Not in my name, and not on my plate.

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I thought that watching George Bush Jr get a second term across the pond would be the weirdest, daftest and most baffling political decision I would bear witness to.

And then, there was Brexit.

It is obviously too late now to complain or campaign as the masses have spoken and landed the UK in some seriously muddy waters, where we now wait for our Parliamentary elite to decide who gets a dinghy and who gets ploughed up in the boiling wake of all the mega yachts. I think that numerous people on both sides of the vote have acted like total morons. I also think that even more people on both sides absolutely believed that the end result would never be for Out, and are now wondering what the bloody hell is going to happen.
The short answer of course is that nothing is going to happen until someone steps up who is prepared to go down in history as the Boris Person Who Invoked Article 50. The ramifications are massive for everyone who lives, works or trades in the UK as it stands today but it seems odd how many of them seem to not think so. One of my inlaws was held to say that ‘It will make no difference to anything. It never does.’ Several other people have commented that they don’t care about trade or migration or laws- they want to know how this is going to effect them. They want to know if their Spanish girlfriend is going to have to leave the country, if their job at the BMW garage is ok and how much the net cost of their generic supermarket wire basket of choice is going to change. We all have to eat, after all. Once again my friends, dinner unites us.

The most immediate concern to Joe Normal who doesn’t work in food but does eat it should be the pound. Yes it goes up and down all the time but there isn’t too much faith in it at the moment. Everything you now buy with your pound that was bought by the person who sold it to you in Euros or dollars is likely to be a bit more expensive in the immediate future be it polo shirts or pomelos. This isn’t necessarily solved by only buying British as plenty of British manufacturers deal within Europe and beyond and may handle their accounts in euros or dollars.

Coming second to the pound is petrol, which due to the pound fluctuating is likely to go up in price in the next week at the pumps and is unlikely to survive the confirmed tax increases being finalised by our Chancellor as we type. The knock on to this goes to your food shop- how much it costs you to drive to Tesco or how much Asda charge to deliver your shopping to your doorstep. The end bill to all the big players for shipping their produce in and out and across the country is a substantial amount of money and they are not going to absorb this at the expense of their own profits- they will make up for it at the till. A quid on your dishwasher tablets. 5p on your bananas. Dropping that three packs of meat for a tenner offer. Every little helps.

This may be a time when the argument to buy from your local farm shop becomes stronger than ever.

Maybe.

A funny thing happened to me yesterday. Whilst selecting my vegetables for purchase I didn’t bother to check the countries of origin. I usually root around like a rabid animal, desperate to attack some English apples or Scottish beef or local stawberries depending on the season. I have been known to persistently abuse supermarket social media accounts when I have no local purchase options and if, again seasonally dependent, I can’t buy it from a close European country then I don’t buy it at all. Braeburns are not the only fruit and in a global market, I still like to buy from my neighbours.  In a previous life I have changed an entire, meticulously planned lunch party menu at the last minute when I could only find Kiwi lamb on the shelves in M&S. I do not buy southern hemisphere meat. Ever. But in my last shop, I picked up the cheapest broccoli and a bag of spuds and some apples and I would have to go to the fridge now to tell you where they grew because I simply didn’t care where they were from. Writing this, I still don’t. I seem to have lost my ability to shout about my homeland and how brilliant it is.
I will come back to this later.

What about Brexit and everyone who works as well as shops from the food industry here? I know a lot of people employed by Edibles of some sort and they now face the implementation of Brexit with a number of issues.

Issues like having a job in London and a Head Office in Scotland, a country likely to do everything it can to dump the UK as soon as it can. How will that work? We don’t know yet. It might all be fine, but ‘might’ doesn’t pay your rent.
Issues like running a small coffee shop which makes money but not much and is likely to lose custom if the economy begins to shrink and people don’t have extra cash to splurge on hot drinks and bits of cake. When do you start cutting costs, and where?
Issues like facing redundancy due to relocation of a huge dairy depot, employing hundreds of the local Polish community who are now either unemployed or moving a couple of hours North to keep a job which might not exist in 2 years time, in a country that can’t guarantee their right to work here at all. That has to suck. I will also come back to this later.

For balance, I should also mention friends and family in the farming industry who are now thrilled to approach a future free of EU controls and subsidy rules and all that nonsense. Who knows what kind of boosts are possible for British farmers IF their government decides to back their interests in this brave new world. I have my hat off to these people for embracing hope rather than trepidation at the uncertainty.

