6 out of 71

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6 out of 71.

That’s how many cookbooks by black authors I have. One more anxiously awaited.

71 books on one book shelf, so that’s not including the many others shelved, and shoehorned and dotted in other places around the house. Probably another hundred or so, so 6 out of say 200.

Now. This is not bad per se, it’s certainly not conscious bias. It’s made up of books bought for me by other people, presents and oh Lisa will like that book and my usual love of anything Mediterranean and Middle Eastern but I wonder…does it occur to my wonderful friends that buy me amazing things, that I like all kinds of cooking, and if it doesn’t, why not? It doesn’t make me a bad person, or my taste in books wrong, but it does make me question the vibes and messages I give out.

Questioning why that occurs is good. This is no breast beating moment, no “ohh I am so awful!” cry because that presents as both fake, horribly naive and moves the focus onto me. It’s not about me. It is about learning, however awkward it may make me feel.

Broadening my cooking repertoire is always good, it’s something I try to do. Widening my knowledge of techniques, of ingredients is exciting so searching my shelves and being surprised and then cross at how much was missing from them was a good thing, because I can buy more – and I have – but…those authors, those books, that history of cooking that stretches back centuries to the plains, valleys, mountains of Africa, through them on to the Caribbean, and on to the USA and across the cold pond to our tiny Britain that needs to be promoted far, far better than the largely Caucasian world of publishing has done so far. I want to see those authors raised up, their cuisines explored as much as possible, the origins of foods we eat now investigated and rejoiced in by the mainstream food world. Not just the familiar, the smiling yellow patty, and the soothing rice and peas, the spike and heat and zing of jerk, but way more, and more in depth. The unfamiliar needs to come right to the fore so it can become the familiar.

Read:

Mrs Malinda Russell: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015091768104

Edna Lewis – The Taste of Country Cooking

Pearl Bailey: https://www.abebooks.co.uk/PEARLS-KITCHEN-EXTRAORDINARY-COOKBOOK-Pearl-Bailey/4889816332/bd

Sheila Ferguson: Soul Food https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/603329.Soul_Food

Marcus Samuelsson: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marcus-Samuelsson/e/B001IGUO5Q/

Explore:

https://www.instagram.com/nyeshajoyce/

https://www.instagram.com/yewande_komolafe/

https://www.instagram.com/mashamabailey/

https://www.instagram.com/rayanthonybarrett/

https://www.instagram.com/korshawilson/

https://marcussamuelsson.com/

https://www.instagram.com/kardeabrown/

https://www.instagram.com/zoeadjonyoh/

https://www.instagram.com/andioliver/

https://www.instagram.com/thecookinggene/

https://www.instagram.com/foodculturist/

https://www.instagram.com/sunnyanderson/

Samin Nosrat also has many more listed – https://www.instagram.com/ciaosamin/

On this day…

…four years ago, I was in Glasgow.

“The hotel is right next to the railway station, and my room looks out over the station’s glass roof.
You’d think it would be overly noisy, but it isn’t. I laid in bed last night, listening to the faint rumbles of engines, the far off noises of brakes, and could have been in any post industrial time. Massive iron horses lumbering through, speeding people off to who knows where.
I actually find it quite moving. Humans can do such great things. If we turned all our collective wills to good, all of us, every single soul, who knows what we could achieve.”

Thinking of my colleagues at COP26, as frustrated with the greenwashing as anyone.

Because We’ve Always Done It That Way

That’s the cry of businesses across the world when the introduction of New ways are introduced. Usually prefaced by the question “Why do you do [X] thing that makes no sense, and takes extra steps?”

New ways aren’t always bad, in most cases they make sense, but they aren’t always easy, and they do take some getting used to. Whether they are worth it in the end is a matter of user opinion, but if they achieve An Aim, then you’re good.

Since having the joy of two broken shoulders and one hemiarthroplasty, I have had to learn new ways of doing things. Over time these will change, but for now, this is where we are.

The Bra.

Yes, The Bra. I am not, and have never been, one of those women who can do up a bra behind their backs with zero assistance. I am a ‘do it up at the front and twist it round’ person. Or I was. Until the simple act of reaching behind myself became impossible. Treasure those shoulders kids.

