Hands Off My Gin!!!!!

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When did a G&T become so complicated?

The humble gin and tonic appears to have become this year’s pulled pork and I cannot pretend to be happy about it. It has to be expected these days to face a smugly recounted list of nineteen gins, twelve origin countries and seven potential tonic varieties when you pull up an artistically industrial chair in your local craft-bar of choice- afterall when paying a tenner for a double and mixer who doesn’t appreciate an over educated and self important barkeep openly judging your vote for Mediterranean Fever tree over a Schweppes Slimline?

Ahem.

It is another thing entirely to find yourself constantly bombarded with endless gqarnish gimmicks and badly thought out G&T side products. Sweets- aren’t these for kids? Ice pops- ok but with an 18 label. Cakes- acceptable at a push but it is a bit of a push. Lip balm- you’re just being bloody silly now. This is going too far and before long we shall be nipping to Boots to pick up some gin and tonic ‘flavoured’ eye drops along with our Unicorn coloured B12 supplements and salted caramel hair home hair dye kit. Has the time actually come where there is such thing as too much gin?

I remember in the mid nineties falling in love with a certain era- defining Britpop album, only to have it ruined for me when some crunchy-permed mouth breathers started belting out one of the more popular singles in the corridor between 4th lesson French and last lesson Maths. Horrors. Twenty years on that song has never been the same. In a similar way, my love for a G&T (something  of a Boomboom family birth right) is absolutely not something I need to share with a bunch of affectedly hip idiots in too-tight trousers living their life through irritating snapchat filters. This cannot happen again.  I will not suffer being forced to share my seat on the gin and tonic bandwaggon with the mixology equivalent of a Kings of Leon ‘fan’ who only knows the words to Sex on Fire.

Let us be clear, I am in no way opposed to a marginally tarted up G&T, firmly grounded in the proven and subtle science of complimentary aromatics and all that gastro chemistry guff. Some peppercorns, a wee sprig of thyme, a sliver of grapefruit zest, why the hell not? If it makes for a tasty consumption experience and a pretty Instagram post then go right ahead, I’ll try two. It makes sense to experiment, because gin is by no means a standard recipe when it comes to distilling and all sorts of ingredients (what Gin Twats will call ‘Botanicals’) can be added to the process with notable difference in the end products. I can’t tell you what is responsible for the nuances of flavour in a shot of Opihr vs a nice nip of Bathtub but I can tell that they are different and as such will benefit from being served with different mixers or garnishes. This is all good. What I cannot cope with is your common or garden chain restaurant of choice offering Summer G&T Specials or Gin Clubs that basically involve a single measure of Gordon’s poured over not enough ice and served with a sad scrape of citrus fruit and a half acre of non-descript greenery in a red wine glass.

Just don’t. Please.

If you are going to get on trend with all the cool kids then don’t just blunder in there and start chucking about the rosebuds and chilli peppers willy nilly like a bull in a juniper shop. The execution of a perfect G&T only requires the basics of a mid range gin, a reasonable quality tonic water, ice and a slice.

Here cometh the first rule of gin: LOTS OF ICE. Then a bit more ice. Seriously fill that glass up. Then sneak another bit on top.

You don’t need a mega expensive secret recipe export strength gin or a violet tinged, organic water carbonated with angel farts. Fever tree and schweppes make excellent tonic water. The co-op own brand one is also more than alright, though sadly only available by the bottle rather than in those handy single serving tins that wont go flat.

Here cometh the second rule of gin: mix it with fresh and fizzy tonic.

Big bottles go flat quickly unless you are pouring a large round, so shop wisely and recycle your containers like the responsible grown up that you are. You can actually end your gin craft here with a minimalist slice of lime if you want to and that is perfectly OK. G&T, done. If you are going to get into syrups and twists and garnishes then for Tanqueray’s sake get it right!

Here cometh the third rule of gin: Less is more.

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A 2016 Christmas special G&T from the older male sibling. The exception to prove the rule on over garnishing.

It is a cocktail, not a live art installation and more often than not a slice or a stem will do the job nicely.  Personally I believe you should draw the line at two additions for fear of ending up with a weird muddle of gin-ish flavours which is just a waste of Mother’s Ruin. Make those reasonable sized additions too, no-one needs to be stabbed in the eye with a six inch rosemary stalk whilst trying to avoid choking to death on stray cardamom pods.

