Self Care Saturday

Today I have not been a strong woman.

Today I have been a woman in hiding, sheltering behind the walls of food television, internet recipe sites and You Tube cooking videos.

I was going to go to the march in London, I was going to do so much but the very thought of setting foot outside of my house today filled me with uncertainty and anxiety.

Attempting to be a strong woman has its price, and that price is a collapse of anything even approaching strength. It’s not something I am particularly proud of, and I’m not usually one to run away, but there has been so much over the past 12 months piling on that I’m not sure that strength is possible at the moment.

So yes, I’m hiding. I’m avoiding the news because it’s full of That Man, and I have no wish to even talk about him or use his name.

I’m going to be hiding tomorrow. I suspect I will be hiding for a while.

clouds

 

A Grinch Didn’t Steal Christmas

The…I hesitate to say man, but…the person who is President Elect did.

He took away the joy, he took away the lightness that people looked forward to all year. He’s stripped any certainty away from this life of mine, and he has voided all the grace, and the care and the thoughtfulness that went into the past terms filled by a REAL MAN who radiated nothing but respect and love to all. I DO NOT CARE about the politics, or if you hated him, but that man was a haven, and a safe, measured place, and now that safe place is gone. Whether you think it was the right thing or not doesn’t matter because dammit you let the wrong one in and I am scared that we will ALL pay.

All there is in my life now is fear. Real fear that we are headed into a far darker abyss than we have ever seen. I try to fight it, I try to lighten my days by looking at what I have, and who I have around me, but it’s there.

There is no joking about it for me. People try to make light of it, joking about him, but i cannot do that.

I just can’t. Nothing about this is funny, or lighthearted, or joyful.

I can’t see past it. It won’t go away. It refuses to leave and it stays and squats in my subconscious like the ugliest most wart covered toad there ever was, radiating hatred and degradation and darkness at my core.

I am aware this sounds overly dramatic. Tough. That’s how I feel.

These are such troubled times, and nowhere I look shows me brightness.

When this isle voted to leave the EU AND NO DO NOT TELL ME WHAT YOU VOTED I figured we could weather it. British resolve in the face of sheer fuckwittery has always been a very odd strongpoint of ours, but it’s been there.

But that, combined with That Man…every ability I have to be lighthearted about things has been stamped on.

When I say I do not want to talk about him, or hear about him, or even see his face or his voice, I really honestly mean it. I don’t want to know what he’s said, or done, or about to do. I would erase him from my mind if I could, but I can’t.

He is a canker, a sore that will not heal, pustulent and weeping, ever present, ever on the verge of virulent infection. I do not want to give him dominion over my brain but that thing has set up camp and will not vacate.

There is a creeping horror that I cannot hide from. it follows me day to day like a persistent smell, a waft of rotting vegetation, or stagnant water. No matter what I try and do , it is always there. Right at the base of things.

I’m fighting as best I can. Hiding from the worst things, and living in a bubble – do not judge me for that because it is my bubble and I am trying to protect it from the sheer awfulness that has descended.

I read about the food world, I talk to food people, I look at the food related posts on Instagram and lose myself in the most beautiful cookbooks and am using it all as a shield to keep my brain calm so I would thank you not to pierce it with the arrows of a harsh and frightening reality that is threatening to drown me so much that I fear I almost cannot draw breath.

 

 

TELL THEM

Written by Emlyn Pearce, NOT ME.  But it needs sharing. 

https://www.facebook.com/emlynpearceblog/?

I’m sick of the way things are going in this country and I’m not keeping quiet any more!!!! We’ve been too fucking polite and too cowardly for too long: it’s time to STOP BEING AFRAID and tell people WHAT WE’RE REALLY THINKING!!!!

So if you know an immigrant in your neighbourhood, for God’s sake TELL THEM how much you’re glad they’re here, driving our buses and running our hospitals! Don’t let them spend one extra second wondering if they’re welcome or not!

If there’s a woman in a headscarf walking down your street don’t *pretend* you’re supporting her by politely walking by and avoiding eye contact: for fucksake give her A GREAT BIG SMILE and TELL HER how brave she is to publicly declare her religion when there are so many knuckle-dragging bum-bladders around willing to victimise her! And you can damn well walk her home too because it’s only five minutes out of your day and you haven’t made any new friends for about fifteen years!

