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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Frugal Food 46 Years Later

Warning- The following diatribe is written by someone in their 60's so they have already been there and done that, which means what they write about will reflect attitudes and opinions of a different time, roughly around 1976, attitudes and opinions therefore, which may cause you real physical harm and dreadful anguish, possibly PTSD. If you fall into the category of the eternally and easily offended "Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a bumpy ride."

This is another in my series of "book reviews" and I use the term very loosely. Actually I probably use it inaccurately, would be a more accurate description.

Other Book Reviews are available for your pleasure.

This is "Frugal Food" by Delia Smith, who is up there with the greats of TV cookery. Gordon Ramsey learnt everything he knows from her, apart from the swearing. The swearing was all his own work. As it says on the cover "The original classic bestseller" and a real blast from the past. It was first published in 1976 and it shows, with some fascinatingly dated ideas, food fashions and recipes. I never owned this book back then but it was the sort of book mothers bought their sons to go away to University with in the vain hope they would not starve. It was mainly a book for those who were fashionably poor or just aspired to the poverty lifestyle, like most Londoners of 1976, it wasn't a book for the involuntary poor. We are talking the poverty that middle class people brag about, while forking out vast sums of money to holiday in Puglia, which isn't a holiday but more of an experience darling. The recipes will explain what I mean, not least because most have French titles.

I say it was given to sons because it was sons that needed it, having only ever studied woodwork or metalwork at school. Even peering through the glass door into the cookery room would have raised suspicions about one's manliness back then. Daughters of course were all Cordon Bleu ready by the time they left school.

I was different, because I broke through the pastry ceiling, as the first male in my school to take cookery at all, let alone as an option for O Level. I wouldn't mind, but having just endured weeks of events nationwide about Suffragettes throwing themselves under horses and being force fed through tubes, nobody has ever even hinted at the possibility of producing a postage stamp with my face on it as the celebration of a gender warrior breaking down cookery barriers so that other men could follow in my footsteps free of shame. Jamie Oliver couldn't have done it without me.

I remember going home with my O Level options at the end of term, where my Dad pored over them. Five subjects were compulsory, Maths, English Lit, English Lang, History and RI. What was up for debate was the other five. "Five !" my Father exclaimed, I think that is too many, his idea being that spreading my efforts too thinly was a risk, and therefore raised the possibility of getting bad results across the board. He convinced me to drop French in favour of cookery, thereby making up the numbers with something less academic. So there I was, not in need of this book when I was packed off to college with my steamer trunk, which included a complete set of cast iron pans, about eight in all, the largest of which I could barely lift, let alone toss a pancake with, which would probably have broken a wrist. This was my own fault as I had just read an in depth article about aluminium pans causing Alzheimer's. The risk of developing Alzheimer's might have been a risk worth taking after trying to lift that trunk.

Luckily for me, this was still Agatha Christie, Art Deco, Poirot territory on the train network back then, because train journeys were still happening on board mahogany lined compartment trains with corridors and cut glass wall lamps either side of framed Scottish Highland landscapes on the walls, as if one were travelling in a mobile National Trust Stately Home. As a consequence British Rail sent a truck to our house to collect the ton and a half of cast iron pans and deliver them ahead of my arrival to my "Halls of Residence" the grandly exaggerated title given to a room with bed and sink that awaited me and some ingredients, which I would have to use down the corridor in the shared kitchen. But this was not Downton Abbey, with the family off to the south of France, this was just lonely old me leaving home for the first and last time and arriving in a Midlands former industrial town that had seen better days and has thankfully seen better days come back since I left. In fact it is now a City, and that's official. No trace of coal dust anywhere. The only charcoal to be seen there today is probably coating a Fermier goat cheese roll in the local Farmer's Market.

As an indicator as to how popular this book was, this copy was published in 1997 a staggering 21 years after it's first release. That is how popular frugality was.

Frugal - The meaning of Frugal has changed. In this context it's modern meaning is to be thrifty or economical, simple or plain, but that has moved slightly from it's original meaning which was to be reluctant to lavishly enjoy the fruits of ones labour, because the root of the word is Latin for fruit, and being frugal involved fruit eating. There is a certain hair shirt denialism involved in the concept which actually suits this book.

A lot happened in the intervening 21 years. For example, when the book first came out, Olive Oil came in a small medicine bottle from the Pharmacist complete with a pipette so that you could imbibe it's delicious peppery qualities, by dropping it in your ear. It was not something that passed your lips or entered the food chain.

Pipette is a magnificent word. - A laboratory tool commonly used in chemistry, biology and medicine to transport a measured volume of liquid.

Olives themselves were little green things on small wooden sticks, dunked into cocktails sometimes alongside dayglo red cherries, also on small wooden sticks. We only knew this thanks to James Bond, and when I say James Bond I mean Sean Connery in a beach bar in somewhere like Jamaica, who had chest hair, loads of it, he must have carried a chest hair comb. Today, James Bond is as hairless as a Naked Molerat, and you can attest to this as you see nearly all of him at every opportunity, not just his chest. He does though now meet my expectation of an Action Man, which from memory was very smooth with one strategic bump. The only hair my Action Man ever had was a dusting of Flock on his closely shaved bonce, quite nicely setting off a fetching scar across his cheek.

Something else that happened in the interim was the green pepper, seen in the picture below on the book cover, also variously called bell peppers or capsicums. I don't think the red ones had been invented yet and as for yellow ones well you might as well be in an episode of Star Trek, boldly going into some clean lined room, all white, with little slots where your freshly atomised food appeared on request. Nobody was really sure what to do with a green pepper so they usually sliced the top off and removed all the highly poisonous seeds (every last one) before inserting some sort of minced meat and rice in gravy, when in doubt stuff it, (there was probably a decade or two of stuffing various food items), you then carefully placed the lid with stalk attached, back on and placed the whole thing in the oven, where after what seemed like an age it came out looking slightly wrinkled with magically warm meat inside, while the green shell remained hard (what we later called al dente), bitter and inedible. So everyone with any sense would spoon out the meaty ricey gravy and throw the pepper away.

