Showing posts from September, 2010

Dripping wedges & Elizabeth David

Tonight, buoyed on by my reading about animal fats a la Sally Fallon et al, I made potato and pumpkin wedges in dripping. I used pumpkin as well as I opened the fat looking bag of spuds and found only three left. Anyway I usually chop up spuds and other root veges and toss them in olive oil, put them on the roasting dish and put them in the oven on 200 (celsius) until they taste good. Tonight I put the dripping in the oven while I chopped the veges and then tossed the veges into the liquid fat.

They tasted divine. I need to buy and keep dripping for just this purpose. Much tastier than the olive oil version. And better still, if we have peak oil a la the apocalypts, beef dripping is a local food (I got mine from Jonesy the butcher, who I still love). I don't think it is possible to grow olives in a bog.

Today my trademe parcel arrived. It is Writing at the Kitchen Table by Artemis Cooper, a biography of Elizabeth David, a woman who was famous in my mind from reading English …

Rampant wild garden

These are not pictures to sell real estate by. If you are looking for gardening blogs to make you ooh and ahhh and feel inspired, then you are not on the appropriate page. Nevertheless, a little story in pictures. Part of a story because blogger only likes me to upload five pictures at a time and the egg timer is nearly out on time spent away from my children. The photograph above is the current state of the area between the driveway and the garage. We first cleared it nearly three years ago. Before then the entire space you can see was so cluttered with overgrown trees and shrubs that nothing else grew for lack of light. Then a friend lent us her mulcher and chainsaw and Favourite Handyman chopped and cleared and mulched and generally worked wonders and I grew some pumpkins the following year. Last year I added globe artichokes and strawberries but the overgrowth and the poor season precluded more pumpkins. The experiment with letting the wild blackberry produce fruit for us…


One skirt completed. The heavy drape works very well standing up, but I've discovered that it also works to my disadvantage when sitting down as it falls heavily to each side rather quickly. It only cost me the price of the thread and I managed to solve all my sewing machine challenges myself. I also noticed that I was learning from previous mistakes when I did the sewing so I'm quite pleased with myself. Maybe I am on my way to being a grown up seamstress (which isn't my favourite word, but 'sewer' is worse) after all.

I have also managed to solve the challenges of the camera. Last week we got a new (to us, second hand in every other sense) computer for me, and now I can download onto my own computer. The old one was so memory-poor that I didn't risk saving photos to it or the final tiny shards of memory would disappear forever.

The electricians came and made our house safe. It took them all day. Brighid spoke in awed tones of 'The Electricians'…

Linda Woodrow & the Permaculture Home Bog

Linda Woodrow's Permaculture Home Garden is one of my all time favourite gardening books. First I wore out the library's copy and then once I was kindly gifted a copy of my very own, I read part of it every day for weeks until I moved slowly into fixes weekly and then monthly. Thanks to Woodrow, I knew we had to have chooks. Chooks have indeed been a marvellous addition to our home. I do know now that Woodrow must live somewhere without our wind, as we learnt quickly that a geodesic chook dome was not practical here in Wetville. After two spring winds have decimated our poultry palace, we opted this time last year to build a much more solid, sturdy, permanent structure. Totally worth the effort, as I'm sure recent weather would have toppled a less study poultry palace once again.

Another of Woodrow's messages regards covering all soil with plants at all times. Empty garden space is an invitation to weeds and she deals with this by raising almost everything in pot…

The politics of food: GST?

I had a few days off from thinking about the politics of food but it does seem to catch up with me with lightning speed and here I am again. When I heard about the Labour Party's proposed policy to remove the GST on fresh fruit and vegetables earlier this week, my first thought was about compliance costs. On my next blog surf I noted similar concerns from Homepaddock. Only Homepaddock goes further (I like her writing but I tend to be opposed to her politics) and quotes Bill English's attack on the proposed policy. Here is the original link with English's comments. I link to that because in it are some figures which don't make logical sense to me.

Quote no.1: The $250 million annual cost of the move, divided among all New Zealanders, is worth, on average, just over $1 a week - less for low income earners and more for high income earners.This seems plausible from the outset, but the following does not fall into line with it:

Quote no.2: The Tax Working Group last ye…

Life in lower gear

Happiness. Holidays.

The electrician visited yesterday and indeed the extent of work to be done is extensive and promises to be expensive. The trip to Nelson or Kaikoura which I was planning will have to wait until 2011.

The sun came out this afternoon and Brighid and I went for a bike ride to feed the pony and bask in the sunshine and for me to be bossed around. Genetics.

I've been longing to make something, something which is more lasting than sandwiches. Or indeed than any food. I'm over thinking about food for a while. I'm still knitting away at my purple cross-over cardigan and given that one day I will finally be wearing it not knitting it, I idly looked for inspiration for my next project. This lovely top on ravelry appeals. It looks flattering to a larger bust whereas the patterns I find in the wool shop for summer knitted tops seem routinely designed for the skinny model with tiny boobs. But really, who am I kidding? Some people are knitting that top in 4 p…


A lot of my thoughts tonight are about domestic violence. Previous stories are flooding back and the horror both real and futuristic is on my mind.

