JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, November 28, 2008

How DO you say Miele?

Most inconveniently, I've fallen in love - preposterously, with a fridge. Not just any old fridge, either. I'm not much of a one for labels, so it was a coup de foudre. No, really, I don't even notice labels - yesterday, I told the man from Lavazza that I loved his coffee, only it turned out to be Illy's, and, moments later, I found myself telling the Dove miller that the flour my children liked best in the world was his Seed and Grain - only that turns out to be made by Allinson. Oh dear.

Anyway, back to the fridge. This is how it happened. We were in the huge theatre at the Good Food Show watching the pantomime dame that is James Martin spinning sugar out of a pan, his patter awash with doubles entendres, the audience screaming with delight - not the children, grown women (some of whom clearly thought they were about to see the Chippendales). Show over, our little group of bloggers was allowed up on the stage.

My plan was to take photos of the underside of the demonstration worktop - does that sink actually work? From the murky world of investigative blogging I can tell you definitively: no. There's a waste pipe poking down, but no bucket. Probably no water in the taps, either, but I didn't get the chance to try them.

On the way back down to earth, I passed the fridge. Being the sort of person I am, I opened it. Nothing in it. Nothing at all. Even so, the fridge beckoned: it's got more lights than the third runway at Heathrow, you'd never lose anything in there. I thought I'd take a photo, but someone from Gordon's team elbowed me out of the way, on an urgent mission to fill the fridge with everything he needed for the next show (a small plate of tuna steak). Actually, now I come to think of it, any photo of mine wouldn't have done justice to my new love, but it's okay, I'm not about to forget. (Also, it just occurs to me that there's probably a properly pornographic photo in the brochure I've got somewhere.)

A couple of us stayed on to watch Gordon (first I'd heard the papers say he's been a bad man was from his own lips). While he was patronising us with something he called blotty soup, but which the rest of us might think of as minestrone with an awful lot of wind, I began to notice that both TV chefs had mentioned all their sponsors bar one (James Martin gleefully telling us that Waitrose is a better bet than the sponsoring supermarket). At first I thought it might be because they took for granted the presence of a hot oven in their kitchens. But gradually I realised it was because any fool can say Billington, Sainsbury, etc etc.

And then - forgive me - I began to feel smug. I'd taken the precaution, earlier in the day, of asking our host for definitive advice. Miele. Rhymes with dealer. I just wish I'd asked how much my fridge is going to cost.

Other bloggers at the Good Food Show yesterday

Becky at Girl Interupted Eating
Francesca at 101 Things Every Cook Should Cook
Nicola at Cherrapeno
Katie at Apple and Spice
Anne at Anne's Kitchen
Sam at Antics of a Cycling Cook

Useful link, especially if you want to buy a fridge


PS the photograph (illicit, I'm afraid, but I was sitting in the back row and came over all naughty schoolgirl) is not so much a snap of Gordon as a picture of the perfect fridge (on the left, and in the background on the right)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Just back from a fabulous day out arranging flowers with Robbie Honey ... we made wreaths, table decorations, a hand-tied bunch ... we chatted, we laughed, we ate Anna's delicious food. All in the most beautiful conservatory at Ransoms Dock in Battersea.

More treats tomorrow, I'm off to the Good Food Show, as guest of Miele ... lunch with James Martin, a TV chef.

And all of you celebrating Thanksgiving - have a great day!

Extra fruity Christmas Cake

I recently found myself promising to make a Christmas cake for the raffle at the cricket dinner. Fine, I'm good at making fruit cake (if I say so myself). But not so good at decorating them. So I took the easy way out, and studded it with almonds, as if it was a Dundee cake.

This is the extra fruity Christmas cake I made last year, after lots of help from readers. I made two. I'll make marzipan for ours - it's a doddle, and much much nicer than anything you can buy. In fact, if I didn't have time to make a cake, I'd buy one and STILL make the marzipan, it's that good.

Icing? Well, I aim to crack that this year ... in the past, I've either bought very nasty ready-rolled, or made rough icing that slid down the cake, onto the plate and off onto the worktop. Can anyone give me any good tips on making Christmas cake icing?

Links to related posts

Boiled fruitcake my mother-in-law's foolproof and delicious recipe
Pistachio marzipan

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

10 ways with mashed potatoes

On a grey rainy day last week, I test drove a new-to-me car. I picked it up on another rainy day. The next morning, there was an inch of snow on it. None of this would matter, except that it's a convertible. Mad. I still haven't driven it with the roof down. And now we're into winter comfort food: lunch at the weekend was game stew and mash, just what was needed now the weather's closing in till spring.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall found 11 things to add to mash this weekend ... on top of the 100g of butter and 200ml of hot milk he adds per kilo of potatoes (or 100ml each of cream and milk).