Fishing, now, that’s going to get better right? We’re going to have mountains of cheap cod again and all our fisherman can build second homes and have solid gold nets! Nigel Farage said so! I can’t maintain neutrality on this, as it is one of the biggest piles of bullshit of the Leave campaign where facts got left in the backwash of the farcical Thames rally. The patriotic fish stocks wont move into British waters when article 50 comes in, by the way. Millions of pescetarians are not going to start ditching cheap Vietnamese tilapa fillets for a nice chunk of cod at twice the price. In all likelihood the Government will again spend millions on various reports and investigations from scientists as to sustainable fishing amounts then add on 10% and watch as our seas are stripped to nothing. This is a double tragedy as the unpopular EU quotas, which I myself have slammed in the past, are responsible for bringing up the cod levels to the point that it will soon ‘likely’* be announced a sustainable species once more. Another interesting point, a current point of today, is that 80% of our wild caught (not farmed) seafood is exported and 4 out of 5 of those buyers are, wait for it, can you guess? Yes, in the EU*. The same EU that is indicating that there is zero interest in maintaining free trade rules with the UK if we aren’t going to honour free movement. Migration was a huge promise from Brexit and if we don’t budge on it so there goes the profitability of 4 out of 5 seafood exports.  And now that the UK has decided to divorce our continental partners, will they still want to buy it from us anyway?

This leads me to what I have been saying I will come back to and that is that talking about pounds and shopping baskets and petrol pumps and mackerel hauls is immaterial without talking about people, and the people of the UK are in crisis. Not everyone is unhappy about Brexit and I categorically do not condemn anyone who voted Leave just because they voted Leave. I don’t want to talk about how you voted or why anymore. I don’t want to talk about incidents of hate crime and racism being perpetrated by morons who should be rounded up and put in a giant cannon and shot to the moon which they can make Their Country as bigoted and poisonous as they like. I want to say that up until 24th of June this year I was a very passionate patriot and I loved the UK and I wanted to see it thrive. I wanted to buy apples harvested here and support dairy farmers the way I support the rugby team or that miserable sod Andy Murray. You see, because I can be English and British at the same time. And I thought I could be European too. That has been taken away from me, by a narrow margin, and I’m really pissed off about it and the only way I can immediately respond is with my money. I don’t want to give it to separatists who have, willingly or not, just sided with the violent racist hoards of this country who now think they have the backing of 52% of the population to start sending hate mail to Hungarian children and call third generation Cardiff dwellers ‘Pakis’. Ah but there were Poles in the SS you know! Also, Hilter was a vegan. Are we going to blame the holocaust on those who eat only peanuts and carrots for breakfast?

Oh this is a food blog, yes sorry back to that. Where am I going to go out to eat in my little town that voted well over 60% to Leave? Probably to the Italian up on the main road, where I’ve never heard an English accent behind the counter or the order pad. Because I don’t hate them and I want them to know that. Or maybe to the cafe in town which is run by a team of guys who are mostly, er, I don’t know where they are from. They look and sound Mediterranean and I don’t need to know because I don’t care because they make a mean teacake and support my immediately local economy. They spend with other local business and pay local taxes and I don’t want them to feel like they are not wanted here in My Town, which apparently I get to Take Back now.
I don’t believe I’m alone in this, infact I know I’m not. But get past the remain voters here and look out, past the borders being drafted in a fat red pen in Brussels, and what do they think in the continent? And by ‘them’ I don’t mean the traders and the politicians and the fat cats I mean the man on the street. I mean Juan Bloggs. Does he want to buy English beef when his cousin the nurse got blamed for the collapse of the NHS and abused on a train home to the Cornwall town where she pays tax and goes out for clotted cream teas? Maybe not. And at home in the UK, does Jason Wabnitz want to shell out on cheeses and chutneys from his local farm shop or actually is he just going to wait to get into town and go to that Polish deli instead where he doesn’t have to worry about snidey remarks from some UKIP voting fucknut about why he isn’t at home packing his bags? Do you see where this is going? Do I want to go on holiday to the Welsh coast again and buy their lamb and sausages and support their farmers who mostly voted against what I believe to be the morally, socially and economically responsible action? No. I don’t.