Don’t let her think that the people who hate her are the only ones who know she’s there!

As William Shakespeare himself once wrote:
‘Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours
With a little understanding
You can find the perfect blend
Neighbours…should be there for one another
That’s when good neighbours become good friends.’

Those words are even more important now than they were in the seventeenth century! So what if, starting today, every Sikh got a smile and every Hindu got a random ‘hello’?

Could we give a flower to a Frenchman and hold a door for the Dutch?

What if every person reading this texted all their foreign friends and said ‘thanks for coming to this grey little island and helping us put on an Olympics that wasn’t just about Yorkshire puddings and coming last’. Would it fix everything? No. Would it be a good start? YES!! YES IT WOULD!!!

AND PEOPLE, WE NEED TO MAKE A START!!!

There have to be more decent British folk than there are racist wank-puffins on trams in Manchester, and THE ONLY WAY their voice is louder than ours is if we don’t bother to say anything! There is a time for keeping quiet and treating immigrants and Muslims and people of colour just like everyone else – AND BUDDY THIS AIN’T IT!

I know you’d rather have your eyes scooped out with a hot spoon than use them to look into the eyes of a stranger; I get that being British is usually about being polite and reserved and minding your own business, and as far as British reserve goes I’m happy for you and I’ma let you finish, BUT THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST SERIOUS SITUATIONS OF ALL TIME!

This is no time to be tea-sipping and stiff-upper-lipping!

We need ACTION!
We need LOVE!
We need KINDNESS!
Fuck it, we even need a damn hashtag!!!
So ‪#‎TELLTHEM‬!!! #TELLTHEM!!! #TELLTHEM!!!

Body acceptance is the new black.

This link made me cry silent tears on the train on the way in to work when I first read it. You know the ones, the stealth ones, that just slide down your face until you accidentally inhale one and then have to cough and pretend you have allergies.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/8760102/When-your-mother-says-shes-fat

So much of it hit nerves  – although hardly any of it is me, not any more, because I have long since accepted my shape and that it is FINE – but it is true of other people that I love, or like, or admire or even see in passing on the train.

You get a group of women together (I’m sorry guys, for not including you, but it is still mainly women that do this), and invariably the topic turns to diets.

They ‘can’t’ have this bit of cake, or that bit of biscuit, they daren’t have that salad dressing, or the yoghurt they like, or even the FRUIT that they like. It’s got too many calories, or carbs, or too much fat, or sugar or, oh, anything except AIR for goodness sake. A headsup; you absolutely can have whatever you want. You don’t need permission, or for it to be a ‘treat’, or a bit of ‘naughtiness’. It’s just food. Enjoy it. You are not a lesser mortal. You, too, are allowed to have nice things.

My body is a fabulous thing. It is. Honestly. I don’t care if nobody else thinks it is. I want it to continue to be a fabulous thing.

If my weight impacts on my health, and I can tell when it does, then I know what I need to do, because I KNOW MY BODY. I eat plant and protein based, essentially, for a few weeks, and I feel better. Note FEEL better, not LOOK better.

I do not want to fit into society’s ideal. Because society is totally fucked up with regards to female body image. Of course, every so often, I think I would like to have a slimmer figure, because buying clothes might be easier – though I doubt it – but you know what? I DON’T have that slimmer figure. I’m a big girl, with a big frame, and in order to change
it, I have to go to silly extremes, and I am not going to do that just to conform. Just like those naturally skinny women. Why should they start to eat tons of everything just so they might look like…what? A totally different person, with totally different genetics to them?

I went to a gym for 6 months, for two hours, three times a week. Did I lose weight? Nope. I did have fun though. I was the only person in that place smiling. And why? Because my body was letting me do stuff. I can still go out and dance for 5 hours, if my back lets me, should I so choose.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I am fed up with seeing gorgeous, intelligent, wonderful women reduce themselves, their whole remarkable, living, breathing, child-raising, child-teaching, nightclub running, law practising, engineering, science experimenting, music playing, truck driving, bike-riding, company running, techgeeking, game playing, language learning, absolutely-fan-fucking-tastic selves, to a figure on a scale, a comparison to an ideal that so often isn’t even what it looks like on the page.