Stuffing things got so bad that protest movements started up and as one activist called Shirley Conran shouted "Life is too short to stuff a mushroom". Her husband was the retailer and furniture whiz Terence Conran. He made his fortune at roughly the same time as Delia, selling us home interiors, like easy to construct flat pack pine shelves. Had his wife not intervened, he would probably have also included a quick and easy mushroom stuffing gadget to go along with the Couscousiere and Tajine you had already put at the back of the cupboard and the garlic crusher that you had not yet mastered. Actually the Couscousiere may not be a thing, it sort of sounds like something I've heard of but it may have been a dream. You know the one, where I dreamed I was eating Couscous and then I woke up and found half the pillow gone.

Another decade later and the truth was out, the seeds in green peppers were not even slightly poisonous. Still it's better to be safe than sorry where poison is concerned I always say.

Anyway, I better say something about the book, as this post is to all intents and purposes turning into a coat hanger with the book as a garment hanging on it, as you are by now starting to appreciate. The coat hanger is trying to be the star of the show, one of those pink satin padded coat hangers with small three dimensional flowers attached to it with fine stitching and scented with Lily of the Valley, while the book is turning out to be an old forgotten string vest, just spoiling the view.

I've just noticed the three lonely almonds. They too would have been exotic in 1976 where nuts of any description only appeared at Christmas with an ancient nut cracker and were exciting, then hard work, and then a disappointment. That is mostly because our nuts came from France and they sent us last years leftovers. Our nutcracker was heavy, brass and inexplicably featured character faces of Fagin and Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist. Work that out, because Oliver never saw a nut rancid or otherwise.

This particular copy as you can see was once owned by Mandy Haley and she had it all crisp and new, like a fresh Iceberg Lettuce, back in 1997, which was probably the only lettuce we had then apart from the ubiquitous Webbs, which had the advantage of being green and having flavour but the disadvantage of rotting an hour after it was picked. No one had ever heard of Mixed Leaves, as lettuce came held together by a stalk not loose in a bag inflated with Nitrogen. Nitrogen was still just the answer that we got wrong, to a question on University Challenge, just before we sat down to Sunday Lunch, not something you encountered in the veg aisle in the supermarket.

I had only savoured a Webbs that could be described as crisp, because it was my grandmother's lettuce of choice and they were growing in the ground just outside the kitchen window. Even then one had to be careful. The whole salad based meal had to be all ready to go before the Webbs was cut, then it had to be rushed in through the house, like people handling a transplant organ rushing through a hospital to the operating table just like the lettuce was taken to the sink for a quick rinse and then applied to a plate in great haste where it was consumed immediately. The transplant analogy sort of fails at the point of eating the lettuce, although there is a chapter on offal later on.

Rocket was just the latest news from Cape Canaveral not a food item. Now that hundreds of companies seem to be firing off rockets to all corners of the Solar System every day it's not quite got the draw it used to have. We seem to have got to the point that we had got to in the movie Gattaca, where rockets were continually lifting off in the distance as the plot unfolded.

I remember the Voyager launches about this time, Voyager 1 going off on it's incredible journey a year after this book was published. The craft entered interstellar space on August 25, 2012. That means it has now left our solar system, the first human object to do so. In late 2017 having travelled 14,505,086,402 miles the team tested it's thrusters, last used in 1980 and they worked, thereby adding more years to the mission. By 2025 it is expected to stop transmitting when it's nuclear battery dies. It will travel on through space for ever, unlikely to encounter life again, not because there is none, but because it is by comparison infinitesimally small and the universe astronomically large.

But I digress simply to add some context about what humanity had achieved and planned for in 1976, looking deep beyond our Solar System where we now just obsess about the skin deep.

I love all the lino cut images in the book and also the slightly tongue in cheek titles of some of the chapters. This is certainly not a portrait of Delia, below, who adorns instead, the front cover in some sort of Laura Ashley Tudor lace collar, but it is a caricature of the average 1976 housewife. A housewife who would never have bought the book either, but it gave an air of authenticity to the whole project, to think of a matronly, headscarved, wicker basket wielding, rosy cheeked, purse clasping, corner shopper, rather than an urban, arty, part time social working, supermarket shopper, with a degree in geomorphology, slumming it in a fashionable dive, somewhere in the depths of a converted wine warehouse that would only too soon turn into a multi million pound Des Res with it's own swimming pool in the basement and electric car charging stations built in.

Des Res - Desirable Residence. This is an example of Estate Agent Speak, or if you are Trans Atlantic, as opposed to just trans on it's own, which is something entirely different, Realtor Speak.

My favourite personal example of Estate Agent Speak, was describing a flat we sold in Birmingham, Moseley to be exact, or Bohemia as it is now, which afforded a beautiful "Sylvan View." Even with my own degree in something useless this was a new one on me so we had to look it up, which involved finding the Dictionary somewhere on the Terence Conran easy to assemble pine shelving system. A Dictionary is a bundle of paper tied together at it's core with string, that we called a book. To find the meaning of a word you needed to spell it, all of it, as all the words in it were in one rigid order, called alphabetical, bundles of paper don't predict much in the way of text. Luckily, we had the property details, so were able to refer to the spelling which revealed that we had a view of trees.

Sylvan - Relating to, or characteristic of the woods or forest.

It was on the second floor so it wasn't surprising that all you could see outside were leaves. It was only then that I put together the mystery that were "Sylvanian Families" which I had always thought to be a very complex name for a toy designed for five year olds. The advert for "Sylvanian Families" depicted all sorts of short stubby injection moulded animal characters, mostly squirrels, that lived inside a large green plastic tree house. All those times I had seen the advert with the irritating jingle of a woman singing the words "Sylvanian Families" I had never realised that I was the real life human version.