A fine G&T is a fine thing indeed, nectar of the very Gods on a hot day or a cold night or a particularly stressful morning in airport security as I once experienced trying to leave Las Vegas. It is a simple but precise art, which can by all means be experimental but must never, ever be dumbed down to mass production ready-meal status and should never, ever be served from a tin (unless you are already three sheets to the wind at a festival or facing an unavoidable apocalypse within the next half hour). So just try, will you please? Put in a little bit of effort, learn a few tricks by all means but treat this cocktail with the respect and affection that it truly deserves. Or just stick to a bloody jack and coke and leave my gin the hell alone, you animal.

 

Those who wish to explore the art of a G&T would do well to start with The Gin Manual by Dave Bloom and check out @ginmonkeyUK on that there Twitter thing. 

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Chlorination Chicken

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Before we go any further I must thank dozens of witty social media types who came up with this easily hijacked pun about the latest Brexit related horror that is the possibility of US chlorine washed chicken ending up on your Sunday roast plate in the UK. Well done you.

The table-top impact of Brexit has been doing the media rounds recently as our glorious leaders start to chat about that pesky EU divorce and the resulting impact on the import/export market in the UK. Cut to Liam Fox, half witted Trade Secretary who threw out a casual remark about the possibility of importing American chicken to our fair shores. Cut to someone pointing out that it is common practice across the pond to wash chicken carcasses in a chlorine solution to remove all those pesky food bugs that have accumulated over the sad, short and filthy life of a mass farmed yankee chicken. Cut to general outcry about why we don’t want any of that over here thank you very bloody much.

It’s a bit sad really, because in this blogger’s opinion yes, chlorine washed chicken is a vile and horrid idea but not for the reasons you might immediately think. For clarity, chlorine is an element, a halogen, atomic no 17. It is both complex and common stuff you know, found in plastics and mustard gas and, er, table salt. Yes, table salt. The kind you put on your chips. Before you get upset about chemicals in or on your dinner, it is important to understand them. Breathe in some nice elemental chlorine gas and you are likely to die in a really unpleasant fashion. Treat some water with it and you have yourself a nice, clean pool to swim in. React it in the right conditions with explosive alkaline-metal sodium and you can pair it with some limes and tequila to liven up a Saturday night. OK so the last one will give you a headache but its not the health disaster that various panic artists might have you believe. There is chlorine in your tap water and in your own stomach acid and although having your breaded nuggets pre dipped in thin bleach might not be very palatable in theory, it isn’t something one should really worry about too much.

So should we happily accept a US trade deal which will bring chlorine treated chicken to our supermarket shelves?

Hell no!!!!!!!!!!!

In a darkly comic echo of the circumstances that lead us to the Brexit vote itself, a lot of people are missing the point behind what they think they are angry about. Don’t ask if you should eat chlorine. Ask why it is that anyone would wash their chicken in chlorine in the first place, because I can assure that your average drumstick does not need to be protected from algal bloom.  I could direct you to many wordy and horrifying sources that will tell you all about intensive farming methods and chemical interventions in the UK, and they may well tug on your heart strings and curl your toes and push you further towards almond milk in your latte and Meat Free Monday.  The short follow up to this is that it is worse across the Atlantic. Widespread use of antibiotic poultry feed in America keeps their chickens arguably protected against disease and free to spend their average 47 days of life doing nothing but eat and grow fat. This is good news for the accountants as they get bigger birds and a smaller waste margin. It is also good news for those wonderful singled celled genetic freaks that are Drug Resistant Bacteria. These are all that is left once all that nice medicine has done its work on those chickens- superbugs that medicine can’t treat. If these superbugs get into the food chain, buffalo wing fans everywhere are in for a world of hurt. In the EU, we have some very tight regulations about what it is and isn’t OK to feed farm animals because no one wants an MRSA epidemic. In the states, they just bleach those superbugs away after slaughter. But is this a big deal really? The end result is surely the same and that is safe meat on your plate and no fear that a chicken jalfreezi today will lead to an untreatable case of gastroenteritis tomorrow.

Maybe.

Be in no doubt, the need for chlorinating chicken carcasses comes from filthy, filthy living conditions rife with ever evolving superbugs and seriously unhappy chickens. I remember being an emotionally charged vegetarian for some years and being told by my teenage bestie’s moron of a Godmother that I shouldn’t feel sad for chickens, because they don’t have brains. They do have brains, they do feel stress, don’t kid yourself that just because they don’t write dark suicidal poetry about it that any intensively farmed animal is just a happy bundle of awareness-free sandwich filling.

