Wednesday 31 January 2024

Broth for the Brothel

 Long ago, a philanthropic old lady, upon enjoying a cup of particularly good broth, felt sorry for people who lacked it.  

So strongly did she feel that she left all her money to found a brothel for the poor.

Among her papers was found some excellent broth recipes.  Written in her elegant Victorian script she suggested that they would be suitable for the brothel.

One such recipe was for 'A Brave Warm Cleansing Gruel' composed of an oatmeal stock, well seasoned with salt, pepper, a blade of mace, a clove, some dried mint, dried parsley, and plenty of bruised onions.  Serve very hot with toasted snippets of bread.

I should finish by saying that she meant, of course, to found a soup kitchen.  True story.

Friday 26 January 2024

The Power of Nature

 I have been out of action for a couple of days - hence the late replies to comments - apologies!  Nothing serious, a three day migraine with nausea.  It happens.     

Granddaughter is 12 this week, eager to celebrate her birthday by going to the gym which her mother attends.  She is a funny bunny, always ploughs her own furrow and doesn't go with the crowd.  No girly party for her.

Over the years I have amassed quite a lot of feathers picked up as I have taken my daily walks through the Lincolnshire countryside.  Among them,  pheasant tail feathers, strong goose feathers and rich black ones with that wonderful petrol sheen.

There is one remarkable feather.

Here it is.  

Reasonably large, attractive colouring, but really quite ordinary in appearance.  

The special part was that when I picked it up I felt (like a bolt running through my being) the energy of the bird which lost it.  It was sudden and totally unexpected.

It is difficult to explain and, of course, there will be sceptics.  

Almost as soon as I acknowledged it, the energy faded.  The memory and the feather remain.

The power of nature.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Ignore Me at Your Peril

Sparky wanted attention; I was caught up enjoying the end of my book so I foolishly made her wait.

She took action.  Dab, dab, dab with her little paddy paws into my (fortunately) cold cup of tea.

Her next step would almost certainly have been to slide the mug off the table and onto the hard tiled floor.

I have seen her do the same thing with my spectacles.  She is a very smart little demon and we love her.

By the way, she had access to water, she wasn't thirsty, she was just being a minx.

There is another storm howling around the place, rattling windows and doors, it is definitely a night when I will be grateful for the warmth and shelter of this old house.  

Be safe everyone.

Monday 22 January 2024

Only Minor Damage this Time

 Last night Storm Isha battered the country,  It was blowing in from the far corner of Owl Wood so, to some extent, we were relatively protected.  The conservatory took the full force and one of the gutters will need to be fixed but, other than that, the house seems to have weathered it well.

The original log store didn't, as all the roofing felt was blasted off and ended up in great black heaps in the gardens.  However, given that the log store has a definite tilt and needs to be repaired anyway, I think we were lucky.

The hard work we did in the woodland and gardens, pollarding some of the trees and removing the dead and dying ones, seems to have paid dividends.  Apart from a few fallen branches, there was no damage there either.

I hope you were all as lucky.

Checking back through my original blog (such a useful place of reference) I found that the last time the log store felting needed to be replaced was a decade ago.

Jonny and Mingming were kind enough to climb the ladders and do the repairs when they were home that summer.  

I love this photograph as it reminds me of long summer days and a prolific vegetable garden.  We must make more of an effort this year!  We used to grow so much more, as this photograph reminds me.

Where did that decade go?

Saturday 20 January 2024

Blame it on the Vicar!

 I have been lost in my books for several days now.  Tasks which should have been completed remain undone, the cake tins are empty, and I still haven't made that butternut squash into curry.

A fellow blogger, Trundling Through Life, wrote a wonderful piece about some good hearty Lincolnshire fare and I disappeared down the rabbit hole of reading through all my old Lincolnshire recipe books, as well as a large number of old regional recipe books.

I cannot tell a lie, it was fun.

