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Thursday, 18 November 2010

I'm not going to drink it. Honestly.

In between my house and my shop there is a Tesco.

Ah, Tesco. Love them or hate them they exist. Everywhere.


And while I try to not buy things from them I just can't help it. And this can be a problem. Running the type of place that makes healthy, fresh food with some organic things on the shelves people make assumptions about me, one being that I am a wholefood, organic brown rice loving, healthy, Tesco hating vegetarian.

I like whole food. I have enjoyed organic brown rice a couple of times, and I mean a couple. I don't love Tesco but I still shop there and I'm certainly not a vegetarian unless you count my brief flirtation with vegetarianism in 1997 for around 2.4 hours until my school canteen won me over with a chicken pie (it was chicken mince in a grey gravy - wrong, but so very right).

So yes, people can get it wrong. And while I don't pretend to be a wholefood, organic Tesco hating vegetarian I do think people think of me in a certain way. Which can be difficult when you live in a smallish suburb community where everyone pretty much knows each other and shops in the same Tesco while pretending not to.

Tesco - the place not to be at 3.57pm on a Sunday afternoon with a basket of Fish fingers, Birds Eye potato waffles, tesco value baked means and two tubes of Pringles. Not when the person who was asking you how to make Broccoli and Brie soup two days previously is in the queue behind you.

Tesco - the place not to be at 7.47am trying to buy bottles of Real Ale and getting knocked back because they don't have a licence until 8am. Pretty embarrassing when the leader of the school mum brigade who come in for Danish pastries at 9.08am every Thursday is in the queue behind you buying a loaf of (probably organic) brown bread for her daughter's sandwiches.

It wasn't just booze I was buying. Oh no, there were carrots, potatoes, swede, parsnips - the makings of a pretty delicious stew.

Till lady -'I can't serve you with this'
Me 'With what?'
Till lady - 'Alcohol, drink, booze.'
Me 'Ah you mean the Cains FA?
Till lady 'Whatever, it's too early to serve alcohol. We don't have a licence until 8am'
At this point I was shocked. What the hell was I doing in Tesco before 8 o'clock in the bloody morning?
Me -'Oh, I didn't realise it was so early. Um, what time is it exactly?'
Till lady '7.47'
Me - Oh. I'll just take the other stuff for now then. The ingredients for stew. A stew made with Real Ale. I'm not going to drink it. Honestly. I'm making a stew you see. You know, with Real Ale. It's nice. Really nice. The stew I mean. Not the ale. Although the ale is nice too, y'know, in the stew.
Till lady - Next.

So I stood there. The girl from onion. Waiting for 8am. To buy booze. Waiting. Exposed. The fraudster. The faker. Caught out. In community killing Tesco. With my over packaged capitalist genetically modified vegetables sweating in my non biodegradeable plastic environment killing carrier bags. Waiting to buy booze on the school run.

Friday, 12 November 2010

I'd quite like to smell beautiful.

I love working with food. Always have. Probably always will.

There is however a major downfall. You never, ever get to finish work smelling beautiful. Basically you smell of hotdogs. We don't even sell hotdogs. Every night when I get home from work after spending the day rustling up glorious salads, baking delicious cakes and making fresh soups I smell myself. Do I smell like fresh basil, fresh mint, warm vanilla sponge? No. I smell like hotdogs.

A trip to the shops after work can be embarrassing. The coiffed beauty that smells of of Japanese musk in the queue in front of you in Tesco turns around because she wonders where the in-store hotdog cook off is. The man with the stylish glasses and record bag won't sit next to you on the bus even though it would make it easier to play whatever game he's playing on his i phone. The taxi driver driving you to the pub for sneaky after work drinks tells you he hopes you're not going on a date because you smell like you work in a hotdog van. The scenarios are endless.

So... A plea. Next time you finish work smelling like roses and then get a taxi straight to meet your other gorgeous smelling friends in the pub; spare a thought for me, the onion girl sitting alone on the bus smelling of hotdogs.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A soup that I would make to make me feel better if I had the energy to go and make it


I remember the first time I made soup. I was nineteen, hungover to hell and working in a hectic bar/restaurant in town. It was just still the nineties and food was just becoming trendy hence the opening of the place where I was working. Situated right by the red brick university (not the ex polytechnic that I'd just dropped out of) it was the first place that I knew of that aimed the menu at students that wasn't your basic burger and chips. We served grilled goats cheese and roast vegetable crostini and we rubbed the tomato on our fry ups with herbs. I liked working there. They had really comfortable couches where I would sometimes try and sleep hangovers off in between orders. Anyway, I digress.

So, yes, despite having cooked and learning to cook lots of new things at the age of nineteen I still hadn't made a soup until the head chef rang in sick one day and left me to it. I had never been interested in soup much. It brought back memories of tinned Heinz 'Big Soup', which was sometimes a quick last minute tea in our house as a child. I remember asking one of the bar staff if they'd ever made soup and they suggested I ring my mum. Now, my mum is an amazing lady, she has given me many gifts; gifts of love, patience, respect, good table manners, understanding to name but a few but soup making wouldn't be on her list of achievements. Soup came in a tin. And that was that. So we rang one of the bar staff's mum who gave me a quick recipe for Leek and potato soup. And that was that. A soup maker was born.

I still have mixed feelings about soup. I don't like broth. I don't like stock type soups. A good soup is thick and full of flavour. It can be chunky as long as it is part blended. With these things in mind I give you my recipe for Butternut Squash, rosemary and bacon soup. The soup I would make to make me feel better if I had the energy to go and make it.

1 onion
A big knob of butter
1 Butternut squash
A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 large potatoes
2 vegetable stock cubes
4 rashers of bacon

1) Roughly chop the onion and put in a large pan with the knob of butter on a medium heat.
2) Peel and roughly dice the potatoes, deseed and dice the butternut squash and add to the onions with the chopped rosemary. Saute together for a couple of minutes to get the flavour out of the rosemary.
3) Make up the stock and pour over the vegetables. I generally don't measure the stock, just pour until it covers the veg plus 2cm. You can always thin it down later if it is too thick.
4) Simmer for about 15 minutes until the veg is soft and then blend with a hand blender.
5)Chop up the bacon and fry until crispy and sprinkle over the soup.

And now my stomach is rumbling. But I still don't have the energy to make anything so I'll lie in bed and watch The Spirit of the Beehive on DVD instead. Enjoy! xx

What I should be doing. Right now on a usual Thursday:

Feeding hungry mouths. Either my own or my delightful and slightly crazy customers.

What I am actually doing: Sitting up in bed with an empty bottle of Lucozade and a bad back that has come from lying in bed for nearly 24 hours. I. am. Sick. Not in a disturbed, creepy way. Not in ghetto amazing way. No. I am sick in a sickly, poorly, feeling sorry for myself way. I have not eaten anything for 2 days, and this my friends is why I am weeping inside.

I am on the road to recovery. I know this for the following reasons:

I have thought about Spaghetti Bolognese approximately 2.1 times in the last hour.
I read an article on Guardian online about the perfect Scrambled Eggs and the descriptions and pictures didn't want to make me vomit.
I have been nostalgically thinking about spending evenings in France drinking cheap red wine mixed with summer berry Fanta.
All the signs are pointing to recovery.