AND I AM PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Derision and anger and prejudice are moving to a point of power in the UK and this has to end lest we revert to some kind of 80s football hooligan movie nightmare, without that dude from Lord of The Rings to make it tolerable.
We need to stop being so pissed off and aggressive, because Brexit is happening. Yes, me too, because whatever happens in the next two years we all live here now and we need to support our country and everyone in it and Brexit is happening.
We need to protect our markets and our farmers and maintain relationships both next door and across the channel because I’m not about to give up decent wine or parmesan cheese. The food and hospitality markets play a MASSIVE part in our economy and our dinners take up a huge amount of space in our hearts. My recently departed Grandmother had a whole lot of generationally stereotypical slanted things to say about people who were black or foreign or (heavens forbid) both but boy did she love a Chinese dinner. There is your in-point to heal. There is your place of compromise because most racists love a kebab and there are no weird EU laws restricting your right to eat fish and chips or chicken tikka massala. So go out and eat at that Greek place and let them know you don’t hate them because the business rates they pay are feeding into the roads you drive on and the schools your kids go to, however over crowded and underperforming Michael Gove has allowed them to become. Pop in to your farm shop for some locally grown apples this autumn instead of supporting price rises and pension cuts in the larger stores (I’m looking at you, M&S).  Take down your vote leave signs, round up your namby pamby whinging Remainer buddies and get down to your local pub and thrash this argument out over a couple of pints of Brew Dog or Pucks Folly. Swallow your bile and try very hard to go back to your local fisherman and get a couple of crabs despite him being so proud of being on telly with the fundamental embarrassment to humanity that is Nigel Farage. Ok, maybe you don’t have to do that one.

Let’s be friends. Let’s break bread and try to make the best of all this animosity before more than our pride is irreversibly damaged.

 

By all means attempt to start a fight in the comments, I will approve anything anyone has to say but am unlikley to respond if you’re a dick about it. 

 

*http://ukandeu.ac.uk/what-would-brexit-really-mean-for-the-uks-fishing-industry/

 

 

 

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Are You Going To Eat….. Whelks?

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Lovely whelks!

I was beyond thrilled to discover my local fish boss Terry had a glut of whelks available last weekend. Already cooked, shell on at less than four quid a kilo which meant I could add plenty to my shopping list for our fishy Easter holidays night in. I bloody love whelks. Ok they aren’t posh and salty and gilstery like oysters. They’re aren’t small and cheeky little cockney geezer cockles. Whelks are the Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson of the seafood world- big tanned rubbery lumps of muscle that just make you grin even though you know they are probably a little bit wrong.

Enthralled, nay, enraptured, I turned to my co shoppers, barely containing my delight at this find only to be met with stony, tragic masks of gastro-horror. Somehow I have ended up with whelk haters in my life and a brief Google shows that I’m far from alone in this.

I seriously don’t know what is wrong with you people, whelks are awesome. At about 80 calories per 100g they are a great source of lean protein with bonus high levels of vitamin B12 and ‘master mineral’ magnesium. Being a sea mollusc they have a thick, satisfyingly fibrous consistency and strong flavour easily turned to so many culinary uses.  Whelks emote the sea and the cold salty wind and grandads and brown ale. All fine, stalwart British things. They are also cheap and abundant in these here British Isles. Why would you not eat whelks!?

Ok apparently some people really don’t like them, and they are a bit fiddly, but fiddle schmiddle! Just boil them in the shells for 5 minutes then cool and simply pop them out of the shell with a cocktail stick. Chop off the hard end at the shell opening and scrape off the sack at the other squiggly end once you’ve got it out then serve them doused in malt vinegar and white pepper. Delicious, low fat and perfect with a pint!
Not a fan of the rubbery charm of the sea snail cousin? Get them uncooked then freeze overnight to begin the destruction of the tissue as a tenderising cheat. Then you can use them as you would most seafood- boiled and tossed in a salad or stirred into your pasta sauce or awash with butter, garlic and white wine.

I’m not going to let this one go into the No pile. Whelks are brilliant, healthy and all over the shop so buy some and try something new and support your local fisherman. Go Whelks!

VIFC- Two Fat Ladies

Two Fat Ladies.

Two Fat Ladies.

No, we didn’t have an impromptu bingo night at the Victoria Inn Food Club for August, rather we drew the lot of recreating dishes from the old school beeb delights of Jennifer Patterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, the proudly self proclaimed Two Fat Ladies.

If you aren’t familar with them, think Floyd with busoms. If you aren’t familiar with Floyd then pretty much all of this post is going to be lost on you. Move along.

I kind of love the two fat ladies, as they managed to hit an unatural balance of being marvellously British but also completely unapologetic. They used lard and booze and cream and veal and suet all other kinds of sinful ingredients. Puddings, stews and hearty loaves made with a firm hand and a dirty joke or two to sweeten the mix. They were all dinner and no dainty, the panto dames of the Celebrity Chefs perhaps but also the most believeable. How much of those cakes and trifles and pastries that ex model Lorriane Pascal bangs out do you think she actually eats? I don’t trust skinny cooks, I never have, it’s like buying a used car from someone without a driving licence.