Luckily, once I got home from hospital, Covid meant home working, so bras were a nonentity for me, and for a large but grateful number of my friends too. Some have decided they will never go back under the twin yokes of elastic and plastic. In private I wholeheartedly agree. But if People are going to be in my vicinity, then a bra is a thing. It’s only for my own peace of mind, I couldn’t give a figleaves what others think.

But this means getting the thing ON. Before anyone says “Wear one of those pull on soft bras!” I do. They involve most of the same gymnastics.

  1. Sit on bed, holding bra in right hand. Briefly ponder how you used to take this for granted.
  2. Pass one end of bra under knees and grab with left hand. This may involve the words hoopla!
  3. Stand up, gradually edging bra up to waist combined with hip wiggling.
  4. Join ends. If you have inadvertently twisted them, swear, and repeat steps 1 through 3.
  5. Wriggle in a ridiculous manner while you inch the bra around so that the front is, er, at the front.
  6. Stick right arm through the strap. Attempt to get strap as far up your arm as you can. Remember, two injured shoulders, so reaching across and over effectively is no longer a thing.
  7. Repeat with left arm.
  8. Get long handled back scratcher*, hook handle through and under strap, lever over shoulder.
  9. Repeat with other arm.
  10. Refuse to plaintively call for husband to pull up the sides of the bra, utilise curved handle of back scratcher again. Resolve to heat handle later, and make the curve more pronounced.
  11. Adjust the girls inside the cups. (If you know you know.)
  12. Celebrate and feel UTTERLY TRIUMPHANT because you’re halfway to normal again. Only halfway. Normal is underrated.

*pasta server, also doubles very well as a hair brush.

Oh hello Blog, it’s been a while.

Life has progressed on. Me? I’m back at work – from home – and am slowly gaining back more movement in my right arm/shoulder. Slowly because of the nature of the operation – the rotator cuff muscles bunch up and gather around the replacement joint to protect it – and also slowly because I find doing the exercises on my own incredibly hard.

They HURT. Humans as a rule don’t really like doing things that cause us pain, I think we’re pretty hardwired not to do that, so this is still a mind over matter thing. I have no problem when being guided, probably because I want to please the person helping me. I obviously need a live in physio. Or my own trainer. Ha ha no.

I haven’t taken regular pain medication since the beginning of June. Of course I will take it if I need it, but so far that’s only been on the odd occasion as opposed to the Oh god is it four hours since the last dose yet? days. Mentally I’m mostly fine, but I do have my moments, everyone does. I want to get back to being confident in my body to cope with things because, weirdly, despite having a chronic illness and balance issues, my body felt like it could withstand most things. That’s why I never use to get out of the way of a commuter man who thought his right to space was more important than mine. I could withstand a shoulder bang, and he’d be surprised that I didn’t move.

NOT DOING THAT AGAIN AT THE MOMENT.

Green Eyed God

There’s an oddness, occasionally, to Not Being Well. For me this oddness is thankfully fleeting, and quite rare, but there are days when I see people who are Well, and I get a twinge of Something. I don’t even know if it is big enough to call it envy, but it’s there.

A small seed of I Wish, when I see adverts with the inevitable slim and fit and mobile beautiful people. Some days maybe a shoot of If Only when watch shows with fully functional bodies, being all mobile at me.

At the moment, being Not Well plus Injured is making it a bit more of a challenge but that’s all it is. Another challenge in the living of life. My challenges are nobody’s fault, the real people I see on the street all have their own challenges that nobody can see, so having that small, squirrelly “They have it easier” voice is nonsensical, downright wrong and should be told exactly where it can get off.

We cannot help our knee jerk emotions, but we can help how we deal with them. If we water that seed, feed that shoot, we can grow a whole tree of bitter resentment before we know quite what’s happened. That resentment is what the Trumps of this world use to drive wedges into society. They tell us about the Haves and the Have Nots, playing at being men of the people, while remaining totally a part of the Have It All brigade. People like him don’t care about the people. The Trumps, Farages, the Boris Johnsons, the Haunted Victorian Pencil Rees-Moggs of this world don’t give a toss about anyone else, just themselves, and they get by on knowing that others won’t see through their lies, and will fall for the age old Othering of cultures or peoples different from our own.

