Wednesday, 14 August 2013


n. 1. a. A strong desire or need for food. b. The discomfort, weakness, or pain caused by a prolonged lack of food. 2. A strong desire or craving : a hunger for affection. v. hun•gered, hun•ger•ing, hun•gers  v.inter .1. To have a need or desire for food. 2. To have a strong desire or craving.

Food meets our basic physical need, as human beings, as mammals, for nourishment and hydration, but alongside this it is so much more.  It is telling, I think, that even our language considers food on par with emotional needs as well as the purely physical ~ we hunger for attention, for affection, for love ~ and for food.  

As a parent, providing food for our children not only nourishes them physically, it also meets our need to demonstrate our emotional connection, to 'do our duty', to take care of our offspring.  Maybe this adds into the distress when our picky toddlers push away a plate of lovingly prepared vegetables ~ by rejecting our food, they are rejecting us.  So the satisfaction we feel when they enthusiastically tuck into the pie we made them, or the garlic bread fresh from our oven, or the cupcakes we present them with ~ perhaps it is less to do with their need for food, and more to do with our need to love our children, and know that we are loved in return.

My recipe posts are usually photo tutorials, which will hopefully help avoid those 'I'm sure it's not meant to look like that' moments that I'm sure people other than myself experience from time to time!  The jam jar etiquette lessons are heavy on photos too ~ again, it always seems easier to follow when you can check what you're doing against the pictures as well as the words.

I love to cook, but (I'm slightly embarrassed to admit) I don't tend to do much of the day to day ordinary meal cooking at our house.  Thankfully Mr Manley is a great cook, especially as he now has the confidence to go with his instincts instead of slavishly following the recipe to the letter.

biscuits and cookies

I do more of the fun cooking ~ spotty dots, based on my favourite go~to easy peasy biscuits recipe ~ the dough rolls out beautifully so it's a great choice when you have helpers in the kitchen, or even when you've been relegated to the role of helper yourself!  Coco~note~ies have a shop bought biscuits texture ~ crunchy but not dry, and if you end up with more than you need (or you find yourself eating more than you really want to) you can freeze the cooked cookie ~ just thaw them out overnight in the fridge, but make sure they're at room temp before you starting eating ~ cold biscuits are just not very appealing!

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brownies, cakes and bakes

Seriously chocolate~y brownies are one of those concoctions that don't look especially appetizing, but oh my, to eat ~ yum.  And of course you can throw anything else in that you like ~ a handful of chopped nuts, some maltesers, a couple of teaspoons of instant coffee.  Birthday cakes are another big one in our house ~` I get overwhelming stressed about them, but fortunately Petal and Noah are old enough to take the lead, although sometimes things don't always go according to plan...  Banana date cake often finds it's way onto the table on a Sundays afternoon, as does apple custard cake, another sweet treat concocted from merging a couple of recipes and then tweeked til it turns out just right.  Jam cake comes into that category too ~ after all, jam is good, cake is good, jam cake has to be good!

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jams, marmalades and curds

The most grown up sensible thing that emerges from the abstract kitchen is probably jam ~ it does make me feel all a bit 1950s housewife to turn a pile of fruit and a bowl of sugar into jam, but in a capable 'I am women, I nourish my children' kind of way, as opposed to a red lipstick 'here's your G&T darling, please tell your boss that dinner will be ready in just a moment' way.  Actual jam.  Tropical fruit is a popular one, as are strawberry blueberry; cherry apple;  blueberry and apple; and strawberry vanilla ~ my favourite has to be rhubarb vanilla . . . mmmm...  It doesn't feel quite as domesticated as jam, but lemon curd that you make yourself is just fantastic, and ridiculously easy!  Seriously, if you haven't tried it before, just give it a go ~ it's so soft and tangy.  I do make marmalade, but with a very sensible shortcut ~ sometimes life is just too short, you know?  Chutney though ~ you don't need any shortcuts for that, and it's a great way of using up bits and pieces of veg you have laid around (I always keep cider vinegar in the cupboard, just in case)!  Any of these, from jam to chutney, to mincemeat, to curd, make amazing gifts ~ the children's school teachers, elderly neighbours, house~warming gift for new neighbours ~ just something little, but a welcome change from a bunch of flowers or bottle of wine.  For the last couple of years our christmas gifts for friends and family have been home / handmade and edible, a mixture of preserves (jam / chutney / marmalade), boozy treats (wild cherry brandy / sloe gin), cookie trees and chocolates.  We've been pushed in that direction because of financial constraints, but it's actually been really popular, with requests for top ups through~out the year, which is always going to be a really positive ego boost.

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the virgin's guide to jam jar etiquette

For jam you need jam jars ~ sounds perfectly straightforward, but I really struggled to find the information I was looking for explained in a no~fuss low~stress way.  So once I had gathered snippets of information from here and there, tried different things out and done some trouble shooting for a friend, I put together the jam jar etiquette series.  Lesson one considers 'why make jam?'; whether to buy new jars or reuse those you already have; and how to store empty jars should you decide to reuse.  Lesson two explains what the stinky jar problem is caused by, and shows how to triumph over the stinkiness.  Lesson three considers 'sterilizing jars ~ how and why?'; lesson four explains how to sterilize jars with rubber seals; and lesson five discusses some common jam making difficulties.  Last up, lesson six shows some of the best recipes to use your handmade jam in.

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anything savoury?

Just to prove that I do cook savoury every now and then, I'd like to introduce you to my seven bean stew (and related incarnations); (bolognese is such daft spelling ~ it would be bolognaise if I had my way ~ just a second, this is my blog...) bolognese bolognaise (and related incarnations) ~ it will make more sense once the posts are up, but I tend towards what I call adaptive cooking ~ you work out a day when you have a chunk of time that you're going to be able to focus on the cooking, and make a big batch of the basic recipe, some of which is for that days meal.  Then the next day, you take a second measure of that base, add in a few extra ingredients, and hey presto, another meal.  Depending on how big your batch was at the beginning, you can have two or three more variations or, my personal choice, freeze a measure of the original, a measure of the second adaptation, and then use the remaining base to create a third version, offer it for the meal that day, and freeze any that is left last the end.  I know it sounds really fiddly and complicated, but it isn't ~ I'll go through it step by step and all will become clear

What does hunger mean to you?

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