If, when we leave the EU, we agree to import US raised chicken produce we will have to drop current food safety and animal welfare regulations considerably- you can’t allow imports of foodstuffs not subject to the same governance of those we produce in the UK. We won’t stop the chlorination in the US, so we will have to allow it here and thus the door opens to dozens of shady, cruel and questionable practices that won’t stop at dirty chickens and hormone jacked cows. For a bit of context, it is currently acceptable in the EU to keep a caged hen as long as it has its own floor space equivalent to one sheet of A4 paper. That is the minimum accepted standard. If you give them an extra inch or so of communal space for a scratch and a peck this becomes an ‘enriched’environment for them. That is the bare minimum, and that is considered one of the higher poultry welfare standards found in the world. I don’t think you need to be a militant vegan to agree that this is not the way to treat a living being, even if it is only living for a few weeks until it goes in your oven. I’m not a militant vegan, and I’m not blind or squeamish to the fact that I eat dead things. I’m happy with eating dead things, because I’m picky about the dead things that I eat both for my own health and theirs before they become my dead dinner and I am not alone in this. Infact I’m pretty low intensity on my animal rights activism when it comes to it. I shop free range and use vegan cosmetics when I can and feel guilty about it when I can’t. The more I educate myself on these matters, the more I learn and the more it becomes clear that there are other options on all menus.

I believe and hope beyond hope that the chlorination chicken question will remain eternally rhetorical. We cannot go backwards. In all likelihood, we won’t ever see it here, but we will see increasing pressure on our farmers with reduced subsidies and resulting legislative pressure to make it easier for them to survive against cheaper and lower quality imports from whatever desperate trade agreements we have to cling to when we are done limping out of Brussels. Unless what?

Unless you, the consumer, you the voter and you the person with internet access and a a bank account start to act now because you actually have a huge amount of power in the process of both saving our responsible farmers and improving the existence of livestock in this country.

Ask how your meat is farmed. Ask what kind of hens the eggs in that bit of cake in your local cafe came from. Find out where your local farmers are, how they run their show and buy from them as directly as you can. If your preferred mass supermarket of choice cannot easily and willingly provide clear and evidenced information about the welfare standards on the farms they are in business with then don’t shop there. We vote with our money every single day and it can be politically much more effective than that tick in the box in the polling booth every couple of years (or months as it seems recently).  And while we’re talking about money, stop being so bloody tight. You can’t expect a grass fed, free range, wagu massaged organic rump steak to cost you  less than a bus fare to Mc Donalds.

By supporting farmers who go above the minimum welfare standards we set a precedent and justify a fair market price. If enough people refuse to buy eggs from caged hens, then the market will have to adjust and the politicians will have to encourage and, more importantly, support reform in production because the only way to really ensure better methods is to ensure that as many people as possible are making money out of it. If you buy quality, welfare farmed British meat then your shop will sell out of it, and it will buy in more from those farmers. I you refuse to buy meat that isn’t clearly free range, then it stays on the self, and the supermarkets have to account for that waste in their profits and think about how much they want to source.

Demand quality, demand higher welfare standards and be prepared to pay for it.

Seek out direct purchasing opportunities, support good producers and for heavens sake shout about it rather than crying over chlorinated dinner crises that only exist in the tabloids.

Or carry on with your 99p burgers and enjoy your canned roast chicken. It’s up to you.

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Whole. Canned. Chicken. Horrors.

Some further reading on the subject here:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/25/chlorinated-chicken-trade-britain-us-food-standards-globalisation

https://www.ciwf.org.uk/media/5235306/The-life-of-Broiler-chickens.pdf

https://science.rspca.org.uk/sciencegroup/farmanimals/standards

 

Salt Masters

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If you have an interest in cooking and don’t live under a stone, chances are that you’ve heard recent buzzing about Himalayan Salt- the pretty pink sensation coming to table tops and bathtubs near you!!!

You may well ask why I care about this and I will give you two reasons. The first is, rather obviously, dinner. Salt is one of the most widely used and massively misunderstood components of a decent meal and if you hadn’t noticed yet, I do like a decent meal. The second is that I’m an Essex girl, and if I have to live with the constant barrage of dubious Dad-jokes and stereotypes associated with my region then I shall take my revenge by constantly shouting about some of the really good people, businesses and products that come from Essex too.

