Being fat

picture from obesityfacts.co.uk
picture from obesityfacts.co.uk

India Knight’s column in today’s Sunday Times is about fat people. I commented positively on it on Twitter and got some response that amply shows how tender a spot overweight is.

India’s point is that overweight is something that can actually be reversed. She attacks the new “fat lobby” for wanting to completely disclaim any responsibility for their own situation. In California, a law prevents doctors from mentioning to their obese patients that losing weight could save their lives. These lobbyists want the same kind of law here. Furthermore, school teachers, nurses, dieticians etc., should not be allowed to mention it to the parents when their children are severely obese. They also lobby for the right not to be bullied or beaten up because they are fat. That’s obviously nonsense – bullying is everywhere and about everything and no law can prevent it. I can’t think of anybody who sanctions bullying – not India Knight either, although she writes that an extremely overweight person shouldn’t fall off his chair in wonderment when people stare at him. As to campaigning for the right not to be beaten – well, as far as I know, beating people up is illegal, no matter what the reason.

I’m not exactly a lightweight myself – a size 14 on a good day, 16 on a bad. I’ve been like this more or less since I stopped smoking 12 years ago. Before that I was thin as a reed. I have an end weight, not far from my present weight. I’m not ever going to weigh so much that I can’t buy my clothes in a “normal” clothes shop. And I don’t want to be so big that I become a burden to people around me and to society. Happily a new study has come out recently that claims that my kind of overweight is good. And I’m perfectly capable of curbing my eating for a period to shed a few pounds when I hit my weight ceiling. But it seems that I can’t be bothered to go the extra mile and lose the stone or two that would bring me down to a comfortable size 12. Point is, however, I know exactly what to do and don’t even need a book. For me it’s not about more veg, more fibre, less dangerous fats. It’s painfully simple. Eat less (& no wine). But unfortunately, it is just not that simple for the huge group of obese people who are a threat to themselves and to the health economy.

The number one problem with the whole discussion about obesity is namely, and India Knight fails to mention it, that obesity has become – like smoking – mainly a problem for the poor and uneducated. Whereas my overweight is the result of too great a love for cooking and good food (and I believe it’s the same for many roundish people of the upper- and aspiring classes) and therefore can be kept in check, their overweight is the result of a poor diet and total lack of understanding of the relationship between action and consequence in the food area. This kept well in check by the poor and uneducated’s preferred news sources and peddlers of confusion and fear, The Daily Mail, The Sun and Sky News.

Around me I see people with food/overweight-related health issues and I also see how they are usually in total denial about their own responsibility for their predicament. And furthermore, which is quite contrary to what the fat-lobby claims, mentioning that people could change their eating habits to get better is totally taboo.

What gets me more than anything is people who allow their little children to become severely obese and then won’t accept an offer of help. In my son’s old school (state primary) there was a girl in his class who was extremely fat. Her younger brother was the same – children of 8 and 6. The mother wasn’t particularly overweight and another mother told me that she had been on a diet, she’d previously been as fat as her children. How on earth can she put herself before her children like that? And my son informed me that they had some of the most unhealthy packed lunches in the whole school; and that’s saying something! Yes, the mother was working class and yes, their budget clearly limited. But bags of crisps, packets of cheese strings and packs of cookies are not cheap. And if she could put herself on a diet and lose 5-6 stone, what on earth prevented her from taking her children with her? Was she so dumb that she felt sorry for the children if they had to eat veg and no cookies like herself? I was told that there was nothing the school could do – not even preventing the mother from excusing the girl from PE!

Which is why I think that silence and “acceptance” in this area will not work. But I don’t believe in shaming either. I read somewhere that a school had decided to stop selling cakes at school events to curb obesity. That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve heard in a very long time. Obesity can only be fought by education and by taxing all prefab and semi prefab food with a sugar and/or fat content above x %. It is ridiculous that some of the very cheapest food items in the supermarket are also the most unhealthy! Jamie Oliver was right, right, right, when he tried to introduce proper food in schools and a love of cooking and ingredients. I have no doubt that for each person who learns to cook and to love and appreciate real food, there’ll be one person less to burden our health system with massive self-inflicted health problems. Have I told you about the boy from Dane’s old school who didn’t recognise a boiled egg?

The persons I mentioned above with food/overweight-related health issues all have one thing in common. They cannot cook and don’t have a clue about nutrition.

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Inspirational void

Not finding inspiration and time to write here is probably a downside of being on Twitter with incredibly talented writers, often able to express something profound in 140 characters. And also having Twitter as a daily outlet for speculations, wonder and anger over things that pass in the world. But I’ll try to up my presence here – not least because I want to get back into the good habit of writing something – almost anything – every day.

For an easy start I’ll publish the recipe for Danish meatballs, Frikadeller, as recklessly promised on Twitter a few days ago. It’s slightly adapted from my favourite Danish cookbook writer Camilla Plum’s version:

To feed four hungry people or six less hungry ones:

Frikadeller

Picture from Wikipedia
Picture from Wikipedia

500-700 gr minced pork. Ideally veal, but the British don’t really do veal much. Traditional Danish recipe calls for half’n’half.

1 tbsp of Maldon seasalt

2 slices of bread, crust removed (good quality sourdough bread gives extra flavour) soaked in

3 dl milk for 1/2 hour or so

1 big or 2 small onions, grated or whizzed in food processor (the smaller the children, the more whizzing needed)

1 large egg

A sprinkling of thyme or other dried Mediterranean herbs. Must NOT be overpowering.