Enough already, Society, enough.

Our bodies are miraculous. No matter which bit is broken, or which bit has hair, or ‘too much’ fat, or spots, or stretch marks, or wrinkles or saggy boobs, or chunky legs, or ‘too big’ hips, the rest of it keeps us here, and breathing and living and loving.

And thank whatever deities we choose to believe in, for that. And you.

IMG_1758

You might be happy, but are you WELL?

Personally, yes, I am well. Ok, so I have a chronic illness, that periodically makes my life a misery, but even in those times, and in-between those times, I am – mostly – well and happy and content.

I am perfectly happy with how I look, despite The Media yelling at me all the time that how I look is somehow wrong. (There is no wrong way to have a body. Just saying.)

I enjoy my food, and I am comfortable in that joy. In fact, I relish that joy of cooking and eating.

Wellness for me is not the elimination of everything you hold dear with no sound medical reason, because someone else has tagged it ‘unclean’. That doesn’t lead to wellness, it leads to fear, and paranoia, self denial and almost self flagellation. It also seems to lead to an awful lot of expense. The wellness and clean eating trend seems to mean a totally clean wallet, mainly. The Medjool date sellers and Sainsbury’s must be in heaven.

I am very well aware of how my body works, and what it needs to nourish itself.

Now. Read that again. “I am very well aware of how my body works, and what it needs to nourish itself.”

MY body, not yours. Or anyone else’s. What works for me (and I do NOT mean what makes me lose weight, in case anyone asks) may very well not work for anyone else at all on this planet.

We are legion, and because we are legion, there are as many body types, and health types as there are teeming billions on this tiny blue pearl of ours coasting through space.

Wellness, to me, doesn’t mean restriction to the point of madness. It certainly doesn’t mean designating a foodstuff ‘evil’ just because YOU have a reaction to it.

For example, if I take tetracycline antibiotic, it kills my white blood cells. We learned this through a nearly fatal experience when I was 6 or 7, but I am certainly not going to go around telling everyone I meet that they should never take it and that it will kill them. There is not, and never will be, a one size fits all when it comes to food and eating, and nor should there be. We are not living in Airstrip One. Yet.

Thane Prince made a very good comment the other night at our cookbook club, in that the current fads are now decrying what used to be our ‘wellness’ foods back in the day.

Good, wholemeal homemade bread has now become evil incarnate. It’s a great shame. One of the most simple, basic foods there has ever been, a food which has sustained millions, banished by people who think the world needs to be spoken to like they all have an illness or an allergy.  I am not in favour of the Chorleywood technique, as that has caused its own problems, despite it being a very useful tool when it was needed but the pure pleasure in eating well made bread, with cool butter, is one that should not be ignored.

Bread – 4 or so ingredients, butter 2 ingredients. Together they bring joy. (I am, however, extremely glad that a gluten free bakery in London has managed to provide my GF friends with the same joy. Restriction through necessity is not fun.)

Bread

Projecting your own food fears and obsessions out into the world can be dangerous, but it is also highly profitable. Our £60 BILLION diet industry is proof of that. It plays on our fears, and our insecurities. Ruby Tandoh has a rather brilliant post here on the subject. I am extremely glad that she is using her media position to speak out.

Life will be better IF we are more slim, just that bit more slim, and then a bit more.

WHEN you lose the weight, you can do [swimming/cycling/play with your kids]

This is all just another Cambridge Diet, or F Plan, or Slim Fast or Grapefruit Diet or Lighter Life in another guise.

Cycle, play with your kids, swim, walk, dance when nobody’s looking, dance when somebody IS looking. It’s YOUR body. Nobody else owns it.

I wish that people were able to genuinely love themselves for who and what they are.

Life doesn’t begin when you lose weight. It’s only you that is stopping yourself from doing all those fabulous things. Yes, I did lose a lot of weight a long time ago, through severe restriction. NOTHING CHANGED. I was still me, and what I discovered was that am not a bad thing to be.

I’ll go on the beach, or by the pool, in a swimsuit and hang the critics. Why? Because it’s my body, and it’s my life, and people do not dictate to me.

