All posts filed under: Blog

Cycling this way and that through Westphalia

For various reasons I found myself for three whole weeks away from the family this September in Westphalia. The weather was glorious and I managed quite a few three to four hour bike rides through the flat, fertile soils of my ancestors. Being the proverbial “army brat” my childhood was more gypsy than person of settled abode. Before the age of 26 I had lived in something like 20 different addresses. It was a strange experience for me to spend so much time in this part of Germany – but very inspiring. Voltaire famously set the opening scenes of Candide in Westphalia: The Baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphalia, for his castle had not only a gate, but even windows, and his great hall was hung with tapestry.  Even in Voltaire’s day Westphalia had a reputation for sustaining fat diary cows, plentiful crops and sweet fruit (as well as slightly dippy students of philosophy!) Napoleon’s brother became King of Westphalia for a short period. The flat, empty roads are lined with all sorts of …

Sing a Song of Six-pence

Many regional cuisines and cultures make pastries but no other region that I can think of offers the home cook such a huge variety of savoury and sweet pies as Ireland and Great Britain. By way of example, the iconic ceramic “Black Bird” that acts as a vector for removing the internal steam from a covered pie could only have been conceived, created and made on the blustery shores of Old Blighty. I remember my great delight whenever Grandma made pies with the head of a black bird poking out of the middle. As a young child I loved the shiny blackness of the dinky bird with it’s neck stretched out to the heavens to sing a song of six-pence. We never ate pies in Germany. I have never been offered a pie in Belgium. French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese eateries rarely have pie on the menu. Compare this to British, Irish and North American cooking where pies are ubiquitous – pork pies, cheese pies, game pie, spinach and salmon pie, Cornish pasties, apple and blackberry pie, …

Coming to a town near you: The Buttermilk Bash!

Today the annual Lipton Ice Tea “Big Splash” event is being held on one of the public squares in Leuven. Lipton is a big sponsor of the Student Union and the students arrive in their thousands to don the free yellow t-shirt and sun glasses. Just look at Lipton’s promotional video – man, you have to admit, this looks like brilliant fun! Go on watch it – it’s only 1 min. long. If only I were a teen-ager again…. Last year one of the teenagers in our house made the most of their youth and had a bash at the splash on their way home from school with a bunch of friends. Strictly speaking it’s for students only but somehow they managed to blag their way in. They came home soaking wet sporting Lipton’s bright yellow t-shirt and sun-glasses, glowing, shivering and happy. “Our team did really well – we managed to sock a whole load of water balloons at the other side and made it to the final round before we were beaten!” they announced gleefully. How …

How death crept into the pot: modern cases of food adulteration

The man who robs a fellow subject of a few shillings on the highway is sentenced to death but he who distributes a slow poison to the whole community escapes unpunished, Frederick Accum, 1820. Kathleen Garnett This is a piece that I wrote for my other site euperspectives.com but which some of my followers on Master in the Kitchen may find to be of interest to them. The adulteration of our modern food supply is, after all, one of the main reasons why I embraced the traditional diet. I hope you find some of the ideas of interest and I would love to hear any views you may have on some of the contentions set out below. The very earliest laws designed to curtail the adulteration of food typically (though not exclusively) focused on just a handful of foodstuffs: meat, bread, wine and beer. Other food stuffs were not so extensively regulated for the simple reason that bread, wine and beer were one of the few foodstuffs that, even in ancient times, could be mass produced or prepared by persons outside …

Hudson Bay Inspired Blanket: Home knitted not the woven original

If, like me, you decide in a fit of pious indignation NOT to buy into the whole commercial side of Christmas and decide instead to make presents for your nearest and dearest then do NOT like me, start at the end of November. You’ll just end up totally stressed and not enjoy the build up to Christmas one little bit. Inspired by a good friend of mine who was knitting a Hudson Bay throw I thought that this would make a great gift for K.M. The idea of knitting a blanket for Christmas has been floating around my head since May at least. It was not until mid November, however, that I got my act together to find a pattern, choose colours, choose what wool to use and measure up the bed. I was ambitious. Forget a throw. I wanted a blanket to cover K.M.’s bed in its entirety so the blanket had to measure 2m by 1.6 m. When I bought the wool at our local shop and mentioned it was going to be …

Local Food Market for World Food Day

Last Saturday The Guardian featured some beautiful photographs of fruit and vegetable stores across the globe – from London to Cairo, from Bangladesh to Russia. It was a piece sponsored by Origin Green Ireland and was run in conjunction with World Food Day.  It was such a cool idea I decided to take some pictures of our local stall holders who every Saturday, come rain or shine, set up shop so that we can enjoy their first rate fruit and vegetables! First up Maarten and Karen, (above) who run their own organic farm “De Levensbron” in Attenrode and who have been selling their fresh produce every Saturday at our local market for a number of years. I regularly use their fruit and vegetables in my dishes. They are so popular in the summer the queue can be long and it can take a while to be served. It’s worth the wait. Next up,  Linda. We were really pleased to see the return of this market stall in this September. The lady who ran the stall before her decided to stop in June citing (amongst other …

An Urge to Preserve

It is hard to imagine that a mere two generations ago most (if not all) households up and down the European continent were busy bottling and preserving the summer and early autumn glut of fruit and vegetables for winter consumption. In the dark, cold days of winter nothing much grows in Europe – how else were populations supposed to survive? Self sufficiency was not a fashionable past-time for the middle-classes seeking the good-life. Earlier generations needed to preserve food, not because they had an overwhelming nostalgia to do so, but because they had to. It was less a case of “An Urge to Preserve” and more “A Need to Feed”. How old-fashioned food preservation seems in today’s world of fossil fuel possibilities. Easy access to cheap energy has transformed our age-old understanding of food. What are five or six decades in the history of food? A mere speck. Yet, it was only fifty years ago that my German grandfather grew enough food in the garden to feed his family and my German grandmother spent the …