Tag Archives: cheese

Pepys, Posterity and Parmesan

Here’s another of those posts I sometimes write so that history will be able to compare my blog with the Diary of Samuel Pepys. It would probably help if I was a senior civil servant but at least I have now lived through some interesting times. He had the Great Fire of London, where he distinguished himself with the efforts he made on behalf of his Parmesan. I have lived through lockdown and I ordered processed cheese slices by accident when shopping online. The horror of processed cheese slices will stay with me for years to come. Whenever I think of the global pandemic I will think of rubbery orange cheese.

In years to come, I wonder if scholars will discuss me alongside Pepys when talk turns to amusing cheese anecdotes in times of National Emergency.

This is assuming that blog posts will still be available in a hundred years from now. The survival of a paper diary for several hundred years is remarkable, but will a random series of pixels, or whatever they are, survive any better? It all seems so fragile when you stop and think about it. While I dream of immortality for my anecdotes of 21st century life, should I actually be printing my blog posts for preservation. Probably, bearing in mind the poor quality of paper, I should be sharpening a quill and writing the whole thing on vellum.

If I did write it on vellum will vegan academics of the 22nd century refuse to acknowledge me, and pull down any statues of me that may have been erected in the meantime? Aiming for posthumous fame has many pitfalls and although you can try to imagine the future, who can really tell.

open pages on brown wooden table

Photo by Roman Koval on Pexels.com

I really don’t know whether the UK of 2120 will even have vegans. As we move the limits of our diet, will we all have become vegans by default? Or even, as we live on a diet of bugs and Soylent Green will vegans have become irrelevant and be in the waste bin of history alongside farm animals.

Another parallel between our stories is our bladders. Pepys, at the age of 25 had a bladder stone the size of a tennis ball removed without the aid of anaesthetic or antiseptic (which is the reason that if I ever do perfect my Time Machine, I won’t be travelling further back than the late 19th Century. I’d rather not travel back to a time before antibiotics, but that’s within living memory and seems a bit unambitious as time travel goes.

My own bladder stones were discovered during one of the several camera insertions performed a few years ago. As a twentieth century man I actually had anaesthetic just for that, without any cutting. They were going to remove the bladder stones as part of the second part of the procedure but in the months between the two procedures (supposedly seven weeks but after two cancellations it took eleven weeks) I self-medicated with lots of drinking and a large amount of lemon juice. There were no stones by the time they went back to look for them.

My current challenge is pollen. Levels are high and my eyes have been watery and itching for two weeks now, accompanied by random attacks of runny nose. Fortunately I haven’t been sneezing much as this is currently frowned on, being a well-publicised way of spreading disease. It does mean that I am rubbing my eyes more than I should be, as that is also a way of spreading the virus. However, it’s only  away of spreading it to me, rather than other people so that isn’t so bad.

We went for a drive in the country yesterday as our personal way of marking the start of a less rigorous phase of lockdown. It looks like everyone else had decided the same thing as it seemed to be as busy as it was before lockdown. How soon we forget…

That will be the subject of the next post.

close up of open book

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Look What Julia Brought Home

Just a short post to show you what Julia bought on her way back from work. Isn’t it great? It’s heart-shaped and full of cheese which, I think, makes it the world’s greatest Valentine’s Day present.

She also brought back some organic stoneground spelt flour from her trip to Green’s Mill. I’m not so keen on that. Spelt has a tendency to be disappointing, as it is not as easy to work with as wheat, and because I’m quite heavy-handed. That, of course, is another problem. I’ve given up baking because the kneading causes painful hands so I’m going to have to dig the breadmaker out from under a pile of kitchen junk.

I was actually looking at bread-making mixes in the supermarket last night as I’m feeling the urge to bake. Last night I managed to resist the feeling, but now I’m cornered.

It seems strange that only a couple of years ago we were baking twice a week or more on the farm. We also made nettle soup in the spring, which I haven’t done for the last couple of years. I’m thinking I may have a go at nettle soup again, and plant more herbs at home. Our rosemary grows well, but we could do with a bit of variety.