So much of the time and place is revealed by this opening chapter, below. You see it was about paying for convenience that was not cheap, so that you could make time to put up your feet. Now I don't know about you but that doesn't sound like a woman wondering where the next meal for her baby is going to come from, not unless she was a very bad mother and the child was neglected and on the "at risk" register. We also learn that she has been "liberated" which is something that hasn't happened even now to poor working class women. Mostly these "liberated" women had been to university at a time when less than 20% of people generally and even fewer women went in search of a degree. Critically, what does the middle class liberated woman do when one of her expensive gadgets break down? She doesn't call one of the liberated sisterhood, she calls the "mending man", the poor unliberated husband of the poor unliberated working class woman.

Key things to note here. Convenience foods are being marketed as luxuries when they were eventually to become the mainstay of today's Food Banks, and people were still having things mended. Mending things meant taking something that no longer functioned, taking it apart, diagnosing why it no longer functioned and mending any broken parts or replacing them so that the object functioned again. I was not destined to become a mending man and I will illustrate why. There used to be a piece of irritating fun called a "Laughing Bag" which it was no laugh trying to convince my parents that I needed to own. When the day finally came I was so intrigued by it that I immediately took it upstairs and removed the back, whereupon most of it fell out in a heap with other smaller bits rolling away into corners of the room where they probably still lie. No amount of desperate fumbling succeeded in getting anything back in and it was literally no laugh from then onwards. To explain the ongoing silence from my room I had to invent a story about being mugged on the way home from school and having my precious toy kidnapped. The trouble was, my parents rather than being concerned seemed to be more relieved.

Our first TV was rented and well used by the time we got it, and fiddling with it's vertical and horizontal hold was a thing. Yes there were buttons you turned to stop the picture rotating like a video waterfall. I remember well an early satellite transmission from America which half way through went awry as the horizontal hold somewhere between us and Goonhilly satellite tracking station lost it's traction. My grandmother came out with the immortal line, "Oh look the satellite is turning over". That is not a joke, that is the Brave New World we had entered. The chickens at this stage are not for eating, they are just a visual pun as chickens make a "cheep" sound for The Cheap Charter. Stand up comedy has also changed quite a lot, not for the better.

Luxury and soup are not two words generally seen adjoining each other in the 2020's. Soup mostly comes in tins and tastes red and tangy and is called tomato. Even back in 1976 Delia goes on to claim that any soup you make yourself is by definition a luxury, which is I think pushing a point too far.

On a trip to France we were on one occasion offered as a starter, something called Veloute Doria. Able to translate most menus, with this we were stumped, because there was nothing to translate. It would be as if I offered a Frenchman an Arnold Bennet. Looking up Arnold or Bennet will not help you to discover that it is an Omelette named after a writer and invented at The Savoy, just as looking up Caesar will not help you to discover a salad with a creamy fishy dressing. In any case, Veloute Doria turned out to be a rich creamy soup which Delia would probably describe as luxurious.

Veloute Doria is made from cucumbers and rice, probably the only recipe ever invented that features both ingredients, while Doria was a princess from Switzerland.

In this particular hotel restaurant we proudly exhibited our best French as the waiter proudly exhibited his best English, which was better. When asked our room number we replied in perfect French number 23, to which he said albeit with an accent " But ve unly eff 21 ruums" which was embarrassing enough until we followed up with ordering 3 soups to which he replied " But zere arrr unly tooh eff yu".

There is nothing luxurious about this next recipe. Either the watery vegetable soup itself or the Frankfurters that were added to it. It is conjuring up a B&B landlady supper in Blackpool, a northern seaside resort, where the clear liquid flowing in between the pieces of turnip and carrot shimmers a golden sheen that appears to be alive, as the fatty surface is disturbed by the spoon. There is an overriding taste of salt and not a lot else, but then transpose this experience to a German Blackpool, Schwarzesbecken if there were such a place and add some chopped up Frankfurters, which to be fair would be a novelty, but no more inspiring, and frankfurtly if you were German, they wouldn't even be an added novelty, just yet another Frankfurter supper.

This next one at least brings back memories of Paris simply because of the name. Delia is again trying to convince us that a European name or ingredient is what will win the day. Les Halles was the old market halls of Paris which by the time we art students arrived in about 1976 had already been knocked down and replaced with a Shopping Malles, my little pun there. Only recently I discovered that the Les Halles Shopping Malles which were new when I visited have also since been knocked down as they had become a violence and murder infested hellhole. So, any glamour in this next recipe title has become of late, grossly misplaced. Even in 1976 my abiding memory was my hotel room mate arriving back extremely late one night retching from the tear gas the police had fired at the rest of our party who had stayed out late and ended up trapped on a "locked up for the night" Metro. French police, then as now love their tear gas.

I am no expert but reading these ingredients I am suspicious that what is actually French Onion Soup has just been given a new de-frugaling title.

Potage Flamande or Flemish Soup. Here we go again, glamourising sprout soup with a European name. So it is Flemish but named in French and featuring a Belgian vegetable.

Glamourise - Make (something) seem glamorous or desirable, especially spuriously so. Glamourising is the perfect word then, as the dictionary actually says up front it is spurious.

Spurious - Not being what it purports to be; false or fake.

So let's just call a sprout soup a sprout soup shall we?

Now we are getting somewhere, a full confession from Delia.

Things have moved on a lot eggwise since 1976. Delia bemoans the fact that she is forced to buy battery eggs. In fact things have moved on so far that younger readers (do I have any?) may wonder what batteries have to do with eggs. Even the toys that come in Kinder eggs don't take batteries. In fact the Kinder surprise eggs sometimes have a surprise, in that the surprise is banned in some countries. US law has this to say, "prohibits confectionery products that contain a “non-nutritive object”," don't you just love legalese? Can you imagine the advertising. "Kinder Egg Surprise, the sweet that used to have an adorable non-nutritive object in every bite"

But I digress. Today we not only have Free Range, but also Barn Eggs, Organic Eggs, Quails Eggs, Duck Eggs, Mixed Size eggs, Blue Eggs, and even the Science Fiction, Double Yolkers. This is all a world away from the egg marketing board's strapline of "Go to work on an egg" while the housewife, landlady, not dissimilar to the one above in the headscarf, screeched from the kitchen "Ow d'you want yer eggs? Frayd or Bayled."