I remember at eleven, somehow learning about domestic violence (not at home, it was a non-subject at home where my parents created a home of innocence and naivety which I now, as a parent, understand) and deciding that I would never give anyone a second chance if they hit me. I've never had to test the strength of my convictions on that one. I'm unsure whether to declare gratefulness because a body safe from the violence of others is surely a basic human right, not an extra blessing?

I remember my first encounter with a story of sexual abuse, of incest. Not in a book; I knew everyone in the story. I remember trying to come to terms with the mother of the abused wanting to cover it all up. I still haven't come to terms with that.

I remember learning of another mother. Her daughter had broken ribs from her son-in-law. 'S…

Mrs Wishy Washy gets McDs

Mrs Wishy Washy came home from work. It had been an eventful morning at work but she had nevertheless met all the crucial deadlines and managed to avoid another 3.30pm meeting. Her little girl was already at kindy and Mrs Wishy Washy was home in time to create some order out of the chaos before school pickup time. Mrs Wishy Washy's favourite tool for this creation of order was the washing machine and so she filled it up with flannels and towels and pyjamas and knickers and tea towels, almost all of which she found on the floor throughout the house as she walked through collecting.

Mrs Wishy Washy made herself a glass of water with apple cider vinegar (Mrs Wishy Washy had read a lot of books about good health and was convinced that apple cider vinegar was a very good thing and even better, no one could get DIC-ed for drinking apple cider vinegar before the school pickup run) and headed for the computer to read some e-mails and stave off cleaning for a few minutes longer.

Soon it w…

suffrage day

Today is New Zealand women's Suffrage Day. For more details, see Deborah's post at The Hand Mirror. As I read Deborah's post today, I thought about my great great grandmother, whose name I wouldn't expect to find on the petition. I wouldn't expect to because she could not sign her name. If anyone knows whether illiterate women were allowed to sign the petition with an X to mark their name, I would be very interested.

Today I wondered about Annie, what she might have been doing when the petition people came down her street. She had three living children in 1893 and records suggest she had buried one more. Her husband was not on the electoral roll, neither then nor later on. I think of the whispers about Annie and alcohol, her husband not on the electoral roll and her not being able to sign her name. Did these factors mean that she kept the door shut when the temperance ladies came to call with their petition sheet?

I wonder about my other grandmothers in 1893.…

I need more garden

Today was stormy and many of the supermarket shelves were bare. Never mind global warming, a few storms, a few hundred earthquakes and some closed roads/train tracks are giving us a small but significant glimpse of life without Mama-Supermarket with her loving and laden shelves.

Since the earthquake devastated Christchurch two weeks ago and gave me the experience of lying in bed as if in a giant rocking cradle, I've had cause to consider our preparations, which are not nearly good enough. We have a battery radio and somewhere some torches which may or may not have batteries and we have matches but possibly not candles though one benefit of having a smoker for a husband is he always seems to have a lighter handy. We have plenty of food though it is still all in the kitchen. We have the chooks to provide eggs and some food in the garden.

Food in the garden. Not enough. This is the first year in the last four that I haven't created new garden, due to the ridiculousness of bei…


Amongst the food writing I consume, there is nary a word for sausages. I've been pontificating about why this is.

After all, sausages use up the otherwise unwanted leftover bits of a carcass. It has meat fat in it and a long pedigree which dates back to when people made the sausages with the actual intestines of the animal as the casing. For the eco-meat brigade who contend that it is okay to meat so long as we use every part of it and eat it reverently and kill it humanely and make sure to say karakia first, surely the humble sausage has something to offer? But in my reading, sausage does not feature.

For the pro-meat fat brigade, represented on my bookshelves by Ms Sally Fallon herself, you would think that good old greasy sausages would have something to offer. Not according to her Nourishing Traditions. I have been thinking that the reticence of such a book regarding such a useful food is a kind of snobbery. Sausages are fast. Sausages are useful food for busy families. …


chocolate cake, chocolate muesli bisuits, lemon thyme hummous & chickpea casserole.

I am rather pleased with yesterday's kitchen time. The chocolate muesli biscuits are adapted from a Paroa School recipe book recipe. I know most of the very skilled women who put that recipe book together, taking hundreds of hours collectively and using a skill-set which would earn them very good money in the commercial workplace. They made $20 000 for their children's school and I got some beautiful recipe books for Christmas presents that year.
My version:
1 C wholemeal flour
1 C rolled oats
4 dried apricots
4 brasil nuts
1/4 C sunflower seeds
70g dark chocolate
125g butter
1/2 C raw sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg

Whizz oats, apricots, nuts, sunflower seeds and chocolate together with a magic whizzy stick like mine or other food processor type instrument so that your children cannot tell there are nuts in it and also because it does disperse the flavour of the apricots beautifully and the boy couldn…

Dropping a project

Last night I sent an email pulling out of writing and/or assisting with the schools programme for our Blackball Museum of Working Class History. It is a great project and worth contributing to.

