnut crunch," which is a bit of a clue. But what about all the others? THING THAT MIGHT KILL YOU! was quite high on the ingredient list. Are two chocolates likely to account for it, or is there likely to be more lurking in a third chocolate, invisible and unlabelled?

In the end, you have to pass all doubtful chocolates to a tame Pellinor, who has to take a careful bite and report back on the likelihood of nuts. But can you trust such a creature? There is, after all, that incident in Bella Pasta in Oxford in 1993: that never-to-be-forgivenforgotten incident when you were suddenly stuck with Doubt about the white shavings on your pudding, so passed it over to him to take a tiny spoonful and report back. Then you got distracted by conversation with others, and when you turned back, the whole pudding was gone. "So it did have nuts in it?" you say. "No," says the brazen-faced unrepentant villain, quite cheerfully. "It was white chocolate."

Okay, so nuts won't actually kill me (at least, they haven't yet) but an allergic reaction is unpleasant and not nice, and there's always the fear that it will get worse. Others have it far, far worse, of course. So why, if you're going to make the effort of listing all your allergens in bold on the back of your packet, don't you make it clear inside which item contains said allergen, and which ones are free of it?
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Is it just me, or does food shopping get ever more complicated? I tried to buy tinned sweetcorn a while ago. Presumably we hadn't bought it for a long time, or maybe Pellinor happened to do the shopping the last time sweetcorn was on the list, or maybe the World of Sweetcorn, formerly simple, has recently acquired new complexities. I expected a choice between Brand Name, Another Brand Name and Own Brand. Instead, I found what seemed to my poor overloaded brain to be at least 127 subtly different sweetcorn choices. Which one is normal, old-fashioned sweetcorn? I wailed. Which one is the ordinary, classic, common-or-garden, original, newbie sweetcorn? No help was forthcoming.

It's even worse with toothpaste, where each brand name comes in about 105 different versions, all claiming to do something that sounds like a Good Thing, but none claiming to do all of them. Overwhelmed, I just buy whatever happens to be on special offer. And this week, I ended up bonding with an elderly lady over our shared Olive Oil Angst. Side by side, we surveyed the 20 foot wide display of all manner of olive oils, as we tried to work out which one was normal olive oil for cooking. I used to laugh about old ladies who stood around in shops loudly complaining about the price of carrots nowadays, or the shocking new-fangledness of the quiche. Now I seem to have become one.

What supermarkets need is some sort of walkthrough for confused newbies. ("New to tinned sweetcorn? Here's where to start!") Or maybe a clearly coloured shelf sticker that denotes the normal, regular, non-confusing version of a thing.

And while I'm busy grumping about shopping:

Why do so many clothes shops make it impossible to find clothes? Go into somewhere like Debenhams to look for trousers, and you have to look in 105 different places. At least it makes sense in Debenhams, because of the way the shop works: lots of different brands under the same roof. But M&S does the same thing now, with all their different ranges. I just want to browse trousers! I don't care if they're Per Una trousers, or Indigo Collection trousers, or M&S Classics trousers, or any of the other ranges they now sell. Why are they going out of their way to make things difficult? Well, yeah, I expect they're deliberately forcing customers to walk every inch of the shop in the hope that they get tempted by other items en route, but it's still very annoying.

As is the habit train stations have of only selling crisps in extra-large bags. After an early start and a long journey, I might feel in need of a small snack, but I don't want a large one. If they sold normal sized bags of crisps, they would probably get some money out of me. By only selling large ones, they ensure that I walk straight out again, feeling grumpy, negative thoughts in their general direction, and my money remaining unspent.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Does anyone have any recommendations for a cereal bar that, A, contains no nuts, B, can be bought in the UK, and, C, tastes less sweet than most of its kind? (And, as an aside, why is it so hard to find yogurts, cereal bars and the like that simply taste less sweet than their fellows, rather than ones that shout "low sugar!" but taste just as sweet as all the others, or even more so, because they've made up the difference with yucky artificial sweetener?)

Alternatively, does anyone have any suggestions for a non-sweet (or not-very-sweet) something that could fulfil a similar role: i.e. a quick snack that provides 100-150 calories. I want something that can be carried in a rucksack without getting squashed, and can be eaten without causing sticky fingers. I would also prefer something individually wrapped, A, because it's easier to carry in a rucksack, and, B, because I've learnt the hard way how hard it is to say "I'll just have 4 Cheddars, then put the pack away and not eat any more until tomorrow." (Let's just say that I did put the packet away, but not in the way I'd intended.)
ladyofastolat: (Evil otter)
I've just made Eccles cakes. Upon taking them out of the oven, my first thought was to wail, "Oh! Oh! I'm so sorry for cooking you!" But then I looked closer, and realised that they weren't anguished after all; they were undead. Undead Eccles cakes. That's a drooling zombie on the left, and a sneering skeleton on the right.


