Thursday, September 30, 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 food writers long before I read any of David's writing. Most usefully, someone was selling their copy last Friday night when Brighid was ill and FH was at the pub and I longed for something to celebrate the end of term.

I am in love with Elizabeth David. Fantastic passion and headstrongness. I admire passion and headstrongness, though I struggle with the genetic gifts of my children despite all logic. All that wonderful stuff about the power of food to make English people dream of another place, another food, the romance of food. I could analyse how an element of this thinking has informed the passion for Nourishing Traditions style food, because there is that most definitely, all those ex-vegans delighting in rich food again, but perhaps another night.More pictures from this morning. Truly we are badness. That healthy monstrosity above is gunnera, which is noxious and which has taken over the front rose garden which was never anyone's plan and which I have done nothing but sigh over for months, now has a huge seed head on it. One which I need to carefully cut off and put in a bag and seal.
This is the compost heap corner. Some people wax lyrical over onion weed (savvy herbalist bloggers I might add, no one round Wetville that I have met) and if I were one, I should indeed be in the land of plenty. It does look pretty though. The little raised bed to the front with alyssum and calendula now has asparagus as well. I truly hope slugs don't like asparagus. Indeed the lawn has not been mowed for a long time. No matter how long it gets, I never mow it. When it doesn't rain and he is not at work, Favourite Handyman mows it, but those two pre-c0nditions have not been met for such a long time.
Borage. Self-seeded and making the drainpipe and corner of the lean-to both pretty and attractive to bees.
See those kale (or what is left of them)? 'bout eight slugs from them this morning. I'm holding out before I make the last kale supper of spring. To the left, more calendula. The back left has a kale plant gone to seed and toppled over. The back right has rhubarb. In the foreground, many seeds have failed to emerge, failed to flourish, failed to survive the slug onslaught. I tried again with some carrot seed this morning before it got entirely too wet to be outside. Despite the rain, I weeded some more and found huge snails hidden in the silverbeet. The chooks loved them which is my only consolation.

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 did not work. The blackberry grew alright, but not the fruit.

Last month my Dad came down with his weed eater and cleared a good amount and it became much easier to walk out to the far side to empty the ash bucket.

Then the electrician came in the weekend and told us we had to clear a space around the cable box so Favourite Handyman spent all of Monday hacking and chopping and sawing and Fionn helped him pull down the rotten fence which bordered the driveway (and I cleared all the rotten wood and rusty iron which we had stored for some day and took it to the dump) and this is the result in photograph one. Lots of light and now I can plant pumpkins again. Today is (hopefully) the day to get rid of all the flax. Though it is raining again of course.
Above is the other end of the same area. The black hoops are over the strawberry patch. That flax to the right is coming out so I can dig up the surrounding grass and plant potatoes. Don't ask me when I will find the time. Somehow is my best answer.
This is the red hot poker, with the new growth coming up. Note the 'present' of oxalis which arrived with the red hot poker.
In the herb garden, a profusion of foliage is not a problem as the slugs seem not so keen on herbs. There are a few weeds at the front, but mostly this is lemon balm and tansy and at the back, snowdrops.
I took this photograph of my transplanted and now thriving again globe artichoke at 10am. I'm not sure why it appears as night time. Last year I never got around to trying to cook/eat the globe artichokes and left them to flower (which apparently bees and beneficial insects love) and I'm hoping that having them nearer the kitchen door will mean I make the globe artichoke culinary leap this year.

That's all. I'm hoping for fantastic achievements and amazing 'after' photographs which clearly I will never achieve by sitting around on the computer. Off to play Mrs Wishy Washy...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


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' and one of them made Fionn's day when he asked him to help by reporting when the light went back on again. So now Fionn has added being an electrician to his shortlist of attractive jobs (up there with being a rugby league player, a plumber and a science teacher).

We had fun in the local swimming pool, until a child (not mine) pooed in it. Well, I assume it was a child. Then we headed off into town (a sizeable place you understand) to hang out at the library with our friends. I am totally delighted that I have managed to make several fantastic friends who have children similar ages to mine. It makes for very civilised outings as a parent.

I had no fun reading through the death notices for the two young people who died in our community in the weekend. The driver of the milk tanker whom the young people drove into was apparently on his first day in this job. He will be scarred forever and there are two families who have lost children, lost everything really.

