Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted fiend...

“Ingratitude is treason to mankind.” James Thomson

Thursday 19 August 2010

Um, nothing to see here.

I'm not sure how to gauge your expectations for what you read here, but if I were you I would keep the bar low today.

I have been preoccupied recently with Butter by Nadia dresses. Anyone know anything about this? There's a skirt and loads of stretchy fabric you wrap around yourself. I think this was kind of a thing in the early 90s, this 'one garment a dozen ways' idea. I bought a skirt/dress in Kensington Church Street in 1992 which was basically a long tube and bless me if I didn't look amazing in it for the five minutes of my life when I had a great figure, but it was essentially a stretchy hobble and I couldn't walk more than a couple of inches per step. I'm sure I bought some elaborately wrapped thing there as well. Folly of youth, etc.

I'm entering my yearly holiday packing hysteria period and I have a fantasy where I pack a single dress plus three or four pairs of shoes and toiletries and off I go. It seemed like maybe this could be that dress. If I had the income, inclination and bottle to spend more money, I'd be really interested in this (which isn't a dress, but you know what I mean). So obsessed am I with these garments that I trundled down to Clapham and had a look in the flesh. (The Clapham stereotype isn't a patch on the reality. I couldn't move for buggies - single, double, triple, what have you. I have never seen so many babies in my life.)  So now the dream has died. I couldn't love these dresses in real life. They were kind of, um, cheap. And I can't get past is that you are wearing a big long scarf all twisted up around you and one false move and it could all unravel. So the dream is gone and I still have to pack.

I continue to drag my arse if anyone's interested. I'm in good spirits and everything, just swimming through treacle.

The last time I felt like this, I went on a special diet from the herbalist - yes, I am that woman - and it really did me good, but I've got a bit lazy. I need to kick that back into gear.

I have my share of skepticism regarding Chinese medicine and acupuncture, but when I feel low I tend to hibernate and avoid doing anything practical or positive, which I'm pretty sure is even less effective than the results of the most critical studies of herbal medicine. I have at times resorted to stuff which I had no faith in - EFT, CBT, massage, light therapy, homeopathy - just to get the process, a process, any process, underway. And it isn't a bad approach. If I had relied on my own dubious methods (junk food, credit cards, ill-advised alcoholic liasons), I'd probably be dead. In any case, I wouldn't be better.

(If it means anything, six months on that diet improved my thyroid results, and that was a test done by my GP. So, you know. Not exactly empirical evidence, but it'll do for me.)

All that is just a vague explanation/excuse for another monumentally lazy post today. It helps if you have an interest in cooking. If you don't, here's a photo of the garden furniture we scored at the auction a couple of weeks ago. (Because that's far more enticing. And I sent it to my mum yesterday, so it's on my desktop. You're welcome.)

And maybe, even if you don't like cooking, you will feast your eyes on this beauty. I am making lots of bread lately. I fear I may be obsessing a little. I don't think my thyroid likes it. I should knock it on the head.
(I have one on the go now. Shush, you.)

Anyway, if you do enjoy cooking I implore you to make this straight away. Homemade bouillon - what a heroic idea! Heidi Swanson has posted this amazing recipe on her lovely blog 101 Cookbooks, but it was inspired by Pam Corbin, who wrote The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.

If you ever make soups, stews, roasts or gravy, this stuff will change your life. It's not what you think it is. It's much much more than the sum of its parts, and so much more than bouillon. It adds a whole layer of extra flavour and an incredible savoury silkiness to anything gravylike. Yes, there's salt, but it isn't the salt that makes the magic. I don't know how it does what it does really, but it's amazing stuff.

I made it originally to use up some scraps of veg and herbs. We had pots and pots of overgrown woody parsley running amok in the garden, and some tough stems off the top of fennel bulbs. What I'm saying is that I made this from offcuts and stuff that would otherwise have gone to waste, and it is culinary flipping gold.