No lunch

May. 5th, 2014 09:21 am
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Grump! This is the second week in a row that I have to dance between 12 and 2, which takes me out the house from 11.30 to 2.30, or so. Who arranges these things? Don't they believe in lunch? Yes, we often dance outside pubs and cafés and places that serve food, but you can't eat a sit-down lunch when you've got to get up every few minutes to do a 5 minute dance, and it's a bit cheeky to take sandwiches when you're on the premises of a pub that serves food. I know that some people are lucky enough to be flexible about meal times. Pellinor (and my Mum) can forget to eat lunch, and don't even notice. However I (like my Dad) get icy cold, dizzy and utterly pathetic if lunch is delayed. I can just about wait until 1, although I might have to wrap up warm to last that long. Any later than that, and I dissolve into a heap of sobbing uselessness.

So I'm going to have to eat lunch at 11, which will of course just set up problems later, since I'll then have to eat dinner early, too. Grr!

Besides, as we discovered last week, the audiences don't really turn up until 2-ish, anyway. Last week, we danced by the exit of a huge, touristy car park in a tourist honeypot, just outside a touristy café and a touristy gift shop. Barely a soul there at 12. Three coach-loads of tourists and a few hundred cars by 2, just as we were finishing. Grump!


Mar. 30th, 2014 02:26 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Neither Pellinor or I like seafood at all. I am allergic to nuts. Both of us very much like tapas, meze and the whole sharing platter approach to meals.

It's Pellinor's birthday next weekend, but the current menu in our usual special occasions restaurant is full of things that either I actively dislike, or at least am quite "meh!" about. Maybe we should investigate alternatives, we thought. Restaurant 1: seafood. Restaurant 2: seafood. Restaurant 3: doesn't claim to be seafood, but 75% of the dishes on the menu are seafood. The rest contain nuts.

Oh well, we thought, there's always that nice tapas bar that opened a couple of years ago... Turns out said tapas bar has been sold and is now... yes, you've guessed it, a seafood restaurant. Oh, the local Italian restaurant offers meze! Oh. Turns out that 75% of the options are seafood, and we'd struggle to find enough dishes to make a meal.

What about that place next to the floating bridge? someone said at work. Doesn't that do tapas? A couple of years ago, when I looked at its menu, all but two of the tapas dishes were seafood. I walked past it today, and saw that it now had a new name, so I checked the menu. Tapas, yes. Almost exclusively seafood? Yup, of course!

I know we live in a seaside town, but it's not a fishing port, like Bembridge or Ventnor, who make a lot of their freshly-landed fish. I know that lots of people love seafood, but I know a lot of people who don't, so we can't be the only people who are walking sadly away from places they might otherwise have eaten in. Looks like we'll be eating in Southampton, then. Sorry, local traders, we did try.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I posted a few months ago about the concealed Brie that Pellinor's Mum securely hid for us into a soup-making gift set that she sent to us. Last night, I decided to make the soup. The instructions told me to tip the entire 500g sachet into a pan, add 2 pints of boiling water and a stock cube, and simmer until done, adding additional water if needed.

Well, to cut a long story short, the end result, even with 2 pints of additional water, was not soup. I reckon you could slice it, bake it in a kiln, and make houses out of it, that not even the most determined wolf could huff-and-puff down.

It also looked, to my taste, supremely unappetising. The "soup mix" consisted of nothing but lentils, barley and peas, with nothing at all to add thickness or flavour. So basically I ended up with an absolutely enormous solid mass of boiled pulses and grains, and that's it. Sadly, it tasted overwhelmingly of overcooked peas, a taste I find very unpleasant. Even with extra water, I knew I wouldn't want to eat it as soup, so I didn't persist.

I hate wasting food, so we debated for while on possible uses. Add a scoop to each stew made? However, last weekend was a Cooking Weekend, and the freezer is therefore full of 12 dinners' worth of various stews, with no new ones to be made for several weeks. I was very tempted to make a Soup Monster out of it - like a snowman, but more fierce, with raisin eyes and orange peel teeth, but the barley didn't stick together quite well enough to allow ears and claws to be formed. Therefore I have tipped it in a big heap in the lawn, to let the local blackbirds, gulls, cats and foxes feast on it. Or not. I will monitor their reactions to this feast with interest.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
(Dried) Egg pappardelle, "bySainsbury's" (ingredients: durum wheat semolina, free range egg (16%)): kcal per 100g: 372

(Dried) "Pappardelle made with free range eggs," Sainsbury's Taste the Difference (ingredients: durum wheat semolina, free range egg (24%)): kcal per 100g: 141

Something does not compute here! One would expect a slightly higher egg content to make some difference to the calorie content, but not this much.