You are under no obligation to look at me. But you can if you want.

Run with the Moon
Sent to me by my friend Becca, as it reminded her of me. I am deeply honoured.

Do Not Go Quiet

2016 has been a year. It hasn’t blown in, it’s scythed in. We’ve lost idol after idol after idol and though I am sure these things go in cycles, and it’s not actually that extraordinary, this year dammit it seems personal.

Someone mused today that Terry Pratchett is no longer around to keep Death confined to pages, so now He’s out, and running amok. We all know He loves music with rocks in, but please….man…enough.

I’m refusing to believe Lemmy is gone. It’s easier that way.

Bowie has transcended this tired earth, and gone on to the stars. I’ve written about him at length, but I’m still not ready to write more, to actually believe.

Chyna – she really was amazing. She – along with others that we have lost too soon – made it ok to be not the norm, not a size 6, not tiny/super pretty/blonde.

Chyna

She was beset with pain for most of her life, ridiculed for what she looked like, but she emphasised her size, and ramped up her power.

She did her own thing, her own way, all the time. This is a woman who had her swimming pool built in the shape of Paul Levesque’s arse, for goodness sake.

She was beautiful, and powerful, and somebody who made me think Yes, ME AND MY BODY ARE NOT WRONG. I just wish that her pain had been ended a different way.

Victoria Wood…too much. She was a friend, she felt like someone you knew, had already met. She was that person who knew how we felt, how we all felt, and echoed it in her characters. Everything had life running through it, our lives, our experiences, our blushes and our fears and our laughter.

Prince…I can’t even take that in today. I sat on the train tonight, tears rolling down my face, as I searched for that one bit of hope that TMZ had got it wrong, knowing in my heart that it was true.

Today is the one day that I have worn purple, in years. I hate that this is fitting, but I’m damned sure I’ll be wearing it tomorrow.

Prince2

His Purpleness caused outrage, and scandal, and in doing so made sure that people knew that sex, and sensuality, were NORMAL. Things to be sung about, talked about, shown and dreamed about. Having sexual feelings isn’t wrong, and he confirmed that to us time and again.

He glorified in sound, and rhythm, drums and bass and guitars and vocals. All of it, everything, and then some.

He gave women performers their space, and their time to be recognised, when often they were ignored or relegated to ‘background’ vocals. (Though many songs would be nothing without those vocals.)

He pushed artists into areas they were not used to, and pushed those areas into accepting performers they never normally would because it would have taken a spine made of adamantium to stand up against his will.

His genius flowed outwards and over others, bringing them into the fold, and making stars out of them too.

He told us, insisted, that being sexy wasn’t something to be hidden – and why should it be? Bodies are beautiful, and ours. They are the ONE thing that truly belongs to us. No shame, no fear, no “I should be…”

He gave us more than music, he gave us, along with Bowie, permission. Permission to be weird, to be us, to be and sing and play and wear what the hell we liked, regardless, and against the odds.

His music went far beyond his own.

Saying He Will Be Missed doesn’t even come close. It can’t.

Prince

You will be mourned, and celebrated, and played, and shown, and loved.

 

Prince Hair

Chutney Molly

I’ve always wanted to be a capable, organised cook. One of those deft fingered, sure footed women (sorry guys, but this is about me) with strong hands, that know where everything is in their kitchen, and exactly what they are doing. The cakes that rise every time, the crackle crusted breads from silken doughs, the glossy stews. My Nan was like that, and I cannot recall anything that she cooked going wrong. She would criticize it, almost as a reflex, because that was her all over, but everyone else loved whatever she made.

The difference in watching my mum cook, and my Nan, was that my Mum enjoys it. She enjoys food, and combining flavours, trying different things, talking about what goes well with what, and discussing what she’s cooked with other people. Nan always seemed to maybe not dislike cooking, but she didn’t revel in it, not like Mum and I can, and do.

Perhaps, for her, it really was just a chore, but one that she happened to be very good at indeed. Her chutneys and jams were things of legend in their Norfolk village, and she made so much every year that she could have had a cottage industry going if she’d ever thought to charge. As it was she just cooked mountains of chutneys, her kitchen piled high with garden produce. Always a harsh sting in the air from the white and spring onions, heaps of de-strung and sliced runner beans awaiting a mustard sauce, wooden chopping boards stained puce from fresh beetroot. She  gave most of those mountains away.