My favourite if done correctly are scrambled which I have now just about perfected, having suffered over the years from the bouncy dry variety served in most establishments until the 2000's. Scrambled eggs are like art, all about knowing when to stop, I like a Rothko, Rothko was a man who perfected knowing exactly when to stop, what you don't ever want for breakfast on your lightly buttered toast is Tracey Emin's Unmade Bed.

Incidentally, battery hens were so called because, kept in their thousands for their whole lives in cramped cages, the stacks of cages resembled cells in a battery.

The British invention, curry, has now become ubiquitous the world over apart from in India where even today people will raise a quizzical eyebrow if it is requested. Even the Japanese, not known for welcoming foreign foods across their borders have really taken to Katsu curry which they readily recognise as a great British contribution to their cuisine.

Invented by the British in India or at least at their behest, it was returned to the motherland as ex pats themselves were repatriated. On returning to Britain though it was to discover that most of the necessary spices were not commonly available and even if available the idea of a recipe with multiple ingredients where there was normally just one, pepper, resulted in the invention of Curry Powder. This could be very very good or very very bad but at least it was quick and reduced the number of complex hard to understand spices to just one. Here is the resulting classic Curried Egg Patties recipe, it's main ingredient being one teaspoon of Curry Powder. This was how a curry manifested itself in 1976 and all of the way through this book. There is no mention of Fenugreek, Coriander or Fennel, let alone Asafoetida or Garam Masala, Tamarind or Cardamom. Curry meant Curry Powder.

Worcestershire Sauce was yet another quintessentially British food from abroad or at least inspired by the chutneys and pickles of the Far East. Legend has it that a returning Brit had a recipe including dried fish and tamarind which he made into an elixir which turned out to be inedible. Not knowing what to do with the barrels of fluid after the failed enterprise, they got left in a cellar in a warehouse in Worcester, where they matured for a year, When this substance was later tasted some magic of alchemy had turned it into the much prized sauce we know today.

It is hard to believe now, but back in the 70's Britain was at war with Iceland over "Frugal Fish". The Cod Wars as they were called. In fact the fishing disputes went back as far as the 14th century, but it was in modern times that things came to a head when Iceland unilaterally extended it's territorial limit to areas traditionally fished by British fleets. Calling it a war was probably over baking it, and you never want to over cook fish by any method. It was more of an international pushing and shoving match with some severed nets thrown in for good measure.

Although the Royal Navy did escort British boats to protect them from the Icelandic Coastguard, no shots were ever fired. There was only one official death which was an accident during a skirmish when an Icelandic engineer carrying out repair work on a vessel was killed. The disputes were eventually settled on the International stage taking into account Iceland's threat to leave NATO, taking with it all that water where the Cold War submarines were playing cat and mouse. Thousands of British fishermen lost their livelihoods and the industry never recovered, although the fish stocks did.

You will note the standard TV chef instruction here of "Ask your fishmonger to do it" when it comes to any sort of fish preparation. My favourite part of the book is further on where it says, "fillet your fish, see page 52" which is the one below, where it just says "Ask your fishmonger to do it". This is the recipe for Rollmop Herrings.

We regularly travelled on the road and ferry to France or as it became later the tunnel to France. When this book was published the idea of driving your car onto a train which would then descend into a hole in the ground to plummet beneath the waves of The English Channel to what we Brits call The Continent was still science fiction. It was to be another 18 years before the tunnel opened for business.

It was en un of these trips that we first encountered anything en papillote. I forget now what it actually was "en papilotte" probably some sort of fish as in the recipe below. Having never come across the term before and having ordered it, we were surprised to discover it arrived in a small parcel of Filo pastry, so fine that you could see through it. The only problem was, that this filo pastry was tough and a knife and fork couldn't cut it. That is an example of an idiom both being used as an idiom and also not being used as an idiom.

Cannot cut it - To not be able to deal with problems or difficulties in a satisfactory way:

In this instance the knife and fork "couldn't cut it" because they couldn't cut it. They were not able to handle the task in a satisfactory way and they also literally could not cut into the pastry.

But there was a good reason for this. It wasn't pastry, as many of you forty years later will appreciate because "en Papilotte" is a term to describe cooking something in a small envelope of thin paper. The route to the term "en Papilotte" is interesting in itself. It's route is from the word Butterfly in French, Papillon. Traditionally in France, small sweets were wrapped in paper and twisted at both ends. These decorative paper twists were likened to Butterfly wings so were called Papilotte. This was later adapted for the cooking method where lightly greased paper was folded and then twisted just like a bon-bon to seal in the cooking steam for lightly cooked items like fish.

Today, finding "en papillote" on a menu would not be that unusual even in an upmarket pub, the sort of pub that no longer has sawdust on the floor unless it is FSC certified from sustainable forests and where the real fire is covered by carbon offsetting. Somewhere that boasts "British Food", with French origins. To be honest, what is French and what is British? Two countries so close geographically and so close for so long historically that they once spoke the same food language. Boeuf becoming Beef, Poulet becoming Poultry, Porc becoming pork, and Canard becoming an unfounded rumour.

Now, Delia finds herself on the wrong side of history. No, tinned salmon is simply not as nice as fresh, and as Count Arthur Strong would say "Now you know that is not true". I like tinned salmon as tinned salmon and it is a great store cupboard standby for sandwiches or even for a quick Fishcake but it isn't "as nice". To be fair to Delia, back in 1976, fresh Salmon was a bit of a luxury, the Norwegians and Scots not having thought about farming them back then, but that most successful of the fish farming revolutions has changed the world of Salmon for ever. Salmon is once again a food for the masses as it once was before refrigeration and trains enabled it's transport away from coastal villages to large urban centres, making it unaffordable for those who netted them. Oysters underwent a similar route going from a cheap filler for a beef pie to make the meat go further, to a delicacy for the wealthy. It hasn't returned to being a food for the masses. Yet.

