foraging

In a journey towards less, there is more to contend with than removing things from your home.  You must also consider how and why you let things into your home, and indeed your life in general.

I have long been a supermarket avoider.  I am one of the founder members of The Durham Local Food Network, and have over the years made my own  butter, cheese, soap, shampoo, furniture polish, cleaning products, face creams as well as the more usual, preserves, breads, wines, fruit brandies etc.  All were a huge success with the possible exception of butter, which though it tasted delicious was really not worth the effort.  If I had to make all my own butter we would never bake again!

I have always loved foraging. I am not particularly knowledgeable, but have always been eager to learn. I have never poisoned anyone, but there have been some less than successful experiments.  Acorn coffee tasted rather good, but like the butter, was a faff to make.  Adding cleavers to salads enhanced it in my view, but not in that of the rest of the family.  Rowan jelly is delicious after two years, it is vile in year one.

Imagine my delight to discover that the Boss and I were going on a two day coastal foraging course with Rose and Chris Bax and Caco from Taste the Wild.   We went out mushrooming with them in October last year and it was such a fantastic day that when I opened the voucher on Christmas morning I was devastated to realise that I had to wait until August.  It was well worth the wait.

I have pondered whether to give you a blow by blow account in one post or not.    Fearful that some of you might not be able to contain your excitement and could suffer an unexpected early onset life threatening condition through sheer joy I shall sprinkle the reports over the next few weeks.

However, as a small taste of what is to come.

This is me fishing for whiting and cod on “All My Sons” with Sean.  Day one was not a great success for me (though great for the others).  I caught up well enough on day two. On the first evening  I was also suffering from a touch of sea sickness and spent the latter part of the journey, whilst they were emptying the lobster pots, with my eyes firmly fixed on the horizon…

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This is supper on day two… in addition to which we also had two HUGE lobsters, a guarnard, winkles, limpets and some shore crabs.  Anybody recognise anything?!  With the exception of the bread, the salad and salsa verde we caught or foraged all of it.

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I would hazard a guess that depending on where you live, at least half of the “weeds” you are trying to eradicate from your garden you could eat one way or another.

  • chickweed
  • rosebay willow herb
  • fat hen
  • hogweed
  • grape plantain
  • Everlasting sweet pea (NOT the annuals)
  • Ground Ivy

And that doesn’t even begin to include all the things that probably don’t grow in your garden …..

stop

The Singers are 15 next week.  We will be flying to Turkey on their birthday and they are none too pleased.  Not least when they discovered that the Boss has paid extra for two seats with extra leg room because he is fed up of sitting on planes with his knees roughly the same height as his chest.  They (perhaps understandably) thought that as they were flying on their birthday they should have extra leg room.  The fact that they are built like butterflies doesn’t apparently count.

I digress.  We are going on holiday and the Singers are having a birthday.  Consequently we have to go clothes shopping for apparently the rooms that make backstage at London Fashion Week look like a minimalist’s dream, do not contain “a single item of summer clothing.”  I did point out that as they have not been wandering around naked during the current heat wave there must be a few usable pieces.  I was met with the standard teenage sad face. Not the sad I am unhappy face, the sad you are a sad person who really doesn’t understand and clearly was never a teenager and has no idea what being a teenager is like and so on…..

Actually I quite enjoyed it because I didn’t have anything to buy, I just followed them around and marvelled at how they could look drop dead gorgeous in a bin bag.  Shopping for a size 6 willow is a breeze.  It’s going to look fantastic on you whatever it is.

Much planning and mental arithmetic was required.  When you are 14 (okay almost 15) you have limited funds and no access to a credit card (well not in this house anyway).  You cannot buy whatever you want and just “put it on the card”.  You are paying with cash that has been earned or given as a gift.  There were complicated deals that would frazzle the brain of the most devious hedge fund manager juggling swaps and futures.  If one had an advance on their birthday money from Grandad and the other owed me for the ebay shop and the first hadn’t made any ebay purchases but was owed £10 by Dad for the garden work did that cancel the £40 owed to me by the Dancer?  I don’t know either.

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The point is they knew the value of the purchases and they knew precisely how much they could spend (and still have enough to purchase each other a birthday present).  If you pay with cash you are much more thoughtful about how you spend it.  If you pay with plastic you are not.  Granted, turning up at the travel agents to pay in cash for five return flights to LA would probably cause a minor disturbance.  There is a place for plastic.  But too many of us don’t know what that place is.

One of the reasons we have so much clutter in our lives is because we buy things on a whim, with little thought.  We get home and they may be used once or twice but we didn’t really want or need them so they go to the back of the cupboard.  They stay there either because we have forgotten they are there or because of an undercurrent of guilt that since we paid for them we should keep them.

Refusing to let them into the house in the first place is so much easier and a heck of a lot cheaper.  Shop with cash.  If you must keep your plastic in your purse for an emergency hide it.  I keep a £50 note in my purse for emergencies.  It is too big to spend without some thought and in fact I would probably have to go to a bank and get it changed into smaller notes.  It has been there unspent for over three years.  I have never actually needed it.  You don’t need to take the plastic out with you.  Leave it at home.

the list

Sunday is menu planning day.  It makes the rest of the week so much easier and I feel good as if I have ticked off a task but don’t feel as if I have actually done any work.

