FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD

food 3

It is a pleasant enough day today. It’s quite mild for December . In fact it’s perfect  sort of weather to get a few outside jobs sorted out. I couldn’t do much at the bottom of the garden throughout the Summer and Autumn because the honeybees stayed very active late into the year .Here we are now approaching Christmas and then before we know it …a whole new year to contend with. Six hives are silent .You’d think there was no one at home or they had all died. It’s so quiet . A few years ago a whole colony died on me and I had to start all over again. I had to take a deep breath and just go right back to the beginning .That kind of thing can happen when you decide to become  a  caretaker of honeybees. This year , I started with two good hives after the Winter’s end and I’m finishing with six. Anyway they appeared to be quiet so I decided to clear out that bramble that had grown up around them and clear up all the dead leaves. It was a bit of a mess because bees like it messy .They must like it like that , because you daren’t go near them without protection during their active time .Anyway, I got most of the mess cleared up  into bags when suddenly without any notice they were pouring out of  the wee doors on two hives …..running and bearding around the door like molasses from a tin  .  They’d obviously sensed that  a predator like a bear or myself was in the vicinity and they were not abiding that one bit. It was time to clear away out of their way. I gathered up my  branch loppers, rake,   clippers and bulging bags of brambles and leaves… and scarpered. At least I know they’re alive but I don’t want them getting too excited and starting  to use up all their food stores on pointless aggravation . I left them plenty of honey and a bag of sugar in each hive  in late Autumn, but they could run out of food if they start flying off looking for blooms that aren’t there.Even the brightness of fallen snow  on the winter ground can lure them out to a chilling death…..Food that’s what it’s all about , isn’t it .Thoughts turn to comforting food in Wintertime….

There’s much talk about food and food banks recently.Apparently poverty is so prevalent that people are having to receive charitable food packages to feed themselves and possibly their families.

It has been implied that the problem is purely that  people have adequate money but it is simply being misused. It has been said that people no longer know how to cook anymore . In fact it has been implied that people hardly understand what food actually is anymore . You can see how this  argument develops. Within a generation we have become consumers of a vast range of foodstuffs that  a few years ago were unknown quantities . In any small town you are likely to find supermarkets replete with shelves bulging with foods from all over the world .I can remember a time some forty years ago when something like a yoghurt was viewed with suspicion as being vaguely “foreign”.Well, it was, of course . People asked what it was when you produced it in your lunchbox at work. Chinese takeaway food was only available in cities . It was seen as a special treat to eat in a Chinese restaurant even though some still had reservations about this strange spicy “foreign” flavours..We didn’t “do” a lot of spice back then

Takeaway food was seen as not quite” real” food at all, by an older generation. My mother had reservations about something as bland as fish and chips. She saw it as almost wasteful to pay so much money for something  that was literally “cheap as chips” to make at home. Apparently fish and chips was introduced to the UK  by Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain in the middle of the  nineteenth century.In Ireland  it all began in the 1880s with an Italian ,Giuseppe Cervi,  in Cork who went to Dublin and sold them outside pubs from a cart. The Italians  were the ones to open up cafes and introduce us all to ice cream too.My mother always associated takeaway food with pubs ,I suppose.She thought it was vaguely indecent or not quite sensible  food that wasted the household budget. I’m sure many fastidious housekeepers saw it like that too.Women mostly controlled the household and the cooking chores and many men never made as much as a cup of tea..As far as food was concerned , many men were utterly helpless.

A generation later  there is so much choice that people are having their food delivered by taxi along with cigarettes and a carry-out from the off-licence so you can see where the idea of money being wasted comes from.The choice is endless .You  can order pizzas,Chinese food, Indian , Turkish kebabs and have them delivered to the door. Local garages provide a choice of ready meals to take -away.Then there are McDonalds burger-houses and  the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise , even  in small towns.You could probably buy a different meal each evening of the week and have it delivered .You’d never have to leave the house or switch on the cooker. You mightn’t even have a cooker or a kitchen. If you only had a room in a house to live in ,for example,  your landlord mightn’t think cooking facilities were actually necessary at all. There are places, in the world, after all ,where no one cooks at  home, but exist  entirely on “street food”. There is even now a trend to buy your morning coffee at the local garage while you are picking up the newspaper.

Social change is such that more people are dependant on having their food prepared for them by someone else and so they never develop cooking skills. On television ,food has become a sort of edible pornography of the senses , with shows like “Masterchef” attracting huge viewing figures .What had once been the ordinary grind of everyday life has taken on an exoticism it never had before. People lie and sofa- surf watching cookery programmes while they eat their takeaway. They might never turn on a cooker at all.

The problems occur when finances don’t match up to the expectations or there’s possibly a degree of laziness too. It doesn’t cost too much to cook a wholesome meal from a few ingredients if the knowledge and the skills are there but even with internet access to a world of  cheap recipes and instructions , people seem unable to afford to feed themselves.

Some of this is understandable .It costs money to cook food, pots, pans, knives …electricity ….gas…and it costs money to buy the raw ingredients and some modest skills to make it tasty. Some people may have none of these things and no inkling as to how to put it all together. There are plenty of people who are literally helpless in that respect. They’ve been made helpless by over-helpful  or maybe neglectful parents.The human being can sometimes  be the most helpless creature on the planet.

My wife just arrived home with a a leg of lamb ..half price at £9.00. I said  she should have bought two at that price. I’ll add a few vegetables and herbs  to that and make maybe three good dinners for us . A nice roast,a stew …maybe a curry.Mind you , it’s taken me many years to perfect my cooking skills.A  curry I made some forty- plus years ago still lives on in legend and may actually still have a life of its own , somewhere  in a backyard in Cussick Street , off the Lisburn Road   in Belfast  .That’s where the fuming saucepan was finally laid to rest……

Still …you’ve got to start somewhere.

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