Here, mashing is both favourite and least favourite way to cook potatoes. Some people like them better than any; others say it's a waste of a good potato. Sometimes I find myself making two types of potatoes. Who says I'm not an indulgent wife and mother?

Here are 5 ways I make mash:

  1. When I'm mashing potatoes, I routinely add milk, nearly always skimmed
  2. Sometimes, I add a good dollop of grainy mustard; good with ham
  3. A spoonful of grated horseradish (from a jar, as I don't grow it) is delicious with roast beef
  4. Olive oil added to mash instead of milk is particularly good with fish, or if you're going to use the potato as a pie topping
  5. Or you can use a little cheese (and something from the onion family finely chopped) to perk up a pie of leftovers
HFW does all that and more:
  1. Add some unpeeled cloves of garlic to the pot with the potatoes, then squeeze the puree out and beat into the mash
  2. Add a few slices of caramelized shallot and some Bramley puree for a mash to go with roast pork
  3. Infuse the milk with a bay leaf and grated lemon zest (to accompany fish)
  4. Add Jerusalem artichokes and nutmeg (roast lamb)
  5. Grated cheese and roasted chopped poblano chillies, to go with steak. Steak??? Is he mad? If steak, then chips, no question.
What do YOU do with mash? I'd love to know, it's my favourite

Monday, November 24, 2008

Black Boxes widget

Here's a new way to drive up traffic / waste time ... Black Boxes (scroll down a bit). You have several either/or decisions to make, and at the end, you're sent to a blog which has made similar decisions. Just before you link off, though, be sure to add your own dilemma, otherwise the game has an awful lot of A/B choices, which aren't much fun. It's a bit like Stumble Upon, only more random.

You know the sort of thing ... bread or toast (this IS a food blog), tulips or dahlias (with added gardening), Tennyson or Betjemann (and the odd bit of poetry), birds or bees (the wildlife in our garden gives me as much pleasure as the plants), etc etc

I found Black Boxes on Veg Plotting, but it started in the world of creative writing blogs, so there's a bit of a glut of writers at the other end ... though I'm confident that there are enough time-wasting food bloggers out there to have changed all that by the end of the week ;)

Just a thought for a cold, grey, wet November morning.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A recipe for bumblebees in your garden

I'm always a little surprised when I read that British bumblebees are in decline to the point of near-extinction, because there are so many in our garden. This morning I discovered the reason: I have the same taste in flowers as bumblebees.

Bumblebees are one of the early signs of spring in our garden: when the snowdrops are in full flower, there they are, bumbling about on the rosemary bush by the kitchen door. And I see them daily until the end of autumn. I thought that's how it was in all gardens, but apparently not.

Here's the recipe for encouraging bumblebees into your garden:

  • make sure you have some early-flowering plants such as crocus, rosemary, clematis, fruit blossom - you will find these just as life-enhancing as the bumblebees, which come out earlier than other bees (the queens come out of hibernation in February)
  • in summer, give up bedding in favour of cottage garden flowers and native wildflowers. Sages, foxgloves, thymes, thistles of all sorts (including artichokes, if you can bear to let some of them flower)
  • in high summer leave at least some of your lawn uncut, so that bumblebees can feed on clover and birdsfoot trefoil
  • plant a wildflower meadow, however small - you can use seed saved from verges in your area if the price of a packet seems high
  • opt for single and semi-double flowers rather than doubles
  • plant a wide range of bumblebee-friendly plants, to encourage several of the 25 British species - three are already said to be nationally extinct. Bumblebees have different-lengthed tongues, so need different types of flower to get at the nectar
  • provide somewhere for bumblebees to overwinter. You can buy or make special nesters, but our garden is untidy enough for bumblebees to be left to their own devices

This is a seasonal list of bumblebee-friendly plants supplied by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. We have most of them in our garden (no heathers though - wrong soil):

February, March and April: apple, bluebell, broom, bugle, cherry, erica carnea (heather), flowering currant, lungwort (pulmonaria), pear, plum, pussy willow, red dead-nettle, rosemary, white dead-nettle

