What’s definitely made me smile today is a big pot of soup simmering away on the stove – the pink bit at the front is a smoked gammon joint, and the rest is diced onion, leek, carrot, and swede with seasoning to taste (including a bayleaf). It’s pouring with rain outside, and I can hear the wind buffeting the swaying branches of the trees in the garden, but I’m warm and dry in my cosy kitchen with the wonderful wholesome smell of soup cooking for dinner tonight – yum! 🙂
So here I am on a typically damp and dismal Scottish Saturday morning, with a pot of leek and tattie soup simmering away.
I’ve always loved cooking, but since moving back to the North of Scotland from the South of England four months ago I’ve been finding myself drawn back to the practical and economical dishes of my youth, traditional tastes of the past all suddenly clamouring for attention again in the creative culinary section of my middle-aged memory banks.
Mind you, living with my parents for the first ten weeks we were back in Scotland meant inevitably cooking only the sort of meals my dad can eat – he’s 83, with mobility issues after four strokes and memory issues with ongoing vascular demetia, so keeping to an easily-recognisable-to-him menu is an important part of his ongoing care. And at least he still has a good appetite and enjoys his food!
So I cooked (and we ate) a lot of soup – lentil, leek and tattie, Scotch broth – and variations on a theme of mince and tatties or stew and tatties, and stovies, often with fruit crumbles and custard or bread and butter pudding for afters – yum! And now we’re here in our own house, with a big enough kitchen to cook in comfortably, I’m continuing in the same vein a lot of the time, sticking to the heart-warming farmhouse cooking I grew up with.
It makes me smile to be hearing my paternal grandmother’s satisfied voice so loud and clear in my head ‘Aye, that’s fine soup – gings roon yer hert like a hairy wurrum’ (Goes round your heart like a hairy worm). She was a typical North-East-Coast farmer’s wife, and much of my knowledge of traditional cooking and baking has come from spending quality time with her as I was growing up.
Although sadly she’s long gone, it speaks volumes to her quiet, steady influence on me that not only do I still use today the culinary skills developed years ago by her side, but also I’ve taught my children those same skills, and now my grown-up children are teaching my grandchildren in their turn. Too many people are unable to cook from scratch these days, and I’m proud that generations of my family can make a meal out of traditional ingredients, then, now and on into the future… 🙂
A chronological line up of pics showing a day in the life of two types of autumn fruits progressing from plant to plate 🙂
The fruit on mum and dad’s plum tree is ripening nicely just now, as are the brambles growing along the side of the road by the house. So the other day my husband picked some of both and I made them into one big fruit crumble.
After cooking in the oven I could see the fruit had been far juicier than I had anticipated so the end result didn’t look the best with all the juice soaking right up through the sugary cinnamony crumble topping but oh, the smell – and the taste – was absolutely delicious.
We had it hot with custard on the first day, then cold with vanilla ice cream the next… yum! 🙂
Due to a recent diagnosis of several mid-life digestive health issues, I currently find myself having to face up to the seriously negative consequences of my ever-present emotional eating for comfort. At 55 I’m really not finding it easy, because old habits die hard and after a lifetime of swallowing down my disappointments and reducing the bitter taste of quietly taking my doing-what-I-should-be-doing medicine with the proverbial spoonful of sugar, I’m finally facing my food demons and dealing with my past pains instead of always shutting them up with the promise of tasty treats.
Changing my diet so completely inevitably also requires a necessary change in both attitude and lifestyle, and the emotional consequences of such a massive change means that right now I’m constantly craving the comfort I’ve historically found in food, which of course is the very thing I’m trying to relieve myself of in the first place – Aaarrrggghhh..! It’s unbelievably complex for me to delve so deeply into exploring why I’ve developed such bad habits over the years going all the way back to childhood, and although I’m finding it a complete head-fuck at the moment I’m determined to see it through.
So instead of eating for comfort whenever I feel bad, I’ve been concentrating on colouring in – absolutely loads of colouring in. I really enjoy it, it keeps me busy, and it creates a very different kind of distraction from food. I find I have to be physically calm to colour in well – I like smooth lines and soft shapes, not jerky erratic strokes all over the page. So I tend to start off staccato, and focus on stilling my movements until everything starts to flow better from my hand. And you know what? Once the colour flows smoothly, I do actually feel a bit better emotionally too – at least, relaxed enough to have passed beyond that particular point of craving food for comfort, anyway.
And as well as the physical calmness I find in colouring in, the more emotionally relaxed state it brings me to seems to be responsible for creatively opening up a line of communication with a host of other difficult issues that I’ve also struggled to process in the past. I find myself feeling increasingly curious to explore them now, as if the more the pressure is off the more things seem to come to me, naturally and organically. In finally letting it all out instead of swallowing it all down, it feels as if I’m able to deal relatively comfortably with the emotional as well as the physical issues held within my errant digestive system, which surely can only be a good thing?
So while physically I’m getting to grips with a whole new way of eating, emotionally I’m comfort-colouring my way to good health and wellbeing, in the hope that I can build myself new creative habits to help over-ride the familiarity of those old destructive patterns of behaviour, once and for all…
Don’t look at me, I have absolutely no idea how to temper chocolate – I’ve never done it, and can’t honestly envisage a time when I might feel curious enough to give it a try.
I know you’re supposed to do something clever with slow melting and careful cooling at particular temperatures – different temperatures each for white, milk, and dark chocolate – to make sure the cocoa butter molecules and liquid chocolate crystalise as smoothly as possible, creating shiny chocolate with a good sharp snap rather than dull, crumbly matte stuff with an unsightly ‘bloom’.
Sounds way too convoluted a process for me, I seriously have no patience at all for fiddly things like chocolate thermometers and cold marble slabs and flexible palette knives – so I just buy my favourite chocolates ready made, already shiny and glossy and with just the right amount of ‘bite’ to their thin but perfectly crisp shells 🙂
The voluptuous curves of ripe red cherries 🙂
This morning I decided I wanted to bake – typically it’s hot and sunny today and so the thought of having the oven on wasn’t perfect – but I knew if I didn’t make some kind of sweet treat to eat, it would bug me all day. As my husband would say in his native Louisiana, I had the envie for home-made cake, and nothing less would do.
We have a huge tray of cherries sitting on the kitchen counter, red and ripe and far more than we can possibly eat before they start to spoil, so I decided on making a batch of cherry chocolate muffins – quick to mix and easy to bake… yum!
Perhaps not too pretty to look at but absolutely scrummy to eat, and well worth the half hour or so of extra heat in the kitchen 🙂