Love it or hate it

is, as any Brit will know, the Marmite slogan. I’ve mentioned before that I do indeed love it. In fact, at the weekend I saw the biggest jar of Marmite that I have ever seen,  and was quite tempted to buy it. It was enormous! But it turns out my love has a price and that price is not $25.  I left it sitting on the shelf in the store where I found it.

Today, I came across a story on the Telegraph website about a new Marmite advertising campaign which is causing offence. It’s a parody advert, where negligent owners of jars of Marmite are punished for their behavior. Their jars of the brown stuff are taken away, to be rehoused with better owners .  Apparently some people feel it belittles the actions of  animal welfare officers, and animal welfare organizations, but PETA has come out on the side of Marmite, saying it reminds people of the difficulty of the job animal welfare officers have to perform.

To be honest, my family has probably been guilty of some serious Marmite neglect in the past.  Before I left home for university, I didn’t eat it that often, and neither my mother nor my sister ever touched the stuff. I rarely saw my dad eat it either, although he does like it.  I’m pretty sure most of our jars were pretty vintage by the time we got to the end of them.

I think it’s an amusing advert, although one I probably won’t be watching more than once. Take a look and see what you think.

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Melting

Today is day 7 of a heat wave. Every evening this week, at around 7:00 p.m., the hallway thermometer in my house has been averaging around 96°F (35°C).  Outside it has been even hotter at 103-6° F, depending on the day (39-41°C  or so), Forecasters promise some relief tomorrow (93! Never, growing up in England, did I imagine that one day I would look forward to a temperature in the 90s as as a ‘cool’ temperature!) All week, I’ve felt like I am melting. However, yesterday I decided to do some melting of my own…Melting of chocolate chips, that is.

I’ve mentioned before how I don’t really care to cook, but my husband had said something about cheesecake a couple of months ago. For some reason I decided right then to find a  cheesecake recipe.  and make it before the year was out. He likes cheesecake a lot, but I don’t because the cream cheese gives it a funny taste.  I looked online, however, I couldn’t get past the cream cheese issue and all the other recipes I found required gelatin. Powdered cow hooves? No, thanks.

Then, a few weeks ago, I came across a recipe on Made of Stars, a great blog with vegan recipes. Ally, the writer of Made of Stars, has a recipe for a no-bake chocolate Kahlua Cheesecake (minus the cheese!). It looked very easy – one of the most important considerations for me with any recipe – so I bookmarked it and decided to come back to it later. I usually bookmark recipes, only to delete them two years later without ever making them.

My husband doesn’t like alcohol, so my version was minus the kahlua. I also made a couple of other changes to use things I already had in the house. It came out looking really not too bad at all. DSC09978

This is the original recipe with my variations in italics.

The Base – 13 biscuits (I used Honeymaid graham crackers – the box had three packages and I used one. I crushed them by hand in a plastic bag)
1/2 cup walnuts (I used a handful of roughly chopped pecans),
coconut oil (I used 2 Tbsp of Earth Balance spread),
2 Tbsp raw cacao powder (I used cocoa powder),
1 Tbsp icing sugar,
orange zest, (I didn’t add this because my husband doesn’t like chocolate with orange)
kahlua, (I didn’t add this)
salt. (Nor this)
Melt the coconut oil/butter/butter substitute then mix everything together and press into a pan. (I lined mine with foil)
The base is required to spend an hour in the fridge in order to ‘set’.

Filling ingredients – 350g (12oz) firm silken tofu
300g (10oz) non-dairy sweetened chocolate chips, melted (I just used a bag of regular semi-sweet chocolate chips)
3 Tbsp raw cacao powder, made into a paste with 50ml(3 Tbsp)of hot water – cool slightly (I used cocoa powder and heaped up the spoons!)
1 Tbsp icing sugar, sifted (It was a very heaped spoonful and not sifted – didn’t notice that it should have been until now. Oops.
1 Tbsp Kahlua (none)
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk) (I used skim milk)
Decoration: non-dairy white chocolate and dark chocolate (That’s going too far for me!)
Method:
1. Place the ingredients into a food processor in the order that they are listed. Process until smooth. Add additional almond milk if the texture is too thick. Taste the filling before adding it to the base. If it is not sweet enough, add an additional tablespoon of maple syrup. You may want to add more Kahlua! (I liquidized the tofu in my mini-blender with the milk, then just mixed everything together in a bowl because the blender was too small to fit in anything else.)
2. Remove the base from the fridge. Pour the filling into the base, and smooth the surface with a spatula.
3. Refrigerate for a few hours (or overnight).
4. For decoration, sprinkle finely grated white chocolate and dark chocolate across the surface of the cake. Decorate with small wedges of dark chocolate. (I skipped this.)

