Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Off to North Carolina for a few days, visiting friends in  Hendersonville.

Penne will be at her "holiday camp" with Ron and Charlotte down in the Gulf Gate area of SRQ. Penne loves being there. Ron and Char "adore" her.

Neighbour Kathy will be taking care of my home and my cats.

See you next week.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Meat as a luxury? (2) ... What we used to eat.

As I grew up in the U.K.  (between 1944 and 1964) the "norm" was to have meat as part of the daily main meal (evenings Monday - Friday); (noontime Saturday and Sunday).

Meat on the plate was the sign that we were doing well. It was considered to be essential. Vegetarians were thought to be slightly odd.

Mum did her best to put meat on the table - but as funds were limited we often ate the cheapest cuts.

There was liver, which none of us "adored" (though in these days I like liver and onions).

Mum once fed us tripe. 'Twas hard to swallow on account of its texture so we disliked it immensely.  ( I made "tripe and onions" a few years ago and enjoyed it).

We had a cheaper form of ham - known as "fore spur" - it had more fat than regular ham.

I discovered that the word fore-spur is from an older Somersetshire local dialect viz  Fore-spur, or Vore-spur s.  the fore-leg of pork

Mum made steak (stewing beef!) and kidney pudding (steamed in a suet based crust), or steak and kidney pie (baked in a regular pie crust),  Both were and are "oh so good" even though most Americans are weak kneed at the thought of eating kidneys.

We ate and enjoyed faggots, made from scratch and baked, then served with good gravy, potatoes and veggies.  (I can never explain faggots to Americans, but do accept  that at their very best they are excellent).

Dear American friends, do become a "foodie" and think of faggots as a desirable English ethnic food. (see below).

Mum often roasted "breast of lamb" at a very high heat,  so that the fat became all crispy and crunchy. (I do not remember that she ever boned, stuffed and rolled it before roasting).

The same was true for "belly of pork slices" -  when cooked well  the fat is as good as the meat.

In the winter months our Saturday mid-day meal was often stew.  Although I was never crazy about the "doughboys" (dumplings) which often topped the stews, I learned to enjoy Mum's Lamb stew (made from the bony "best end of neck of lamb" (or maybe with lamb scrag.).

Chicken was still a "treat" believe it or not.  But Mum made sure that the mid-day Sunday meal featured (over) roasted beef; or perhaps some leg or shoulder of lamb, or leg of pork.

At other times there were pork (chipolata) sausages, or poached smoked haddock with a poached egg on top, or kippers -  and as we grew more prosperous we enjoyed  Mum's famous mixed grill with bacon, a lamb chop, grilled beefsteak, grilled mushrooms, a fried egg or two  etc, etc.

And even in our poorer days there was the pay day treat of fish and chips from our local shop (named Evelyn's) with crispy chips (twice fried in lard) and battered and fried cod or haddock.

Lord above, we ate well on"cheap meats",

Breast of Lamb

Belly of Pork slices.

Scrag of Lamb


Best end of neck of Lamb

Beef caul (for Faggots recipe).


Here is a decent recipe for excellent Faggots.

The recipe is from one posted by 'Somerset Lad' on the River Cottage Forum, but is typical of this type. In the original the meat is cooked in liquid before being ground and mixed. This adaption by Debbie who posts on River Cottage and runs Hidden Valley Pigs, omits the pre-cooking stage.

2lb Pig's Fry - Lungs, Liver, Heart (I used just Liver and Heart)
1lb Fat Pork (belly's good)
8oz Fresh Breadcrumbs
1 desertsp each of Dried Sage and Parsley (I used fresh parsley)
Salt and Pepper (about 3 level tsp salt and 1¼ level tsp pepper)
Caul Fat if you can get it

Mince the meats then mix in the dry ingredients.
Leave to stand for about an hour - it will firm up.
Shape into the size faggots you want (about 9 is good), wet hands help to do this, put in a dish and fill it about a third of the way up the faggots with stock or water. Cook in a 190°C oven (170°C fan) for about 40 minutes. Cover with foil if the tops are getting too brown
If using caul, soak it in tepid water for about an hour, then wrap a piece around each faggot before cooking.
Faggots freeze well.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Meat as a luxury? (Fish already is).

Good Lord, the price of meat has skyrocketed.

Who can afford beef these days?

Bacon prices seem to have gone up by about 49% overnight.

Humble Chicken thighs used to be sold at about 99c per pound.  Not any more - I paid $2.49 per pound for them yesterday.

Lamb has always been expensive in these United States: it is now all but unaffordable.

Even "the other white meat" - pork - has gone up in price -  I find myself looking for those "two for one specials" of the cheaper cuts.

If the sale of "Smithfield"  (one of America's largest pork/ham/bacon outfits) goes through, and it is sold to a Chinese company we'll soon being seeing pork as a luxury meat ( the growing and more prosperous  Chinese population has an insatiable appetite for pork).

Some of the more extreme price increases may be localised. That could be true in this part of Florida where one Supermarket chain holds a huge share of the market - getting near to monopoly status.

Nationally the price of beef has shot up in part because of the extreme and prolonged drought in the south western states.  The number of beef cattle has been cut drastically on account of the lack of food and water.

The drought has naturally affected the costs of dairy products - milk, cheese etc  - fewer cattle = less milk.

The drought has also affected the supply of animal foodstuffs (grain etc) - hence a rise in price of poultry and eggs.

Internationally (and especially in Asia with some more prosperous economies and with growing populations ) there is a huge new demand for meat, and for grains (corn and wheat).

I believe that meat will become a semi-luxury.  I thinks that we shall soon be eating some of the humbler and less desirable cuts of meat - just as we did when I was knee high to a grasshopper.

More on this tomorrow.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

One of Ten

Many of you know that I am one of ten children.

We are (in birth order):

Maureen  1937
Jean  1939
Sylvia (died in infancy) (1941/42?)
John Michael (me) 1944
Elizabeth Anne (my twin) 1944
Andrew 1950
David  1951
Stephen 1952
Martyn 1954
Ruth 1956

Today, August 18th, was brother Steve's 61st birthday.  We had a lovely 'phone chat.

I am grateful for Steve, for his wife Angela, and for their children Lee and Nicola.