Pepper

Put mince in mixer with salt and mix for at least 10 minutes. This is important, as it changes structure of mince and makes it easier to fry later. Same goes for beef patties btw. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix some more. Consistency must be so you can easily form “frikadeller” with a spoon, i.e. fairly moist. Add more milk if necessary.

Fry in BUTTER and plenty of it. If you don’t want to use butter, don’t bother. Frikadeller fried in substitute or – even worse – oil are no good. Which is one of the reasons I only make them once a year or so.

Use a normal tablespoon to avoid the frikadeller becoming too big. Dip it in the melted butter before starting on the mixture, thus avoiding it sticking to the spoon.

Fry at medium heat till nice and brown on both sides. It takes a while. Don’t fill the frying pan up, there must be some space between the meatballs. When you add a little pressure to a meatball and it “feels like rubber”, it’s done. If it’s soft, needs more cooking.

Serving suggestion: Potatoes and parsnips, cubed and cooked in oven for 20-30 minutes and The Quickest & Nicest Way to Eat Cauliflower: Separate cauliflower florets and blanche quickly in boiling, salted water. Drain. Mix 3-4 tbsp tomato puree with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp sesame seeds and 1 tsp cumin seeds and 1/2 salted lemon. If no salted lemons around, choose pickled or nothing. Add florets and mix well. Spread out on baking sheet and cook in oven with the potatoes for the last 15-20 minutes. This is also adapted from Ms. Plum’s recipe.

Only downside about this combo is the colouring – all sort of reddish brown. So maybe add some mange tout or a wee bit of salad on the side.

Wikipedia’s entry on Frikadeller is quite entertaining. I giggle over the way even the most profane things have their own entry.

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Not many clever thoughts flitter through my head these days

– so this is about food.

After having used more or less the same bread recipe for the last ten years, I’ve now reverted to the famous No-Knead-Bread, popularised by my favourite food writer Mark Bittman. He uses yeast – I prefer not to, or at least only a tiny little bit. To avoid using yeast you have to have a starter (sour) dough. Either you make it yourself – no difficult thing, google it, choose easiest option. In my experience there’s not a huge difference between a complicated and an easy starter dough. The good starter/sour dough is an “old” one – which of course means that it’s been re-used for years, not that it’s been hanging around the fridge for years…

If you’ve never worked with starter-doughs, here’s how it works: First time round you either make one or take out a dollop of dough when you bake a bread with yeast. Store it in airtight container in fridge. It will last up to 10-14 days. You can always refresh a tired sour dough by taking it out of the fridge, take the lid off, add a little natural yoghurt, stir, leave. When it starts bubbling, it’s ready again. Use the starter instead of yeast. Remember to always take a fresh starter from your new bread dough after you’ve raised it the first time.

The No-Knead-Bread is below in the Youtube version, here in a more conventional way.

And while you’re over at NYT, check out this super-easy recipe for homemade flavoured olive oils. I made one with lemon the other day. If you want to make a whole bottle, you’ll need 2-3 lemons. Peel carefully to avoid too much of the bitter white. Follow recipe.

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Something to be thankful for? (and Aristotle for kids)

After using new Netvibes tools to arrange all the blogs I follow into neat groups, easy to sort through, I’ve hardly looked at them. The reason is the same as for not writing anything here. So today I thought I should have a quick look through them and see if there’s anything worth recommending. And of course there is. Lots.

Blogging

My favourite economist Tyler Cowen meets another favourite of mine, Happiness-blogger Gretchen Rubin IRL. He teases us with their discussion subjects, but ends post with this, which I find very promising for when I’ll someday meet some of my blogger-favourites myself:

I have never once met a person whose blog I like and then been disappointed.  Never.

Children

Another economist (author of Parentonomics) obviously writes a lot about parenting. He recommends this post, which is one of the best I’ve ever read about children. It’s about how to teach them to argue well. And yes, we DO want to teach them that. If you have children, read it, read it, read it.

Happiness

A blogger who tethers between economy and politics is Chris Dillow. He has an interesting and intriguing post about happiness, one of my pet subjects.

Food

On the very, very important subject of food, I’ve just finished reading this absolutely mouthwatering post about Southern (We’re talking about the Southern US here) food prepared in a Northern kind of way. Oh me oh my; for a person who was in culinary heaven while travelling the US South and particularly in New Orleans, this post will inspire to quite a few meals around here. What do you say to Garlic Bread Pudding? I say YES.

Via one of my favourite food writers, Mark Bittman, is here a little treat to go with barbecued greens: Chili oil.

On being a woman, a mum, a person

Quite a while ago Tania Kindersley wrote the most beautiful and poetic post about what we do when a bad mood strikes. Except that I could never hope to write such adorable prose it echoes what I often think myself on these matters. How I wonder where the bad mood came from, what to do to expell it or even if I should (when not affecting others, of course). Tania has taken time off from her blog and Twitter and I must say, I truly miss her! Btw Tania, I was thinking we should also reflect on those days when we wake up in a great mood, equally inexplicably. That’s one of my favourite experiences of daily life -when you suddenly find that your spirits are high and the world looks like a friendly place. Where did it come from? We might never know. But I’m thankful.