Naturally, answering one question then led me on to explore a dozen other things of interest.  

This morning I found myself reading an item in the October 1927 Edinburgh Review, it was written by my favourite old cook, Florence White, using her pen name: Evelyn Mary.

She wrote "Seventy years ago English cookery was good, but has suffered a decline in the last thirty years."  In part, she blamed the direction taken by the higher education of women, the devaluation of house-keeping and domestic science.

She explored even further back through old tomes and manuscripts and found that a similar theme ran through many of them.  

Dr Kitchiner, who wrote 'The Cook's Oracle' was absolutely convinced that disease most frequently arises from badly prepared food or poor nourishment.  He was a qualified doctor, a man who possessed a private fortune and did not actually practise medicine.  He concluded that people did not pay as much attention to the preservation of their own health as they did to that of their dogs and horses.

It was something of a relief to find that the general consensus was that even the French girls were not so skilled in the art of cooking as were her mother and grandmother.  

I readily admit that my mother and grandmother were far better cooks than I have ever aspired to be.

My interest in recipe books has little/nothing to do with cooking.  Shame on me.   Having said that, almost every meal I cook is from scratch.

If I could just cook with the same love that I have in my heart when I knead and bake bread, I reckon I could be a decent plain cook.  Alas! I don't and I am not.  

To quote one of the old books 'You must bring a loving heart to the primus or camp-fire.  No soured personality can be trusted to stir the beans, far less make the coffee.  Coffee should be made with love; that is the first ingredient and the chief cause of coffee being indifferent is your indifference to coffee.'

I have strayed from the point which was that just as we read that too few people actually bother to cook these days, the same thing has been said for generations.  Nothing much changes.

Wednesday 17 January 2024

You Will Know it by the Sparkle

'You will know it by the sparkle'.  

This was the state of my desk this morning.  I had gathered together a couple of dozen of my older recipe books so that I could have a quick flick through to see how much recipes for orange marmalade varied.  

Some of the books were published in times of plenty, others during wartime rationing, along with three of early Victorian handwritten ones.

Few ingredients are required to make Seville Orange Marmalade, so I didn't expect there to be too many differences but I was interested to see how housewives coped during the difficult times.

The strangest recipe called  for tapioca.  Had I not already made my marmalade, I could have been tempted to make a tiny batch of it to satisfy my curiosity.  Fortunately, I had no tapioca in the pantry and I had used all the Seville oranges anyway.

Most of the differences were in whether to cook the oranges whole, then cut them up or cut them up and soak the peel overnight, although one method called for two days of soaking with a boiling session in between.

Opinions differed on whether to use half a pound of sugar to a pound of pulp and juice or greater quantities, all the way up to one and a half pounds per pound.  Boil for an hour/two hours/three hours.

Worried about when to take it from the heat?  You will know it by the sparkle, according to one old cook.

Of course I had no need to go through these books, my marmalade was already sitting on the pantry shelf, but it was fun.  There is no one 'right' way to make it, make it according to your taste/what is available.

I saw a recipe for cucumber marmalade, made with ginger and whisky.  I won't be making that - but that darned curiosity which I have been lumbered with is still wondering.

For my marmalade I used a Nigel Slater recipe which replaced about a third of the water with pomegranate juice, just because I could and because I was curious, though I did reduce the amount of sugar he recommended.

It is a rich, slightly bitter marmalade, perfect for our tastes. 

Sunday 14 January 2024

"Good Morning, Me Duck"

I turned out of the shop and headed under the carriage arch between the greengrocers and The Packhorse Inn.  Because I was encumbered by two bulky bags of fruit and vegetables - mostly Lincolnshire veg and British apples, along with a number of Seville oranges, I decided not to go into the library. 

Instead, I decided to go back to the car, so I crossed the road into Eve Street, which has a very narrow pavement.    

An older man was coming along in the opposite direction, we exchanged smiles and he stepped off the pavement, lifted his hat, and said "Good Morning, Me Duck".   I responded and thanked him.