I recall my own cousin telling me horrible things about Turkish people, when I was quite small. I also recall determining, from that moment on, to always make up my own mind. 45 years on, I still do.

Dignity

What does dignity mean to you?


I had a discussion with a nurse this morning who was feeling embarrassed on my behalf when she had to wash my nether regions.
I can understand where she felt that way because it’s a difficult thing to do that for somebody else when you are desperate not to embarrass them.

I get it I really do so I tried to explain something to her in the best way I could.
Dignity is not in the way that I feel, dignity comes from how she treats me.

There is an old school of health professional that treats patients just like cargo, pieces of meat to be poked and prodded, shouted at, told what to do because we’re like children all the while forgetting that there is a human being in here too with a life of experience behind us. Unless we have the misfortune to be confused, we know our meds, we know our bodies, we are the ones with the medical condition and we are the ones inside the body that is coping with pain.

How my nurse treated me this morning gave me dignity. She was as gentle with me as she would have been with her own child and I explained to her that this is what gave me dignity. She gave it to me in buckets and washcloths full from how she brushed my hair down to how she dried my feet. Remember the lady wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair? She paid him respect and thereby gave him dignity

After a lifetime of being poked and prodded by gynaecologists, neurologists, nurses, doctors etc I have very little embarrassment left in me, probably none truth be told and very few of those health professionals have ever impinged on my dignity. They have treated me as an adult, and as a human being with feelings.
One ridiculously puffed up man treated me as just a lump of fat to be given pills to reduce my size when in fact the problem I was there for was an endocrine system problem. I refused to pay his bill and, oddly, he never chased payment.

Nurse Ade treated me with care, and dignity, therefore I felt dignified.

She laid her hand on my face as she left saying “You just ask for me. Where is my Ade? And I will come.”

It doesn’t take much. But it means mountains.

A night at the hospital

Well to be fair it’s actually many nights. I’ve been here since Tuesday last week, first an ambulance then a good 12 hours in A&E and then another ambulance to a rather lovely hospital for rehabilitation.


When one is careless enough to break both shoulders one must expect to put up with these things.

This rehabilitation ward seems quite special. It’s made up of lots of little private rooms and you get 24/7 care. The nurses here will look after every single aspect of your stay including those bits that nobody wants to talk about.

This was not my plan for an Easter weekend but it has been my Easter weekend and all the nurses here have been fabulous.

First room I was in was on the assessment ward. You have to stay there until you have had three negative covid tests and then you can move on to the main hospital ward. Thankfully it is still made up of small rooms each with their own occupant in varying degrees of decrepitude. I count myself among those obviously.
Last night it was complete silence, barely any noise at all from anybody because the chronic whistling man had been moved to another room. I think most of us were quite grateful.

This larger space has far more people and thus far more noise but I have headphones and a door that can close. I spent my afternoon reading alternated with gazing out of the window in amazement at the spring snow. Yes. Snow.

So long as I didn’t move I could imagine it was just a normal day, sitting quietly reading and not thinking about anything else.
But as it gradually got darker and the painkillers wore off I started remembering why I was here.

A broken or fractured shoulder is is a weird thing. Yes you have pain from break but most of the pain comes from the soft tissue damage that has occurred from your fall. The tops of both my arms are currently black and purple from bruising and it’s that bruising which causes spikes in pain.
You think everything is fine and then suddenly there is a sharp ripple as pain works its way across your back. Suddenly nothing is comfortable again and you have to wait for the painkillers to kick in why are the muscles in the top of your arm feel like they are on fire.

The noises across the ward are many and varied. One old lady singing to herself quietly in her room, a nurse humming a church song and a man who alternates between calling for Jesus, and shouting for his mother. He is EXTREMELY loud and I think most of us I hoping he gets a good night sleep so that we do do.
But whatever happens these night-time staff are here for us, working long hours and doing some of the most unpleasant tasks.
They smile and they bring us tea. They wave a packet of biscuits at you with a grin and gently administer both painkillers and laughter.

I am determined to do something for them when I finally get out of here. Or perhaps even before I do.

This is being written using speech to text. Please forgive any mistakes.