Women's Lib was very much a feature of the 60's and it was the bra burning precursor to Feminism which grew out of the 70's achievements, the one being about equality and the other about superiority. Not having any bras left to burn, the Feminists had to move on to other causes, the latest of which involves not being cancelled on Social Media by men in frocks. Men eventually realised that the only way they could beat women was to join them, so they became women too, such are the complications brought about by giving pre-eminence to people's identity and then according privilege to some and not others. Identity is the new career.

Having achieved equality for most humans by 1976, chickens were next in line for a bit of social justice and so this reference to Chicken's Lib. Please note that chickens received their liberation years before gay people did, the British are never happier than when they have animals to rescue, people not so much. If you have seen British TV ads for animal charities and children's charities you will have noticed that the suggested monthly donation for a cat is far higher than that for a child.

We've already dealt with the egg layers so now to the meat providers. I am old enough to remember when chicken meat was still considered if not an out and out luxury then at least a very special treat. Today it is ubiquitous in virtually every form of food offering, no longer just a roasted bird but a topping for pizza, an essential part of a curry, an addition to a Caesar Salad, a Mc Nugget, Southern Fried, Sweet and Sour, Buffalo Wings and even a sausage.

The highlight of visits to my Grandmother's house was the Roast Chicken ritual. Starting at the beginning, my Uncle Dai, on the smallholding they had after retiring from the farm, used to keep layers and cookers. The cookers were kept in a large henhouse and roamed the farmyard by daylight but were safely tucked up at the end of the day in case Mr. Fox got a little too interested. One early morning at the end of our stay I remember sitting in the bay window overlooking the farmyard when I spotted a fox flash across in a streak of red and disappear through the gate at the end, that led into the field. Also through there and another gate was the chicken coop. I called Uncle Dai and told him I had seen the fox but he didn't believe me and said they don't go out in daylight so I must have made a mistake. So, gullible and inexperienced as I was, like children are when an adult is confident in what they say, I convinced myself that I was indeed mistaken. After all it was very fast, and a blur, and I couldn't really be sure, could I.

We returned home only to receive a telephone call that evening from Uncle Dai with the news that a fox had indeed got into the henhouse and savagely killed more than half the flock. This was a salutary lesson to me if not to Uncle Dai to listen to children with a story to tell, at least to the point of testing it.

On another occasion I was lucky to be around when the flock were dispatched for the freezer to drop into deep sleep, in readiness for the special occasions of the next 12 months. A neighbour and friend, Mrs. Elias (I never did hear if she had a first name) arrived to take up her position in the lower farmyard, in an outbuilding, where she made herself comfortable on a chair, to work her way through the plucking of about 15 large birds. These were brought from the hen house one by one to end their days with a sharp knife down their little throats, which was a sort of magic to behold as Uncle Dai lifted them up in a trice and with a flick of the wrist so fast you couldn't focus on the exact trick involved, finished them off by holding them upside down while their life's blood drained into a puddle on the bare ground, as their wings flapped slower and slower until completely still. It was all over in seconds. The other magic was watching Mrs. Elias deftly pulling at them expertly as they were denuded of feathers which flew in all directions eventually creating a snowstorm as the breeze swirled around the scene. In only a few minutes they went from walking clucking hens to trussed and oven ready meaty treats.

The cooking and serving of the chicken was a ritual all of it's own. The smell of it roasting pervaded the house in the morning, as the expectation arose into a climax for my brother and I as we attended the ceremony called by us "pick time". One of us would hear the oven door open and close and shout "pick time" which meant that we could attend the final journey of the bird, the journey to the table. My Grandmother had her own special technique for sharing out the treat, no carving for her. I never did find out why, but her method revolved around the Marigold Rubber Gloves which were donned as if she were a surgeon about to start work, and swiftly, the bird was manually torn asunder into it's constituent parts, leaving little morsels in the nooks and crannies of the carcass which my brother and I would swoop on, in between flashes of yellow rubber coated dexterity, to retrieve, and then pop them into our mouths. There was an unspoken etiquette, which left us instinctively knowing which bits we were allowed to purloin.

The most memorable "Special occasion" though, was around 1976 when as an extra special treat we had Duck for Easter Sunday. I don't know if these still exist but there was a modern wonder called the Roasting Bag which is exactly what you would expect it to be, a clear bag of some sort of heat proof plastic into which you could place your bird for roasting. It saved all the perceived hassle of messing around with tin foil, which somehow became the name for aluminium foil. Having encased the bird in it's shiny crinkly envelope and placed it in the oven, it was deemed safe for all of us to troop off to church. None of us kids particularly wanted to go, but as Grandmother said "It's good for you", I never did discover in what way. After the interminable sermon, made worse by the fact it was in Welsh which we barely followed with about every fifth word, we all got home to find that someone had broken into the house and taken out the bird and stolen the Roasting Bag. Either that, or it wasn't a Roasting Bag but an ordinary melting sort of non heat resistant polythene bag that had now given the Duck a beautiful bronzed coating. Panic set in as the entire family discussed if the Duck was still safe to eat. The answer? Grandmother knew some distant relative who built nuclear weapons somewhere secret, cousin Doris's nephew twice removed, or something like that. Of course, even this relative, unknown by the rest of us, was there in the telephone index under N for nuclear probably. So guess who got a phone call on Easter Sunday to be quizzed on the toxic qualities of melted and burned polythene? His advice concurred with most of the rest of us and so it was decided it was safe to eat the meat as long as we disposed of the beautiful auburn and crunchy skin. Tragedy in my eyes.

Now we return to geographic uncertainty as this French titled dish is Catalonian. I don't know if Delia was a geopolitical expert and knew that there was a small bit of Catalonia in France now called Roussillon or if this recipe is indeed Spanish which is where most of Catalonia lies today. I am assuming she meant it as a Spanish dish if only because of the fact that she specifies Spanish olives, there doesn't seem to be anything else that is specifically Spanish or French for that matter. Spain was still a young creation back then and there were Basque separatists as well as Catalan ones. Don't confuse Basque with Bisque though as Bisque is a seafood soup and Basque nothing to do with costumes at the Folies Bergère, it is another distinct region swallowed up by modern Spain.