The debate about working mums contra stay-at-home mums is still roaring. Here are three prominent voices: Sarah Vine in the Times. A fuming reply from “Potty Mummy”, a stay-at-home mum and a reply to this from Times editor Jennifer Howse on the Times Alpha Mummy blog. (Don’t bother with the comments, they are depressing, I just hate it when women are so poisonous against each other).

I am an in-betweener. I work, but I do it at home and often I don’t do much of it. But I would never choose to be a stay-at-home mum for the sole sake of my children. Although I love to cook and bake cupcakes, I’m just not the type. And I hate, HATE cleaning. I don’t entertain my children, I’m lousy at keeping up with their homework, I always try to wriggle out of playing board games etc. etc. And excursions never EVER go to kiddy entertainment places, but invariably to National Trust properties, Good Long Walks or museums etc. etc. I find it difficult to relate to many of the issues raised by the stay-at-home mums of my acquaintance, as I find them boring, quite simply. And I worry that they over-protect and overwhelm their children with their presence.

But I’m glad that I don’t have to go to work every day, because I do get to pick up son after school and chat with him, I do get to sit down with him and do something he wants, I do get to watch his TV favourites over his shoulder and I do get to make sure that he eats good and varied meals (almost) every day. And I don’t have to live in constant panic of him falling ill (which is probably why he never does).

But I can certainly relate to some of the points raised by Sarah Vine – the total lack of social status, the complete invisibility at social gatherings, the lack of a social life (besides Twitter…). I thoroughly miss the social status my job used to give me and it’s no use claiming that I don’t. But I don’t miss the stress of office life, the (sometimes) awful malice of other women, the struggle to live with a boss who’s just not that bright…

Bottom line I guess is same old, same old. You can’t have it all. So sit back and enjoy what you do have, while you still have it. Veeeery philosophical and not even very profound, I know. But that’s me.

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Silence is now officially broken

Am now back, don’t know yet if it’s with a vengeance, but it’s with something very innocent, namely a food recipe.

First I’ll just tell you briefly what’s been going on in the meantime:

I haven’t been well – will get back to that later, if I don’t end up deeming it too private/boring for the public eye.

I wrote my Bachelor dissertation with my friend Mikkel. Here’s a picture of it…

Name means: Why dont they just go and do it?
Titel means: Why don't they just go and do it?

We had a Bar Mitzvah in the family. Great big party for a lovely boy. Here’s a picture of the rabbi’s legs:

Cool shoes, dont you think?
Cool shoes, don't you think?

We also had a wedding in the family. The reception was at our house. The happy couple wants to keep the pictures private, so here’s a picture of me and young Dane on the day:

It was such a beautiful day!
It was such a beautiful day!

And my older son Emil has been visiting, so blogging was sort of bottom of the list, you see!

We went for a walk at Winkworth Arboretum
We went for a walk at Winkworth Arboretum

Oh yes, and it was young son’s 8th b’day. Here’s a picture of the cakes and the rolls, which we served on the day.

Traditional bday rolls as per family recipe
Avocado/Strawberry b'day layer cake
Traditional Danish bday rolls as per family recipe
Traditional Danish b'day rolls as per family recipe

And for the patient Twitterati is here finally the recipe for:

Avocado/strawberry layer cake – ideal for summer b’days

You’ll need a plain sponge cake, which you’ll then split in three for each cake. Either bake or order at baker’s.

Per cake you’ll need approximately:

2 avocados, must be ripe
2 pounds of strawberries
icing sugar
2 unwaxed lemons
1/2 l double cream
inside of 1/2 – 1 vanilla pod

This cake can be made the evening before if you 1) have room in your fridge 2) wait with decorating the top till just before serving. It gets better that way, the gooey strawberry mash soaks nicely into the sponge…

Have the sponges at the ready with bottom ones on cake platters.

Make avocado cream: Put avocado flesh, icing sugar (a little to begin with, add to taste), lemon juice & vanilla into blender and mix. When thoroughly mixed, add cream. Hold some back to make sure you get the right consistency. It must be like quite thick cream.

Now make strawberry mash. Use half the berries, mash them with icing sugar. Again, use sugar to taste.

Slice the rest of the strawberries in 3-4 lengthwise, keep some which you only halve for decorating the sides.

Now you’re ready to make the cake:

With a spatula, spread a layer of strawberry mash onto bottom layer. A layer of avocado cream goes on top. Then a layer of sliced strawberries in a nice pattern. Repeat with second layer. If you’re making the cake a day ahead, finish with top bit of sponge, film and stick in fridge. Avocado cream must be in airtight container in fridge.

Next day just before serving, you decorate your cake with more avocado cream and more strawberries. Depending on occasion, you can now decorate with candles etc. or for a more grown-up feel with strawberries or redcurrants on the stalks, dipped in egg white and then dusted with icing sugar. Very pretty. These need to rest on kitchen towels for a few hours before they are ready.

Thanks to Danish chef, food writer, organics pioneer & chief feminist Camilla Plum for this lovely and original recipe!

On Twitter I promised @titianred a recipe for Italian style potato pizza. It’s here (you’ll have to read all of it to get to the potato part).

This one is with artichoke hearts
This one is with artichoke hearts
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There's nothing a brain scan won't reveal

Science:

Activity in Caudate Nucleus (a part of our brain) predicts our choices. That’s another part of our brain that seems to be moored in the hunter/gather era of humanity, because the study shows that the brain pushes our choice towards the one with the largest perceived reward.