I’ll leave you with another picture of the cheese – taken with a flash this time. It doesn’t really make it look any better, but it allows me to use two virtually identical pictures. I am very lazy, and it’s hard to make a bag of flour look interesting.

The best ever Valentine Present again

The best ever Valentine Present again.

Considerably Bigger Buns

After a holiday season of dreadful  TV I’m happy to report that last night’s viewing was Calendar Girls. It was the second time I’ve seen it and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s a fantastic cast, great script and heart-warming story.

That set me up for a leisurely day.

I won four games of dominoes in the afternoon. The opposition was mainly provided by a ninety-year-old man who has trouble remembering that I’m his son, but you can only play what’s in front of you. My wife and sister both play to let him win but I think that’s discourteous, Anyway, when we played last week he wiped the floor with me despite my best efforts. He may be gradually forgetting everything he knows, but he’s successfully clinging to his domino skills.

This is the only thing of note that happened today, unless you count getting stuck in a chair.

We had a cup of tea in the newly refurbished reception area of the care home, which was very pleasant. When it was time to leave I found that the chair was clinging on, like an inappropriately affectionate koala. I really must lose weight.

We had salad and gala pie for tea on our return. Julia has just gone to the kitchen for cheese.

All in all, this has been a satisfactory sort of day.

The header picture is self-explanatory if you’ve seen the film, or mystifying if you haven’t. Same goes for the title.

 

 

Boxing Day

Number One Son cooked sausages for brunch and Julia cooked in the evening – gammon, bread sauce, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, brocolli and stir-fried red cabbage with apple, for those of you who like to know these things (and future researchers looking into the diet of 21st century Britain). We snacked on a few nuts, ate some Turkish Delight and I’m thinking of serving coffee and cake when I finish this post.

This evening I’ve written part of the post I keep promising about the Gibraltar £20 coin, but kept getting diverted by other things. I’m good at finding diversions.

That, apart from reading, playing Candy Crush, watching TV and pondering eternal questions like “Why am I so lazy?” has been my day.

In keeping with my theme of laziness I am now going to make the coffee, eat the cake and watch TV. Tomorrow I may well be a bit more active and open the cheese I bought for Christmas. So far, as we try to limit our over-eating, we haven’t actually had any cheese.

On Saturday I will return to work. I’m hoping that many regular customers will come to see us clutching money they have been given for Christmas.

A Slightly Unsatisfactory Day

I started the day at Cropwell Bishop, home of one of the six licensed Blue Stilton manufacturers in the UK.

We now have a large piece of organic Stilton lurking in the kitchen. I thought I’d go organic because it’s supposed to be better for us, and if you are going to the dairy for a quality product you might as well go organic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stilton – possibly the world’s most perfect cheese

I tested the Beauvale and the Shropshire Blue but didn’t buy any. I will probably have to test it again a few times. You have to love a place that gives you free cheese!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just to give an idea of scale

It’s strange that the producers of Shropshire Blue don’t in the main, come from Shropshire, particularly when they are so keen to protect the Stilton brand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the advantages of EU Membership

Second call of the day was Lidl for a few odds and ends, though there were a lot of empty shelves where there was a change of stock going on. They have small shopping trolleys for children to use, which seems like a nice touch for families. By the time you’ve tripped over the third trolley pushing child it seems to be less of a nice touch.

I took a list with me but couldn’t get everything, which is a bit annoying. I’ve always found shopping at Lidl and Aldi to be more of a lucky dip than a weekly shop. However, I’m only one shop away from being 100% Christmas ready.

Famous last words.

The ill-fated list - note the dental appointment was 10 minutes too soon for humour

The ill-fated list – note the dental appointment was 10 minutes too soon for humour

Finally, it was time for the dentist. I’m not keen on a mouthful of sharp tools but apart from that it was OK. They even gave me a tube of toothpaste as a Christmas gift.

Time for a poem – licorice is food so this should do it, and preserve the link to food. For blue cheese and licorice ice cream look here.

I will add photos tomorrow. (A day later – I just added photos).

Mission Accomplished

I went shopping this afternoon, with the outline of a plan in mind.

We now have a turkey crown in the freezer which claims to serve 6-8. It should do for three plus sandwiches. The pigs in blankets are next to it.