Better news alongside the death notices was a birth announcement involving a young women I know. T is 17 and I wish her every happiness as a parent. I have no truck with the demonisation of teenage parents. We all walk a difficult path guiding our offspring. I think of a snatch of the poem "age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn" and I am so glad that T, her partner and her daughter are alive.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

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 pottles first and transplanting when the plants are sturdy.

Linda Woodrow lives in Australia. Australia is, by and large, a dry country.

I live on the West Coast, South Island, of New Zealand. Where I live, by and large, is a wet country.

Slugs like rain.

Slugs like lots of plant cover under which to live and breed and eat and breed and breed and eat even more.

I am rethinking some of my garden arrangements. Yesterday, by dint of a wonderful miracle, was sunny. After spending all day outside or driving to the dump helping Favourite Handyman clear out the rubble which passes for rubble in front of the garage (so virtuous that even the silent neighbour smiled at me), I set up beer traps. I am losing so many seedlings and as for seeds, they just are not getting to grow and see the light of day.

No results in some beer traps this morning but in the one by the sea of cornsalad umbrellas? Fifteen slugs. I spent the small window of rainlessness this morning weeding much of the cornsalad and collecting more live slugs for the chooks. The beer traps remain in force this evening, though rainfall may negate their impact.

Yesterday I also harvested things which were not green (or slugs). Garden plants making it to the kitchen at the moment tend to be kale or silverbeet or herbs. But last night I harvested a LARGE carrot. One that I grew MYSELF. Very exciting, given it is the first real carrot success in four years and follows on from hundreds if not thousands of carrot seeds being sown by me. there are more in the garden which are also looking good. I also harvested two daikon radishes which I hadn't noticed we even had. Tastes reasonable with hummous. A friend gave me some one year old asparagus crowns yesterday so they have gone into the ground as well.

The rest of today it rained, of course of course of course. I had a kitchenfest in preparation for having no electricity tomorrow. I made hummous, roast beef (for cold food tomorrow and onwards), shepherd's pie from last night's leftover mince for dinner and rhubarb cake, partly for the cupboards (for the seven year old would be more accurate) and partly for the freezer for next term. I also made bread, which I have only just pulled out of the oven as I kept forgetting it. It should have been completed yesterday but I was too busy and then too tired and then today I got the rest of stages going (Cromarty Cob for those of you with the Andrew Whitley book) and then I forgot to check on it rising in the hot water cupboard. Which is why it was flowing down the sides which I fixed up and left them on the stove top while I heated the oven up. I forgot it there as well which is why I had more flowing dough to clean up when I finally remembered.

Keeping my sourdough going is one of my emergency preparation measures, I have decided. We have enough flour in the house to turn into bread to keep us going for about a week, maybe more depending on other food stocks. I might have to cook it on the barbeque with the cover on top or as pancakes on the top of the yunca multifuel fire which heats our house.

I am part way through sewing myself a wrap-around skirt. Oh yes, home making takes on a much higher gear when I am actually home to make stuff. I'm not sure if I'm half way through fixing the camera, so no photos of my projects yet.

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 year concluded that removing GST from food would make almost no difference to the distribution of tax across income levels, but would lose 20 per cent of GST revenue. This would have to be made up by increasing other taxes.

Initially, I couldn't work it out at all. If there was no GST on fresh food and vegetables and that saved a $1 per week on average, then if that was 20% of the GST take, then it would mean that people only spent $5 on GST per week, which doesn't seem plausible at all as an average figure.

But then I notice that we are not comparing apples with apples. Labour's policy is about removing the GST on fresh fruit and vegetables and Bill English is talking about removing it on all forms of food.

Red Alert also had a post on this proposed policy. Phil Goff has given these reasons:

  1. at 15%, GST is no longer a ‘low rate’ consumption tax. This regressive tax will now be at a level where it influences behaviour to the point where many people will be forced to make very difficult economic choices that have the potential to impact upon their health and well-being. We recognise this and want to ensure that fresh fruit and vegetables are affordable to all New Zealanders.
  2. NZ is now the 3rd fattest country in the world (behind US and Mexico). The cost to the tax payer and the health system of obesity-related disease is around $500m per year. It is time to do something about this.

Which begs an entirely new raft of questions. Firstly, I note from the quote above and the discussion in the Red Alert comments section that this is about relative pain and that is why no such thing was proposed by Labour when they introduced GST and when they raised it from 10% to 12.5%. This is a pragmatic issue, not an ideological issue (scale of GST pain vs any principle of not taxing food at source). No surprises there.