But the plot thickens. Version 1 claims that a serving is 100g. Version 2 claims that a serving is 200g. Presumably, in version 1, 100g refers to dry weight, whereas in version 2, is refers to cooked weight, with the weight doubled by water. Nowhere is this made clear. And, in this case, version 2 is particularly unhelpful to me as I stand there with my weighing scales, measuring out a sensible portion size, since if I do it without measuring, it always balloons into enough to feed a hungry army. I don't often cook dried pasta, so can never remember what's a sensible portion size, so I could very easily have measured out 200g of dried pasta per person today, were it not for the fact that I still had a tiny bit left of the old packet left, and could compare.

I do appreciate nutritional information on food, but sometimes they seem to go out of their way to obscure what they really mean. Grump!
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I have just decanted the last of the salt into a little salt shaker. The carton* of salt (750g) came from Safeway, which dates it to before 2004, when it turned into Morrisons. However, we stopped shopping in Safeway c. 1999, when a new Sainburys opened up right next door to where we were then living. The copyright date on the carton design is 1993. We moved to the island in 1994, setting up house from scratch, so I think it is entirely possible that this salt carton was bought in 1994, and has lasted us nearly 20 years. I feel a strong urge to commemorate this with something probably-ritual, but can't think what. This is despite having recently read an entire book on the social and cultural history of salt.

* Some years ago, we had had a long conversation with various relatives over Christmas dinner** as to the differences between jars, cans, packets, and so on. "That squidgy plastic container you get salt in" caused us particular difficulty, but I think we settled on "carton" in the end.

** No, conversation in our family is not generally particularly racy, daring or world-changing
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
We were actually only away for half a weekend: a day trip with added Friday night. The ferries are very messed up at the moment, since someone crashed one of the boats into a buoy ("with a U," I belatedly added, when I was telling someone about this and could see by their face that they were wondering) at the same time as another was off on annual service. So the avoid a very crack of dawny start on Saturday, we stayed over on the mainland on Friday night, and had a second attempt to scale the enormous mountain that is the meze feast in a local Greek restaurant.

Last time we went, I was almost in tears at the end. ("They just won't stop bringing us food! Make them stop!") But the food was good, so I wanted to try again, but on a day when we didn't have a ferry to catch so could take things slowly and linger. It was still an unfeasibly large amount of food, but I am glad to report that I didn't end up in tears. I did have to opt out of two complete dishes, though, but fortunately Pellinor was able to do the honours.

Yesterday we headed to Lewes to dance at the folk festival. ("What? Lewis in Scotland?" said someone at work. "For the day?") It was all very enjoyable - especially when Pellinor volunteered to do another side's joiny-in dance, and found himself tied up on the floor with his legs spread, while men (dressed as women) wearing hob-nailed boots stomped over him. But then I had an allergic reaction to the most over-priced sandwich in the history of sandwiches.

I've always avoided all nuts, to be on the safe side, although the only one I've had a definite reaction to is walnuts. (Oh, and I had a mild reaction to coconut milk at Easter, too, but admittedly that was in one of Philmophelgm's Unwise Cocktails, which can bring down the strongest of men.) I love pesto, but have always been careful only to have nut-free varieties. However, I was fairly sure that I'd accidentally eaten pesto with pine nuts a while ago and been okay, so I blithely ordered a sandwich with pesto in, without checking. Within minutes, my lips looked as if I'd had a disastrous bout of cosmetic surgery. After an hour, my palms started itching unbearably. (Why my palms, I wonder?) On the journey home, I gradually turned red all over, with yellow weals wherever my clothes touched my skin. I felt quite ill and dopey when we were walking up to the ferry, but a lot better by the time we got home, and demanded comfort in the form of ice cream.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
First, catch your blackberries.

Second, third, fourth and fifth, wonder what on earth you're going to do with them.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
- Thinks: How big is a standard onion? Half my onions are the teeniest things imaginable, while the other half are the biggest ginormo-onions known to man. (I prefer it hyphenless, though. If it weren't for the fact that I only ever play human, I'd want to play a ginomoonian in some future roleplaying campaign.)

- "Roll pastry out to a thickness of 1 cm." "WHAT?" Google for second opinions. One recipe suggests rolling to the thickness of a 50p, but another prefers a pound coin. Why don't recipe books warn you that you need to collect a variety of change first?

- Realisation: I don't actually know how you blind bake a pastry case. Let's Google it! One hand very greasy. Oh well... Let's type one-handed. "Blond naked..." Um, okay, better not press Enter on that search.

- "Help! Help! It's all gone WRONG! It's RUINED! Why have the edges all curved in like that? I did everything the internet told me to do! WHY DID IT ALL GO WRONG? And I'm hot! And I'm hungry! And it's all ruined!" Woe, tears, etc.

- "Honey! Come back with that baking bean!"