Menu planning means:

  • no more staring at the fridge or pantry wondering what to eat and serving up baked potatoes or spag bol for the millionth time
  • no more panic (and expensive) runs to the shops because you have “nothing to eat”
  • eating down your supplies, “shopping from home”
  • you have time to try out new recipes and experiment
  • buying less food because you only buy what you need
  • appropriate meals for appropriate days (essential if you have a family of teenagers with activities in the evenings)

What’s not to like?

First check your freezer/fridge/pantry.  Always shop from home first.  What have you got that needs using up.  Make a list and bear that in mind when you get to the meal planning stage.

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Then take you diary.  Yup, your diary.  See the final point above.  You do not want to plan to eat souffle on a night when you are going to have to pick up one child from a music lesson and your husband gets home late from a trip.  That is a baked potato or casserole type of night.  On the other hand if you have a free day and have a great recipe that requires all day marinading or is a bit fiddly, that’s a great time to try it out.

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Now choose a couple of cookery books, or fire up your computer and head for your favourite recipe sites and blogs. This is the fun part.  This week I wanted to use up some chicken thighs and lamb shanks.  I also have a lovely pork joint which we were going to have today until I realised we were going out (see even I get it wrong!).  With that in mind I flicked through the books above and decided upon:

  • Green chicken curry (use up the thighs)
  • mozzarella Focaccia (busy day need something easy)
  • Tangia (free day so can make fiddly marinade)
  • Lime and chilli pasta (going out to drinks party so need quick light food beforehand also children can make theirs fresh later on)
  • Chicken with chilli and lemon (a bit like the previous night so may adapt on the day but liked the recipe)
  • Jerk Pork

There are only six meals because we are going out on Saturday and I’ll let the girls chose what they want on the day.

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As soon as you chose a recipe write next to it the book and the page number (you will forget I promise, I speak from bitter experience) AND check ingredients to see what you need to buy.

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Then construct the shopping list. We also have a blackboard in the kitchen for anyone to write down things that have run out.  So next I add on these. Finally I add on any extras.  For example I have just seen this recipe for Tropical Ice Box Pie  which I am going to try out this week so I need some extra ingredients for that.

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I don’t shop in supermarkets so I group items by shop but if you are a supermarket shopper group the items by the order in which they appear in the shop.  That way you don’t have to go back and forth and you only go down the aisles you need  and helps stop opportunistic buying of stuff you don’t need and is just going to add to the clutter you don’t want.

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Finally pin your list somewhere where you can see it!

You may have noticed what I was writing on.  You could do it online on your phone but as you can see from here, I struggle with that.  I keep all our used envelopes, flyers, letters anything with a blank page and clip them together for shopping lists, messages etc.  I’ll keep the spare square above for next week’s menus.

Now that’s all done I think I may go out and admire my garden before it starts to rain again.

liberation in glasgow

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Glasgow is a wonderful city. It holds a special place in my heart because it is the town to which I moved to get married (we were actually married in Inverness, another city which has wormed deep into my heart) but even without the emotional attachment it is a city with a life, an edge, a history.  I find Edinburgh rather cold, a little too concerned about the length of its skirt, the cut of its hair and frankly too full of Anglo Scots who pop on a kilt for the odd wedding and thus claim descent from Robert the Bruce.

The Boss and I once went to a party not far from Linlithgow.  Everybody else there was coming from Edinburgh.  They were all perfectly charming but several confessed conspiratorily to us that apparently there was a couple coming from Glasgow – did we know them?  We revealed ourselves but assured them that we had left our second heads andI murderous weapons behind.  I rest my case, the best thing to come out of Edinburgh is the M8.

However, this is not a travel blog.  Earlier this week the Boss and I were up in Glasgow to see The Other Boss at Hampden Park.  It was a fabulous evening from the little girl in Roganos on Buchanan showing off her party dress and the mum with twins who wanted to know what they would be like when they grew up (expensive), to the couple who shared a taxi with us (the queue for the train was practically over the Kingston Bridge) and wouldn’t take a penny from us to the Keeper from Aberfeldy we met in the bar back at our hotel and talked salmon with the Boss and of course the concert, all three and three quarters of an hour of it was magic.

The afternoon beforehand and the morning after before we got on our train home we pottered around some of our old haunts.  We walked down streets we had last pounded when we were footlose and fancy free.  We marvelled at some developments and were saddened by some streets that had lost their glory.  We window shopped.  That’s not strictly true, we went inside plenty of shops but apart from the shoes I had no desire to buy.  I could appreciate beauty and form, practicality and design but I didn’t want any of it.  I didn’t need it.

Like a binger who ate just one doughnut too many I couldn’t face another purchase of something I didn’t really need.  Yes the Liberty print dress in the Hospice shop was beautiful and a steal at £15 but I don’t need it.  I have plenty of perfectly lovely dresses already and my one in one out policy would necessitate giving away a perfectly good dress.

I didn’t even look at the second hand books.  In the great clear out I discovered so many books I had bought and forgotten that I don’t need any new books.  Not until I have read the ones I already have and passed them on to new homes.

It was liberating.