Enter Salt Masters, providing you with oodles of Himalayan Salt products from their base in sunny Romford, just up the A12 from this food fan. You can have a check of their lovely website here  and will see all kinds of products ranging from culinary salt to cooking blocks to bath salts to therapeutic lamps and bricks, and back again. I’d like to talk about their culinary salt for a little while.

So what’s the buzz, it’s just salt, right? We-ll, sort of right. In general terms when we say ‘Salt’ we mean sodium chloride, NaCl for those of us that didn’t bunk off chemistry GCSE, and in the loosest way all table salt is the same in that it mostly contains sodium chloride (usually well over 90%). The origin of Himalayan salt, mostly in the Punjab foothills, gives it a unique mineral profile of additional trace compounds and rosy colouration which makes it stand out from many other culinary rock salts. Salt Masters salt is mined without explosives and processed without additional flavour enhancers or anti-caking agents making the product that ends up at your letter box is pure and pink and unadulterated, right from the source.

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Coarse ground Himalayan pink salt from Salt Masters

You have to take a moment to note that as condiments go, this stuff is very pretty and makes an eye catching filler for your grinder or salt pig- it is has a particularly pleasing look when mixed with dried rosemary leaves  in a clear grinder. The coarse ground culinary salt is great to use as an abrasive when mashing up herbs or spices to make rubs and marinades, much as the way you might use traditional rock salt or sea salt. The fine ground salt will also make a pretty spectacular glass-rim garnish for the tequila fans amoung us.

I think the most striking difference I have found in using the Salt Masters culinary salt though is that it tastes, er, really salty…….That sounds like a daft thing to say as what else would it taste of? But this strength of flavour means you really don’t need to use that much of it to enhance your cooking. Using less is something of a double win as although you do need an amount of salt in your diet, there are numerous medical concerns with consuming too much, and when you don’t need to use as much your stash lasts longer and is effectively cheaper! I have found the pink Salt Masters salt especially effective in sweet dishes to enhance rich desserts that could be potentially sickly otherwise and would recommenced this salt in particular for salted caramel or dark chocolate recipes- I will be trying some in a chocolate fondant the next time we have dinner guests. Below is a really easy salted chocolate fudge recipe which works wonderfully with this salt and is a perfect pick me up with a cup of tea or an indulgent movie night treat. As this fudge uses chocolate to set you don’t need to fuss about with endless boiling or sugar thermometers, you just need a good saucepan and a spare fifteen minutes.

Check out the full Salt Masters site here with free delivery on everything over £50!

https://www.himalayansaltmasters.co.uk/

Pink-Salted Chocolate Fudge

 

Kit:
4″x6″ rectangular baking tin
Greaseproof paper
Silicone backed spoon

100g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids)
1 can condensed milk
230g soft dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine ground Salt Masters Himalayan Salt
1/2 tsp coarse Salt Masters Himalayan Salt

Line your tin with greaseproof paper and set aside, then break your chocolate up into pieces. Pleeeeeeeeease don’t use cheap cooking chocolate for this recipe invest in a couple of decent, high cocoa content bars! I particularly like the fair trade 80% dark chocolate from Co-op.
Melt the butter in a reasonably sturdy pan then take off the heat and stir in the condensed milk, then the brown sugar. When thoroughly mixed, return to the heat until it just starts to bubble. Start to stir now (don’t use a wooden spoon) and maintain a low, steady simmer for 2 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and add the fine salt, vanilla extract and the chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is thoroughly melted and combined with the sugar mix.
Return to the heat until it just starts to simmer again then take the pan off, stir quickly once more then pour the mixture into your tin. If you have a silicon spoon use this to level the top or simply give the pan a good wiggle to distribute the fudge out evenly.

Set aside on a heat proof surface for 2 hours then scatter the coarse salt evenly over the top. The fudge will take over night at room temperature or 2-3 hours in the fridge to set fully, do it at room temperature if possible as the set will be better.
Cut into pieces with a sharp knife and serve or gift as you wish, it will keep in an air tight container for a couple of weeks, if you can resist it for that long!

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*this post has been sponsored by Himalayan Salt Masters and I was gifted two bags of their salt for this purpose, however I would assure you that I would never recommend products or services with anything but my genuine opinion. 

 

Are you going to eat….Jackfruit?