- "Oh, well. I'll just put the filling in, anyway, even though it will overflow the curly edges."

- "Actually, this looks really really nice. You'd almost think it was intentional."

- "Oh, look. A baking bean. I wonder how it got there."

- "It tastes really nice, too!"

- CRUNCH! CRACK! "Oh. I've just found a baking bean."

- "Well, it was really nice... BUT I'M NOT DOING THAT AGAIN."
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
For the first time in many, many years, we do not possess a talismanic pizza. I believe that one should never be without a frozen pizza. As long as you possess a frozen pizza, you can always produce a hot meal within minutes, even if ferry disasters mean you arrive home too late to buy fresh food or want to cook, or if you're housebound due to broken legs, blizzards or zombie apocalypses.

We've probably had a talismanic pizza in our freezer ever since we bought the freezer. Once we carried it all the way to Derbyshire, then carried it home again a week later. Sometimes we might buy another pizza and transfer talismanic status to the new one, allowing us to eat the old one. I claim this is something to do with Best Before dates, but doubtless it's all Probably Ritual. As long as there is a pizza in the house, Luck will not desert it, but if Luck starts looking rather shaky, the old pizza is ritually slain, and a fresh young pizza is chosen to take its place. Something like that.

Despite my insistence on possessing an emergency pizza, I don't think we've ever resorted to eating it in any of the situations it was designed for. Even if we do arrive home hideously late and hungry, or if housebound by snow or illness, we always contrive somehow, and keep the pizza for another worse emergency that might lurk in the future. We do sometimes deliberately eat frozen pizza, but only when I deliberately buy a second one, allowing the talismanic one to remain untouched.

There are many reasons why I am not cut out to be the hero of a fantasy novel, but I think the reluctance to consume Talismanic Pizza is one of them. If someone told me to take this mystic horn, but only blow it when the direst need is upon me, I would probably put it in the freezer, and keep it there for ever, as emergencies unfolded all around me.


Feb. 24th, 2013 05:54 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
At work, my lunch every day is an entire tin of soup (usually chicken noodle, because it's nicely low in calories), a yogurt and a banana. I'm now wondering if it would be more cost effective to make my own soup in bulk, and freeze it in individual portions. Has anyone got any good soup recipes? It needs to be low in calories, not too time-consuming to make, and suitable for freezing. I also don't want anything that shouts out "Hello! Look at all my VEGETABLES!" Root vegetables are fine, but any green stuff needs to be in small quantities or mushed into invisibility, and celery and broccoli is Right Out, as is anything fishy.


Feb. 8th, 2013 09:39 am
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
A colleague has a multipack of crisps on his desk, which claim to be "classically ready salted." How to you add salt to crisps in a classical manner?

"Ready salted" implies that unready salted crisps exist. Can you still buy those plain crisps with blue salt sachets, I wonder? They were rare and exciting when I was young. The end result was never as nice as "proper" crisps, but adding the little sachet was exciting.

Walkers salt and vinegar crisps are my dieting bete noire, and probably the only thing that I have to avoid almost completely. (I don't believe in banning anything I love.) I'm not sure why I love them so much, given that I prefer chips plain, without salt and vinegar.

At primary school, there were big cardboard boxes of crisps in the playground, from which we could buy packets for... 7p, I believe. I need to do some nostalgic hunting down. I think they were square, and made of that prawn cracker type substance, that melts on the tongue and goes all squishy. I think one of the flavours was tomato.

Anyone remember hedgehog flavoured crisps?

I seem to have had loads of nostalgic conversations over the years about childhood sweets, but very few about childhood crisps - except for some half-hearted muttering about monster munch and frazzles - and none at all about childhood ice lollies. I liked Mini Milk, because they were cheap, but I also remember Mivvis and Fabs.


Nov. 27th, 2012 12:43 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
We very seldom have cause to buy eggses - only twice a year, probably, when birthday cakes are required - but today there were some in the house due to Pellinor baking me chocolate birthday cake at the weekend. Struck with sudden nostalgia, I decided to have boiled egg with soldiers for breakfast, for the first time since I was about 8.

I found an egg cup at the back of a cupboard - either one of Pellinor's ancestral ones, or something to do with Summerfest. (The latter is probably more likely; Things Found At The Back Of Cupboards are usually Summerfest-related - see also Custard.) Due to the aforementioned "not eaten since I was about 8," I had never actually boiled an egg before, and therefore became one of those shocking people who get railed against as illustrating the fall of western civilisation - i.e. someone who has to Google "how to boil an egg."

Even then, I managed to mess it up. The internet told me to wait until the water was boiling, and then time it for 3 minutes (or 4 minutes; opinions varied.) But when was the water boiling? When bubbles were languidly bubbling away and steam was drifting from the surface? When bubbles were leaping around in a fairly excitable fashion? When the entire contents of the pan was hurling itself around in a wild "Pick me! Pick me!" sort of fashion?