Result: I didn’t tell my husband that I’d made it with tofu. A previous experience involving black bean brownies taught me to keep quiet about unconventional ingredients. Once he’d declared it delicious, I revealed the secret ingredient (none of the fat of the nasty old cream cheese) and it was too late for him to change his mind! It’s not too sweet, with a very rich chocolate taste. I’d scale down the ingredients another time and make just a couple of small cups with the base crumbled on top instead. Overall – it’s a great recipe and it took very little time or effort to make. You can make it completely vegan, or make it a hybrid, like I did. Thanks to Ally for sharing it!DSC09982

Unappealing

I’m probably a bit of a fussy eater,  but I’m open to trying new foods (as long as they don’t contain meat or fish). However,  my husband will tell you that I’m about 95% likely to have some kind of complaint about those foods. I say they are not complaints, just comments. When I lived in Korea, I tried all sorts of foods that I have no intention of ever trying again, but to avoid offending my hosts I tried them. I refused to try things that were still movingit was very unnerving to watch people attempt to eat octopus tentacles which were wrapping themselves around their chopsticksand most of the time I avoided any kind of non-vegetable dish at all, although I did try fermented fish (very strong taste of ammonia) and I was once served a soup containing bright green snails. I have to admit I ate around them. They just  seemed to have the effect of making the soup taste like seawater.

Shortlist.com has an article about the foods that Brits deem the least appealing:
http://www.shortlist.com/home/oysters-voted-least-appealing-food-by-brits Top of the list is oysters, followed by liver, and anchovies.

I am definitely not a fan of oysters and liver. Oysters were another of the ‘try once in Korea’ foods. I was ill for almost a week after trying oysters thanks to a lovely bout of food poisoning that left me unable to stomach anything for several days. Liver brings back childhood memories of school lunches. I remember looking at a lump of liver on my plate at school thinking  it looked as I imagined dinosaur skin to look (no idea why!). Other unpopular foods on the list  include blue cheese (34%), olives (33%) and marzipan (26%). These three would be on my list of most delicious foods. I’ve  talked about my love of marzipan before. It’s just so tasty! In looking for a picture of marzipan, I came across this recipe which looks nice and easy.

I’ve tried to think of the foods I would put on my list of unappealing foods. I don’t  like mashed potato (or potatoes in general although I’ll eat them if I have to), I don’t really like fried food, and I’m not a fan of artichokes either. What would go on your list of unappealing foods?

Propaganda and Pea Pods

The other day I was looking at the Daily Mail online. It’s my before-work guilty pleasure. The writing is terrible, and it’s full of articles of doubtful origin, yet I can’t stop myself.

One article that caught my eye was one about an exhibition of propaganda from around the world at the British Library. Entitled Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, it’s on until September 17th. If I were in London, I would definitely go along and take a look. I love looking at old propaganda posters and leaflets. They can be very creative and sometimes just bizarre. This one from the British Library’s website is a little on the bizarre side:

Chinese poster

Chinese poster

The exhibition also has some old English ration books and wartime recipe books. Reading the article, I was struck by a picture of a little book called “The Kitchen Front: 122 wartime recipes” which was published in 1942 and priced at 6D.  I have a copy of that book, with my great-aunt’s name penciled onto the title page. It has a few grease marks on it which suggest it was used. We used to visit my great-aunt quite often, but I don’t recall ever eating at her house. I don’t remember my grandmother ever making any food for us when we visited her house either.  On reading some of the recipes, I’m kind of glad they didn’t cook for us. It also gives me an appreciation of what life was like for my parents as children during WW2. No wonder my father used to say “You children don’t know the meaning of hunger,” when we’d complain about not liking some food or other. If the dishes described in the book are the kinds of things he and my mother ate growing up, I can also understand why they thought sardine paste sandwiches were an acceptable packed lunch. I didn’t as a ten-year-old – and nor did my classmates. That stuff stinks.

If you feel like trying out some thrifty recipes, how about Pea Pod Soup, Vegetable Creams, or Roast Calf’s Head? Click on the recipes to see them up close. Let me know if you try them!
pea pod soup 001vegetable creams 001Roast calf 001

A Simple Recipe

I’m not much of a cook. It’s not that I can’t cook, but if it takes longer than twenty minutes, I’m just not interested. I also find that any recipe starting along the lines “A simple recipe using store cupboard essentials” invariably consists of about 10 ingredients I don’t possess. However, I’ve finally found a recipe on the BBC Good Food site for which I have almost all the ingredients on hand:

<http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1505633/marmite-on-toast?pager.offset=20&gt;

Marmite on toastmarmite on toast 2

The comments at the end of the instructions are fun to read.

Cookies and Smiles

Way back when, I was in the Brownies (girl guides/girl scouts). I was a leprechaun. I’m the short one with dark hair below.