This is funny! Apparently, there’s very little you can’t see on brain scans. For instance, you can predict blunders! Seems like life would be different (easier?) if we could walk around with brain scanners on our heads all the time…

When romantically inclined, we don’t want to follow the crowd. It’s the other way ’round when we’re scared.

IQ:

A brain scan can show IQ?

Children:

When discussing how we bring up our children and feminism issues with friends and family I’m always arguing that 1) We must answer questions about sex when put to us by our children, in an honest and close-to-the-truth way, according to their age. If we don’t they’ll know how to get the information from other sources, which might not be as credible. They WILL get the information! And 2) that men and women will never be equal as long as the porn industry is as skewed as it is. When boys and girls see the average porn flick or magazine, they get a sadly stereotypical impression of sexuality. Finally a programme on Channel 4 (and not just yet another study by a feminist psychologist) shows how youngsters get their “knowledge” about sex: Porn. Think about that, parents, before you snub another sex-related question from your children out of misplaced modesty.

Told you so… Extra-curricular activities and good social skills in high school will benefit you later in life.

This story was all over Twitter yesterday. When your toddler doesn’t respond to your REPEATED instructions, it’s not because they’re not listening. They’re just storing it for later. What I don’t understand then, is what happens with bigger children? Maybe they are just storing the instructions for MUCH later?

Health:

Education slows down the spreading of HIV in Sub-Saharan countries. Read the interesting description of how, in the beginning of the epidemic, the disease spread fastest among educated males, because they had more leisure time and money to provide them greater access to commercial sex workers. Notice this new euphemism for prostitutes… Where did that come from?

A cure for Herpes. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Politics:

Why is it that politicians from all over the Western world aren’t queueing to scold Putin and his puppets for these killings? Russia actually claims to be a democratic country and wants a place among the world’s leading nations!

For a nation that embraces countries like China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan etc. it’s about time they loosen up towards Cuba.

Food:

Recipes on Twitter… I’ve just added a host of twittering chefs to my stream. Inspiration is everything when you’re the one left to do the everyday cooking!

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Musings before Mother's Day

Feminism:

It being Mother’s Day tomorrow, the Times has asked six women, mainly writers, to write a letter to their children at 21 (they all have young children) or to share the advice of their own mothers. Some of these letters are so, so beautiful. I didn’t just well up, I had to go and get a clean hanky out of the drawer. I like Sarah Vine’s and Justine Picardie‘s the best. Found on Tania Kindersley’s brand new blog.

The Times has also compiled a list of the most powerful Muslim women in Britain. An interesting read!

So, at 49, I’ve finally found a word that defines me: Geek Mum

Olivia James writes a very poignant piece about Mother’s Day. Read it if you have a troubled relationship with your own mother!

Food:

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a weekly food column in the Guardian. If it wasn’t online I’d feel compelled to buy the paper every Saturday. Actually, I might do that anyway, the Weekend Guardian is a very good paper, lots of sustenance! Today it’s about flour. Also one of my pet causes. I buy almost all my flour freshly milled at the Farmers Market, not least the lovely spelt. It’s a totally different experience from the supermarket stuff. Hugh forgets to mention cornmeal – not the dreary stuff that you buy to thicken your gravy, but the real stuff. I use it in muffins, which then look beautiful and yellowish and as one of three types of flour in my sourdough bread.

Sourdough bread & cake with muscovado sugar, cinnamon & courgettes.
Sourdough bread & cake with muscovado sugar, cinnamon & courgettes.

I’ve promised Tania Kindersley to publish my recipe for Panzanella. It’s from The Blue River Café Cook Book. I hope they won’t sue me for copyright infringement…

Panzanella – serves 6:

  • 3 stale ciabatta loaves
  • 1 kg fresh, plum tomatoes, chopped, seeds removed, save juices (key to recipe is the tomatoes actually tasting of something)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed (I always dump them in boiling water for a bit to take the top of the “sting”)
  • Maldon sea salt (or similar) & freshly ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 3 red peppers – grilled until black & skinned, then chopped
  • 2 fresh chillies – not necessary
  • 100 gr salted, large capers
  • 100 gr salted anchovies (these can be ground to a paste and mixed with the dressing)
  • 150 gr black, pitted olives
  • 1 large bunch of basil

Cut the bread (preferably stale) into bite-sized chunks. Mix all “wet” ingredients and toss the bread chunks in this. Mix all ingredients. Don’t serve cold.

Science:

Also in the Guardian, Ben Goldacre again crucifies a number of journalists for their faulty and misleading interpretations of a scientific paper about prostate cancer.

I’ll never stop recommending TED. Probably the best source of ideas on the web. It never, never fails to inspire and to lift my spirits. Here’s about how to grow your own fresh air… What to do when you DO NOT have green fingers?

Tech:

A lot of people are – as usual – angry with the new design of Facebook. Maybe I’m easy, but I’m fine with it… Here’s one who doesn’t like it, but makes a good joke of it.

Here are some very useful tips about how to customise the new Facebook. I’ve already done it – I have some FB friends whose updates are rather boring, to be frank. But I still want to keep them as friends. Done!

I don’t find any reason whatsoever to doubt this story about the GRU and the FSB in Russia using cyber “weapons” against Georgia in the war. But then I’m not a great fan of the Russian Leadership.