How those simple words warmed my heart.  Nothing false, nothing forced, just simple old fashioned manners and a great Lincolnshire greeting.  

Louth is a small town and it used to be fairly normal for people to exchange a smile or a greeting but I have noticed a definite decline in recent years, which is a shame.  

After dropping my bags in the boot of the car I headed back to the library and had that browse.  I didn't really need any library books but there was a book sale I couldn't resist a quick look.  I found one book which interested me 'The Way Home' by Mark Boyle.  He is an Irish writer who decided to build a log cabin and spend a year living off grid.

I am too old for that kind of adventure and commitment but I will enjoy reading about it.  Fifty pence sealed the deal.

Weekend greetings to you all. 

Thursday 11 January 2024

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

 A year ago last Christmas we thought our senior cat, Sparky, was about to die.    

All was well in semi-feral Sparky's world, until it wasn't.  She became pretty ill and we were spending far too many hours watching and wondering - should we let nature take its course, or should we add to her misery and take her the half-hour drive to see a vet.

We decided on tlc, watch and observe, hope for the best.  I fed her tiny meals of steamed fish, poached chicken breast, or raw mince.  She thrived on it, whatever ailed her passed after a couple of weeks.

Much of the time since then she has been reasonably healthy and certainly quite happy with her life.  She has had good times and some down times but reverting to her special diet always seems to pull her through.

This morning I was cutting through the garden to collect the grandchildren for the school bus when I noticed a flash of black and white up in the old treehouse.  I thought it could be a Magpie and went over to have a look.

No, it was old Sparky.  How she got up there I really don't know, unless she got up the same way she came down.

She mewed at me, no doubt hoping that I would go over and rescue her, but I just didn't have the time to go into the wood and climb up there.  After a couple of minutes she took matters into her own hands and came down the slide, gathering pace and ending in an indignant squawk at the bottom.  

She stalked off, totally unhurt, just a little annoyed.  By the time I had waved the grandchildren off on the bus she had forgiven me and allowed me to feed her a tasty morsel.

I am so glad that she can still have little adventures like this.

I'm not sure how many lives she has left but she has certainly had a good life here.  Sparky by name and sparky by nature.

Her favourite basket by the log burner.

Saturday 6 January 2024


To vine and bush WASSAIL!

To leaf and see ALL HAIL!

With glass held high in solemn oath

We pray for health and all new growth

Wassail, Wassail, Wassail, Wassail

We drink to you WASSAIL!

Late this afternoon I gathered together half a dozen wooden spoons, a couple of bottles of cider, made some toast and printed out the words of this simple Wassail song.  The next part of my mission was to get everyone together to wassail the apple trees in the garden.

Surprisingly, everyone was happy to join in, especially this young lady.  Despite not feeling great for she has some winter bug, we'll call it a cold and be done, she was game enough to don the floral hat and lead us all in our walk around the apple trees.

Harry poured good quantities of cider around each tree and their mama carefully lodged a cider-soaked slice of toast in the branches as the rest of us walked around hitting the trees with the wooden spoons and chanting the words above.  The idea is to beat out the bad spirits and awaken the apple tree to promote an abundant crop later this year.

Were I an apple tree I fear that such treatment would make me rather grumpy and much less likely to produce anything, but we went with the tradition.

I am still having trouble commenting.  I will get there in the end.  Meanwhile:

Sue - I was very thankful that we didn't have problems with the septic tank.  I don't blame you for wanting to leave that behind.

Joanne - That conjures a lovely picture of little five year old you in your very first library.

Billy - Thanks for that title, I will watch out for it next time I log on to order some books.

Linda - The mobile library got smaller and smaller and eventually they offered us the service we currently use whereby we order our selection of books online and they are dropped off at our home once a month.  Not quite the same as the pleasure of browsing among the books but it works wonderfully well and it helps to keep the service going.