I use the past tense as poor old Jen and Clarissa have both departed this mortal coil. Rather wonderfully Jennifer’s last request of her cooking cohort was to smuggle a tin of caviar to her hospital bedside, a request sadly fulfilled just hours after she died in 1999. Clarissa made another decade and beyond, leaving us just this year. My favourite quote of hers, which sums her up quite wonderfully I think, was “I once had two people attempt to mug me and they both ended up in intensive care. I can handle myself.”

History lesson over, what did we cook!

 

'Easy Onion Soup' which I made. It certainly was easy, basically onions, butter, stock, beer and stilton. You should find it easily with Google, well worth a go for tasty lunch or first course.

‘Easy Onion Soup’ which I made. It certainly was easy, basically onions, butter, stock, beer and stilton. You should find it easily with Google, well worth a go for tasty lunch or first course.

Guinea Fowl Terrine from Professor Stu with pickled walnuts and a bacon jacket. Absolutely delicious, solid and gamey broken up with those tart, soft walnuts. This is the kind of thing I could easily disappear on a cold sunday afternoon along with a loaf of crusty white and a bottle of aged red.

Guinea Fowl Terrine from Professor Stu with pickled walnuts and a bacon jacket. Absolutely delicious, solid and gamey broken up with those tart, soft walnuts. This is the kind of thing I could easily disappear on a cold sunday afternoon along with a loaf of crusty white and a bottle of aged red.

Mains no 1: Meatloaf- beef, pork, sausage, mushrooms and another bacon wrapping this was serious meat, the Godzilla of gourmet burgers. Very well done Jason this was delicious, moist and meaty. I could eat a whole one. But I won't do that.

Mains no 1: Meatloaf- beef, pork, sausage, mushrooms and another bacon wrapping, the Godzilla of gourmet burgers. Very well done Jason this was delicious, moist and meaty. I could eat a whole one. But I won’t do that.

Medieval Roast Chicken from Matt. A fine and classic effort with sweet spices. Very well received and especially yummy when smooshed together with some of the roasted garlic.

Medieval Roast Chicken from Matt. A fine and classic effort with sweet spices. Very well received and especially yummy when smooshed together with some of the roasted garlic.

Broad beans cooked in cream and lemon juice with more bacon. I'm a big fan of broad beans and was a big fan of this offering from Nigel, though the lemony finish took a bit of getting used to. Maybe two mouthfuls....

Broad beans cooked in cream and lemon juice with more bacon. I’m a big fan of broad beans and was a big fan of this offering from Nigel, though the lemony finish took a bit of getting used to. Maybe two mouthfuls….

Caramelised potatoes from Sheena. Yup, toss cooked potatoes in butter and brown sugar. Unanimously unremarkable, though also a unanimous agreement they sounded great in theory.

Caramelised potatoes from Sheena. Yup, toss cooked potatoes in butter and brown sugar. Unanimously unremarkable, though also a unanimous agreement they sounded great in theory.

Beetroor gratin: it's bright pink and baked with extra mature cheddar and parmesan. I love you Sheena. This was my favourite of the night.

Beetroot gratin: it’s bright pink and baked with extra mature cheddar and parmesan. I love you Sheena. This was my favourite of the night.

Just because we've not made fun of Ian enough recently he decided to put his souffle in very early and learn the hard lesson of deflation with an audience. It was however very impressive upon tasting with a rich choclatey flavour. Who doesn't like warm chocolate cake in all of it's forms?

Just because we’ve not made fun of Ian enough recently he decided to put his souffle in very early and learn the hard lesson of deflation with an audience. It was however very impressive upon tasting with a rich chocolatey flavour. Who doesn’t like warm chocolate cake in all of it’s forms? Points too to fearless side kick and one night only member Matthew. 

Yorkshire Ginger Cake from Charlotte, served sliced with clotted cream. This is the kind of heavy, weaponised cake that cries out for a cold night and a hot custard. Spicy and hearty, good stuff.

Yorkshire Ginger Cake from Charlotte, served sliced with clotted cream. This is the kind of heavy, weaponised cake that cries out for a cold night and a hot custard. Spicy and hearty, good stuff.

As you can see from the above evidence, Jennifer and Clarrissa didn’t do much for light lunches or photogenic cuisine but boy did they know how to churn out a good dinner. Traditional, old school comfort with extra bacon is what you got with those two and no doubt the main precursor of their famous shared physique.  There were mutterings of this being possibly the best club night yet.

Join us next month for tastes of the 70s! Disco soundtrack and Huggy Bear dress up compulsory.

 

bio info sourced from Wikipedia and yahoo

Revolution and the Subway Sandwich.