There are a few other great projects worth contributing to in my life. In deliberate random order of importance, I present to you the project of going to work. My work is about as elastic as my parenting job - never completely done and always more things I could be doing. Like all other health and education sectors on the West Coast, we struggle to get a full complement of specialist staff. In practice, this means I am often asked to take on more work. I said yes to part of a request a while ago and have felt the extra pressure (and the extra satisfaction - it was a task well worth doing) ever since. I have said no countless times to work related requests lately.

I present to you the project of running this house. The lovely C has stopped cleaning for us and devoted her time to her God…

Framing it

1. Supermarket bulk raised chook, packet flakey pastry, no salad.

2. Home grown welsh bunching onions, argentata beet and french thyme. Leftover roast chicken, stuffing and vegetables encased in spring vegetables, herbs, home grown eggs and cream, topped with a disc of pastry glazed with home grown egg.

Same dish, different details. All true. I'm okay with it all. It tasted good. Filled us up.

I could go on about health issues. The ill health of our local health board for starters.

But instead, before I go to sleep, I want to challenge the imagery used by the Wellington WAPF in an article by Ian Grigson. To me, ill health looks pale and wan, or overheated and stressed. It can look puffy and unable to move, or emaciated. Much ill health exists in sensations which cannot be seen by the outside observer. But if you follow the link above, the strongest message is that the worst thing you could be, the thing to fear above all, is being fat. The people in the photographs do not …

Mostly reading

I haven't been posting this week because I am too busy reading and thinking. Not quite true, I also managed to be at work almost all of the time Fionn was at school (never the plan), to fit in celebrating being married for an entire decade, finding a new babysitter who we all love which hopefully means we will go out, just the two of us adults, again before our 11th wedding anniversary, planting some celery, kale, broccoli and violas, sleeping not enough, thinking about earthquakes and of course making zillions of meals.

I've thought about the outrageousness of the idea that woman cannot work and parent and partner. I stumbled upon some truly doozey internet stuff about the evils of feminism while I was looking for information about eating parts of a pig. Such that I stopped researching pig eating.

I got so busy I couldn't make it to the Blackball working class history project meeting and I can't see I will be at the next one either. I'm not sure if I should re…

What's with the pig resistance?

Sally Fallon is wary of pig meat and has no recipes using it. Paul Pitchford of course doesn't like it but he doesn't like meat anyway. Jewish and Muslim traditional food rules prohibit it.

Now, amongst my latest stash of food books from the library (such fun, so much better than netball or watching tv), I find that Peter D'Adamo of blood type diet fame doesn't seem to like pig meat either.

I love bacon, I love ham and ham soup. I love roast pork and salami. The awesome gelatine-intense stock you can get from pig trotters seems to team with good health messages to me.

So I'm curious as to the origins and reasons for the pig taboo. I'd love to hear of all theories, hypotheses and examples.

[Off to read the rest of the food books...]


My hands had been very hot for a few days and if I put them under my head in bed, they would throb. Not completely wonderful. I've spent many intense hours researching rheumatoid arthritis since I first succumbed most dramatically to its crippling claws when my daughter was just three weeks old. It took a long time to make the connection to the auto immune family of diseases but when I did, a whole lot of things made sense.

This morning I tried something Laksme had suggested a long time ago. I mixed up some turmeric and epsom salts, added a tiny bit of water and the massaged the mixture onto my limbs and into my joints.

This is a messy exercise. Turmeric is vibrant, and stains. Even after my shower after the turmeric massage, I still had yellow skin around my joints, though I can't see it now (12 hours later). I guess that means it has soaked in which is good.

Although I could still feel the arthritis in my hands afterwards, the heat had gone, so a worthwhile exercise. I …

There are health dichotomies in my world

I remember encountering Spenser's Faerie Queene for the first time twenty years ago. It was beautiful, and although I don't remember a lot now, I do recall Una and Duessa and discussions of constructions of good and evil.

Spenser was okay about good and evil. So, it turns out, am I. I've been chasing my tail around my head looking for meaning and enlightenment in the comments section of the Hand Mirror debate on crap food for school lunches for poor kids. It turns out that the entire problem for the objectors to Anne Else's piece is that she uses the terms 'healthy foods' and 'empty calories' and that these are objectionable terms in which to frame discussions around food.

I read this from the other side of the planet:
I believe that people (including children) generally make the best choices about food (and most other things) that they can based on their situation as a whole.
Just to note the first responses in my head: No! There is an entire in…