001There are a few things I remember about being in the Brownies. One is an Easter Sunday parade at church (there was some official ‘Brownie’ word, but that’s not one of the things I remember). We were instructed by Brown Owl to bring half a dozen eggs which would be distributed to needy old age pensioners after the church service. These eggs were supposed to be raw, so the deserving OAP could whip themselves up some scrambled eggs, bake a cake, or whatever else you can do with eggs. However, my mother refused to believe the eggs should be raw. She  didn’t believe they’d let a group of  seven- to nine-year-olds sit in church for an hour with boxes of fragile eggs and insisted on hard boiling mine. I still have visions of some old dear trying to crack an egg for a morning fry-up, only to find a rubbery ball in the shell.

Another thing I remember is selling ‘Sunny Smiles’. At the time, all I knew was that the money was for poor children, and that I struggled to sell even one book while other brownies would sell volumes and volumes of the things. I’ve since found out that the money raised went to the National Children’s Homes. I don’t know if brownies still sell Sunny Smiles, but they were the British alternative to Girl Scout cookies. While American brownies were shifting boxes of thin mints, I was trying to sell  black and white pictures of orphans.

Girl Scout Cookies

Girl Scout Cookies

Sunny Smiles

Sunny Smiles

They were small pictures, perhaps 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches. I found the image here on a Facebook group I belong to. I always felt a little sorry for the children in the booklets. Of course, I felt sorry that the children were in need, but I felt even sorrier that people would leaf through the books, looking for a kid they considered cute enough to buy. People would tear out the kid they wanted, and sign their name on the stub left in the book. I’m not sure why they had to sign their name, but I think it was supposed to act as proof that you didn’t just sell the whole book to your mum and dad, and that you’d forced your parents to pressure their friends and coworkers into buying some. Any children the buyers thought were less attractive would be left in the books at the end of the selling period, and I felt very bad for those children. As an adult, selling pictures of young children seems odd, although the intention was good.

I can’t help thinking that boxes of cookies (or should I say biscuits?) would have raised more money, but the little booklets were easy to carry around. Looking back, Sunny Smiles were a nice, if strange, idea. Anyone else sell Sunny Smiles?

Bread

Eating a sandwich the other day, I started to think about bread. The sandwich was good, apart from the bread. The bread wasn’t bad. It was nicely chewy, a little grainy, didn’t disintegrate due to juicy tomato slices, but it was sweet. Really sweet. Everything was good about the sandwich apart from that sweetness.

Until I started to live overseas, I didn’t give bread much thought beyond ‘Do I have enough for toast?” If bread on a holiday in a foreign country was different from the bread at home, it was no big deal. Vacations are opportunities to try all sorts of new things, and since vacations  outside the UK meant France, it was all very good! But when being overseas is your everyday reality, it matters a little more.  It wasn’t an issue when I lived in Italy. Plenty of decent (and not sweet) bread there. But as I moved further from home, I realized bread is certainly not the same thing in every country. To clarify, I’m talking about sliced bread. I know that buying a fresh, whole loaf is invariably tastier, but more often than not, I buy sliced loaves for convenience. I used to go to a bakery and get them to slice up a granary loaf while I waited back in the UK.  I’ve not seen a bakery, as I know it, in the town where I now live.

When I lived in Japan, I was amazed by the sliced bread. For a start, they don’t sell you the whole loaf. You buy it in bags of between 4 and 8 slices. It was often doorstep-thick, soft and puffy, but lacking in body and texture. Not to mention fibre! Wholemeal bread was relatively scarce, though it existed, but it too was soft, squishy, and far too sweet. japanese_bread01http://malaysia-seikatsu.com/acc/bread-in-japan

I learned to eat rice balls stuffed with picked plums and wrapped in seaweed instead, or rice rolls filled with fermented soy beans. I still would if they were relatively available here. I really enjoyed them!

Now I live in the US, and bread looks a lot more like the bread I ate in the UK. Loaves are full size.  I have a wide choice of whole-wheat breads made of various grains. However, it still doesn’t taste like home. The main difference between British bread and American bread is the sweetness. Bread here is sweet. Much sweeter than English bread. One of the few things I remember from studying Dante  many years ago is the line in Purgatory where he talked about the saltiness of other’s bread. He was speaking both figuratively and literally   (the salty/bitterness of exile, and the actual saltiness of bread from outside Tuscany: see this blog post for an explanation of  Tuscan bread). For some reason that resonated with me when I read it and now I always think of that when I eat bread here –  while certainly not in exile, I’ve chosen to settle abroad, and the bread just isn’t right! It looks right, smells right, but it just doesn’t taste right due to that sweetness. Although here is now my home, there will always be little differences that will never feel quite right.

“Tu proverai sì come sa di sale
lo pane altrui,
(You will know how salty another’s bread tastes,)
Paradiso XVII: 58-59

And my preferred loaf? A nice granary. What’s yours?

granary(http://www.ocado.com)