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So a few days ago I learned via sniggering at various blossoming facebook status arguments that some Subway restaurants outlets in the UK are removing all ham products from their menus. All kinds of boring and predictable responses to this have ensued but the most common seem to be Boo! Muslims go home!! Boo! Racists go home!! And Boo! Stop reading the Daily Mail!!!

I have no such response to offer and would very much like to celebrate this arguably revolutionary happening in the word of mass produced convenience food, and I’m going to tell you why: They listened. Subway got a significant amount of feedback from their customer base suggesting that they weren’t going to be buying any pig produce, and that they would rather it wasn’t there at all for reasons of religious compliance. So, in the relevant geographical areas where this opinion was prevalent amongst the average subway buyer- they are taking out the pork. Clearly this is headline news.

International Company Makes Commercial Decision Based on Customer Preference.

 This is not the stuff of revolutions my friends. This is not the first step into the UK becoming a sharia state and actually yes, this is a welcome move from a substantial player in the food market. THEY LISTENED, dear foodie friend, and they acted to appease their customer by radically changing, in this case removing, one of their products.

No, no I’m not naive enough to think that this is a quick decision that they made based on wanting to be nice to a couple of people. I don’t believe that Subway are so cuddly that they wanted to appease a handful of moaners in a selfless act of hammy restraint. No. This isn’t about religion or race relations, it’s not even about customer service or a responsible acceptance of public opinion. This is about money. Subway don’t give a shit about your religion, or anyone else’s. No big company or evil corporation does. Subway give a shit about where you spend your lunch money. Or your breakfast money. Or indeed your past midnight half drunk ooooh I want a sandwich money. Enough people said they were going to stop spending their money at Subway, and I imagine that quite a few of them did, so Subway had to listen. They probably lost even more money employing someone to make pie charts and study demographics and bang out a lovely shiny report to confirm that the best thing for Subway’s money would be to give the people what they wanted. Yes, yes I’m sorry if you live in an affected Subway region and miss your BLT (and wont accept a turkey bacon substitute) but this, my friend, is because you are a local minority. That sucks, but historically speaking it’s not the worst a minority has ever had to suffer. Learn to make your own BLT, your life will be richer for it.

Now I don’t want to talk about Subway and BLTs any more. I’d like to talk about standing up and hitting the food giants in this country where it hurts about the issues that matter to you. And more importantly, the issues that matter to me! Because this little storm in teacup has shown that you do have a voice and that enough fuss makers can achieve (debatably) newsworthy policy changes.

How often do you pick up euro apples in Tesco and think oh, well it’s all there is. How often do you get home with your leg of lamb from Marks & Spencer in Crawley and not have anything to say about the fact that you have just given your money to farmers on the other side of the planet whilst ignoring your own neighbours and given a big thumbs up to global warming from excessive and unnecessary use of transport? This is doing much more to diminish the greatness of Britain than a hallal meatball sub ever will.
Here is usually where I would tell you to refuse those apples and go and see your local butcher for nice lump of something Welsh, and you should still do that but I would like you to do something else too. Tell Marks and Spencer about it when you do. And tell all your mates, nay, bore them all to death with it with blogs and facebook spam and tweets and KIKs and even archaic old conversation! You don’t have to commit verbal violence to everyone you see tucking into a Pink Lady apple, but you could have a quick friendly word about it. Return the favour to that acquaintance who always rants at you about organic cosmetic products or sweatshops or the plight of the public breastfeeder. They might take a bit in and pass it on in their cloth nappy coffee morning group. Where someone else might tell their husband who works as a buyer for Sainsburys or One Stop or any other corporate evil who just might be panicked enough about you taking your money somewhere else to take a look at how appeasing an angry shopper might help the corporate evil as a whole. Everyone could win.

Nature tells us there is never just ‘one’ of anything. So if you hate Tesco for selling Slovenian apples then stop buying them and shout from the rooftops about it because you are not the only one. If you think that maybe enough UK taxpayers shop at Marks and Spencer for them to consider stocking UK farmed meat in every available shelf slot then tell them. Enquire politely at Zizzi where the pork in that rissoto special was farmed.  Loudly and repeatedly if needs be, you probably wont be the first. Keep a note, make a fuss and SPEND YOUR MONEY SOMEWHERE ELSE. Because they are all at it, and they will continue to be so until you take your wallet elsewhere.

Cynics are saying ah but do they really give a crap if I take my three quid to to butchers instead of the generic supermarket check out queue? Yes they do. Because you might find a nicer product, you might strike up a memorable chat with the man behind the counter and you might notice that actually their sausages are quite reasonable and their eggs look much bigger than the usual medium half dozen you pick up in the bakery aisle. That’s eight quid you’ve spent somewhere else already. And they do care about your eight quid. They want it, and they might change in order to get it. After all, every little helps.