Secondly, FAT BASHING again. This is driving me nuts. As some one who was, according to BMI, obese a couple of months ago, I am confidently asserting that the numbers of people who measure 30 on the BMI index do not pose a grave concern to the health of this nation. I'm not qualified to know how high the BMI number would go before we are talking real difficulty in participating in society and markedly increased health risks. I know it is higher (possibly plenty higher) than a BMI of 30 and I recommend The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos for absolutely anyone who is interested in any aspect of this topic.

The OECD report which apparently asserted that New Zealanders are the third fattest nation in the world is not freely available to the public so I cannot interrogate the report's methodology, but I do wonder how they got these figures. I have never heard of OECD visiting a town and asking to weigh everyone and yet how else do you get representative figures? The growing trend of focusing on the weight of children is nasty. Not content with derailing the body image of all adult women, the diet indutry has set its sights on every breathing person. No one will be immune from their tentacles of oppression. The problem is not weight per se, but the destabilising effect of unrealistic body images and messages. Like vaccination, this industry has the arm of the state to do most of its work. How convenient. (Which reminds me of wondering about those politicians who support making student union membership voluntary and how many of them would ever apply the same principle to taxation and make that voluntary. Ah, no. Thought not.)

Moving my rant sideways to my next concern, I want to raise the issue of changing fashions and understandings and scientific developments (I use that term very loosely given the quality of much 'research') around what constitutes good food. Phil Goff wants us all to eat lots of fruit and vegetables. So far, so good. He wants us to do that because we are a nation of fatties. Hmm. So fruit and vegetables are our way out of fatness? Fruit and vegetables enjoy superior status for developing our bodies? I am a fan of fruit and vegetables myself and in no way wish to suggest that they are intrinsically bad, though it is an important consideration that they do not constitute a complete meal or diet.

My mother still remembers, with distaste, the warm milk which arrived at school and sat in the sun every day and which all children were made to drink. Milk no longer has goddess status these days, but it is the same phenomenon and I think this privileging of certain foods is definitely a problem. In recent years we have also had fat tax proposals (such as this one) and for all enthusiasts of Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions and the work of the Weston A Price Foundation more generally, a blanket fat tax would create problems not solve them.

As part of my passion for food which will enrich the health of myself and my family, I have read a pile of books. This year I have been particularly intrigued to look at the Paul Pitchford school of healthy eating (macrobiotic foods, with a strong leaning towards vegetarian and vegan foods) and compare it with the Sally Fallon school of healthy eating (lots of animal fats, 'traditional' preparation techniques) and look at not just the differences (easy) but the similarities (broths, fermented condiments, nutritional power of vegetables). What comes out of my reading from every source?

Less sugar, less white flour, less processed food.

Hang on though, that's the stuff which big food business makes almost all of its money from.

Surely you can't touch that.

Watch the circling around the real issues. You won't see anyone suggest that we restructure food pricing and subsidies to make raw foods more affordable and also to incentivise fast food which employs real food ingredients as much as possible. I'm thinking more felafel and souvlakis and fewer McDonalds/KFC/fish 'n'chips made with batter of questionable origin and cooked in canola oil.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

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 ply, which I swore I would never do again for a newborn baby singlet! I think I should reign in my more insane impulses and make a clapotis scarf after this cardigan.

I've made a newspaper pattern for a wrap-around skirt and begun to cut the fabric out. I am using two layers for this skirt as both layers of my chosen stash fabric are see-through. I am using some fabric gifted to me a couple of years ago. The top fabric is dark blue with white polka dots and a flower pattern interspersed amongst the dots. The bottom is deep pink. They are some kind of man made fabric which hangs beautifully and needs no ironing. The deep pink colour doesn't match the flower in the top pattern exactly, but if I were to go for such synchronicity, then I would be carting that swatch around for years in vain.

The children saw my sewing gear come out and have put in requests and so has Favourite Handyman. FH first as I've not made him anything for ages (actually I've made him one thing ever) and the children have lots of clothes anyway. I know because they leave them all over the floor. I do still have the fabric cut out for a wrap dress but as I seem to be changing shape (still losing weight), I'd prefer to make something easy and accommodating of changes in size.

