Mar 09 2015

Food for Thought

Restored, retrieved, recouped, Raining Sideways is back!

For some time www.rainingsideways.com has been inaccessible, vanished, gone, mysteriously replaced with the word “Forbidden” in large letters. Panic, had I really lost eleven years of work in one single blow? My imagination ran riot. I had just had lunch with a writer friend who, like me, had read a great deal in the Press lately about a generation of writing and photography in danger of simply disappearing as technology advances and old programmes can no longer be retrieved. Could that have suddenly, unaccountably happened to me?

“Get published” she said “get into print, a real book, a record of all you have written about the changing climate, landscape, food, farming, gardening. Get it down on paper.” I looked doubtful. She pressed details of her publisher into my hand. I mumbled thanks and felt anxious; all the old stuff, not good enough, no one will be interested. “But people read Raining Sideways all over the world” she pursued. “Yes” I said “They do, thank you, OK” trying to sound convincing even to myself. And the next day my whole website simply vanished.

I fired off e mails to my son in Japan: “Help!” Then today, as suddenly as it vanished, it’s back. I don’t know where it went, why it went or how it came back, but one thing is for sure, I’ve learnt how much I value it! Not only have I moved everything onto a remote hard drive but I am pondering Jill’s advice and encouragement very seriously now. Maybe she is right and there is a book in here somewhere.

Spring has arrived at last. It seemed to drag its heels a while with big frosts, hailstorms and howling winds but the birds are convinced. Shouting their tiny heads off morning, noon and night, they feverishly dart about preparing to build their nests.

And the two handsome cock pheasants have returned, pottering down to the bird feeder causing dismay amongst all the smaller fellows. M. Poulet is strutting his stuff in the farmyard lauding it over his rather ancient harem, a scruffy bunch, finally beginning to grow new feathers, not before time. So I simply must believe that Spring is indeed sprung.

Breakfast

The grass is very slow to get going on the hills this year so the Ladies-in-Waiting have been coming in for breakfast and tea for a week or so now. Some are beginning to bag up so it will not be long before we have the first lamb.

Playtime

Each year it fills me with excitement tinged, despite years of experience, with anxiety. Every year brings something new. This year our son is arriving from Japan to help with lambing: a steep learning curve for him and another pair of hands for us, wonderful

As snowdrops fade they are replaced by daffodils and crocus. Camellias appear everywhere blemished by the frequent frosts.

Primroses punctuate the lawn and tiny specs of blossom have appeared on the old damson tree, glistening like tiny snowflakes in the watery sun. Gheorhge has dug the vegetable garden for me, such luxury! The broad beans can be planted out at last, sweet peas too. Tomatoes are racing away and tiny seedlings miraculously push upwards in my new smart propagator. Soon it will be time to sow salad crops, runner beans, French beans, peas; a whole host of different vegetables.

I have been growing my own vegetables for years now, raising our own lamb and chicken and keeping hens for eggs. I had pigs too for a few years. I trained as a cook and turned into a farmer!

Although no foodie, I do have to admit to loving Professional Master Chef having cooked professionally myself years ago. Now though I am much more interested in straightforward real food. It does not have to be Organic but I do want it to be sourced, grown and produced cleanly, honestly with integrity and good husbandry, without unnecessary chemicals or “additives”.

Simple you may think, so what, but try a read of Joanna Blythman’s new book “Swallow This: Serving up the Food Industries Darkest Secrets” published this week by 4th Estate. Or read an extract in the Guardian Weekend on line. She tells of her visit to the annual trade show called Food Ingredients, “a three day gathering of the world’s most important ingredient suppliers, distributors and buyers…… representing a buying power of £2.97bn”.

She exposes the deception of food labelling, talks of a “potato protein isolate” which “provides volume, stability and mouthfeel” used to substitute those things we look for in cakes baked  traditionally like eggs, butter, cream. Or a modified starch which gives tomato sauce that pulpy visual appeal yet uses 25% less tomato paste. Or how about the “solution” which adds 21 days shelf life to fruit and veg. Think of the carton of lovely shiny ready prepared fruit salad that you had as a healthy snack the other day. Just how old was that glossy fruit? And so she goes on: a really important exposure of what our food really contains. From water injected poultry, powdered coagulated egg, egg replacers that have an 18 month shelf life and “mature” cheddar ready in some 72 hours. Tell that to Mary Quicke!  We pick up all this stuff every time we shop in the supermarket mostly unknowingly.

By now I’m on a roll! I read in the Telegraph about salad washed in 8 hour old water laced with chlorine then “packaged in a protective atmosphere”, a euphemism for gassed to extend shelf life. I for one am right back to the greengrocer or my own veg patch.

Then of course there’s bread. In 1961 the Chorleywood Process revolutionised bread manufacture. Eighty percent of bread is produced this way. It stays fresher longer as preservatives hold back the mould and loaves can be made from start to finish in three and a half hours. Bread is no longer made of flour, yeast and water. They have been replaced by enzymes or “processing aides” which do not have to be declared on the label. Flour treatment agents act as an oxidant helping to retain gas in dough making the loaf rise more. Bleach dioxide gas makes white flour whiter, were shall I stop. Could this be why so many people are having trouble digesting bread and fear they may have a wheat allergy? Funny too that all the many gluten free products are made by the same manufacturers. What do they use, I wonder, to replace gluten?

Real Bread from Manna from Devon

Read Andrew Whitley, founder of the Real Bread Campaign and author of Bread Matters or go to the Independent on line and read “The Shocking Truth about Bread”. Go to “Allotments and Gardens” also on line  for a comprehensive description of the Chorleywood Process.

Don’t take my word for it!

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