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

But what about meeeee?

I absolutely understand the need for inclusivity. Deliberately excluding people on grounds of race or gender or sexuality or position in society or status is needless.

Being mean to people is bad, m’kay?

We are all agreed on that, yes? Good. Right then.

Twice a year we have Days for certain people. Mums and Dads. It doesn’t say what kind of dad, or what kind of mum, or how they became their version of that, it is just a day upon which to make a fuss of them and do nice things should you so choose.

Today, Mothering Sunday in the UK, a lovely place offered free little cakes for all mums going in to their shop. It’s a small business, not a chain. I expect they know most of their clients by name, given how warm and friendly they are. They posted a photo of said lovely cakes on instagram.

Oh dear.

I expect you can guess what happened next.

“What?! For moms? So those of us without children left out further? I really hope you plan on giving EVERY woman who eats with you today one of these.”

 Aside from the fact that I’m not sure how you would tell a person wasn’t a mother, as they didn’t specify you had to be accompanied by your offspring, I find that a little much. Plus a small business giving away a product free to everyone might not be economically viable for them. Everything is made by hand, so perhaps extra hours would need to be factored in to the work day.

I realise it can be extremely hard for people who do not have kids, and desperately want them, but offering a small cake on a given day is not a slight against you. It really isn’t, and you know why? Because this is NOT ABOUT YOU. It is not your day, and I am sorry for that, and sorry that it hurts you that it can’t be your day, but it is what it is. That doesn’t excuse your being mean to nice people.

There is a difference between a deliberate exclusion and a very kind gesture on a specific day.

However, the lovely shop very graciously said

“Every single person that comes today! We are all mamas here today”

Now, I’m not sure that was their original intention, but bravo them for saying it. Many of us are without our Mothers today. Some through distance, some through bereavement or estrangement. Many, many more of us are not mothers, and never will be. This does not give us the right to demand things that, technically, aren’t our due. Though we can ask nicely.

As a wise person said “Positivity and kindness? Uhhuh. I don’t have kids. But I don’t feel any need to muscle in on a day celebrating mothers or a sweet kind gesture such as the offer to give a little cake away for the occasion.”

The original poster came back and said she’d just asked a polite question, but it really wasn’t polite at all. Certainly not in the way it was written. A simple “What about us non Mums? We can has cake too?” with a smiley face would have been better. But this was guilt tripping for a kind gesture and I hate that.

Your personal pain does not give you the right to throw sand in people’s faces when they make a kind gesture. And yes, people will – and should – call you on your bullshit.

As another wise person said (I know a LOT of wise people) ‘Not everything’s for everyone.’

Suck it up.

Make a call when it’s something that is a real injustice, not this faux Twitter Outrage that seems so prevalent now.

Have a read of this, see how ridiculous you sound, and recognise that you cannot have everything all of the time.

http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/magazine/news/20-astonishing-holiday-complaints-thomas-cook-abta

Wellbeing: mine, or yours?

“Health and wellbeing” seems to be the new favourite phrase. It’s being bandied about at my workplace, and whilst I am sure it comes from a good place, people do need to get a grip on what it means, not just generally, but individually.

It may come as a surprise to many, but thin doesn’t automatically equal healthy, and fat doesn’t automatically equal UNhealthy.

I know. Shocker, right? Who knew that a thin person could have chronic heart disease? Or that a fat person could have great blood pressure and cholesterol levels?

Or…what else? Oh yes. Did you know that both fat and thin people get the same illnesses? Yes, really. But did you also know that if I get an illness, I will get told to lose weight to cure it, and maybe given medicine but that when a thin person gets the same illness they will (mostly) be given a treatment without the body advice?

Appearance based healthcare should not be a thing. Actual medical evidence based healthcare should be a thing. The only thing you can really tell from what a person looks like is what they look like. (Apart from the obvious physical things like rickets, or decapitation, let’s not be silly about this.)

This week we had a Know Your Numbers session at work. What those numbers in relation to blood pressure, blood glucose levels etc., really mean.

Hurrah! says I. Useful stuff at last! and then I spied the devil in the detail. Those 3 letters that spell doom, gloom and lectures for most people who are not olympic athletes or star rugby players.

B M I

There were tape measures on all the tables, and little charts to help you work out your BMI. My heart sank.

Mostly it was ok. The Dr was an interesting speaker, and did a good job of explaining what most ‘normal’ numbers should be. BMI = 25, blood sugar = 5/6 and blood pressure more than 90 over 60 (90/60) and less than 120 over 80 (120/80). He did also say that BMI is of no real use. But then said it was a good measuring tool, which confused me.

I do not drink. I do not smoke. I rarely eat white bread, or pasta, or huge amounts of carbs. Junk food isn’t a thing in my house, and processed meals don’t really feature at all unless I have really run out of time and energy. I do not eat crisps, or even the latest ‘healthy’ snack, popcorn.

I follow, mostly, the Mediterranean diet because it’s what I love, it’s what I’m used to and who doesn’t love a good olive? (It’s ok, I know lots of people who do not.)

I decided to play with the blood pressure machine that the Dr had brought along, rather stupidly forgetting for a moment that I was going through two of the most stressful, upsetting, grief inducing weeks of my life, the culmination of which was going to be the next day, and which had a high probability of having a very bad, life altering outcome. Plus three people were crowded round staring at me while the machine was working.

I think my numbers were 142 over 91, then 140 over 90 the second time a couple of minutes later.

“That’s high blood pressure, you should get to your GP and get on statins. “

“But it’s never read like that before, it’s consistently within normal range whenever my GP checks it.”

“Well that’s just the numbers, that’s what it is.”

“So why, whenever I had had it checked, in all my 45 years, has it always been good? Even after a bike crash, it was perfect? Surely my GP would have said something?”

“Well, it’s just the numbers, go to your GP asap or get a blood pressure machine to use at home and keep an eye on it.”

But you know, it wasn’t his words. It was the look on his face. I know that look, I’ve seen it countless times over the years. It’s a slightly indulgent smile, and an expression that says

“Of course you’ve got high blood pressure, you’re fat.”

It doesn’t matter what I say, or how well I document what I eat, it’s never quite believed, because my appearance shouts the contrary, according to society. In fact one of my friends who kept a food diary, showing exactly how little she ate – and I know how she eats, she lived with me and was UNABLE to get to the shops herself to buy anything other than what was in the house – was told OUTRIGHT she was a liar.

The most stupid thing, the thing that I am angry with myself about, is that he actually managed to scare me, so I bought a portable blood pressure unit, and used it today. I could feel my heart racing as I put on the cuff, and of course…my BP was higher than when HE tested it, so has he now put so much fear in me that I’ll skew the result each time? Have I given myself some sort of white coat syndrome so that my adrenaline spikes at the very thought of the machine?

I feel fine, I eat well in a way that I know is good for me – the way my very first GP told me to eat when I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 16 – I try and walk as much as I can in the time I have each day, I try to not sit for too long at work, which is hard when you’re a PA whose job is mainly email and computer based, and I’m trying to lose weight for my own peace of mind but this whole thing has made me feel very scared, and about to run to my GP for statins.

This is not how properly done healthcare should make you feel. Whose wellbeing are they looking after, really, when one 10 minute meeting can leave a person upset and scared for days and spending money that they probably didn’t need to.

But, as ever…

G-PutOnBigGrlPanties