Oh yes, and as an Iphone owner I’m thrilled to bits by this. Can’t believe I forgot to write about it earlier!

Politics:

An American soldier tells the moving story of when he accompanied a fallen soldier to his final resting place. Very touching and also enlightning. The Americans are good at honouring their fallen. Would be nice if they were as good – or even better – at honouring the wounded and crippled.

Here’s about the methods of torture applied by the CIA. You know, the ones sanctioned by John Yoo, as mentioned yesterday.

This sounds like a good plan. Geithner reveals how the US will deal with its toxic assets.

See, here’s what sets a respectable Republican apart from one you can’t respect. Please Sarah Palin, can’t you just go elk hunting forever?

How can this and this take place in the same country at the same time? It’s about the right to life on the one hand and the right to a dignified death on the other.

With a few exceptions, which are from my RSS reader, all of the above were harvested over 24 hours on Twitter. So don’t tell me twittering is a waste of time.

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News from the world

I’m afraid you’ll see many posts from me in the future looking like this. Since I started twittering I just seem to come across even more interesting things than ever before.

What about this kid, who donated his birthday presents to children in the Third World?

Technology:

More about children online. When reading this, please take into account who paid for this survey. Symantec. They want us to worry. But I still think it’s true that our children spend more time online than we’re aware of. The advice in the article is good and precise.

Why you (don’t) need Twitter. It’s funny.

Very Twitteristic: How to ReTweet better. Good idea.

Winners of the Bloggies 2009, announced at SXSW. I love this one. But it makes me hungry…

Watch whom you trust with your online security.

Fantastic Firefox plugin that shows just how far we’ve come on the web. Thank you to Gissisim.

Children’s freedom:

A mother is reported to the police for letting her 10-year old walk to soccer practice. OK, this is in the US, but still?

Feminism:

This would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. In a recession, equal pay is unthinkable. I wonder what else is unthinkable in a recession?

Politics:

Some Republicans have understood what the majority of Americans were trying to say when they voted for Obama. Others haven’t.

Black women entering the White House in unprecedented numbers.

Don’t get smart with us, Dicky, says Obama press secretary.

EU is rasing the bar on climate change. But not for us. For “the others” (=developing world). Shame on us!

Health:

Best medicine at cheapest price. Conservative Americans claim that this is “European” – i.e. socialist practice. Read the interesting discussion, fuelled by a post in Obama’s stimulus package to fund research in this area.

IQ:

Passing it on. Possibly the brightest kid on the planet right now. I’m glad he’s not mine. Not sure it’s a blessing!

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Powerless

At 9 o’clock this morning the power went. Not just in our flat, but in the entire neighbourhood. And it stayed off long enough (around 2 1/2 hours) to make itself felt. What was there left to do? Mobile phone still worked, so could talk, text and also browse web, post on Facebook and Twitter. But that’s not really what I want to do between 9-11, which is normally my most productive time of the day. So I went to the gym, which is far enough away so it wasn’t hit by the outage. On coming home, the power was back on – and so was the heating, brrr it got cold very, very quickly! We have central heating, but that too needs electricity!

A good chair, a warm shawl, something worthwhile to read and a nice cup of tea...
A good chair, a warm shawl, something worthwhile to read and a nice cup of tea...

Husband and I talked about what we REALLY need, how we would enjoy – or not – living in a more frugal society, if that indeed becomes the reality as predicted by James Lovelock.

In such a life we wouldn’t be entirely without electricity but would have to prioritise what we want to use the limited amount on. Main priorities:

Heating (incl. hot water), light, fridge, computer, Internet access, washing machine.

Picture from Agathyme.com
Picture from Agathyme.com

Although it would be quite a change, we believe we could live happily with a gas fired AGA, which would produce heat in addition to food (besides taking up half the space in the kitchen…). I already bake all bread myself, so would just have to get friendly with the AGA. Electric kettle, toaster, Kitchen Aid & hand mixer, microwave, clothes dryer, dishwasher, hair dryer, electric razor, TV, DVD-player, game consoles, stereo etc. we decided that we could live without. Some with more regret than others. The computers, the mobile phones and the digital cameras could all be charged via some of the better solar chargers out there.

If we had our own house and garden, we could have solar panels on the roof and probably generate enough power to heat the water we needed. Also, we could grow our own vegetables, we did that in our house in Denmark. Besides being enjoyable, the veg tastes better and it’s healthier. If we also had a greenhouse, we’d be able to prolong the season a lot.

Most houses and flats today come without a larder. For the younger readers I’ll explain that a larder is a smallish (or big, in a big house) cool and dry place where you store foodstuffs. If you had a larder, you’d only need a fridge half the size of the ones we have today, because lots of the things we put in the fridge, don’t need temperatures that low. It’s only really milk products, fish and meat that need such low temperatures.

Could go on like this, I guess, but what’s my point? My main point is probably that we’re so d… lucky to live in such affluence where everything we need comes out of sockets, taps, shops etc. All we need to do is pay… And as long as we have the money, we pay, but maybe we don’t think enough about the other kinds of currency we’re using when we gluttonously devour all the things on offer?

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Merry Christmas everyone

Our own little toothless nisse (elf).
Our own little toothless "nisse" (elf).