For the original article of discussion, click here. I take no responsibility for the fact that you will be reading the Daily Mail.

Thoughts of a One-Time Street Vendor

Posts have been scant of late, for which I apologise and hasten to explain that I am not just bloody lazy, but have to the contrary been extremely busy since we last spoke.

Happy Tummies arrives on a High St near you!

Happy Tummies arrives on a High St near you!

I’ve mentioned my little side project, Happy Tummies Treats, before I think. Tis a humble attempt at independent trading of handmade goodies which I began work on last year after receiving oodles of compliments on the fudges I made for Christmas. One individual said ‘I’d pay good money for that’. Long story short, I took the compliment, jotted up some plans and my little enterprise was born.

So far it has gone small-scale well, with multiple commissions from colleagues and, well, mostly colleagues who were suckered in from a few strategically placed freebies in the kitchens at The Day Job. Plus some friends and family who needed bits for mothers or fathers days and that kind of thing. It was a compliment to my skills, and much appreciated but at the same time there was always the little inner voice questioning if I was actually any good at this. If this was just a long extension of sympathy sales and relatively low cost gestures of support. In truth, most people don’t really like me that much and aren’t prepared to continually part with cash for something they don’t want to eat (diet shakes excluded) so I shouldn’t have listened to that little voice. But I wasn’t to know this until I really put myself out there with my first ever open trading moment- the annual Colchester Christmas Market. This happens early each December and involves the town High St being taken over by sellers and pedlars of all sorts under the organisational watch of local events team Snake In The Grass. There really are all sorts in attendance and shoppers can look for bespoke and more generally available toys, gifts, woodwork, jewellery and a huge amount of edibles. I tend to drop in on most events like this in my home town and know by now what to expect from the Christmas Market as a shopper, but it took some heartfelt consideration and several hard sums to convince me this year that actually, it probably wasn’t worth me doing. A pitch wasn’t cheap, it would be masses of work and well, what if they didn’t like me? What if no-one bought anything? DEAR GOD WHAT IF THEY ALL JUST STARE AND LAUGH AT ME!!!!!!!

Fortunately, joint fountains of positivity from the Mr and the older male sibling talked me into signing up, signing the cheque and committing myself to my first retail outing for Happy Tummies. Eeek.

It was a shed load of work, with several weeks of early starts, late nights and complete neglect of my already scant social life. Maths declared that I needed to get up about 200 units for sale to avoid losing money, 300 to actually make a days wages worth of money. Given my own tiny kitchen and small batch methods, this was no mean feat. I managed it though, and I wont go on about it.

Cut to a chilly December morning and it began, lugging boxes of fudge (and brittles and chocolates and jellies and chutney and cakes) out to the car before sun up with the hearty assistance of the two chaps who talked me into this ridiculous idea in the first place.

I was terrified, and if you enjoy spending much time cooking for or feeding anyone else, you know why. Because you like it, because you want to be the provider of joyful and enjoyable sustenance. Because you love that little run off of joy from their satisfaction in consumption. Because you need it. There is nothing worse than cooking someone you love a crappy dinner. This felt like a golden opportunity to provide plenty of random strangers with a load of craptastic sweets they weren’t going to enjoy and charge them for it to boot! It was the worst idea in the world.

Until we got there.

Don’t believe your bible, kids. Pride is a wonderful thing. Pride propels you through the cold to get tables up and tablecloths weighted down. Pride gets the sign straight and the ropes tight and gives you the momentary double jointed fingers required to obscure all the mechanics of your banner hanging with tinsel. Pride stacks the jars and sits back with a coffee and tells your inner failure to shut the hell up while you admire your work and admit that even though it’s just a little sweet stall, it looks pretty damn good. This could work out after all.

fudgey close up, credit for the pic to the older male sibling

fudgey close up, credit for the pic to the older male sibling

There was a momentary slump in spirits as one set up van departed to reveal us positioned not two hundred yards from a mahossive Grannies Bastard Corporate Fudge wagon but we kept the faith, counted out the change and waited.

I cannot tell you the warm, fuzzy sense of satisfaction that comes from selling something you have made with your own hands to a complete stranger who has just walked past, paused, and decided that they like the look of your work. Yes wonder of wonder, my dear reader, my first market customer was not my mum! It was unfathomably good to make a sale, and early into the proceedings too, to a lovely lady who took advantage of my 3 for £6 offer with no need for hard sales or even a taster. Brilliant. It went onwards and upwards, and I lost my fear and anxiety for my little sugar babies making their way into the world and smiled til my face hurt. Smiled even harder at at the slow wandering, view blocking dullards who think it’s ok to block legitimate potential customers while they gurn at your produce and ask stupid questions.