The gammon and smoked salmon are in the fridge with sufficient shelf life to last until Christmas.

We have stollen, we have nuts and we have seaweed crackers.

I already, as reported, have the cheese footballs.

That is it.

Christmas is in the bag. There are a few things left, but the essentials are in place and we are ready to go. I’m beyond worrying about the quality of the turkey – all I want is a stress-free Christmas and now we have the essentials there is no stress. It won’t be the best turkey we’ve ever had, but it’s in the freezer and Christmas dinner is guaranteed. It might be badly cooked, or burned, but it will be a traditional turkey disaster, and I will have done my job.

At one time I used to shop for a siege, but the shops will be open on Boxing Day so there really is no need to stock up. I may put some bread in the freezer, but that’s the limit of my extra buying.

Cards are delivered or in the post and a few small gifts for my co-workers are in place.

It is now 9.00 and Julia has just come back from seeing a neighbour. I am going to serve the evening meal now and bask in the smug satisfaction of knowing that if Christmas were to be moved forward, I am ready.

And as I write that I realise I haven’t bought the cheese…

The pictures are minisheets of stamps – an extra way of making collectors buy more. They are buses, the Royal Family, Industrial Archaeology and Edward Lear. If we have room we just stick them on envelopes complete. Yesterdays’s collection is today’s postage, just as yesterday’s news is today’s chip wrapper.

Today’s poem is a cheery number that repeats that thought, though more elegantly, and with much more Latin than is usual in one of my posts.

Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam

Ernest Dowson

 

The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long. –Horace

 

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.

The Great Camembert Cheese Debacle

The events described here took place around Christmas 2016 (not 2017 as I previously claimed).

In the lead up to Christmas I did my normal trick of buying enough food to last a family of eight for a fortnight. We are, of course, a family of four and Christmas lasts a day. If you really resist the great outdoors you may manage to make it last three days before close confinement with the family starts to make your thoughts turn to murder.

This included buying an industrial quantity of Stilton from Long Clawson Dairy and a selection of Lesser Cheeses from the supermarket. These included various waxed truckles, Lancashire Cheese with Apricots and a large wheel of Camembert.

Even for a family of cheesophiles this is a lot of cheese.

The proper word for a cheese lover is, it seems, turophile. I’m not keen on that – it’s far too close to turdophile for my liking and any confusion could result in a very regrettable selection of sandwiches.

So, that’s the first stage.

At this point it’s necessary to confess something about the fridge ecosystem. The clue, of course, is in the word ecosystem. I once produced a very acceptable blue cheddar in the fridge by leaving a large chunk of badly wrapped non-blue cheddar concealed behind the top shelf chutney jars.

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio,  Than are dreamt of in your philosophy, as Hamlet said. The same principle would appear to apply to our fridge.

That’s the second stage.

Finally, you overfill the fridge in a chaotic manner, eat stuff, put it back, wrap it badly and have an enjoyable Christmas.

A week or two later there was a suspicion that all was not well in the fridge. This manifested itself as a slight but distinctive smell. We couldn’t see anything obvious, so I moved a few things, produced soup from a selection of mis-matched left-overs and tried to ignore it.

It carried on for a week or so, with Julia suggesting there was something on top shelf that needed attention and me avoiding doing anything about it. (She’s not tall enough to reach the top shelf and I’m very lazy).

From my observations I can state confidently that Camembert, when half used and then stored in a fridge, stays fresh for a while then starts to smell a bit. It’s probably a good idea to do something at that juncture.

If you don’t, the consequences are not good, and the change is both rapid and traumatic.

The slight whiff of ripe Camembert can escalate rapidly while you are out at work, as Julia found when opening the fridge one evening. It had risen in pitch from being a bit whiffy to something that filled the entire ground floor with the smell of week old rugby socks.

Fortunately it tasted a lot better than it smelt.

And that, my friends, is why I am banned from buying, possessing and storing Camembert.

Some Thoughts on Sandwiches

The high point of the day so far has been my lunchtime chicken sandwich. I sliced the meat from some chicken drumsticks we had in the fridge last night, added bread, mayonnaise and redcurrant jelly and ended up with sandwiches. They turned out to be rather nice. Even Julia said so, and she’s usually my sternest critic in the matter of sandwiches.