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glorious jackfruit, image from wikipedia

Right off the bat, I will confess proudly to being no kind of coconut scented veganuary detox guru. I eat meat, I’m overweight and I’m not sure how to pronounce ‘quinoa’. That’s not to say I don’t see the benefits to this planet and all the bodies on it to eating plenty of plants, easing up on mass meat farming and frankly not putting all manner of living beasts through experiential hell for the sake of a cheap dinner.

Going vegan is not an easy thing to do, I know I tried it. For most of us it isn’t a desirable thing to do either. We like steak and eggs, or honey-chilli-chicken wings, or a low fat mint choc chip whey shake after the gym. That’s ok. Some of us live entirely off greens, nut butter and b vitamin supplements and that’s ok too. What’s not really OK is to make a massive change for the sake of a month in the belief that it will save the world, increase your 5kPB and undo all the damage of three straight weeks of mince pies, cheeseboards and ‘social’ drinking. |Yes, you might drop a few pound in fat and save a few in cash but if you go straight back to mainlining Big Macs and drinking like Oliver Reed when the calendar turns that will all be for nowt. Speaking of drinking, the only thing that irritates me more than the veganuary trend is the Dryanuary bore off. If you need 100% abstinence from booze to stop getting smashed then you have a bigger problem than staying out of the pub until February 1st- which also happens to be one of the financially hardest months for every small landlord and chef-patron out there. If you think you drink too much, seek professional help- a hashtag and a charity donation are not going to fix you. If you think you eat too much meat, for whatever reason, then learn about nutrition and seek out some new culinary tricks.

And that’s why I’m going to talk about Jackfruit: a big spikey looking thing from the fig family that grows in the rainier forests of south east Asia and as such is common in the expected cuisines such as Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and so forth. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh, which I think we can all agree is fascinating. Read more about it here*.

Nutritionally speaking, you get a little under 1 calorie per gram of Jackfruit which is considerably heftier than a lot of fruit despite still being roughly three quarters water by weight. It is also packing in fibre with a relatively high starch content, so hooray for the dieter amoung us too. As per most fruit, there’s plenty of mineral and vitamin action going on here plus a protein content of about two percent by weight and *fanfare* an enviable vitamin B complex content, B6 in particular. This is one, of some, reasons that makes Jackfruit a good go-to edible for the vegan crowd. Another reason is that the firm and distinctly un-mushy texture of a green/unripe jackfruit does very well as a meat substitute to the point of this glorious angiosperm being dubbed as the ‘vegan pulled pork’. Although recent trends will push anything that you are trying to sell as some kind of pulled porkish thing, this claim isn’t entirely without merit. If you know what you’re doing, some canned green jackfruit takes only a small amount of meddling to become shreddable, easily spiced and chucked in a bun with some BBQ sauce. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t going to kid any blind taste testers into believing they are chowing down on Babe’s little brother, but it’s well alright.

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stages of pulled jackfruit from my kitchen

I first attempted a pulled jackfruit affair when rustling up a soulfood dinner for the fam a couple of months ago. I had always had a degree of interest in the jackfruit phenomenon and what better reason to test it than having a vegetarian at the table! I have to say, I liked it. It has a pleasing bite and semi-solid texture not unlike your quorn sausage or questionable pink and white seafood stick product. Grim as it is, I love a dodgy seafood stick in my ramen so this worked for me, particularly when heavily seasoned with plenty of garlic and hotsauce. It is quite difficult to imagine it as a fruit rather than some kind of textured protein product, but herein lies the irony that this also makes it a potentially unpopular choice for the non-meat eaters at your table. Of the six of us eating that night, it was the bloody vegetarain who was least enamoured of my BBQ jackfruit offering, I suspect due to this very meaty texture which is one of the main reasons he doesn’t like to eat most TVP type quorn cutlet or fake burger products to begin with.

Well you can’t please everyone.

And you don’t have to stop at the pulled jackfruit attempts. If you can find a fresh one (try bigger Asian or specialty grocers) the ripe fruit is likened to a sort of banana-mango hybrid, working well in a simple fruit salad or all manner of curries, cakes and casseroles. It has to be said though that on these fair Western shores, the bulk of recipes for jackfruit involve faking some kind of crabcake or meat product. Try this link for various takes along this general theme or if you really just want to run with the hipster vegan pulled pork crowd this is a brilliant, easy recipe that we all really enjoyed from my new favourite vegans at It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken.