May and June: alliums, aquilegia, birdsfoot trefoil, bugle, campanula, ceanothus, chives, comfrey, cotoneaster, escallonia, everlasting sweet pea, everlasting wallflower, foxglove, geranium, honeysuckle, laburnum, lupin, meadow cranesbill, monkshood, poppies, raspberries, red campion, single roses, sage, salvia, thyme, vetch, white clover, wistaria, woundwort

July and August: borage, bramble, buddleia, cardoon, catmint, cornflower, delphinium, heathers, hollyhock, hyssop, knapweed, lavender, lesser burdock, marjoram, mint, penstemon, purple loosestrife, red clover, rock-rose, sainfoin, scabious, sea holly, snapdragons, St John's wort, sunflower, teasel, thistles, viper’s bugloss

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Six-seed rolls

I used Allinson's Seed and Grain Bread Flour for these fabulous rolls. The flour itself is white, but 20% of the mixture is made up of wheat and barley flakes, kibbled rye grains, sunflower seeds, linseed and millet. The people in this house who moan about wholemeal bread like this, and those of us that would always rather avoid white flour have something to get our teeth into.

I made the dough in the breadmaker, on the pizza setting, then rolled it into balls which I put into a cake tin. Easy - but not much more difficult to mix by hand (instructions at the bottom). This method gives the dough a great deal of oven spring, which means the rolls are light and airy ... invaluable for someone like me, who is apt to make rolls as heavy cannonballs. (Compare the two photographs, and you'll see what I mean - I put the dough straight into the oven after taking the picture.)

Seeded rolls
for 6

1/2 tsp dried yeast
300g flour
170ml water
a pinch of salt
a dribble of olive oil

Put the ingredients into the breadmaker* (these are given in the right order for a Panasonic, but some machines would like you to use reverse order). Use the pizza setting (which takes 45 minutes).

When the dough is ready, roll it into a sausage and cut into six pieces. Roll these into a ball, tucking the untidy bits underneath. Place them in an 8-inch cake tin and leave to rise in a warm place. Bake in a hot oven. I left these to rise near the woodburner for nearly an hour, then baked them for 15 minutes in a hot oven. They would have been better with 3-4 minutes more.

* If you don't have a breadmaker: mix the ingredients together and knead until you have a dough (you don't have to use a bowl for this, you can make a circle of flour to surround the wet ingredients). When it is smooth, put in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a plate; leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

This post is an entry for this month's Heart of the Matter, the subject is grains ... we'd like to hear your heart-healthy ideas for cooking with wholegrains - not only breads. All the details can be found on the Heart of the Matter website. I'm hosting this month - the deadline is Thursday 27 November, round-up over the weekend.

Related posts

Bread knots - another simple way to make beautiful and delicious rolls, using this dough, or your default dough

Yeast starter for bread - and the bread
make your own sourdough starter

No-knead bread the famous NY Times recipe
Speeded-up no-knead bread and a different take on it

Yoghurt bread fabulous, easy, TRY IT
Quick oat loaf
Spelt bread - it's getting easier to buy this highly-flavoured flour

Fresh corn bread - now is the perfect autumnal moment for this
Late summer hearth bread - another perfect autumn bread, this one with grapes

Anti-oxidant tea bread - I made this for my husband for a pre-surgery boost - delicious, too!

Yeast conversion - fresh/dried/quick

Things to do with stale or leftover bread

Herb stuffing for roast chicken
Grilled trout with rosemary stuffing
Baked scallops
Anchovy toasts

Links to the best blogging bakers I know

Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups
A Year in Bread
Susan at Farmgirl Fare

this list is not exhaustive, there are dozens of wonderful blogging bakers

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas chutney

For many people, the warm spices - cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, nutmeg, mace - are the smell of Christmas. They're also the typical contents of a jar of mixed spice. I've got two lots of mixed spice on the go at the moment: Bart's contains coriander, cinnamon, cassia, ginger, caraway, nutmeg and cloves; whereas the Spice Shop Christmas Pudding Mix contains cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, cloves, anise and cardamon. Either way, they can be substituted for individual spices when you're following a recipe - or you can make your own mixture with the flavours you like best.

This Christmas chutney is brilliant for people who've never made one, because it's made with dried fruit, which means you don't have to boil it for hours and hours while the moisture from fresh ingredients is driven off. It's also brilliant for people without much time, because you don't have to chop - you just pulse the cooked chutney in a food processor. And it's delicious.

Christmas chutney is good for presents, for eating with cold Christmas leftovers, and to perk up sauces and gravies. It takes half an hour of fuss-free cooking. If you make it now, it will be at it's best at Christmas, although it will keep for years.