On a road trip returning from Portugal through northern Spain in the days before internet, we had somehow manged to discover that a terrorist bomb had just gone off the day before in one of Spain's northern cities so it wasn't especially surprising to be driving down a mountain pass on a motorway and to suddenly find ourselves in a full blown military roadblock with several vehicles, the armoured olive green variety, manned by many soldiers who were operating a checkpoint for every vehicle, which involved stripping most of them empty. There were a lot of guns and also those spikey things across the road to prevent anyone making a break for it, like us, hoping to catch the late evening ferry back to Britain. Anyway it was all very organised and one of the soldiers soon spotted our uncommon GB plate and motioned us to the front of the queue where they examined our passports only to whisk us straight through the block unsearched.

Delia uses packs of drumsticks but you could use a "3 lb chicken cut in 8 pieces", this time presumably, you "ask your butcher to do it" although I for one would be fascinated to see how he gets 8 chicken thighs out of one chicken. Colonel Sanders claims to have 11 herbs and spices in his fried chicken but what does Delia offer us frugal foodies? Some freshly milled black pepper, and that is it. I am left wondering what exactly is "Southern" about putting black pepper on a chicken thigh and frying it. I am not even American let alone from the South and I am offended at the thought.

I once went into a breakfast place in Florida, comfortingly called The Pig's Breakfast, where I was astonished to see on offer "Biscuits with Gravy". This could only conjure up a chocolate chip coated in Bisto, quite a disgusting thought. My motto when travelling in strange lands, and there is nowhere stranger than Florida apart maybe from California and of late, definitely Oregon, is always to try the weirdest thing on the menu, so I was compelled to order the biscuits and gravy. Imagine my utter shock when I received scones with béchamel sauce that seemed to have been made out of bacon fat, in fact there were scrapings of bacon in the sauce. Deeelicious, like many of the strange things I ate in Japan, but with the advantage of knowing what it actually was.

I obviously got a bit carried away with hyperbole earlier when I suggested that the average Brit in 1976 couldn't cope with more than one spice at a time, because here we have proof positive that we could cope with at least 3, in addition to the curry powder, 5 if you count bayleaves and cloves. The addition of Turmeric would definitely have meant a visit to a more than ordinary supermarket. I think ginger, cinnamon and bayleaves were fairly safe, as every kitchen had a Schwartz Spice rack, constructed out of wooden dowelling, and consisting of miniscule jars with little ridges around them to engage more easily with the dowelling spice rack, where most of the spices had usually gone pale and fragrance free after 3 or 4 years waiting for this recipe book to come along.

Are you old enough to remember giblets? They are now an endangered species since they have managed to breed poultry without vital organs. Actually you titter at my feeble joke but can it be that far off until we do have genuine giblet free chicken, they are already growing meat in labs. Giblets live on though as a punchline for jokes, in a certain sort of traditional Victoria Wood sort of humour. It is more the sound of the word than it's meaning. I once heard a famous comedian expounding on words that were innately funny, even though we don't really know why. Words such as gusset, hob nob, gherkin, chipolata or grease nipple are all perfect examples.

The opening sentence is quite innocently hilarious to me, if you think about it. The idea that Indian dishes eaten every day by hundreds of millions of people might be mostly too complicated to cook at home. Having grown up in India in the 60's I can personally attest to the fact that those hundreds of millions of people were not eating out in restaurants but were very much cooking Indian dishes at home. In all the years we lived there I can only remember eating in a restaurant about 5 times. One that I still remember, called The Blue Fox, was like a palace to little me, who had never seen anything so wondrous in my life before.

This next chapter is interesting and just goes to show that things don't change very much. The world was doomed back then and it is just as doomed today although the date of it's demise seems to move back ten years every decade. Here we have the same narrative doing the rounds, trying to stop us eating meat, particularly the poor. There is nothing worse than the poor gobbling up precious resources willy nilly darling.

TVP is an anachronism, sorry I mean an acronym. You don't see it much anymore, as vegetarianism has become mainstream and you no longer have to wear a large overcoat and a false moustache when you search for certain products that dare not mention their name, like Tofu, cous cous, brown rice, goat yoghurt or TVP. If you have a cat and it eats dried food you will know exactly what unprepared TVP looks like, it looks just like the cat litter in the tray on the floor. Texturised Vegetable Protein from labs, as Delia admits, had arrived, and it has also since left. TVP could be acquired in mince form or cube form and all you had to do was soak it for 4 days to rehydrate it and then cook it for a further three days while trying to apply flavour to it. Like Tofu, which survived, it is more about the texture than the flavour as there wasn't any. In fact I am exaggerating. If you have ever sniffed the grey cardboard of a cereal packet if it has got damp, then you have the true flavour of TVP. In fact I once accidentally cooked a cereal packet instead and didn't notice until I found the TVP cubes still intact on the shelf. I once used a couple of cubes to put under a table leg to stop it wobbling.

Now we live in a world of gluten intolerants and seitan eaters. Factories employing thousands, spend millions on removing gluten from wheat to save the lives of gluten intolerants, while supplying that gluten to other factories employing thousands, where they rebrand the gluten as Seitan, a meat alternative. It's a win win for food companies who can charge a 50% premium by separating natural foods into their constituent parts to feed to different types of intolerant people.

I like nothing better than to hear a vegetarian announcing what they cannot eat rather than what they will not eat. To say you cannot eat something makes you worthy of sympathy and care and tolerance while saying truthfully that you won't eat something is just considered petulant and immature. Saving a drowning child makes you a hero, choosing not to eat something does not. I was a vegetarian for a number of years, who wouldn't eat meat, although I knew full well that I could, it really was just a lifestyle choice not an identity. This is a warning, dear vegetarian reader. If you are feeling triggered by this paragraph, then that is a sign of a wounded identity, if you are chuckling, you are quite safe, and there is hope, as you are only suffering from a lifestyle.

Delia is correct in saying that there are many versions of this dish, below, as one would expect from a recipe made over a wide area by tens of thousands of housewives in the past. Most of the recipes I found on good old Google have the ham and apple in common and some add potatoes as here. This is in fact the first one I would be tempted to make.