So are you going to eat Jackfruit? You might as well, it’s pretty good for you and takes up an afternoon playing in your kitchen and the canned stuff should set you back more than £1.75 a pound. You might really like it, even if you aren’t an insufferably hip and conscientious veganuaryer.

 

*thanks as ever to wikipedia for reference material https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackfruit 

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/

 

 

 

The New York State of Mind

street signI’ve been harping on about a trip to New York with the older male sibling for some time now and you may be relieved surprised to hear it is over already. We got home five days ago and all that is left of that little adventure is half a can of choc-full-o-nuts in the fridge and a malingering ghost of jet lag still prompting me wide awake and ready to go about two hours after I fall asleep each night.
Why New York? I could be boring and say why not? So much to see, to do, to eat, why would you not go?
In truth it is maybe a lazy destination. You can kid yourself that you are visiting a cultural melting pot of arts, commerce and a truly integrated international community with the comforting knowledge at all times that they speak English and you will get a lot more Well Known Coffee Chain for your buck than you would back in Blighty. Years of TV and Hollywood have ingrained the concept and components of NYC so deeply into your pop culture psyche that when you get there it is almost like you have been there before and just forgotten how much you liked it. You shouldn’t be scared of visiting New York- though I should clarify I didn’t make it out of Manhattan, which is big, bustling and (85% of the time) authentically friendly. The people are nice, even when you’re pulling a total dick maneuver like an unnamed Japanese tourist seen walking slow-mo, fingers out stretched to feel first hand the textures of Van Gough’s Cypress Trees at MoMA.
Ma’am, you can’t touch that please.
Ma’am? Seriously, as a puny civilian I was ready to drop my camera then drop that mentalist before she put her paws on the priceless artworks. But no, you get Ma’am.
I have to say I had hoped for a little of that famed NYC fiestiness, a few scowls and cusses and I’d have given my right arm to hear an authentic I’m walking heyah! Alas not, life is long and full of disappointments.
But what certainly didn’t disappoint, was the food. Yeah I know, culture, history, architecture, shopping, all great things but I was excited to eat in New York. Because you can eat anything, you can eat late, you can eat on the street or at a table. You can eat from most of the major and several minor cultures in the world without having to walk too far home to your classic brownstone or uniform hotel of choice. There’s going to be steaks, franks, pickles, beers, one dollar oysters, thai, sushi, juice blends, kebabs, weird flavoured pretzels, sandwiches with so many bread options it feels like too much of a headache to even order, protein shakes, muffins, funnel cakes, fruit baskets, it never ends. It was excruciating to prep my initial list of recommended and randomly researched eateries then whittle it down to just three days and four nights. Even then we had to miss a few through inclement weather and digestive fatigue. Yes, yes there were times when even we couldn’t have eaten another thing. Cue my introduction to the doggy bag and what I know will be a life long pining for the Lower East Side Pickle Day that we just couldn’t fit in around a red meat and wine hangover.

It’s not news to anyone that I love everything about dinners, from inception to Instagram. A lot of the time I am that idiot you see in the restaurant, snapping nine different angled shots of every plate of lettuce and onions that is set before me. I am also that irritating co-diner tapping away on my phone, tweeting the dessert before I let you eat it and making everyone else in the room roll their eyes and whisper about that bloody idiot over there taking all the photos. I don’t apologise for it, and this NYC trip has strengthened my resolve to document these things at all times, even if only for myself. A quick blast through my android swyped notes from last week has refreshed two things I had forgotten already. Awesome things that do not deserve to be forgotten, and in this chunk of bloggings I will spill back to you as much of it as I can fit in, mostly in micro review form. Look out for East Village BBQ, stupendous steaks, cereal milk ice cream and Lebanese red wine to name a few.

All I need now is a way to justify a twenty minute Tiffany’s inspired squueeeeee on a food blog……..

A sad customer’s plea to the commercial smallholders.

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You know that friend that you have that you love and support as best you can then you have to sit there and watch them make horrible decisions that make their lives harder? You know, that friend who wants a white wedding and nine babies but only goes on dates with serial philanderers? Or that friend who cries into their slim fast all week then lives off pizza, beer and chocolate all weekend but doesn’t get why the scale wont shift? You know, that friend, who you love because they are your friend but secretly hate a little bit because, well, they really wont help themself so why should you?