Pride again, there, stoked by the fires of indignation at the sheer front of some people. I’m a regular foodie event person and yes, I’ll take freebies and have a good rummage and not always buy but I don’t ever insult the available wares, or absent wares. Again, I shan’t go on but no, you sour faced old hag I don’t have any tablet. No, no I don’t have any apple jelly either. Would you like to try some fudge? Yes, yes it is quite sweet what with being made of sugar you miserable bat if you could try not to spit it out over my display that would be lovely now move the hell along!!!!!

Old ladies can be mean.

Lesson learned as with life, not everyone will be a fan and not everyone will remember their manners but boy did we form some fleeting friendships. The small children who would happily take the tasters then smile, nodding up at their purse holding parents were probably my favourites but also the converts. The suspicious, reluctant hands that picked a small taster and took a smaller nibble before pausing, repeating the nod of the children and admitting that actually, yes that was pretty good. And back we go to the pride. I’m actually turning out a reasonable product here. They like it. I am valid.

The day rocked on and turned colder, more coffee was consumed and slightly less than the ideal number of sales were made and it began to weigh on me that I had overshot my potential market and invested in too much stock. Bugger. And not all of it would last for the upcoming Christmas orders from work and family types still to be filled. Double bugger. Panic began to replace dismay as the sun disappeared and the crowds thinned leaving me with over 100 bags of sweets still to go and more cake than I wanted to take home. Lesson No 1 to the food fair buyer: Hang around until the end, because sellers will drop their prices because they’d rather lose a quid than lug it all home with them again. Lesson No 2 to the food fair buyer: It’s not really their last bag/box/brownie slice, they are just shouting that to get your attention and as soon as you have paid up and moved on, they will get another one out to look forlorn and appealing on the otherwise empty stand. Sucker!

In summation: I’m glad we went. It was an eye opener in many ways as well as a needed confidence boost for both my creative and negotiation skills. It was fun, people aren’t so bad you know apart from mean old ladies who spit and in truth I’m inspired to give it another go and run the risk of actually having to pay some extra income tax this year.

If you are thinking of going solo and getting out there with your business, I say go for it, you’ll never know until you try! Just smile, and be proud of your work, you did all that! And take plenty of 50ps and someone you can trust to hold the fort when you need a pee.

And finally for all you consumers out there I give Lesson No 3 to the food fair buyer: Have a good look around any market or food festival before you part with your cash, because there might be a nice little local with a perfectly acceptable product who needs your patronage a lot more than Grannies Bastard Corporate Fudge Wagon.

A well refrigerated fudger. See you next time!

A well refrigerated fudger. See you next time!

Dear One Stop,

Dear One-Stop,

This week I found myself compelled to write an angry, nay, befuddled letter to yourselves. Obviously you know who you are, little chain of UK convenience shops with conveniently inflated prices found in over six hundred locations across these fair isles.

By your own admission your key focus is on “being the best in the neighbourhood for you”. Best. Worst. Let us not get stuck in such subjective terms. Local, however, seems to be a big tag line in your marketing gumph. Local, convenient, friendly- the corner shop equivalent of an approachable neighbour available for groceries and newspapers as well as a cuppa and a gossip over the garden fence. You pride yourselves on being able to help with those little essentials for the great festivities of our times too offering “plenty of choice for special occasions such as Christmas, Halloween and Bonfire night”. You’re like, one of the family! Yay for you.

So given all of these marvellously cuddly qualities you must have (otherwise it would be highly hypocritical of you to use them as marketing tools) it puzzles me that in the height of the apple harvest in your chosen country of operation you choose to stock this staple fruit item from Solvenia.
In a world becoming increasingly affected for the worse by carbon emissions you have chosen to favour produce that has travelled over a thousand miles to get to your little shelf in the Colchester North Station Rd store. Ever heard of a little place called Suffolk? They grow some very nice apples there. And at a push they could stock your most northerly outlet with only a 650 mile journey.
In a country fighting to avoid recession, where the economy is so ravaged it has had to cut support to many on benefits, reverse payrises for our NHS staff and leave thousands of twenty somethings living with their long suffering parents because the property market is now a black tie invite only affair- you, a ‘locally’ focused company would rather send your money to central Europe.

You may see my confusion here, One-Stop. Such a practice is in direct contradiction to your advertised ethos so yes, when I nipped out on my lunchbreak to procure a healthy snack to get me through work day and was presented with these sad, slightly dull looking globes of sugary fibre I was somewhat taken aback. Puzzled and a little angry, I felt a need to communicate with yourselves, to seek an explanation as to this bloody travesty that you are perpetrating against the farmers of this country and your customers who would rather support their own economy rather than one on the other side of the Alps.

