Post New Years Day the festive season starts to get a bit tatty round the edges. @theoldmortuary there is a loose plan to take the Christmas Decorations down . This feeling is complicated by a slow dribble of delayed Christmas parcels arriving in the post and a general inertia to actually fire up 2021 and get it going.
This lovely chap arrived today and needs a moment or two to shine, or more accurately to be matte on the tree.
We still have a small food mountain to pack away either,in reality for ‘Fake Christmas’ date to be announced, or metaphorically for us to eat some time soon. Food Mountain or not we felt obliged to rescue a doughnut from our favourite bakery this morning ,on our regular week end dog walk.
What could possibly cause a doughnut to require rescuing, I hear you all thinking.
Loneliness is the answer. He was the only item left in the window. The queue was long and as each person entered the bakery different baked goods were gently tonged into brown paper bags. It would have been utterly heartless to leave him there with no friends to huddle up with. No Brownies to banter with or Eccles cakes to heckle.What he needed was a compassionate customer to order two flat whites and a solitary doughnut. The doughnut was not the only compassionate rescue of the day. A local supermarket had excess Gerberas at a very silly price so they too jumped into the shopping basket with the Doughnut rather than spend another lonely night in the reduced bucket.
The festive season may be fading fast but it is doing so beautifully.
Merryneum continues, as do the leftovers. Turkey Pie, fresh sausage rolls and smoked salmon quiches were created @theoldmortuary baking session yesterday.
Under normal circumstances the above plate of food would have been hoovered up in half a day. Not so this year, on a positive note that is all the left overs gone from Christmas day food. I’m not sure how many calories Zoom meetings consume but that was our peak activity yesterday. Books were also consumed in large amounts. An activity not usually listed as a fat burner.
Dog walking in abysmal weather was also a feature of the day. Not satisfying to the body and soul of human or dog. The dogs now have thermal coats to pop on when we stop for coffee, so they can warm up. There are unlikely to ever be cute photos of them walking in their thermals. Because they refuse to walk in them but stationary dogs in thermal jackets might appear.
Like so much, our doggy thermals were made in Shenzhen an industrial town just north of the border between Hong Kong and China. The pollution from Shenzhen was dreadful for our granddaughter yesterday, she lives on the Hong Kong side of the border.
She was stuck indoors to avoid the pollution caused by the manufacturing industry starting up after the Christmas break. Inadvertantly, in a virtual world, we also got stuck indoors there too. Our Zoom chats took place inside her play tent and when she got a little bored of screen time she finished the call by leaving us and the phone inside the tent. The next day we were, again, talked to only in the tent while she busied about. Being stuck in a pale green teepee is our punishment for not shopping local. Although I think it will take more than us shopping local to cut pollution from the monumental manufacturing sites in Shenzhen.
Today’s blog was always going to be about leftover food and words. It still will be but my theme was slightly overtaken by this witty Twitter post by a cunning linguist , Suzy Dent.
These days of late December are indeed a blurry space between Christmas and the New Year. Awkward to navigate in normal years, 2020 blurrs the blurr even blurrier. A less Merry , Merryneum with the near future uncertain by the double anxiety of Brexit and Covid
Left overs were the theme of the day. Long before the notion of Merryneum landed on my Twitter feed. I suspect Leftovers will last just about as long as the Merryneum.
Things started with ‘Bubble’
And moved on to Samosas
But in, what is becoming a habit, we didn’t have the need or enthusiasm for the evening Turkey Pie.
Beyond cooking up the uneaten sprouts and other festive veg we walked the dogs. Or did they walk us?It is entirely possible that we might have stepped into a coffee shop. Thankfully the decor lent itself to the colours of Merryneum.
And Hugo and Lola posed for small portions of cake.
Christmas Eve 2020, what to say! Facebook reminded me yesterday that the day before Christmas Eve is usually Christmas Jumper Day, if it is a work day. Not @theoldmortuary we usually rock a festive t-shirt, you can hide it under scrubs and flash when appropriate.
Which is very fortunate for this meandering blog . Facebook also shared a video with me this morning. It seems only right to share it on here too.
My favourite Christmas tune of all time.
It’s very strange looking into a fridge on Christmas Eve and still see spare capacity. It’s also odd to feel able to crack open the festive treats, Cheese Footballs, without a pang of guilt that I am depriving my children of a heritage, festive, comestible. No family for us this year, just an empty table where sometimes there have been over twenty. Not this actual table obviously.
Back to Cheese footballs.The more retro cheese footballs become the more significant it is to hunt them down early in the festive shopping season. I’ve had these little chaps since September. I have even supplied other families with them. I am obsessed!
In these Covid times where even trivial things have disappeared I thought I would share my personal timeline of cheese footballs
My grandparents owned a country pub for most of their lives. A substantial meal in their establishment was a pickled egg and a bag of crisps.
High days and holidays were marked by bar snacks. This was long before the health hazards of such things was common knowledge. Christmas was marked by swapping out the dry peanut and raisin combo for Huntley and Partners Cheese Footballs. The tin below is the retail version. Pubs could get a substantial size catering pack in the same design. Nobody ever knew that my greedy hands helped themselves to the Christmas stock long before it got to the bar, which for reasons explained below is a good thing!