Christmas chutney
enough to fill three 0.5l Le Parfait jars

250g dried apricots
250g pitted dried dates
250g dried pears**
250g dried cranberries
125g light muscovado sugar
300ml cider or wine vinegar
300ml water
1/4 tsp ground cloves*
1/2 tsp ground allspice*
1 tsp ground cinnamon*
1 tsp ground ginger*

Put everything into a large stainless steel saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil, simmer for 20 minutes, loosely covered. Stir occasionally, to ensure everything is properly cooked through. Leave to cool for a while, then tip into your food processor to pulse. Three or four quick pulses is enough, as you want texture, not babyfood. Spoon into sterilised jars (ie, straight from the dishwasher cycle, or from 20 minutes in a low oven).

*Do not worry if you don't have all those spices - don't go out to buy allspice specially, just make up the amount with a mixture of the others. And if you don't use much spice, then mixed spice will do fine - look at the ingredients, and you'll see they are not much different.

** I had a little trouble finding dried pears (Cooks' Ingredients section of Waitrose). But dried apple slices would do just as well, and are more widely available.

This is adapted from Nigella's Christmas, a book I am much enjoying

Related posts

Other things to make as Christmas presents

Caramel-salt nuts - you can make these just before you go out
Spiced apricot and orange chutney
Fig vinegar
Chilli and pepper chutney
Red onion marmalade
Plum jam - there are still a few plums in the shops
Home-made vanilla extract - superfast: put vanilla into a jar, then pour on vodka!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tree of happiness award

Just having a bit of a spring clean of my computer, and found, hidden away, from long ago, a lovely award given to me by Top Veg, the Tree of Happiness.

You have to list six things that make you happy:

  1. all my family sitting round the kitchen table eating a delicious dinner
  2. tulips
  3. reading - a good book, a poem, a recipe, the newspaper ... not too keen on the cereal packet unless there really isn't anything else
  4. the warmth of the fire seen through the window of the woodburner, the smell of apple logs burning
  5. a delivery of fresh organic vegetables and milk from Riverford ... seasonal, delicious, and no need to go to the supermarket
  6. winter flowers - snowdrops, the scent of witch hazel, sarcococcus, iris reticulata ... all of them tiny, fleeting yet intense pleasures
And six blogs, new-ish to me, which make me happy, & which get my Tree of Happiness award:

Thanks, Top Veg!

PS Bridget, can't find your email address, but I know you'll find this anyway!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fig vinegar

Christmas presents are so much nicer when they're homemade: I treasure the chopping boards made by my children, the necklaces made of conkers, the jewelry cases made from old boxes decorated with beads, grandma's delicious marmalade and shortbread.

This is the work of moments, and I know it's going to be delicious. Lovely for dressing seasonal salads. And Christmas presents.

Fig vinegar
for one litre

250g ready-to-eat dried figs
75g runny honey
a sprig of thyme (or a teaspoon of dried)
a pinch of peppercorns (I used multi-coloured)
1 litre white wine vinegar

Snip the figs fairly small into a two-litre Kilner or Le Parfait jar. Add all the other ingredients. Shake. Put in a cool dark place for a week, shaking occasionally as you remember. After a week, decant into 4 sterilised 250cl bottles, using a funnel and sieve.

Keep in a cool dark place until you're ready to use it or give it away.

This is adapted from Nigella's Christmas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A story for Armistice Day

My grandfather was born in 1899. Just right to serve in two world wars. He was a talented sportsman (played international rugger in the 1920s), and saw many of the best members of his school XV go straight from school into the army, and on to the endless casualty lists. When he left school in the summer of 1917, he went straight into the Durham Light Infantry, and by Armistice Day he was a German prisoner of war.

For years, I thought that the photograph above was taken when he was in his mid 20s. It is only very recently that I discovered he was 18 when it was taken; he had just left school, just swapped his Marlborough uniform for that of the Durham Light Infantry. My younger son goes to the same school, plays rugger on the same pitches, and is also a fly half. I cannot imagine - I have tried, but I cannot cannot - what it can have felt like to be at school, watching the older boys enlist and be killed, week by week, month by month, year by year, knowing that soon it would be your turn. One family lost three sons in quick succession; my grandfather played games in the same team as two of them - these were boys he knew well.