Every Day

I am lucky. Or, rather, I have been lucky so far. I’m a big lass, always have been, and apparently when I’m wandering around I usually have the Don’t Mess with Me face on. I had no idea about this until someone confessed to me at college that they were scared of me. (Thank you Janet Scantlebury, class of 1989, for making me realise how my face looked.)

I’m lucky in that men don’t really catcall me, unless it’s to call me fat, which is highly unoriginal and when answered with “Yes, and?” seems to have no follow up smart remark, as they mumble and drive off fast.

I’m well past the age of wolf whistling builders, and I think I got all the Bad Men Experiences out of the way before I turned 20.

I’m tall, hefty, and loud if needed. I’ve done the door at clubs, I’ve managed to back men out of the club door simply by using the power of corseted cleavage.

I’ve faced down myriad childhood demons, and conquered them to the best of my knowledge. I have faced an abuser, and made peace with that.

I’ve flown thousands of miles on my own, and not felt scared shut in a metal tube in the sky.

And yet…and yet…

I don’t walk in the darker places if I don’t have to, just in case.
I have walked with keys poking out through my fingers, just in case.
I have had my phone gripped in my hand, ready to call, but hidden, just in case.
I wear my bag slung across my body, held close to me, just in case.
I will move away, change carriage, get off a bus and get the next one, just in case.
I will always tell people where I am going, and text when I get there, just in case.

I have thought of how best to deal with Certain Situations should they happen.
I have casually assessed the merits of fight/flight/go limp/befriend/praise/stay silent.
I stay ready to jump in if another woman looks like they need a ‘friend’.
I refuse to move out of the way of men who seem determined to walk right into me, and I put THEM off balance.
I stay alert in a train crush, assessing how to deal with the Wandering Hand when it happens.
I wear heavy boots when commuting, because they feel safe, and toes that get too close will not survive under their heels.
I jam earbuds in, and refuse to engage.
I cross the road to avoid groups of men.
I’m Memorable.
I’m Easy to Spot.
I stay in after dark.
I never get in cabs that I haven’t booked.
I carry a battery pack so that my phone is never out of charge.
I work out routes, I plan the ‘safest’ options.

This is my everyday brain. Every day.

Power. Real power.

In Poland, at this moment, millions of women are on strike. They won’t drive, they won’t cook at home, they won’t go to work. They have refused to do anything they normally do for a week already, in order to protest against the far right government’s ban on abortion. I am assuming it is, yet again, men deciding what women are allowed to do with their own bodies.

The laws were already some of the most strict in Europe. Hospitals are already turning women away.

I am pro choice, so if you are not, I am not the person for you to follow.

When we think about power, what do we think of? Money? Weapons? High up jobs? All of those? But how about if we think of power as something different. Something far more difficult to measure than a salary, or the amount of missiles or bombs or planes that you own.

The majority* of women cook, clean, feed children, raise children. Drive those children to and from school, to clubs, and sports, and choir practice, and Saturday clubs.
They feed husbands, operate machinery, coordinate office work and home life, juggle families and work families.
They create code, design buildings, sweep floors, cut hair, pull pints, make pizzas, cook spaghetti just the way you like it, paint beautiful art and write amazing books. They know where the keys are, who had the remote last, how to work the oven, how on earth the washing machine runs, where that thingummybob was and how long to cook a ready meal for. How to load the dishwasher, how to unstack it, and then where everything goes again.

They know where the money goes and how much to divvy up to what bill. They know which child hates tomatoes but loves eggs, which one can’t eat mushrooms or peanuts or kale or drink milk. They know how to make a dinner from very little, and can conjure up a birthday present when everybody else has forgotten. Odds on they will know which person at work has an allergy, or a severe phobia or loves daisies or hates pink.

They know the passwords to those everyday websites everyone uses, or the log ins to laptops and iPads. What food the cat needs, where to buy it from, what supermarket delivers and on what day and for how much. What day the bins go out, when the library is open, if the vet is open on a weekend after the dog eats yet another shoe.

Mum! MUM! Where’s my [anything and everything from food to shoes to knickers to keys to pills to acne cream]
Love, did you see where I put my [keys/remote/best trousers/tie/money/wallet/mobile/shower gel/passport/tickets/glasses]

They know where ‘the side’ is, and especially what particular ‘side’ the thing you lost is on.