Outside, the ground is saturated. After our first year at this house, I thought that we had okay drainage, just formidable amounts of rain. As almost all fruit trees failed to thrive unless they were in pots, I sighed over the effects of the rain. But now that we have gardens in various parts of the section, I notice a wide difference in the wetness (not so much now, but when we have had more moderate amounts of rain). When my Grandad visited and showed me where the rainwater drains went straight into the ground without being piped further away, that explained some of the wetness. Earlier this week when I chanced to look over the neighbour's fence and saw water pooling at the edge of their back lawn, I realised another important point. Our house is at the top of an old sand dune (thousands of years old I'd guess; it has had soil over top for a long time, by natural means) and that neighbour's house slopes downhill away from the beach. There is a concrete retaining wall at the edge of their back lawn because without it, the soil might move downhill and take the house with it. Very sensible not to have the house moving off its foundations, but not so convenient for drainage for the lower part of my garden. I would like to dig out the old chook run garden to a depth of 1-2 metres and put gravel in and then raise the soil up above the ground and also put a plastic arch over it (leave the sides with just windshelter-cloth). Time and budget may permit one day, but not this holidays. For these holidays, new fuseboxes and rewiring will provide the excitement instead.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


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. 'Stay together for the children.' I still haven't come to terms with that one either.

Today I learnt another story. For the third time, I know everyone involved. I feel sick about every aspect.

This time I too am a mother. I just put my son and daughter to bed, wrapped my arms around their soft bodies and read them stories of Danish winters, crazy green roaring bulls and Roman gladiators (err their choices). I told them I loved them and while I held their bodies, we were safe from the future.

I want to give them every strength. Strength for them to respect their partners in stressful times as well as in fun. Strength for them to know they deserve respect.

Should my daughter ever arrive on my doorstep with bruises and sad children, I hope with every ounce of my body that I will do everything I can to support her into safety. I am doing what I can, everything I can, to raise my children to know safe bodies as a basic human right. So long as I am alive, I want to continue to do that for them, for their children, and their children, for as long as I possibly can.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

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 was time to be good again. Mrs Wishy Washy turned on some music and began to dance. Oh, no she didn't. Dancing was what the Watercress Tuna and the children of Champion Street did, not their mummies. Their mummies were probably doing shifts packing groceries at the local New World. Mrs Wishy Washy remembered that in the morning's rush, no one had fed the chooks so she headed out to do just that. On the way back, armed with ten eggs (no one collected them yesterday), she noticed the silence.

Mrs Wishy Washy's servant was not being faithful. It was not doing anything at all. Indeed, it turned out that neither the washing machine nor the dryer would emit the slightest sound of life. It also turned out that when Mrs Wishy Washy stood on her daughter's special chair to look at the fusebox, that she could make neither head, tail nor any other kind of logical sense from the many porcelain fuse boxes except to note how extremely dirty the entire box was.

One of the benefits of living in a small town is that Mrs Wishy Washy has met a very nice electrician at her friend's house before and she rings his business up and makes an appointment to spend some money with Peter the electrician on Thursday.

This still left the problem of all those soggy towels and knickers and pyjamas sitting in the faithless servant. Mrs Wishy Washy, mindful of the imminent visit of a relative stranger, tidied and vacuumed the dining room and then piled all the soggy clothes in buckets and headed off to her friend Mrs Mary K.

Mrs Mary K is 83 years old. She has a washing machine and tumble drier which work. She has fully functional electrics in her home. In the middle of all of this, and around the edges as well, hail storms and rain and general storminess precluded using the washing line for anything but extra rinses. So Mrs Wishy Washy took her washing to Mrs Mary K's house and put it in Mary's washing machine and neglected to turn the washing machine taps on and thus wasted ages and ages of time and briefly thought she had broken Mary's machine as well.

Eventually, all was well. The washing was clean and no longer soggy. It was in the tumble drier while the children watched the disney cartoon channel after eating a lot of biscuits and Mrs Wishy Washy and Mrs Mary K sat down and drank tea and spoke, among other things, about washing clothes through the twentieth century, the use of coppers, hand wringers and of the services of the Chinese laundry for starching the collars and cuffs of grandfathers who worked at the court.

But all good things must come to an end, and before the washing was remotely dry, the little girl had fallen asleep on the couch watching Little Einsteins. Mrs Wishy Washy was prone to forgetting a few things, but one of them was not the grave danger to a mother's sanity of letting a three year old fall asleep at 4.45 in the afternoon.