During the second world war, my grandfather joined the Royal Artillery, and just before Christmas 1941 died on active service in Wandsworth, where he ran a searchlight battery. Not very glamorous. This morning I visited his memorial at Mortlake Cemetery, where I was unexpectedly overcome with an intense feeling of grief for a man I've never met, but whose birthday I share.

This afternoon, I was at Twickenham, home of England rugby, and home of the Harlequins at the time my grandfather played for that great club. There I found a team photograph taken before my grandfather's first match for England, against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in 1922. He looked strangely vulnerable - a mixture of apprehension and excitement. The photograph below was probably taken during that match. V.G. Davies - my grandfather - is on the left. Heaven knows what treatment the spongeman is giving his unfortunate team-mate!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pumpkins to grow and eat

These are the results of Sarah Raven's pumpkin trial, conducted this summer in the terrible conditions we had for squash. It was published in the Telegraph a few Saturdays ago - irritating, because who buys their seed now? But if I don't blog the results, the paper will float about the house for months, and I won't be able to find it when I need it. This post is all about striking a blow for tidiness.

I've grown some of these pumpkins, and completely agree with Sarah's findings, which is why I'm keen to keep hold of all this information for the moment when it's actually needed. And because not all of you may have a husband who is addicted to the Telegraph. The looks/longevity is for the florist in you; taste for your inner cook.

Crown of Thorns
Ornamental; stringy
Looks/longevity: 7/10
Taste: 2/10

Crown Prince
The blue one. Good taste; excellent storer. Seeds "horrid"
Looks/longevity: 10/10
Taste: 9/10

Giant Pink Banana
Huge. Good for soup. Flavour ok (not outstanding). Seeds "like cardboard"
Looks/longevity: 6/10
Taste: 7/10

Good producer. Watery/bland. Only good for lanterns
Looks/longevity: 6/10
Taste: 0/10

Zucca de Marmellata
Size varies wildly. Used in Italy for jams and chutneys. Seeds ok. Favourite of whole trial
Looks/longevity: 8/10
Taste: 9/10

Chestnutty flavour. Lovely tiny seeds. Ideal climbing plant over willow teepees
Looks/longevity: 10/10
Taste: 8/10

Potiron Tristar Triamble
Heavily rippled blue-green skin. Biggest producer. Not much flavour. Seeds good but tough
Looks/longevity: 10/10
Taste: 8/10

Queensland Blue
Similar to Crown Prince. Good producer, excellent storer. Seeds ok
Looks/longevity: 10/10
Taste: 9/10

Red Kuri
aka Uchikiri, aka red onion squash. Lovely sweet taste; skin soft enough to eat. In the top three
Looks/longevity: 9/10
Taste: 10/10

Rouge Vif d'Etampes
Huge, beautiful, poor producer. Sweet taste. Seeds okay
Looks/longevity: 10/10
Eating: 9/10

Creamy green skin, creamy coloured flesh which is bright green at the seeds. Light cropping. Delicious, nutty flavour. Large tasty seeds. Will grow again
Looks/longevity: 8/10
Taste: 8/10

Sweet Dumpling
V dense dry flesh. Parsnip-like flavour. Good producer. Tiny tasty seeds. Good in small garden, can be trained up fence/trellis
Looks/longevity: 8/10
Taste: 7/10

Turk's Turban
Beautiful, ornamental only as stringy/watery/bland. Large tough tasty seeds. Only grow for ornament
Looks/longevity: 9/10
Taste: 2/10

As I typed out these findings, I realised that the marks are not entirely consistent with the remarks - but this information is a good starting point for seed-buying decisions in the spring. I've grown three of these, and regularly eat two more, and agree with every word. Now I'm looking forward to growing Queensland Blue and Zucca de Marmellata. Any comments from any of you who have grown some of these? Or further recommendations?

Related posts

Pumpkin in chilli oil
Butternut squash with parsley and mint softly spiced with cinnamon, a really good addition to a vegetarian dinner
Stuffed butternut squash - this is one of my most-visited posts, and a good cheap supper dish
Roast squash bites with pumpkin seed pesto - fabulous finger food, full of goodness
Pumpkin risotto

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Skirlie - oats for Heart of the Matter

This is an announcement for November's Heart of the Matter - we're looking for recipes using GRAINS ... all sorts of grains - wheat, farro, spelt, kamut, amaranth, buckwheat, barley, corn/maize, wild rice, millet, sorghum oats, rice, rye, triticale, quinoa. And if anyone can tell me where in Britain I can buy teff I will be eternally grateful.