I chose wrongly. My egg tasted nice, but the poor soldiers were like limp peasant longbowmen hurling themselves at the side of a fortified tank, and coming out much the worse for the encounter. I also messed up the beheading part of things, and my fingers went ow! ow! ow! whenever I tried to stablise the egg enough to get the spoon into it. I was clearly better at such things when I was 8, and have lost much of the Wisdom of Eggses.

Cake dough

Oct. 23rd, 2012 12:34 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
When I was little, I was given a dire warning about eating uncooked cake dough. If you did so, I was told, all the flour would rise in the warmth of my tummy, just like a cake rising in the oven, and I would DIE!

Okay, perhaps I wasn't explicitly told that I would die, merely that I wouldn't feel very well, but these things are often equated in a small child's mind, it seems. "Remember," I tell my audience of 4 year olds, "Samantha doesn't know that Sam has hidden all these worms and spiders in her sandwich. Do you think she'll eat it? What will happen if she does?" "She'll DIE!" is the most popular response, ahead of "she'll be sick."

Therefore I spent my childhood holding the belief that uncooked cake or biscuit mixture was somewhere at the level of bleach on the "Thou Shalt Not Eat" list, and to this day, I have found it very hard to shift this belief.

However, I lot of other adults I know dive gleefully into bowls of cake mixture, going Nom!Nom!Nom!

Was anybody else taught that uncooked cake mixture was dangerous, or were my parents just playing a cruel trick on me?
ladyofastolat: (fathom the bowl)
Until a year or two ago, I don't think I'd ever come across "pigs in blankets" as a name for those little sausages wrapped in bacon that you get with Christmas dinner, but today I seem to be tripping over the name wherever I look. Has the name recently increased in popularity, or have I spent my life being too busy saying "Give me more more MORE! No, just give me the entire LOT!" to actually care about what they're called?

(I've never been able to decide whether stuffing "those sausage and bacon roll things" is officially the Best Thing Ever, but I don't really have to, since they're both part of Christmas dinner, and my Mum knows me well enough to provide me with enough of each to feed a small army. Now I just need to find a way to incorporate garlic butter into Christmas dinner, and it would officially include all my Favourite Things.)
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Special offers confuse me. Last weekend, I was dithering in the red wine section in Sainsburys, along with two other Wightfraggers, attempting to find something suitable for those people - not us - who had requested red wine. It quickly emerged that none of us knew the first thing about red wine, but a helpful Sainsburys man cut into our clueless dithering to show us a particular wine that was sold at £12 for one bottle, or £10 for two. When shopping today, I thought I'd see if a crazy offer like this was a one-off. While I didn't find any that actually paid you to take a second bottle, I found a lot of deals almost as crazy: £10.50 for one, or 3 for £12 was one of the more extreme, but there were several like this.

How does this sort of deal make sense? I can think of several reasons for special offers:

- Use your crazy special offer in your advertising to entice people from your competitors
- Encourage people to buy more stuff than they intended to. Today I went to buy one bottle of shampoo, but since it was on a 2-for-1, I ended up with 4. Still, I don't see how that will help the supermarket in the long term, since shampoo keeps for ages, so I'm just shifting my future purchasing to today. However, had I been persuaded by an offer to buy far too much of something very perishable, then I can see why the supermarket would benefit. Also, I always shop in Sainsburys, but if I varied my supermarkets, I can see how Sainsburys might want me to buy my 4 bottles with them - even if only for the price of 2 - rather than just buy one, then buy my next one somewhere else.
- Put a crazy special offer on your luxury range in the hope that people will realise how wonderful it is and continue to buy it even when it's full price
- Hope to trick people. Today I was about to buy some soup at 65p a tin, then noticed that a different brand was on special offer if I bought 4. I'd grabbed 3 tins, when I realised that the offer - 4 for £3 (or 82p for one tin) - actually made the soup more expensive than the brand I'd intended to buy. Had it been considerably nicer, then I'd have counted it a good deal, but since I actually preferred the cheaper one, I was almost conned by the offer into paying more to something less good.

However, I still can't understand the logic of these wine offers.


May. 12th, 2011 08:19 am
ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
Current (unimportant) dilemma: what food do I take with me on Sunday, when walking 27 miles across the island? I want something compact, easily portable and eatable on the move, but which provides lots of quick energy. I'm allergic to nuts, and don't really want chocolate, in case it's hot on the day and it melts. I don't like super-sweet stuff; I have finally managed to remember that buying tempting-looking slabs of fudge from handmade fudge shops is not a good idea, since the sweetness overwhelms me and makes me desperate for some crisps to take the taste away. (And don't even get me started on tablet...!) Kendal Mint Cake would be perfect, since the mint taste masks the sugar, but I'm fairly sure it's not available in normal shops, and it seems a bit extreme (and possibly too late) to mail order a single slab.