I more or less halved the recipe, and also reduced the salt by, erm, a bit. Which means I don't remember. I reduced it by maybe a third. I used sea salt, because I'm kind of a sea salt nerd, and I couldn't bring myself to use it all. It worked out fine, and I had one of the jars of bouillon in the fridge for a month or so with no mould or other ill effects. The other is in the freezer, and it isn't frozen solid, so I guess it's okay too.

I used leeks, celery, carrot, garlic, fennel, parsley and coriander, plus salt. Oh, and I didn't have sun-dried tomatoes, shallots or celeriac, so I didn't use them.

Also, a teaspoonful is great on avocado on toast with a squeeze of lemon. Don't say I never give you anything.


  1. I will look up that recipe for Bouillon as I'm a BIG fan of homemade soup.

    I love both your 'frock' ideas, even though one isn't a frock.

    Just bloody well go for it.

    'There are no pockets in your shroud' says my mother. And she's living up to that ideal by spending all my inheritance on QVC.

    Ali x

  2. You really scored with the garden furniture... I want to share a drink with you in that spot & do some gossiping.

    Have a sweet holiday!

  3. Ali, I like your mother already. Others might say "you can't take it with you" but your mother's phrase about the shroud makes everything feel more urgent, like you'd better hustle and spend your arse off before the Reaper knocks.

    Stephen, that's *exactly* what it's there for.
    Apologies for dullness, but I did some internet research on this particular set - from bastion of quality goods John Lewis - and oooh, the thrifty auction goodness almost made me plotz. So much money saved for cacha├ža and hookers! Caipirinha anyone?

  4. i am totally going to make some boullion with my scraps. My parents would weep with happiness if I did that. Because they tend to think I am a bit of a wasteful slattern, in the nicest, most loving parental way. And your bread is like bread of the gods, baby. Like it is made by a French baker, no less. (That is high praise indeed.)

  5. Yes! Parents love thriftiness! It means that you will be able to look after yourself when they are gone instead of ending up in the workhouse.

    Thank you for your comment on my bread. I am proud of its Poilane-like flavour, its boule-ness, and also of the crust.

  6. my hub makes veg stock. it is His Thing, not mine. but i'll pass on the hints re: scrap bits. we're on a bit of a lacto-fermented pickle thing right now, and they are amazing. not at all like the awful vinegary things (ok, i do like them too, but not nearly as much).

    as for the dress, the "this" and "this" links refused to open up for literally seconds and i am a very busy girl but...BUT i went ahead and bought myself one of those type convertible dresses on etsy, from isadora, and it's a gorgeous emerald colour but i'm afraid to wear it for fear of my tits falling out all over the place (can i say "tits" on this thing?), so there's a hundred clams down the toilet.

    off to shower 5 days' worth of kayaking grime off me. nice to see you writing. keep it coming. even dirty limericks.

  7. Love the furniture!

    Love the grey pantsuit dress thing...

    Also, always go with jersey, it travels so well...

  8. Wow, PC your kitchen sounds like a laboratory. I've never heard of these lacto-pickles of which you speak, but I have got some sourdough starter in my fridge. Not as exciting-sounding to be frank.

    Hear hear regarding the bosom issue. My thoughts exactly. Also: armpits.

    KTK, the thing about jersey is that it needs to be a thick, strong version if it isn't going to make anyone without an extremely firm physique look like a bag of tennis balls. Not that I'm less than rock-hard myself, but just let's think of the fat girls.

    Also, as PC's experience proves, origami-style dressing isn't suitable for those of us who need some security in the bosom department. This Butter jersey just is not even in the ball park.

  9. no laboratory. the same process that sours your sourdough, sours pickles and sauerkraut. it's just that most north american pickling involves vinegar, and polish pickling doesn't, so i always explain what kind of pickles we are making.

    bosom security. that's good. is there a US department of national bosom security? you'd think there ought to be, given that they're so paranoid about all other kinds!

  10. Yes, Department of National Bosom Security! That means an extra tax on bras and porn.