I do not want to rant about one of my friends, however I am today considering the above analogy in reference to The Small Shopholder. Because I want to love the small shopholder. I want to swap gossip over coffees with them. I want to hang out on the sofa with popcorn and watch old Bruce Willis movies and braid the hair of independent traders the world over, but here’s the snag. I don’t like a lot of them, and they just don’t help themselves in that respect.

On paper, there a million reasons to choose the smaller, local traders and independent shops for all kinds of things and I harp on about them frequently. Contributing to local economy, variety of produce, reduction of greenhouse gases and transport related planetary abuse, that kind of stuff. Not to mention the self righteous glow of doing all of these things even though it costs us a teeny bit more money than we necesarrily have to spend. We, the humble consumer, become veritable saints when parting with cash in any outlet that doesn’t form part of the generally accepted mass corporate evil. Yay for us.

So it sucks just a little bit when said local small traders don’t seem to appreciate our massive acts of selflessness and are either rude, rubbish, or both.

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My sarcasm runneth over and not every person or establishment I spend a fiver with owes me their living, I know that. I also know as a small occasional trader myself that the customer although always right is often wrong, annoying and unduly cheeky. But they are your customer, and in the days of the internet and motor cars and the mass corporate evil, you are not the only option in town even if you literally are the only shop in town. So why make the decision for your customer to go elsewhere any easier?

Why are we here? Because in a state of mild overhang I took the short walk to my independent but over priced local shop for eggs and carbohydrates with which to break my fast. I could have gone a bit further up the road to the co-op. I could have just stayed at home and worked through my mass branded yoghurt and cereal. I should have done either of those things, because my local indie shop managed to refuse me a cheese based product because the date ‘will soon be up’ (WTF?!?!?!), then charge me 50p for paying by debit card (which is just bloody greedy given the mark ups already in place). Not irritating enough for you? Imagine getting home and tucking into a much needed fried egg buttie to find that the sub standard ‘stay fresh’ rolls you bought from them are almost THREE WEEKS out of date. Yummy! I could take it back but oh, no no itemised receipts from this place and as I have previously stated I was mildly hungover and hungry. Am I going out again to argue over a £1.69 refund? No. Am I going to ever shop there again? Another firm no.

Because it’s not hard to keep your stock in correct rotation, it’s not cool to still charge for a card payment and why the hell would you refuse to sell a pack of cheese that has 10 days still on the date? Then laugh when your customer says but I’m going to use it today? All ridiculous things that no-one needed to make a mess of and will ensure I don’t go back or spend any money with them ever again. Am I over reacting to what could just be the work of one lazy up-facer and a slightly crazy lady behind the till? Possibly, but the trouble with a reaction is that it just happens and you can’t change it.

This kind of experience is sadly not a rare one and got me thinking about other occassions when I have wondered why I bloody bother with these people.

A green grocer who’s only advice on which of his apples were better for cooking was that you can cook any apple. Rude.

Bespoke homeware store in central location with absolutely zero standard opening hours. Pop along to check them out, they might be open they might not. Rubbish.

A world famous tea room where the manageress asked us to sit outside in November because she couldn’t be bothered to put two tables together (there were only six of us). Rude.

An independent deli in town with the best cheese range going- possibly because their staff sour the milk to order with their faces and special language of grunts and huffs. Rude.

A small ebay trader selling lovely, quirky jewellery that inevitably needs supergluing back together on arrival as they refuse to package it properly and- love it – suggest that you raise this complaint with Royal Mail! Rude and Rubbish.

No-one wants to be friends with you if you are rude and/or rubbish, small traders. They really don’t.  Even if we know deep down that you have overheads and tired feet and have been up since six and really do get fed up with dealing with question after stupid bloody question, you could still force out a smile. It won’t cost you anything. You inevitably have time to check that you aren’t selling something that is full of mould and you probably make just enough to invest in some bubble wrap to avoid turning a jewellery business into an online rubble supply. Just try. Because even though people like me want to support their micro ecomomies and spend locally and detract from the CO2 problem we are also shallow little people who will take our money to Sainsburys in a heartbeat if you’re going to be like that about it. I know it’s tough making a living vs the mass corporate evil, so why add to your own obstacles?

As Louis CK put it once in a very funny excerpt we can have lots of wonderful, virtuous ideals and yet live by none of them. I believe in supporting local trade, but I will get my cheese from Tesco if you make me. Because I’m human and sensitive and petty but I am also your cutsomer so please, enough with being rubbish.

How rude.