I’ve written a Christmas letter – I do that every year – and added it to my blog as a page. If you scroll up a wee bit, you’ll see the word letter. Press that if you feel inclined to read a recount of the last year in our family. Don’t feel you have to :-)

Dane and I have just finished baking cookies. And pastry for more cookies tomorrow is in the fridge. A huge turkey is resting in my neighbour’s fridge – ours is just not big enough! I’m not cooking it for our own Christmas dinner (which is on the 24th. We’re Danish, you know!), but for the big Christmas thingy at David’s sister’s house on Christmas Day. We’ll be so many that we need two turkeys. Difficult to fit two turkeys, roast potatoes etc. etc. into one – or even two – ovens! I’ll use this recipe from Videojug. Then it can’t go wrong!

Unfortunately I can’t enjoy a totally relaxed Christmas, because I have to deliver a paper on January the 5th. Next year I won’t be a student and there won’t be a paper to deliver – can’t wait! I’m really late with that paper due to two unforeseen trips to Copenhagen. But I think it’s coming together nevertheless, so I’m sort of medium optimistic…

Dane is helping me with the presents, he’s just wrapped at least ten and is begging me to let him wrap his own present: “I promise I won’t look or shake the box” he says.

A not-so-good photo of our fireplace
A not-so-good photo of our fireplace

Tomorrow my oldest son Emil arrives around midday and then we’ll go food shopping. He loves that :-D        We have allready bought all the boring, trivial stuff, so what’s left is just all the nice convenience food and chocolate and stuff. All of the 24th we’ll just lounge around the fire and watch the telly and EAT. If we’re VERY energetic we might play a game of Monopoly or even venture out for a walk!

Until my paper is done, there won’t be many posts here, I’m afraid. I’ve forbidden myself to look at my feed reader, so the only inspiration I get is from real life. And since I hardly get out of the door these days, it isn’t much!

In the meantime – enjoy lovely holidays and be good to one another. Please!

Earlier this month we went to Wisley to meet Father Christmas. On the way we met this citrus Snowman
Earlier this month we went to Wisley to meet Father Christmas. On the way we met this citrus Snowman
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Life goes on and food is a recurring theme…

For a long time I’ve been promising myself to go on the look-out for some British blogs to follow. Now that I’m here and all. For reasons I can’t fathom I’ve just never serendipitously come across one I liked – except the Alphamummy one on The Times. So today I went searching on Google blog search and put “uk” at the end of a list of subjects I like to read about. And dear me – there’s not enough time in the world. I’ll just have to jump around for a while and figure out which ones hold water in the long run.

Very quickly I stumbled over one which had a food meme. As my readers will know – I’m quite keen om memes (agree with one of the bloggers – memes are just right for us professional procrastinators) and even more keen on the subject of FOOD. So below find a revealing list of foodstuffs, which I’ve tasted and not tasted, liked and not liked. A remarkable number of the 100 items I had to look up. I do have the excuse of not having grown up in this country (or in the US), but I’m still surprised and somewhat embarrassed about the number of foodstuffs out there that I still haven’t tasted or even knew about.

Anyway, here goes:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

1. Venison – yes, certainly.
2. Nettle tea – in eternal search for the perfect tea. Nettle wasn’t it.
3. Huevos rancheros – yes, several times in Texas. I couldn’t remember the name though. And I don’t like refried beans.
4. Steak tartare – oh yes, staple luxury lunch item in Denmark in my childhood and youth. Has gone completely out of fashion, probably because of the salmonella problems, we’ve had in Denmark. Nobody ever touches a raw egg any more.
5. Crocodile – I expected to come across it on a menu in Australia, but don’t recall doing so.
6. Black pudding – Another staple dish from my childhood. I hated it as a child and haven’t touched it since.
7. Cheese fondue – Why?
8. Carp – Don’t like freshwater fish.
9. Borscht – yes. A bit heavy for my taste.
10. Baba ghanoush – yummy. (It’s a warm and spicy eggplant dish)
11. Calamari – yes. The small ones. And not pickled.
12. Pho – yes, in lovely Vietnamese restaurant somewhere in Greater Sydney. Nice.
13. PB&J sandwich – no never. But my mother always made me PB&H sandwiches. H for Honey. Lovely. Haven’t got my kids to eat it though – they don’t like peanut butter!!???
14. Aloo gobi – YEP – I even make it myself occasionally. (Indian spicy potatoes)
15. Hot dog from a street cart – in New York because you just have to. And in Copenhagen when very late, very drunk, very hungry, very young…
16. Epoisses – yes. It only really goes at those very special occasions where the wine, the company, the bisquits etc. all come together…
17. Black truffle – yes. And I was not impressed.
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes – I think most Danes have in their youth. Cherry wine was really big (and cheap). Most Danes have also said: “Never again!”
19. Steamed pork buns – only once. Didn’t do anything for me.
20. Pistachio ice cream – Don’t like it.
21. Heirloom tomatoes – as other bloggers, I didn’t know what that meant. But I think I must have tasted them, since my husband and I had a tomato craze a couple of years back. We went to tomato tastings, had 10 different sorts in our greenhouse and drove for miles to buy special tomatoes… It’s over now, the craze ;-)
22. Fresh wild berries – well, yes. I pity those who haven’t. We had raspberry bushes and blueberry bushes in our garden and I went out and picked every morning in the season for our breakfast. And one of the loveliest memories I have of my late mother is us picking blueberries together in Dalarna in the middle of Sweden on a crisp morning in early autumn. It was a real blueberry year, so I had berries in the freezer a long time after. Blueberry muffins, ahh.
23. Foie gras – yes. And shamelessly I absolutely love it.
24. Rice and beans – oh yeah, we’ve been to Costa Rica. They eat very little else there.
25. Brawn or Head Cheese – no, and I hope I never will!
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper – yes. Went to a chili tasting once. A gentleman at our table freaked out completely. I believe he’d thought all chillies were like the tame ones you get in most supermarkets.
27. Dulce de leche – yes. Brings back lovely memories of Mediterranean holidays.
28. Oysters – yes. And I really like them. Particularly grilled and spiced up like in New Orleans.
29. Baklava – yes. Veeeery sweet…
30. Bagna cauda – had to look that one up. Will try and go for one of those next time we’re in Italy! Looks really nice, even if I’m not much of a fondue person.
31. Wasabi peas – oh yes. Love them. The family hates them.
32. Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bowl – No. But would like to.
33. Salted Lassi – don’t like lassi. Salted or not.
34. Sauerkraut – horrible. Honestly.
35. Root beer float – what’s that again?
36. Cognac – yep. Lots.
37. Clotted Cream Tea – Oh, yes. The original kind down in Cornwall. Yummy.
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O – oh no. And it will never happen.
39. Gumbo – yes. Home made in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
40. Oxtail – yes yes yes. It’s a lovely wintry dish, which I used to make once a year. But I’ve run out of people who’ll eat it. Why can’t you eat the tail, when you can eat practically everything else?
41. Curried goat – yes. Goat is so totally underestimated.
42. Whole insects – probably. Happens frequently when you bicycle.
43. Phaal – never tried anything hotter than the Vindaloo. But I’m game! (had to look it up)