Time moved on and pubs like The Red Cow have disappeared. The illustration of the building above is an image I found earlier today on the internet.
Bar snacks have been tested and declared a bad idea because, pre- Covid, the words man, pub toilet and hand washing rarely appeared in sentences or real life. High levels of transferred urine and faecal matter could be detected in free bar snacks within half an hour of being placed on the counter. Women may also have been guilty of the non hand washing crime.
Cheese footballs not unlike the England football team are a long way from their golden years of the sixties. Every September they can be spotted in the Seasonal aisles of a few supermarkets. Dressed up in a fancier tub and sold by KP.
At this point pondering took a curious path. I googled the Red Cow to see if the internet had an image. It did and a whole lot more.
I can share with you an article from the Daily Mail discussing the conversion of the Red Cow to a dwelling. The toilets get a mention. Fascinating too that the new owner was a microbiologist.
Somewhat stranger is an image of my grandfather’s grave in Wethersfield Cemetery that appears on the same Google. Something I have never seen before. My family did mild dysfunction long before it was a ‘thing’. My grandmother , Gladys, is buried in Melbourne, Australia.
As it turns out this is exactly the right blog for Christmas Eve 2020. A curious mixture of festive, reflective, emotional and pragmatic. I urge you to view the video, it is gorgeously poignant.
Merry Christmas, thankyou for being here.
P.S Following the publication of this blog a local history group sent me two photographs of The Red Cow.
Obviously it’s a fictional land but it is one we overlook every day when we take the dogs for a walk.
By slightly extending the fiction I can say that we have many friends who live in Outer Trematonia, in real life the village of Trematon that stretches to the west and far beyond the castle. Today we had quite the adventure and went for Afternoon Tea at Trematon Hall, also within the fictional world of Outer Trematonia, Afternoon Tea has always seemed a slightly fantastical meal, I blame Lewis Carol and his Alice in Wonderland
@theoldmortuary we are partial to an afternoon tea. A subject we have studied diligently over the years. We were not disappointed , the reverse in fact. Close to home we found one of the tastiest afternoon teas we’ve had in a while. Julie, our host, is an amazing baker, everything was home made.
Every last crumb was eaten, in no particular order these were our highlights , Ham and Piccalilli (the best piccalilli we’ve tasted) Pear Tarte Tatin (Pears from the garden) Scone, Clotted Cream with Tayberry Jam ( Tayberries from a neighbours garden)
Controversial image I know , especially as we are in Cornwall but the bigger news is that one of our friends cousins bred the Tayberry in 1979. Apparently it is like a blackberry on speed, which is all a little bit Alice in Wonderland, so just as well we were in the fantasy land of Outer Trematonia.
Julie showed us around her stylishly renovated home. One that many local women would be familiar with, as the Trematon Women’s Institute met here, when Liz Turner owned the Hall. Another reminder of Liz was the family Beach Hut which she had moved to the gardens to remind her of family holidays by the sea.
Following the fantasy theme of this blog I took some pictures that have nothing to do with afternoon tea and everything to do with distilling the magic of a place into a few photos.
In all seriousness @theoldmortuary had a fantastic afternoon tea in an idyllic setting at Trematon Hall, which is in the real life village of Trematon.
Today was a personal grooming kind of day. The eyebrows that scatter themselves around my supraorbital ridge need corralling into tidy brows every now and again. They also require dyeing to give my ageing face some defining features. It never ceases to amaze me that so much eyebrow is removed with waxing, plucking and threading and yet I leave the calm of the salon with freshly honed eyebrows that look thicker and more verdant than I walked in with.
It is described as a lifestyle store and cafe, both of these functions are gloriously styled with idiosyncratic lighting, fixtures, merchandise and fittings.
There is an intoxicating smell of good food, coffee and old leather.
The old leather is the smell I wish I could link to. It instantly transported me back to a time when close proximity to leather clad musicians or art students was a thing. The vibe at Rust and the Wolf is more biker really but where a smell takes anyone back to is a personal thing.
How this wonderful place emerged in Ashburton, a town that feels genteel,is slightly puzzling. The coffee , food and the Lifestyle store is a heady mix of sensory pleasure that is a little rougher, in a good way than you might expect from a small market town.
The prompt word(s) for today are, Birds Eye View. I know where I’m going with this prompt and it’s not pretty. I’ve just popped a feather photograph in to give me a bit of visual integrity.
For my generation Birds Eye is forever associated with a brand of freezer convenience foods. The most iconic of which is probably the fish finger but the one I have a photograph of is The Arctic Roll.
This would have been a familiar sight in British supermarkets and homes in the Seventies or Eighties. Less so now, this photo was taken in Hong Kong recently where it is clearly very popular. Arctic Roll in Britain has become a bit of a home chef thing . Googling it brings up recipes quicker than it does the Birds Eye version. For those unfamiliar with either the Birds Eye Version or the posher one, Arctic Roll is Vanilla ice cream enrobed with thin sponge and raspberry jam served, unsurprisingly, in a roll shape. It was invented by Dr Ernest Velden in the 1950’s he mass produced it in a factory in Eastbourne from 1968
Birds Eye marketed the product for 30 years until sales slumped in the 1990’s when they stopped production. This coincided with a resurgence in British coooking and increased interest in good quality restaurant food. Beloved by many the Arctic Roll is considered a nostalgia food, which is why the cheap family desert transformed into a desert made by aspiring chefs.