They do so much that nobody sees. That nobody measures. Oftentimes they do this whilst also having a full time career, and supporting others within that role.

They innovate, they create, they design, engineer, and build. They educate, pass on a lifetime of wisdom, offer an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.

Imagine if all of that just…stopped. All of it. Absolutely every single thing that was done by them, for others. No dinners, no clean rooms, no tidied kitchens, no washed dishes. No phones answered, no errands run.
Imagine if the 783,343k women in the UK NHS stopped working, all at once. All cleaners, all the mums, all the carers, secretaries, PAs, executive assistants, directors, CEOs, COOs, waitresses, dancers, strippers, sex workers. Engineers, designers, checkout girls, air stewardesses. Police officers, pilots, captains, bus drivers and train drivers.

If we stopped, all of us, every single one of us, all at the same time, for a week or more?
That is power.
We have it.
We need to know and acknowledge that we have it.
We need to feel it, and be proud.

Protests in Poland this week

* I know, men cook/clean/chauffeur kids too. Mostly though, the balance still tips he other way, even in 2020.

So, how’s furlough been for you?

I’m not looking forward to this question, I admit. It’s been pretty good actually, all things considered, but being on furlough has lead to all kinds of feelings surfacing that I wasn’t used to.

So. A Letter to Colleagues.

Hello everyone,

It’s good to see you all again, even if it is virtually. Zooming and Teams are the new black and all that. Being at home has been both wonderful, and exhausting. Wonderful because I am an utter home body, always have been. Exhausting because from April until very recently, I became an In House Caterer. Cooking and planning food for 3, mostly day in day out, is not as easy as it sounds. I wasn’t used to it on a daily basis, and trying to think up new things was hard. I felt very guilty for being the only one not working, so lounging about reading or watching TV had to become an allowable treat, if that makes any sense at all.

I know technically I didn’t have to cook Fun Things for all, as nobody is very demanding, but when those others are working flat out, I want their food to be as good as it can be. Something nice for them – and me – to enjoy at the end of a day.

There’s also an odd sense of waiting, as when you are on furlough you can be recalled with 24 hours’ notice, so every day you’re thinking “Is it today?” and you never quite relax. Well, I don’t, anyway.

My brain has been in fight or flight mode since Lockdown started, and it hasn’t let up yet. I think it was actually easier when everyone was in total lockdown, as there was a routine of sorts, but now…nobody knows what on earth is going on, or quite what to do! I haven’t been able to concentrate properly on anything

Getting back to a routine will be good for me. I hope. Take care everybody, and in the meantime, this:

JFGI

I’ve realised that recently something has been irritating me far more than it used to, but then I also realised that it is happening far more than it used to, so that’s probably why it’s bugging me more.

It’s the simple action of someone else wanting you – very probably subconsciously – to do the work for them. I see it all over, questions to celebrities: where did you get that jumper? Where’s that plate from? Where do you buy your clothes? What eyeliner is that?
These questions seem to get asked within seconds of a post going up.

Have we lost the art of Looking It Up? Do we no longer realise that we have the internet at our fingertips, literally, and so you can do a Google search in the time it’s taken you to type out a question, thereby wanting the original poster to do it for you.

It’s not just celebs, who are probably used to this slightly impolite nonsense (there’s rarely a please) but I’ve got it, and friends of mine too.

“RECIPE!” is a demand, not a polite request, by the way. People need to rephrase things. When you post a photo of your dinner, and say “Ohh, I just made this dinner up, and it’s fab.” and some wag says “Can I have the recipe?”
Oh, sure, when I’ve eaten it, sat down for a while, done the dishes, figured out what I actually did, and then typed it all up for you…

Most of the time I am actually able to help, but not always, and I will admit that sometimes I fail to see why I should when on many occasions the answer is actually out there in GoogleLand. On other occasions I’ve simply not had the mental spoons to go all the way back through my myriad kitchen purchases to figure out where I got a certain thing from. We are both on the internet, off you pop pookie.

Does anyone else have this kind of thing? Does it annoy you?