Which is why it came to be that the children and the damp washing were bundled into the car and taken straight home to find their Daddy trudging up the driveway. Which is why Mrs Wishy Washy deposited the children with their father and went in search of Chinese takeaways which were not closed for holidays (the note on the door was signed "Shop Owner"), then a fish and chip shop actually prepared to serve her, then one which was actually open and then finally, into the expensive embrace (choke) of the McDonalds drive-thru.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

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. Great Grandma Q may well have signed the petition as she was very pro-temperance. I'm not sure to what extent the petition was circulated in rural areas. Now I am more aware of the names and locations of my other grandmothers at this time (they were all in New Zealand by 1893), I would like to look at the list of names in Wellington one day.

In other news, I celebrated suffrage day in the kitchen by making lemon capri cake from a recipe of Annabel Langbein in her book Savour Italy. It consists solely of ground almonds, sugar, lemons and eggs. It didn't come out looking perfect but it tasted fantastic. I also made hummous and caraway rye bread and chicken soup. Alas, I don't think bread is agreeing with me, not even slow risen sourdough. I guess that if gluten is the problem, then dense rye bread has a lot more in it per slice than airy shop white bread, or even a slice of vogels.

I planted some curly kale seedlings and cursed the slugs (I think they are the killers) who have eaten all of my coriander in the raised bed. Entirely. Vanished without trace and they've had a good chomp at my celery seedlings as well. This raised bed thing is all very well for drainage but the sides give such a haven for slugs.

I also slothed around, wallowing in the sheer loveliness of not having to go anywhere, of having us all home just mucking about. During the computerised part of my slothing, I found this blog on baby food across cultures. I thought of you, Mary, Mary who reflects so lovingly and intelligently on how her children grow and learn, that you might find it interesting. The post I have linked to nails a number of issues I have with the writing of Mrs Sally Fallon (it's not a post without Sally!).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

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 being busy doing things which are not gardening. This is going to have to change. I need to create some more garden and put some spuds in it. Thank goodness the school holidays are very close.

I am glad that I haven't put all my food into glass jars. Glass jars feel very back to basics and 'natural homemakerish' (whatever that means) and they don't leach oestrogens or phytoestrogens into the food like plastic, but they aren't much good in smithereens on the floor when the Alpine faultline starts to rock and roll. I'm also pleased that my food in glass is in a different area to my food in plastic, so the shards won't ruin the rest of our supplies.

Sourdough has to be pretty clever stuff in the not-quite-apocalyptic-just-standard-NZ-earthquake scenario. Twice this week I have taken the starter out of the fridge and fed it and then not found time to actually make any bread. Hoping tomorrow morning is third time lucky. For that matter, there was also the stock I ruined earlier this week when I turned the slow cooker off but didn't strain and refrigerate it before going to work. Today I bunged an entire chook in the slow cooker and tomorrow is Sunday so surely I won't be a wicked waster while other people are at church and we will have wonderful soups and other chickeny things this coming week. I put ginger and star anise into it for a zingy stock.

Knitting a purple cardy is of very little use as an earthquake preparation, but nevertheless I have been doing a little needle clicking. Indeed I clicked so enthusiastically that I thought I could multi-task and then I dropped stitches and had to undo three rows and concentrate very hard. Yes. I learnt a lesson from it. When I wasn't needle clicking with purple wool, I did have a sewing needle out and put new elastic bands on the four corners of the wool underlay so that I will no longer wake up and find the entire underlay down the side of the bed, held in only by the tucked in sheet. I also cleaned the toilet at 7am this morning which is a Saturday so please do understand that I have been quite well behaved overall today.

The children and I went to a school gala at lunchtime today. I ate a pork sandwich and maybe it has worms in it but like a pathetic no-drugs quarter-baked hedonist, I jumped right in and ate it anyway. The children had sausages in bread which is what I thought I was lining up for as well. The main achievement though, was that I found Susan Faludi's Backlash in the books section for only 20 cents. I would have paid more to have her back on my shelves, but in the event, Fionn had other uses for my change so we bought some Ben 10 game which the rest of them have played for much of the afternoon. And fudge. What kind of gala experience is it if you don't buy fudge?