I would have liked stuffing on the sandwich too, but forgot all about cooking it until it was too late. I just checked what the Americans call stuffing, as it seemed a likely word for causing confusion. It seems that Americans call it stuffing if it’s cooked inside the bird and dressing if it’s cooked outside.

I know a local hotelier who calls it seasoning. I once asked him why.

“Well,” he said, “I have a three star hotel and provide a fine dining experience. I don’t want any of my staff asking a customer if they’d like stuffing.”

It’s back to cheese and pickle tomorrow. I like cheese and pickle.

I suppose this makes me appear both shallow and unadventurous compared to the sophisticated, cosmopolitan crowd that reads the blog so perhaps I should have pickled onions instead.

 

I’ve run out of Ham!

Fortunately my reserve of cheese has been able to make up the deficiency. The good thing about cheese, apart from the fact that it tastes good, is that it’s virtually interchangeable with ham. You can use tomato relish and Branston pickle on it, and if you make Welsh Rarebit you can even pair it with mustard. They can both go in omlettes, on pizza and, if you really must, in salad.

If I ever have to make a choice I may have to go for cheese, as it can go in Welsh Rarebit, as previously mentioned, and cheese on toast.

Talking of Welsh Rarebit, which makes cheese on toast into a meal instead of a snack, I was surprised to see how complicated it can be. I whisk a drop of milk into some grated cheese whilst heating gently, add the mustard and it’s ready. Sometimes I add Worcestershire Sauce and black pepper. Sometimes I don’t.  No beer, no flour, no fat, no roux.

In the Cold Dark Ground (Logan McRae, Book 10) by [MacBride, Stuart]

The tie I have saved by not shopping for more ham was spent reading an excellent crime novel – In the Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride. It’s the 10th book in the series, and I’ve missed a few out, so I had a bit of catching up to do. That’s the trouble you have if you hate paying more than 99 pence for a Kindle book.

It’s Tartan Noir, with lots of Scots and violence plus dark humour, exhuberance, convolution, complication dialect and a pig farm.

Sometimes it’s a bit over the top, and sometimes a bit irritating, but generally it’s a great book in a great series. When I get caught up with my reading pile I might buy a few more in the series. I’d go so far as to say if I could only take one crime series to a desert island it would be this one.

Thanks to Amazon for the picture again.

Me, Mirth and Merriment

I went shopping this afternoon – a few groceries for Number One son as a hint that it was time to go back, and a few bits for the kitchen. And tea. By some oversight we had run out of tea, and I can’t settle knowing that Julia is likely to make that Indian spiced stuff that she likes and which I consider has no place in civilised society. I know that India has produced great philosophies and mathematics, and Mahatma Ghandi, but I’m sorry, I don’t consider them sound on matters of tea.

For those of you who are thinking of pointing out that India virtually invented tea may I just point out that the English invented football. It doesn’t mean we’re any good at it.

The car park was fuller than normal, a state of affairs which also applied to the shop.

Large numbers of resentful looking men were trailing round the shop muttering rude words at their partners whilst feral children stalked the aisles and trolley rage seemed to simmer, barely under control.

This did not bring out the best in me, and I was thinking evil thoughts, including wondering about the practicality of disemboweling a curly-haired tot with my reading glasses, when a wave of good humour rolled over me.  This is not normal. It hardly ever happens, and certainly not at Christmas, when the spirit of Scrooge stalks the badly heated rooms of my draughty hill top domain.

I looked at the couple arguing over the wife’s choice of  cheese and thought how lucky I was that we could afford all three of the varieties she was looking at. We would, of course only eat two of them before the third matured into a new variety of blue cheese (in our fridge even Stilton goes mouldy), but that, in a way. is even luckier, as we have lots of cheese and the thrill of playing botulism roulette.

After that I was on a roll, to the point of being quite charming and enjoying a laugh with several ladies in the checkout queue. When I mentioned this to Julia she muttered something about it not being the first time I’d provoked mirth in a woman.

There was something in her tone I couldn’t quite place…