Apr. 15th, 2011 06:39 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Now that it's been ruled that pasties can only be sold as Cornish Pasties if they've been made in Cornwall, I think we need a new name for similar pasties produced elsewhere. I saw "Cornish-style pasty" on a menu the other day, but I think we can do much better than that.

I suggested Corn Pasty, so advertisers to claim that the ones from Cornwall are merely Corn-ish, while these are the real thing. However, "corn pasty" does suggest the presence of corn, so Pellinor suggested Cornest (or Corniest) Pasty, again allowing advertisers to imply that their product is better than the Cornish ones.

However, the Cornish pasty people will probably complain about this approach, so maybe we should stick to the concept that this is merely something similar to a Cornish Pasty. Therefore I propose that we call such things "Cornishish Pasties." I am, however, open to better ideas.

And to puns. I think the pie banners need to be joined by a pasty banner or two.


Mar. 19th, 2011 01:01 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Prompted by a question on Sporcle: (Yup, still addicted.)

What's the difference between a pie and a tart? My Dad (Scottish) says that it doesn't matter how big it is or whether it has a lid or not; if it's sweet it's a tart and if it's savoury it's a pie. He has mince tarts at Christmas. My Mum (English) says that it doesn't matter how big it is or what the filling is; if it has a pastry lid it's a pie, and if it's open it's a tart. She sometimes has mince pies at Christmas and sometimes has mince tarts, depending on whether they're lidless or not. I've ended up bilingual in the tart department, and call covered savoury things pies and open sweet things tarts (unless they're Bakewell puddings) but it all falls apart in the middle.

And how do flans fit in?

EDIT: Having already established that there are regional variations, I'm not trying to find the One True Definition, but I'm interested in hearing opinions.

EDIT 2: More thoughts. Lots of pubs serve "pies" that are bowls of stew with some pastry floating on top. Is this really a pie?

Secondly, some places offer "tarlets." How small does a tart have to be before it's a tartlet? Should there be an international standard measure?

Thirdly, if a tart is a lidless pie, I see Tolkien-related puns ahead. I need to make some more pie banners this year, to include "Sell me pies, sell me sweet little pies," and to advertise the price list (pie-rates, though it's a shame the Bar Of The Thousand Pies isn't in Penzance) so I think some sort of lidless pie will be added to the list.

EDIT 3: Nothing to do with pies at all, but another word meaning question. What sort of a person has a stronghold? The news is talking about "the rebels' stronghold" in Libya. I think only rebels and villains have strongholds; Good King Fluffy and his happy men wouldn't have one. Only Dark Lords have fastnesses and only villains have lairs, but everyone can have a base or an HQ. "I retire to my base, you retreat to your stronghold, he skulks in his lair."


Mar. 5th, 2011 04:06 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
In the last few days, I've seen at several very different things described as the "traditional" way to serve pancakes. I know that a pancake in America is different from a pancake in England, and a pancake in Scotland is different yet again, and other countries are doubtless different, too, but these sources were, as far as I can tell, all talking about English-style pancakes. Therefore, out of curiosity, I was wondering what my Friends list (whether English or not) would consider to be the classic or traditional (or "right"?) way to serve pancakes.

(My answer would be "rolled up with lemon and sugar", by the way.)


Mar. 2nd, 2011 05:48 pm
ladyofastolat: (probably ritual)
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I would have laughed if anyone has asked me what my favourite item of kitchenware was. I had favourite foods, favourite books, favourite films, favourite places, but inedible things in kitchen cupboards weren't worth wasting emotions on. However, I've caught myself feeling quite ridiculously attached to my stock pot, in a way that makes me think I could soon be cherishing it like some magical cauldron of rebirth, and launching doomed quests to recover it if anyone stole it. (Did anyone ever launch doomed quests to recover a stolen corkscrew or turkey baster, I wonder? I know a story about a magical tea spoon and all-purpose kitchen knife, but are tin openers and baking trays ever magical in stories?) Anyway, this stock pot might even fill me with even more delight than the teeny tiny little grater that makes me giggle madly whenever I see it. (I believe it's a cinnamon grater, but its only role in our household is to occasionally surface in a drawer and cause mirth.) It's all quite worrying.


Feb. 21st, 2011 05:44 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I am Confused By Spangles. Pellinor had some beer on Friday night which both of us simultaneously described as "Spangles!" This led to Spangle-related discussion. Wikipedia says they were manufactuered between the 50s and the early 80s. However, I clearly remember them arriving in Mrs Mason's sweetshop (which I frequently only between 1978 and 1982) and my parents both going, "Oh! They've brought back Spangles at last! We remember them from when we were young!" So does anyone else remember Spangles coming back, or does everyone of an appropriate age have a continuous unbroken line of Spangle memories?