44. Goat’s milk – yes. Prefer it as cheese.

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more – yes – my husband used to have a thing about malt whisky. It has now developed into a thing about red wine.

46. Fugu (aka pufferfish) – no. Good arguments for why I should?
47. Chicken tikka masala – who hasn’t except vegans?
48. Eel – yes. Another staple dish from my youth in Denmark. Smoked or fried is good but enormously rich. Used to be able to stomach it, but no more. Eel in jelly is disgusting.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed donut – no. I thoroughly dislike both the name and the logo of Krispy Kreme, so would never venture in there or buy a product with their ugly logo on it. And besides I’m not much for donuts.
50. Sea urchin – yes. Not horrible. But not a delicacy to my palate.
51. Prickly pear – yes.
52. Umeboshi – apparently a salty Japanese fruit. No, haven’t tasted that.
53. Abalone – not knowingly :-/   but wouldn’t mind trying. I like most seafood.
54. Paneer – don’t think I have (it’s a kind of cheese)
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal – yes, I admit it. My oldest son used to love McD, but no more. And the young one dislikes it with a vengeance.
56. Spaetzle – Yes. Don’t particularly like them.
57. Dirty gin martini – Uhm. Is there any other way?
58. Beer above 8% ABV – yukkk! My first husband drank these. Besides becoming unpleasantly dizzy after drinking just one, I dislike the pungent sweetness they often have.
59. Poutine – if you, like me, don’t know what it is, click on the link and be disgusted!
60. Carob chips – yes, they were quite fashionable at some point in time in my youth.
61. S’mores – Oh, Americans…
62. Sweetbreads – yes. Not my favourite thing. Probably an acquired taste.
63. kaolin – anti-diahrrea mixture…
64. Currywurst – not as bad as it sounds…
65. Durian – I would probably have remembered if I had…
66. Frogs’ legs – yes. Prefer chicken any time.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake – yes. Prefer the smaller crunchy ones to the large fatty ones.
68. Haggis – Unless a trusted person recommends it, I’ll probably try to stay away from this dish.
69. Fried plantain – On every menu in Costa Rica. Not bad, but dryish…
70. Chitterlings – nah, thanks, but no thanks.
71. Gazpacho – Make it myself every summer. And Waitrose has a nice one.
72. Caviar and blini – Is proud owner of blinis pan. Love blinis. Find caviar overrated. Prefer lumpfish roe.
73. Louche absinthe – There used to be a naughty, naughty bar in Copenhagen, which served this. So yes.

74. Gjetost or brunost – yes. But not again.

75. Roadkill – not that I know of.
76. Baijiu – no.
77. Hostess fruit pie – looks and sounds horrible!


78. Snails – yes.
79. Lapsang Souchong – have it in my cupboard.
80. Bellini – yes.
81. Tom Yum – yes.
82. Eggs Benedict – yes, but don’t like.
83. Pocky – Japanese chocolate coated biscuit. No. Never been to Japan.
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu – only 1 star  :-(

85. Kobe beef – never had the luck
86. Hare – yes. It’s quite good.
87. Goulash – yes. Can be fantastic, but usually isn’t.
88. Flowers – yes. Stuffed or deepfried squash flowers are lovely. And there are others.
89. Horse – yes. Not bad, but makes me cringe a little, even when I know I shouldn’t.
90. Criollo chocolate – probably not. But will look out for it – maybe on a visit in Harrods’ food dept?
91. Spam – no no no. Never have, never will. (actually, if you’ve ever bought a cheep pizza with “ham”, you probably have tasted spam.)
92. Soft shell crab – yes. In a seafood restaurant in Galveston, Texas. So many we just couldn’t eat them all!
93. Rose Harissa – harissa yes, but not the rose version. Sounds lovely!
94. Catfish – yes. don’t like.
95. Mole Poblano – Also in Texas. Yummy!
96. Bagel and Lox – In New York they are practically unavoidable. And why should one avoid them?
97. Lobster Thermidor – Very nice. Actually, could I have one right now?
98. Polenta – obviously.
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee – no, I’m probably too cheap.
100. Snake – no.