I found a blog called Sally Fallon wants to soak my nuts. My favourite post is indeed the walnuts one. Quite refreshing in tone. Maybe I will soak some walnuts tonight, as I bought the latest Cuisine magazine last week as obviously frittering our money away on magazines is also a good response to the need for proper earthquake planning and it has a recipe for something called walnut aillade. Which I can write about because then I don't need to pronounce it out loud. Of course Cuisine magazine is not written by mad Nourishers like Sally Fallon so it doesn't say to soak the walnuts. Or pray over them. Or source them from the old lady down the road as a swap for mowing her lawn.

Friday, September 17, 2010


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. Sausages are foods which ordinary people eat, those common plebians who also eat at Mcdonalds and buy pre-prepared foods at the supermarket. Those people who don't show their love for their family by spending hours every day on from-scratch meals. In a world of middle class time poverty (no, the middle class most definitely do NOT have the monopoly on time poverty, but they are the ones most keen on reading books about food), slow food is the new black, the Audi in the Jones' driveway.

I love sausages. I love it that I can throw them in the slow cooker with some onions, carrots, garlic, herbs, tinned tomatoes and root vegetables in the morning and come home to dinner eight hours later. I love it that I can put the same things in the oven at 2.55pm and come home to dinner two hours later. I love it that I can cook them in the oven on the grill tray without having to watch them too carefully while I look after children/process laundry/ make veges around 4-5pm. I am a bit fussy about the sausages I buy and have a distinct preference for the locally made Blackball sausages, especially if I can buy them in bulk at their shop in Blackball (gluten free to boot) and avoid the sharply elevated supermarket prices for them. But as for eating sausages, I have never ever disliked a sausage at a barbeque. Wrapped in bread, with sauce dripping onto the white serviette, with a beer in the other hand and kids running round us, they taste sublime, the taste of summer and friendship. Served up on plates with salad with maybe a wine and still kids happily cycling and running around us - still fantastic.

My crowning achievement this week was yesterday. I had work to complete for a meeting at 3.30pm. I finished that work at 2.30pm, and as I walked out to the car, I began to consider dinner. I stopped in at the supermarket, bought Blackball sausages (boerwors variety), mushrooms and tinned tomatoes, gave $2 to Robyn on the raffle table to help get her boy to the hockey tournament in Auckland this holidays, drove home and chopped it all up together with herbs, onions, garlic and kumara and put it in the oven at 2.56pm (150 celsius), zipped up to school and got Fionn, drove to kindy and got Brighid, took them both to Sharon our second lovely childminder and then sat down at my 3.30pm meeting back at work with an entire three minutes to spare. That, ladies and gentlemen, is success in my week.

Sausages. From slow food to fast and multiple steps in between, sausages are your friend. No I don't work for the meat board. But if I did, I would want to know about dripping, what they do to the commercial version if you can even get it. Laksmi and I were talking about bread and dripping in the 1930s Depression and a very healthy 83 year old man (with the stature and gait of a man in his fifties) in my town who uses dripping in his cooking and I got to thinking I might play around with it soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


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't tell they were in there either. Then mix with the flour. Soften the butter and cream with the sugar and then add the egg and mix some more. (Thanks again to my Mum who gave me a Kenwood mixer which is why I bake things which have to be creamed at all). Put small balls of mixture onto a greased tray and flatten slightly with a fork, just like chocolate chippie biscuits. Cook for 11 minutes at 190 degrees celsius.

Hummous was like normal only I added some lemon thyme, the fresh new spring growth with soft stalk and all as taking leaves off thyme stalks is just too fiddly and annoying. Tasted good. You have to buy lemon thyme as a plant or strike from a cutting. Worth it.

Dinner was the first no meat and hardly any fish dish for ages. Just because my meat choices were fast and low effort, no other reason. Into a greased casserole dish: a tin of chickpeas and their juice, 1 chopped onion, 4 chopped garlic cloves, a jar (50g) of anchovies, chopped, 4 sundried tomatoes, chopped, then quite a bit of pumpkin, peeled and chopped into wedges size, then a jar of chopped tomatoes poured on top but not stirred in. Cook for 1 hour on 150 degrees celsius, then add plenty of washed and chopped kale and cook for another 1 hour on 140 celsius. Everyone ate itwith enthusiasm except the incalcitrant (recalcitrant? obstreperous then) three year old.

Chocolate cake and hummous recipe already in the archives of this blog somewhere.

We also went for a walk on the beach, a bike ride now we have an adult bike amd I sowed carrot and beetroot seed and weeded and gave lots and lots of cornsalad and slugs to the chooks and noted the presence of white butterfly eggs on the kale.