I do remember finding the fruit ones nothing special, but really liking the Old English ones. I can't remember much about them, except that there was an opaque butterscotch coloured one, and a clearer very dark one, which I liked a lot. I don't know which particular Old English one is the Platonic form of "Spangle" that both Pellinor and I were thinking of when we labelled this beer as spangle-flavoured.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Should the garlic go in my herb cupboard or my spice cupboard? It's tried both, but I always seem to expect it to be in the one it isn't currently lurking in.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I was thinking today about how much I like chicken kiev, and how it seems to have gone completely out of fashion. Back in the early 90s, virtually every pub that served food offered chicken kiev, which suited me perfectly, but I don't think I've seen chicken kiev on any pub menu in years. I wonder why not. I wonder why food has fashions. I suppose it's a reaction to ubiquity. When something is ubiquitous - whether an item of food, a popular book, a pop band, an item of clothing etc. - it encourages others to sneer at it and feel superior by avoiding it. Then it becomes a bit sad or naff or common, and within a few years, people can look at it and sneer, "Oh, that's so three years ago," and move on. But then, of course, thirty years later, it will have retro appeal, and will be brought back again.

Anyone got any favourite foods that were once ubiquitous, but are now impossible to find?

Alternatively, feel free to tell me all your chicken kiev sightings, and show me all my pontifications are based on a false premise.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I'm on leave today, since I've got several spare days to use up before the end of the year. I told myself very firmly that I would start writing the YA novel I've been musing on for a few months. So far, I've had a lie-in, done a killer sudoku, walked to the corner shop to buy last-minute ingredients, put dinner in the slow cooker, and in general not done an awful lot that relates to getting a novel started. In the interests of further displacement, I offer up the following poll.

Poll for meat-eaters )

Right. I'm not going to bite the bullet and get started. Actually, all I want to do today is write something. A mere half a page will do. Once I get started, and the characters start coming alive, it always gets rapidly easier.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Does anyone else find supermarket receipts endlessly fascinating? No, I thought it was only me, then. I always pore over mine afterwards, and gloat shamelessly over all the money I've managed to save by taking advantage of BOGOF offers and the like. Less than 10 percent counts as failure; more than twenty percent makes me very gleeful indeed. Today's cause of glee was the poppadoms. I only wanted one packet, but since they were 1.64 each or 3 for £3, and they last for several months, it was really a no-brainer. And, by the way, the entire above paragraph is a sign that I must now be officially old. When I was a teenager, I characterised "boring old ladies" by their habit of talking earnestly about the price of veg.

While trotting around the shop, looking at the list of things that one or other of us have felt necessary to add to this week's shopping list Post-It note, I mused a little on the different reasons there are for adding things. There's, "X has run out; I suppose we should get some more," "X will run out soon. Get some more!" and "There are only two spare packets of X left, so we'd better replenish supplies." It made me wonder which items people would put on their "Mustn't ever allow to run out!" list. Well, I thought, not counting staples, such as bread and milk, but then I realised that everyone would probably have a different idea of what these staples would be.

So if there's anyone left who hasn't fallen asleep by now... What five items would be on your "well, not counting staples like..." list, and what additional dozen items would be on you "Mustn't ever allow to run out!" list?

My answers )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
After I'd finished my rather nice strawberry yogurt at lunch today, then saw a colleague's yogurt sitting in the fridge. "M&S Advanced Strawberry Yogurt," it said. What does an advanced yogurt have that a normal one doesn't? Robotic strawberries? Does it transport itself to your mouth without the aid of a spoon?

I'm dubious of such claims, though. I've never found "The Co-operative chicken salad sandwich" to be any more co-operative than normal sandwiches; the salad still falls out and goes all over the place. And when the Co-op advertised a special offer on "territorial cheeses," I got two and put them in my fridge, and there was absolutely no bickering over boundaries whatsover.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Am I a hopelessly slow cook, or are the preparation times listed in recipes ridiculously over-optimistic? The former is entirely possible, since I'm still a newbie at all this, and I'm a bit of a wimp about hot fat, so tend to fry things rather slower than I ought to, hovering anxiously over them all the while, obsessively turning them. However, I've just done my first slow cooker recipe, which claimed to involve a mere ten minutes of preparation. Yes, it told me to fry the meat for five minutes before putting it in the slow cooker, and then to fry the onion and bacon for another five minutes, but this left out an enormous amount of dicing, peeling, slicing and chopping - not to mention assembling the ingredients. Yes, I'm slow, so my browning of the meat took longer than five minutes, but, still...