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On popular demand… Pizza for dummies

Why buy horrible pizzas at Pizza Hut? Make them yourself, it’s easy and VERY satisfactory. I swear your family will love it:

To my horror I discovered that I have NO pictures of any pizza I ever baked. Will correct that on next baking session. Till then, here’s a picture from Flickr.

Pizza dough for four pizzas:

2-3 tsp dry yeast (depending on proving time)
4 dl. lukewarm water
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
app. 700 gr “00” flour or very strong white flour

Mix everything together (mix the dry yeast in with the flour or alternatively dissolve it first in the water. If you dissolve you’ll need a shorter proving time). Mix & knead till smooth but firm dough. Leave to prove for app. one hour on kitchen counter in cloth-covered bowl. Cut the dough in 4 pieces. (At this point in time the dough can be frozen. Wrap in cling film and stick in freezer. When you take pizza dough out of the freezer, unwrap immediately, then leave to thaw on kitchen counter covered with damp cloth for 4-5 hours). Let the dough balls prove for another hour on the kitchen counter covered by wet tea towel. To be sure that your pizza dough is ready, do the prodding test. Prod the dough. If it raises immediately, it’s not yet ready. If your fingerprint stays for a while, your dough is ready. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin. You’ll need extra flour for this, but don’t use too much. If you use a coarser kind of flour for the rolling, it’ll be easier.
A super simple tomato sauce for your pizza is this:
1 can of peeled, diced tomatoes
a small handful of Basil leaves
a bit of olive oil
salt, pepper

Blend, spread on pizza. Add cheese. Pizza toppings such as grilled peppers, aubergines or halved artichoke hearts go on top of the cheese, before baking. But toppings such as parma ham, rocket or pepperoni should not be added until after the pizza is baked. But then it must happen immediately. A really good and very Italian pizza is potato pizza. It has no tomato sauce and no cheese. Cover with thin slices of lightly parboiled potatoes, add a generous sprinkle of olive oil and chopped rosemary.
Bake in a 250° hot oven. Make sure that the surface on which you bake the pizza it pre-heated. This is important! If you’re not the happy owner of a so-called pizza-stone, you can do it like this: Have two sheets at the ready. Heat one in the oven and put a sheet of baking paper on top of the other one. Once the pizza is rolled out, but before you add any toppings, put it on the baking paper. Then when the pizza is ready and the oven (and the sheet that’s in the oven) has reached 250°, slide the pizza over on the hot sheet. You can’t time the baking. You must keep an eye on the pizza. Ovens vary and people’s taste in pizza also vary. It will rarely take more than 10 minutes, so make sure the table’s laid and your family is ready once the pizzas start going in the oven! Each pizza will feed one hungry person.

This recipe and these guidelines and ideas are all nicked from an Italian pizza-baker in Copenhagen, once interviewed in a foodie magazine. That’s probably why they work!

If you try this, why not let me know how you fare?

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Ministry of Food

Last night, before I settled down to watch the vice-presidential debate, I watched the first of a new series of programmes with Jamie Oliver. I don’t know if it’s become less trendy to like Jamie Oliver, but I actually like him more and more. His life could be easy – very easy. But he’s chosen to rant (his own expression) and thus to make enemies, because lots of people hate ranting. (I do a bit of ranting myself, so know what he’s talking about). He rants about food obviously. But his concern is a country where people have forgotten how to cook. They don’t know what real food tastes like and they certainly don’t know how to shop for it, prepare it, even eat it!

He visited a couple of single mums on welfare. One of them had her children eating out of Styrofoam boxes on the kitchen floor – who needs a dining table, when there are no real meals? – her 4-year old daughter had never tasted a home cooked meal in her life. Jamie took a look in her fridge. The vegetable drawers were filled to the brim with – chocolate bars! And there was not a trace of any vegetables, any fruit, any kind of real food in the house.

That’s what he’s determined to change. He wants all of us who can cook to take it upon us to teach other people to cook. He’s even put it into a system. Read about it on his Ministry of Food homepage.

I want to teach some people to cook. I want to take part in this. I’m often surprised at what people have – and maybe even more at what they have not – in their fridges and kitchen cupboards. And at what’s considered “a meal”. When Dane tells me what some of the other children have in their lunch boxes, I’m genuinely shocked. It’s cheese dippers, white sandwich bread with square slices of “ham”, so-called yoghurt (15-25% sugar), rarely fruit and certainly no veg.

I know it’s quite unlikely that any of my readers 1) can’t cook 2) want to learn 3) live near here. But – if that were the case, please drop me a line and we’ll set up a date for a cookery class with a nice meal at the tail end.

If you live far away or just can’t be bothered to have me as a teacher, but still want to improve your cooking skills, I can only once more recommend the excellent Videojug, where you can learn to cook a wide variety of lovely meals. Bring you laptop into the kitchen – and cook!

Btw. what kind of food do you think Sarah Palin cooks for her family?

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