Now, (was it the white rabbit?) I'm late, late, late for Thursday. Time to go make some lunches and serve some breakfast and eat my own all at once.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

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's work of running a local food bank and charity shop. I got better from my lurgy and started doing housework every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoon while Brighid was at kindy. Then work started to use up that time and more often than not I wouldn't get home until after school pickup. The house still seems a bit cleaner though, so I must be managing some multi-tasking magic in some other little pockets of time.

I present to you the project of raising my son and daughter. This seems to be going okay, judging from the fact that they are breathing and happy. Their father, the much admired-by-me Favourite Handyman, isn't getting to do much handymanning because he is dedicated to his job and doing lots of extra work for it. Overtime for Daddy means overtime for Mummy. Or that's how it feels to me.

This parenting lark also involves helping with their community involvements. So I did sit on the kindy raffle table recently (despite my chagrin at Kidsfirst Kindergarten head office management) and yesterday, for the first time ever, I got to go on a school trip with Fionn. I was only there for the afternoon as I was working in the morning but they had such fun out at Shantytown with their Commonwealth Games programme and I adored seeing how enthusiastic and unfetteredly happy the 23 children were. The three lovely children I took back to school didn't mind the mess in the car. Phew.

I have declined to put my name down for cleaning at the end of term for kindy as I am cross that it is a community kindy when it suits Kidsfirst Kindergarten (who could be paying for end of term cleanup instead of sending out endless full colour glossy brochures), and not when it comes to consultation on major changes affecting ALL parents and children.

I present to you the project of providing food for my family. I shop for it or grow it. I cook almost all of it, with the wonderful exception of weekend mornings and Saturday nights when Favourite Handyman does it. It is going along alright. No one has been refused food at a mealtime so far. Well, actually they have indeed been refused particular items of food, but my point is that there is always something provided for them to eat.

I present to you the project of the garden. My beloved garden has been a casualty of my increased hours at work this year. Today is sunny and my day of not working and there being no kindy, so I am hopeful of putting some more plants and/or seeds in the ground and burying some bokashi and and and. This will feed in, in turn, to the project of feeding my family.

I present to you the project of good health. It has been a most engaging project this year, with leaps and bounds amongst the challenges. The time I have invested in learning about vitamin C, omega 3 and bone broths stand out amongst my reading for their usefulness. The time I have invested in my family's food in order to strengthen our immune systems is a useful survival strategy in a town where waiting times to see a doctor extend to 2-3 months. I have been part of discussions about how we can improve medical provision in our area, but I'm not confident to wait for change given the scale of the challenges. Peak oil websites pose scenarios about reduced infrastructure which in terms of medicine, I think we are seeing right here without the specific influence of peak oil.

So when you are in a conversation about the lack of community effort in your town, the way it is so hard to get people to join committees and the wondering why this is, you have a name/face for the malaise. People who simply don't make enough effort, who are too busy raising families and working and cannot find the time to contribute further, like SANDRA.

Monday, September 13, 2010

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 look unhappy or specifically unwell to me. I find the final image really distasteful in the context that it is used. A kind of sexual objectification of two fat women to make them look particularly ridiculous just because they appear to be eating Mcdonalds? It's really disappointing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

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 resign or just hope that I will find more space again later on.

But the reading and thinking which is most interesting to me at the moment, centres on the writings of Maia (her latest Hand Mirror post and the food labelled archives on her own blog) and the fat nutritionist. I've got more thinking and reading to go before I post my own thoughts. It's a whole new paradigm and I feel like a spider, building links, going back and thinking, then creating a different path, thinking and rethinking. I don't expect it all to fit into one neat paradigm (or hegemony??) but I am hopefuly of dialogue lines.

Monday, September 6, 2010

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...]

Sunday, September 5, 2010


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 still have yet to try doing my own lymphatic drainage.

This afternoon Fionn had kapa haka practise for an intense three hour session in preparation for the kapa haka festival this Thursday. At 5pm all the kapa haka families turned up at the primary school library with pots of food. We watched the children perform and then shared kai. The kids were great and I'm still hopeful that I will finish work in time to watch them perform on Thursday. Like all food which I don't cook or do dishes for, it tasted fabulous. I really appreciate the effort of the school with our children and with the Sunday performance and shared meal. Many many many parents who will not be able to watch the performance on Thursday got to see their children perform this afternoon.