In seeking contact information, I went to your website and was lucky enough to discover the answer to all of my above questions in one simple sequence of words: Subsidiary of Tesco.

Say no more. And expect to receive my money no more until you and your oppressive dark overlords stop slapping British farmers in the face by stocking old, over travelled and inferior produce.

Shame on you.

Love and kisses from Another Blogging Foodie xxxxxxx

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*please note the author has never been to Slovenia and has nothing against them in principle, I’m sure it’s lovely there and I hope they enjoy their apples and any other local produce*

A Little Plug- Hughes’ Fish Co.

The glory of a green lipped mussel, fresh from the fishmongers.

The glory of a green lipped mussel, fresh from the fishmongers.

 Original post from June 2013- we are sad to add that Hughes have now closed.

Are we bored of me banging on about local businesses and independent suppliers and the general evil of mass supermarket chains yet? No? Good.

In that case I shall instead cut back to a point in history some ten years ago when I was in need of some fish for dinner and took a quick duck down to that fishmongers in town. You know, the one down Eld Lane, the one that’s been there forever, the one that had apparently shut down while I wasn’t looking. Hmm.

That was a sad day, and not just for my observational skills. Not a fishmonger left in town centre nor, to my knowledge, anywhere within an easy commute.  Oh yes there’s Sainsbury’s and Tesco and the frozen stuff in Gunton’s but that, reader, is not the same as a fishmonger. That is not the piles of ice and the and the beaded door curtain and the white coats that denote these professors of all things pescetarian! Ah, fishmongers. Ever notice that grim stink of rotting saltwater when you wander past the fish counter in your mass supermarket chain of choice? I do, and I remember as a child rushing past making lots of comedy ‘peeeww’ noises. Bleurch. Maybe standards have increased since the mid eighties but that particular childhood trauma has stayed with me for a long time and frankly, you can keep your so called fish counter.  A proper fishmongers doesn’t smell like that (and if it does for the love of Cod don’t shop there).

I am straying from my point, and my point today is that the fresh fish drought in town is well and truly over and I don’t have to suffer the horrors of supermarket fresh fish any longer, though it was a rough few years with a meat heavy menu for special suppers let me tell you. Hughes Fish Co have been in place for some years now, but I’ve not really had the occasion to bore an audience about it previously. So here I go: Conveniently located at the end of Head Street, you can’t really miss them and yes, yes they do look like a proper fishmongers with a chalk board advertising their briney treats and a big stack of ice and the chain strip door curtain and everything. Hurray!

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As you might expect, you can buy fresh fish here, oh yes you can. All the usual suspects plus some less common finds, Christmas specials, BBQ packs, samphire and sauces and frankly the best smoked mackerel I have ever had the pleasure of. Many a time have I considered their special offers, as chalked up on the A-board outside, but the over riding temptation has always been for their seafood platter for two- available on home delivery or store collection at just £18-50. That sounds like my kind of treat, and when I was paid a visit by the mothership earlier this month I decided it was as good a reason as any to succumb.

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The bounty of the sea for two, courtesy of Hughes Fish Co. Lemon wedges are model’s own.

It’s not as good as it looks. It’s a fair bit better. Your twenty quid plus one fifty change will get you shell on and off prawns, smoked salmon, cockles, mussels, the ever trendy crayfish tails, two perfect fillets of that glorious smoked mackerel and my personal favourite- dressed crab. There might have been a fight over the larger share of that crab between two less skilled negotiators than mother and myself, but the green lipped mussels made for friendly bartering indeed. All of it is ready to eat and all of it of it was fantastic- the mackerel and crab nothing short of exceptional and as a Saturday night treat dinner this couldn’t be easier. Some fresh bread, an equally fresh lemon and some tartare sauce, whip the cling wrap off of your platter et voila! Dinner is served. It is a big old tray of seafood indeed, which we foolishly suspected we might not make it through but there was nary a curled prawn left on that platter by the time we were finished, it was too good for leftovers. Fabulous eating, well worth the money and yes, here we go, well worth supporting a local business in my your very own home town. The staff are friendly, the produce is reasonable, you wont be disappointed.

You can find Hughes on Head Street in Colchester town centre, close to the corner with Crouch St by Just A Thought card shop and Vinnys’ cafe, or whatever Vinny’s is called at the moment. There’s two other great local businesses you could bless with your patronage while you are there. They don’t have a website I could find but please drop by their facebook page for a nosey.

Hughes Fish Co. Marvellous. That’s all for now.