It's strange cooking in the morning, though. It suits me in a way, since I normally wake up early, but have never got into the habit of actually doing anything useful in the time between getting up and leaving for work, and just idly potter on the internet. However, since I'll still have to make the mash this evening, I'm not sure if I've actually saved any cooking time, just created two cooking sessions in one day, rather than one. But all that's for the future. Today I'll just be pleased if I get a meal out of it. It feels odd to set off to work leaving a vat of ingredients in a silent machine, and trust that the magic will happen and turn it all into a wonderful feast while I'm out.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Does anyone have any good ideas of what to do with blackberries, without the result being a high-calorie cake, pie or pudding? The hedgerows are teeming with ripe blackberries at the moment, and I feel the urge to harvest nature's bounty.

In other foods news, I was disconcerted to notice that the dried tarragon I've just put in my casserole smelled exactly like the pervading odour of the pet food shop I went to on my way home from work. I hope it at least tastes nice, since I've made enough for two days. [EDIT: It tasted very nice. I'll definitely be making this one again. :-)]

On Monday, I need to do something with sage or paprika. I went a bit mad in the herb and spice section this afternoon.


Aug. 2nd, 2010 05:14 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I have discovered the powerful magic that lurks within a common food stuff. I had long known that tuna has the power to attract cats from anywhere within a radius of a few hundred yards away, even if said cats were fast asleep when the tin was open, and separated from it by three layers of double glazing and solid lead. Today I discovered that the magic applies to other species. At lunch, I'd been happily reading on the duver for a little while, untroubled by man or beast, when I decided that the time had come to break out my tuna sandwiches. Immediately, seven wasps decided that I was their best friend in all the world, and stuck to me like iron filings to a magnet, and a small dog apparently teleported in from nowhere and bothered my ankles.

Later I plan to apply tuna to lead, to see if it turns it into gold.


Jan. 26th, 2010 02:45 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I have fairly recently discovered cooking, probably as a result of the increased amounts of spare time and the frustrated creative urges that come from giving up fanfic. (Since I don't doubt for a moment that I will end up writing it again one day, I can't really call it "giving up," but, still, I've been fanfic-free for an unprecedented eight months, after thirteen solid years of writing it.)

I did do a bit of cooking when I was a teenager, but it was mostly weekend or visitor food. I copied various recipes from my mum, but they're mostly rich puddings or main courses that are drowning in sherry and cream. I therefore find myself rather lacking in simple recipes for everyday meals for two, that can be cooked fairly quickly after work. Anyone got any ideas?

- I'm not a fan of vegetables. Stewed and squashy, they're tolerable, but crisp and crunchy vegetable stir-fries are really not for me.
- I'm a carnivore, I'm afraid. Chicken or pork would be my first choices, but others are fine, too.
- I'm not a huge fan of fish, although I'll eat simple, user-friendly fish like cod, tuna or salmon. I don't like other types of seafood.
- No nuts, please! I don't like mushrooms or peppers, so although I'm happy to quietly remove them from recipes that contain them as an extra, I don't want recipes in which these things are a vital ingredient.
- At the moment, I'm trying to lose weight, so would like recipes that aren't drowning in things like cheese and cream, but I am particularly fond of cheese, so am more than happy to file such recipes away for future use.

I'm being quite unreasonably demanding, aren't I? Don't bother writing out recipes in any detail. Brief descriptions are fine for now, as long as you don't mind me interrogating you for more details if needed.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Something strange is happening with my bag. I can put a slightly overripe banana into it just before leaving for work, and when I pull that banana out as soon as I arrive at work a mere 15 minutes later, it has transformed into an unappetising, squelchy stick of mush. A banana that is mostly yellow with a few brown bits becomes a uniform brown one in mere minutes.

My original hypothesis related to the fact that the bananas were normally being put into a bag along with a tin a soup, and in the age-old struggle between overripe fruit and aluminium cans, fruit has ever been the loser. A book is usually involved, too, and if the pen alone is mightier than the sword, one would expect a book to be yet mighter still, and no-one has ever fought off an expert duellist by wielding a banana. However, that hypothesis doesn't stand, because the Banana Transformation happens even when the fruit in question is securely wrapped in soft fabric and kept away from the coralled tin of soup.

A new hypothesis is clearly needed. I have considered the presence of invisible grumpy goblins that pummel my bananas with their invisible thumpy fists, but that does seem to be a rather thankless and unfulfilling existence. Besides, a podgy cat recently fell asleep on top of my empty bag, and there were no anguished cries of pain from within.

No, I think the only explanation is that my bag contains a portal to another dimension, where time runs differently. A slightly over-ripe banana almost perishes in a mere fifteen minutes, which implies that time is running a good four or five hundred times as past as it runs in the real world. Further investigation is clearly required to test this hypothesis, probably involving eggs, beanstalks and baby kittens.


ladyofastolat: (Default)

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