It seems that my new obsession when I cannot control the rest of my life (which is actually fine, just too busy) is to clean. Not ordinary sweeping or toilet cleaning but large projects for which results can be seen for more than five minutes. This time it was the fridge. No ordinary wiping of the shelves. I hauled every single item, tray and shelf out of the fridge and cleaned all the crevices as well as every other surface on the inside and outside. I pulled the fridge entirely out from the wall for the first time since we moved here in 2006 and swept and dusted behind it. I think the fridge absorbed some of my grumpiness and it certainly is a sparkly work of art now.

This morning, being Fathers Day, was not a usual eggs for breakfast weekend morning. I made buckwheat pancakes which went down well. Fionn made a card and Brighid brought her father about six books for him to read to her. The pancakes were half buckwheat and half wheat flour as I'd heard a mixture made the best pancakes. I think I would make them again. Now I see that buckwheat contains lots of nutritional goodies (according to Sally Fallon - I must compare with Paul Pitchford to see if it is one of those super-foods which they both recommend) so I might play around with some more buckwheat recipes.

I think my cross, inflamed body is from iatrogenic causes. The amount of antibiotics I have ingested over the last 38 years is ridiculous. I have my suspicions about the roaccutane I took for acne when I was 21. Given that it is more dangerously teratogenic than thalidomide, I would be surprised if it was without consequence in adult bodies. Although I didn't see any consequences in the short term (though I now read that possible side effects include depression and suicide!) Consequence, despite what pharmaceutical companies prefer to insist, is neither merely nor only short term.

Unsurprisingly then, I am not willing to see the GP and get medicines to suppress the inflammation.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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 industry out there devoted to identifying the substances (fat-salt-sugar mix in optimum arrangements) which can create addictive effects within our bodies and this information is expressly for the processed food industry, particularly fast food outlets. There is also an overwhelming amount of sugar available for New Zealanders and unless you live in a (literal and metaphorical) cave, your kids will get hold of it and enough of it will alter their perception of the kinds of food which they 'need'.

So, if you have $2.50, are very hungry and have just ten minutes to get to school and the dairy is the only food outlet, then the offending packet of processed foods which prompted the initial Hand Mirror debate will be a good choice. I think everyone understands that. The lack of choice within that 'choice' is the problem and I thought Else was highlighting this.

The idea that condemning a situation where there is no 'choice' but such rubbishy food is middle class privilege just doesn't cut it in my opinion. If your kid is dependent on the dairy 'school lunch special' on a regular basis, then I think it is reasonable to assume that you lack the resources on multiple levels to complain about that lack of choice. So the rest of us should stay silent?

I am okay about calling some processed foods 'empty calories'. I am okay about using language around food which assigns more worth to some foods than others. I realise that I am not scarred by horrendous dieting experiences where moral assignations for food caused me much distress and self-loathing. I am shaped by experiences of foods contributing to or detracting from good health in myself and my immediate family.

I was curious to note that Paul Campos (author of The Obesity Myth) was being trotted out by persons who disagreed with moral judgements on food. I loved his book and quote it often. But as I said at the time when I discussed his book on this blog, he ignores the possible nutritional aspects behind weight gain (I don't mean simple calorie counting but food allergies, candida and hypothyroidism for starters) and also the deprivation of nutrition aspects that are surely behind the falling health outcomes for dieters. I think this is a gap in his otherwise compelling and cogently argued book.

I read the latest Time Magazine's cover article on organic food yesterday. It seemed to say almost nothing to me. Naively, I thought there might be something new to ponder given Time magazine has international distribution and presumably a decent budget to pay journalists to investigate in depth. They trot out the line that with a steeply rising world population, we will need genetic engineering and other interventions to feed everyone. I think it is nonsense. The fossil fuel involved in conventional farming is huge and unsustainable. How can we trust any project which deliberately disempowers people from saving their own seed?

In the school newsletter on Monday: the local McDonalds franchise are offering school lunches with 50 cents of the price going to the PTA. The school (presumably board, principal, PTA) have endorsed this. No doubt it will be described as a healthy lunch, just as Subway also is (they offer school lunch delivery to my son's school as well) which is indeed, to me, a flagrant abuse of the term 'healthy'.

Puts the soap box away, off to bed to read another foodie thing, this time a WAPF document on animal fats. The word 'obsessed' does seem apt...