There are several explanations for the name, none of which sound very likely, so let's just say it is lost in the mists of time. It did however fill the niche in the Midlands, that in the West Country was filled by the Pasty, an easily portable complete meal, easy to eat on the hoof and cold. Probably literally eaten on the hoof on some occasions, as it predates modern motorised transport.

There are several "Boulangere" recipes which adds the usual French glamourising to a peasant recipe. For some reason French peasants are so much nicer than English ones. Even today that narrative is alive and well in certain circles of people who have an undying loyalty to foreign parts while despising their own. People who will happily slum it in some dark hole of peasant life in the Ardeche but would never travel north of Watford for fear of brushing up against a commoner of their own nationality. After all, nations are so yesterday. Unless you are in France or Italy, where they are hallowed.

The great irony is that England has her own "Boulangere" recipes a plenty because they were all invented for the same reason. Ordinary people did not have ovens, so all their recipes were made on a stove top or open fire or cooked on a spit. But every village in England had a baker while every village in France had a Boulangerie, and once the day's baking was finished that oven or sometimes a specially built community oven was used by all who needed to cook their slow cook meal of the day, almost universally some sort of stew or if you want glamour, casserole. The village I live in now has a double set of Lime kilns a hundred yards or so down the creek which were an industrial type of oven for producing fertiliser from limestone. But the kilns nearest the village have, built in to them, in a space between them, a communal oven where local people could take their food for cooking in residual heat from kilns that operated 24 hours a day. Some traditional British "Baker" dishes are Guernsey Bean Jar, Scottish Stovies, Lancashire Hot Pot, Liverpool Scouse and of course the classic Beef Stew.

I have referred to pasties so often in this blog that there is little to say about them here. Other than let's be clear about turnips, and where did the mixed herbs come in. Delia, no mixed herbs, pasties are seasoned with salt and pepper and that is it. They are not Boulangere or Catalane or Flamande, they are English. Note I say English, not Cornish as they are also a tradition of Devon and I don't want to start anything here, the border being so close.

A note about turnips. There are what are commonly known in England as turnips which are somewhere in size between a golf ball and a tennis ball, and they are white on the inside. Then there are what are commonly called Swedes in England which are much larger, the size of a Bowls ball, not a bowling ball, unless you are entering the largest swede competition in the local vegetable show. These Swedes are peachy coloured inside.

So why the confusion in names. Well the Swede is a relative newcomer, would you believe from Sweden, via Scotland? Traditionally all we had in Britain was the small white ones. When the peachy larger vegetable arrived in Scotland it was referred to as the Swedish Turnip which is where the trouble started. It became the default "turnip" in Scotland and the Scots being, well, Scottish they called them Neeps and dropped the Swedish. So this added to the unholy mess. What it does mean is that in Scotland if you ask for Tatties and Neeps you will be getting a Swedish turnip or Swede.

In England the two vegetables survived as separate entities, so to avoid confusion the English dropped the turnip name and adopted the Swede. So in England you can have a traditional turnip or a Swede. Wikipedia tells me that in Cornwall they also went down the Scottish road and adopted the name turnip for the Swede, so that leaves me unsure as to whether Delia realised this when writing this recipe. Most of her readers would not be in Scotland or Cornwall and so would be using the small white turnip, when in fact the correct vegetable is the peachy Swedish turnip. So I am glad I have cleared that up for you. Whatever you call them it is the large peachy coloured one you need for this recipe, and of course if you are American you will be needing a Rutabaga.

As they used to say on the comedy spoof soap called "Soap", "Confused? You will be"

Unless you watched British TV in the 70's the title of this chapter will pass you by. The comedian Dick Emery was hugely popular and he went in many guises, from Vicar to a yob to Mandy a "blonde bombshell" in full drag. Mandy featured in almost every episode, for a very brief sketch which never altered. She was out in public and would be stopped by a TV interviewer, Vox Pop Style, or otherwise approached innocently by a man

Vox Pop - In journalism, vox pop or man on the street refers to short interviews with members of the public.(the name is from the Latin "Vox Populi", meaning "Voice of the People")

The man would always ask Mandy some innocuous question which was also a Double Entendre, the second meaning of which was sexually provocative. Mandy always took the second "suggestive" meaning and once she had gone down that path she would come out with the same line every week. "Ooooooohh! You are awful but I like you" Whereupon she would in a very manly way push the man heavily in the chest making him stumble backwards or even fall over as she then walked away with a manly swagger, usually tripping over her high heels as she went.

Just like this.

So the Awful Offal pun is still popular today, while offal itself in these oh so delicate of times is not. Personally I love most offal with the exception of tripe. A particular favourite being faggots which I go into in more detail here.

Even I draw the line at Kidney Stroganoff. One bugbear I have with TV chefs is their hijacking of traditional dishes and then messing about with them. Fine, write a recipe like the one below but don't call it Stroganoff. Stroganoff is a traditional Russian dish and is not made with kidneys. Pesto is not made with Spinach. Risotto is not made with Pearl Barley. There is no such thing as a Cheese and Onion Pasty. Come up with a new recipe, come up with a new name. As it says in Wikipedia about Stroganoff "no onions, no mushrooms and no alcohol" so if we take out the kidneys as well, Delia leaves us with butter, soured cream, pepper and nutmeg.

The finest Risotto I ever tasted and which I can taste still, was on top of a mist covered mountain in Central Italy. We were on a driving holiday which usually entailed looking at the map for unusually shaped roads to explore and difficult to get to places to discover. I can still see the place in my mind but probably couldn't find it today. We didn't normally eat lunch so we were really just looking for a snack. There was nothing in this mountain top village apart from a bar. The streets were empty and the bar was empty and the sky had come down to meet us as we had climbed ever higher. So we stuck our heads into the bar only to be accosted by a young man who all but dragged us inside. He didn't speak much English and we didn't speak much Italian, but we told him we would like something to eat. He disappeared through a doorway behind the bar and we could hear voices and kitchen like sounds. He'd served us a couple of beers so we made do with those for some time, glad to be out of the car.