In 2008 during an economic downturn Birds Eye started production up again, firstly because it is still cheap to produce but also because in difficult times people like to return to comfort foods. The world’s Pandemic of 2020 has probably also been very good for sales
I have never been a fan, it’s a texture thing. It seems almost disrespectful to admit this but I am not alone, Nigel Slater, a television cook and food critic ,who I admire, says it tastes like carpet. Perhaps a chef’s version should be my next project.
Better still an informal supper with Nigel Slater where he serves a sublime version would be perfection.
Friday Feeling is the prompt word from the art group today. The Friday Feeling has always been more mythological in my mind than an actual sensation. I’ve certainly seen it and wistfully thought about it but it’s never been a massive feature in my life. I’m not sure that I am unusual either. Historically in Britain, Friday afternoon working was regularly slightly, or greatly abbreviated, compared to other afternoons. Friday being the gateway to the weekend there was a sense of anticipation that could be celebrated by either a scheduled or casual attitude to attending work on a Friday afternoon. Obviously Muslim or Jewish colleagues had their own reasons for Friday to be special. Class has also played it’s part. In the seventies, my summer jobs were manual or menial. Life on the factory floor was the same relentless, repetitive experience, on a Friday afternoon as it was any other day. Marked differently only by watching the office staff slip away to the pubs or cafes for Friday afternoon socialising/team building.Working in a 24/7 NHS environment made Fridays very much business as usual although Friday leaving parties or de-stressing sessions could mark Fridays out as special after working hours. In the 1990’s, Military hospitals closed and were merged into local NHS hospitals. During the early years the military staff were not available to be rota’d on Friday afternoons any time after noon. Administration apparently occured on Friday afternoons. 🍷🥃🍺☕. Pandemically speaking a Friday Feeling was lost in the blurr of either lockdown for most and overwork for essential workers. This particular Friday for me is a bit of a moment. A different sort of Friday Feeling.
Earlier this week I heard about pickled grapes, served with Pasta Carbonara. Pickled grapes is something way beyond my personal experience. Carbonara on the other hand is a favourite pasta dish.A recipe on the internet showed me that I had everything to hand. https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/02/pickled-red-grapes.html
7th August 2020My Friday Feeling.
So after all that pondering how is my Friday Feeling. This Friday I’m feeling like a woman obsessed by Pickled Grapes.
I double the recipe and replace the lemon components with whichever fruit experiment I happen to be trying. Increase cooking time to an hour for the bigger version.
Todays cake is the most bodacious looking . Puce pink icing and deep blacky purple drizzle. It would be wonderful, but the small amount of blackcurrant juice added to the cake mixture has changed the colour of the cake just slightly bluey green. Useful for a sea monster but not so lovely for afternoon tea style cake.
I haven’t bored you with all the English Soft Fruit Drizzle experiments. The Jury is out on this one but the current favourite is Rhubarb Drizzle Cake. It was gorgeous, rather like a slice of jam doughnut which makes no sense. Next week might be Raspberry…
Moons- a step by step guide to making moon Sandwiches in a Pandemic.Some time ago we had a socially distanced picnic planned with VV our granddaughter and her mum and dad.Picnics when you are under two need to be exciting so we decided to make moon Sandwiches.For moon purists we make both waxing and waning crescents depending how you hold them and both waxing and waning gibbous moons.Full moons and quarter moons could be made, but they don’t have intriguing shapes for small hands.
Because this catering masterpiece was created during the pandemic there is a twist.We didn’t have a cookie cutter so had to make one out of a good quality tomato paste tin.Kyknos Tomato Paste is our favourite tomato cooking ingredient and the tin is very high quality, so robust enough to make a very fine cookie cutter in times of Pandemic resticted shopping.simply by removing both the top and bottom with a can opener. https://kyknoscanning.com/en/IngredientsThe cheapest possible white sliced bread.ButterGood quality white cheese spread. https://www.paysanbreton.com/frDon’t be tempted to upgrade the bread , posh bread gives tatty edges.MethodButter 3 slices of bread.Spread cream cheese on 3 further slices of bread.Sandwich one buttered and one cheesed piece of bread together giving you 3 cheese sandwiches that are uncut.Stage one cut a circle or full moon out of one of the sandwiches, repeat as necessary with the other sandwiches……………………………Stage two, cut out two more crescents out of the remaining sandwich………………………..Stage three cut two more smaller crescents out of the full moon/ circle shape. This miraculously will leave you with a waxing or waning Gibbous…………………………………Pack moons into a sandwich box.Lunar loveliness for adventurous picnics.
These moons are made of cream cheese, nothing fanciful at all.For those with an interest in the real m🌒🌒n. Today is a waxing crescent kind of day.