She had cooked for as long as I could remember. My first knowledge of her girlhood were the tales of her in the Land Army. Hoping to be sent away to somewhere she’d never been, but instead sent to a farm owned by a relative in Thundersley, Essex, was a bit of a blow but she coped, and coped admirably.

She was so small, and slight – “I had a 21 inch waist back then!” – that she could lie down in between the rows of cabbages in the fields when German planes went over, shielded by the dark, voluminous leaves. I can only imagine how terrifying that was as machine guns strafed the fields.

There was the time she had to ‘take the cow to the bull’, which she thought was just a “take that cow there, to stand outside that bull enclosure” instruction. She didn’t realise she had to put the cow IN with the bull, as she wasn’t aware of the purpose of that particular bovine visitation. The farm hands found her an hour later, still stood there, wondering what was meant to happen, with a particularly cross bull glaring at her from behind his fence.

The bull seemed to take a dislike to her after that, charging at her on one occasion and pinning her to the fence, each of his horns either side of her waist embedded in the wood. She wriggled free.

Another time he chased her across a field into a barn, where all she could do was flee up a great pile of chaff which, of course, just kept giving way beneath her. She was, essentially, running on the spot halfway up, while the bull stamped and snorted at the bottom, foaming at the mouth. The farm hands rescued her, once they’d stopped laughing.

Poor Molly Kathleen.

Life never ran smoothly for her. There were Things we never spoke of, which had made her very wary, and almost scared – certainly highly suspicious –  of any man that wasn’t my grandfather, whom she nagged to death. Sadly, that was literally. His last words to her were “For once in your life, Molly Crowe, will you shut up and listen!?”

Life probably could have been good to her, had she not seemed to always tread the path of most resistance. In a way I do wish that I could have made her journey easier, but she withstood even me, her only grandchild, becoming by the end a paranoid and bitter woman, insisting that we only wanted her for her money, which could not have been further from the truth.

Our last conversation, after my cards and letters were sent back torn up,  was her telling me that I was dead to her, because I’d taken the ‘side’ of my mum and my step dad (over some made up row that nobody but she could actually recall), and me telling her that if that was what she needed to do to feel safe, then so be it, but that I still loved her.

That was that. All contact severed, never to be heard from again. I tried a few times, but there’s only so much hurt you can take before you painfully realise that it’s actually a relief not to walk on eggshells, or jump when the phone rings any more.

Molly Kathleen Crowe, you may not have given me your love, at the end, but you did give me your skill, your curly hair, your siege mentality when it comes to the kitchen store cupboards, and two chutney recipes. (in her words, below)

Beetroot, Apple and Onion Chutney
(Nan’s Recipe)

1lb cooked and peeled beetroot, cold (about 1 cm square)
1lb (after peeling and coring) cooking apples
½ lb onions
½ lb soft brown sugar
¼ pint malt vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Chop apples and onions quite small (1 cm square) and put into a pan with the vinegar and sugar. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar is quite dissolved then simmer gently until thick and soft. Season and remove from the heat. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then add the chopped beetroot and stir really well. Put into sterilised jars, cover with jam pot covers and secure tightly when cool. Try to use plastic lined lids as the vinegar reacts with the metal ones and can cause the chutney to taste awful. (This in a cheese sandwich is pure, sweet, tangy heaven ~ Lisa)

Autumn apple

Apple Chutney
(Nan’s Recipe)

2lb (after peeling and coring) of cooking apples
1lb onions
12 oz soft brown sugar
2-4 oz sultanas
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
½ pint malt vinegar

Chop apples and onions fairly small. Place onions in a pan with a little vinegar and simmer until soft then add the apples, dried fruit, spices and sugar. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved and then add the rest of the vinegar and cook until soft and thick. If you divide the mixture with a wooden spoon and the divide remains then it is done. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.
Place in warm sterilised jars and cover with waxed pot covers when cool. Use plastic lined lids as vinegar attacks metals ones and spoils the flavour.

Green Tomato Chutney