That list: it's not exhaustive, and it contains grains I've never eaten, never mind cooked. But it also holds promise - of delicious, healthy, cheap meals. For these grains have been the staple food of mankind over centuries, ever since we stopped roaming, settled down and began to farm.

I have a tendency to think of grains as part of that worthy wholefood 70s thing, brown food that tasted like sawdust. Daft really, because looking through my blog, I find dozens of delicious family favourites made with grains (and I'm not just talking about bread). In the next few days, I'm going to posts lists in groups to make them easier to find - I don't know about you, but I have a lot of half-used packets in my larder, from when I've enthusiastically cooked something new just once.

I'm also going to recommend a really good book, one I found by accident about a year ago, and which is full of useful information about grains, as well as some excellent recipes. It's A Cook's Guide to Grains, by Jenni Muir. Here's an oat recipe adapted from it - too brown to photograph well, but utterly delicious, and cheap as chips (although much much healthier).

for 4

Finely chop an onion and fry very gently in a solid saucepan using plenty of oil. When they're soft and golden mix in a cup (100g) of medium oatmeal and fry for a further 10 minutes or so. Stir frequently. When the mixture is nicely toasted, serve.

This is good instead of potatoes; it's also great with mashed potato. You can use it as a stuffing, either for a joint of lamb, or for a squash. It's a lovely savoury dish that would take well to being modernised with plenty of chopped herbs; it's filling, it's cheap, it's nourishing, it's heart-healthy. It just isn't particularly photogenic.

We'd love to read your heart-healthy grain recipes ... the Heart of the Matter website is a great place for ideas for heart-healthy recipes (something I wish had existed when we were changing our diet on doctor's orders after my husband's heart attack), and it only exists because so many bloggers have taken the time to share their recipes - and also because of the time given to it by my co-hosts Ilva at Lucullian Delights, and Michelle, The Accidental Scientist

The usual rules: If you’ve participated before, you already know the basics. If you haven’t, check here, here and here for ideas on what “heart-healthy” means, and we hope that you’ll join us! Again, we ask that this please be a single event entry (please don’t use your post for other events – that way we can keep things centred on healthy heart awareness). Just send your entry to joannacary AT ukonline DOT co DOT uk (could you use the title HotM, so they don't get lost) by midnight Thursday 27th November, linking to my site, Joanna's Food (and to the HotM blog if you’d like) and I’ll post the round-up during the last weekend of November.

PS I'll let you know soon why I'm so keen to track down the teff

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Baked beans

According to the back of the tin of baked beans I've just eaten for breakfast, the British eat more baked beans than any other nation at an average of 15lb per head per year. And most of them, judging by supermarket shelf space, are either Heinz or own-brand. Both of which are, to my taste, too salty. Now, at 57p a can, I've discovered the most delicious alternative: open the can and you can smell the cinnamon, the cloves, the nutmeg - you don't get that with Heinz (65p).

Here's the complete list of ingredients for Whole Earth Organic Baked Beans:

organic haricot beans (49%), water, organic tomatoes (13%), organic apple juice, organic rice flour, sea salt, organic cider vinegar, organic onion powder, organic ground cinnamon, organic dill, organic garlic powder, ocean kelp, organic nutmeg, organic cloves, organic cayenne pepper, organic tamari soya sauce (water, organic soya beans, sea salt).

Doesn't that sound good? A bargain, too.

PS re-reading this, I'm amazed at that average figure: I eat the most baked beans in this household, at about four tins a year - there must be people on a tin a day.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The speaking of the tree

My father spent part of the second world war in the American desert, training pilots. He came home with a lifelong love of America and its people. He always used to say that Americans could be trusted to elect the right man (sorry, generational thing) for president. Actually, he didn't say it in 2004, and I didn't hear him say it this time round. I haven't thought it for a while, either. I should say that I do now.

This morning seems the moment for Maya Angelou's healing words: History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

Here she is reading the whole of The Pulse of Morning at Bill Clinton's inauguration, her hypnotic voice speaking equally for us all:

So much to think about this glad morning, here it is in full:

On the Pulse of Morning, by Maya Angelou


A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.


But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.


You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words


Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.


Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song. It says,
Come, rest here by my side.


Each of you, a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.
The River sang and sings on.


There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.


They hear the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside the River.


Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you,
Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of
Other seekers -- desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot,
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought,
Sold, stolen, arriving on the nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am that Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours -- your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.


Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.


Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands,
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For a new beginning.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.


The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.


Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope --
Good morning.