Eventually he re-appeared with two of the most enormous plates of risotto we had ever seen. It was not inspiring to look at but what could we do so we tried it. Well if fireworks were ever going to go off after tasting something this was the moment. I have no idea how his grandmother as it turned out, had made it, but this woman was a goddess and a magician. How could boiled rice taste like this? Subsequently I always shout at the TV (Don't you?) when I see chefs making "risotto" with nuts and chicken and fish and sausage and everything else they can throw at it. I have seen the light and I know it is true, rice is the food of the gods.

Unfortunately after some attempted conversation between us and the young man who loitered in fascination at his new guests, (we were the only living beings apart from granny he had seen in a week) and after discovering he was a fan of Liverpool and the Beatles, he whisked away our empty plates to, we assumed, bring us our bill. But no, we had only had our starters, and while we were enjoying the risotto, granny was hard at work. Minutes later, out came our biggest fan, not with a bill but with two of the biggest steaks we had ever seen and a massive bowl of French Fries which had been fried with whole garlic cloves. We both looked in horror at each other but only because of quantity not the food itself. We now had the honour of Britain at steak. Steak get it? So we did the only honourable thing we could do and that was eat the lot. At least the way home was all down hill, in a now heavier car, where we retired for the rest of the day, like pot bellied pigs might do in a puddle under a tree, I don't mean we actually lay down in a puddle under a tree, we just did the human equivalent of lying in a puddle under a tree.

Only the British could come up with a food that acquired the name bangers. Traditional British bangers were fried in skins that often burst as the meat inside expanded. Those with a basic understanding of Physics usually understand the stresses involved and so introduce small pressure valves in the form of little holes pricked with a fork. This prevents actual explosions and the resulting spraying of hot fat across the person and the room. Of course the prick has to be introduced before the pressure build up or you are still in danger of a hot squirt. This is getting dangerously into the area of Double Entendres again, what would Mandy say.

Is it me or is that line up of bangers in high heels a bit disturbing in a sort of surreal horror movie sort of way? The plates of food in the picture by the way portray the quintessential banger meal of Bangers and Mash, quite simply, bangers that are accompanied by mashed potato and if you are lucky your dish might come with some rich onion gravy.

We've been down this road before as Delia now has us dragging our sausage stew down to the Baker to sneak it into his oven. If the village concerned had several Delias in it the poor old baker would never have enough room to fit in some occasional bread.

If you lived through 1976 in Britain, then your main memory is probably heat, scorched lawns and water shortages. 1976 was the year of the drought and vegetable shortages resulted in government subsidies, it's hard to believe that now. Living in Wales a country of rain and rivers it came as a bit of a shock when the water disappeared from our taps for several hours a day as shortages were controlled. It came as an even bigger political shock as large English cities bordering Wales and drawing water from reservoirs in Wales had no water shortages at all. Something had obviously gone awry in the planning somewhere. More than likely a lack of adequate storage for large urban populations in Wales due to the fact that in normal years water was so plentiful.

I am not even sure Onion Rice counts as a recipe. Is putting two ingredients in the same pan a recipe? Does Bread and Butter count? Would the Italians just call this risotto? Probably not, because risotto is very definitely stirred and onion rice is not. This rice is specifically fluffy while risotto is creamy.

Reading on further it turns out that if you add mixed herbs to this "recipe" it turns into "Onion Rice with Herbs". Who would have thought it?

This cow looks worried because Delia is no vegetarian. Having dealt with vegetarians earlier I will just add this, Quorn. Quorn? Does anyone who eats Quorn even know what they are eating? Here's a good game. If you are on Social Media and some vegetarian troll makes the usual incendiary comment about meat or rotting carcases usually, just respond in this simple way. Ask a question. What is Quorn and how is it made? They don't know, nobody does. It usually ends any discussion. This is the problem with protesters of any sort, they know everything about the enemy and nothing about themselves because hating the enemy is the way they ignore themselves. It is an escape from themselves and the awkward questions that their own being asks of them.

Unbelievably, since starting this piece of writing about five days ago a new advert has appeared on TV, for "Meat Free Fridge Raiders". I would tell you what these are, but again, nobody knows because that is the message of the ad, "Meat Free Fridge raiders". It doesn't say anything else. What they are selling you is a negative, a free from, a virtue, a badge saying "look what I don't do". Virtue used to be an activity, and is now just resignation.

Good old Delia, she's at it with the puns again. Unfortunately this one falls flat on it's face because while the pulse in your veins may quicken, nothing about pulses from pods is quick. Pulses are known to be the hardest foods ever produced. In the 1950's a secret American military research program investigated the possibilities of firing them at Soviet tanks to break through the armour plating. The project code name was "Has Bean".

Cooking pulses has always only been possible by people with good memories because you need to remember to soak them 24 hours before you need them. There is absolutely no use sitting in your armchair during the commercial break to yet another repeat of Friends (the one with the quickening pulses) and thinking, I'm a bit peckish, I know, I'll knock up a lentil stew, or a chilli con carne, or as we are now apparently supposed to call it Carne con chilli. Forget it. That is of course unless you cheat and use tins. This time tin means steel. Tinned or canned pulses are the way forward unless you like the little red split peas which are the only relatively quick pulses that can be used almost immediately from their dry form (well within about half an hour).

The most famous British pulse dish is Mushy Peas. You see, we do it all the time, selling ourselves short in a name. Proper Mushy peas are angel food. These are relatively quick pulses only needing about 6 hours to soak unlike the soya bean which needs about 6 weeks. My grandmother was an expert at Mushy peas mainly because she overcooked everything, which turns out to be an advantage when it comes to Mushy peas. Arriving like armour plating piercing bullets means you can't really overcook them. Any sign of the fresh pea is long gone, if your packet is gone out of date it may have gone years ago, but miraculously these bullets transform themselves into silk. My grandmother used to sprinkle sugar on top and it does make a difference. I suppose it is thought some sweetness may remind one of a fresh pea.

Ironically this is one of the best pulses to cook yourself and the worst to buy in a tin because for some bizarre reason the tinned variety are dyed blue with a chemical that will cause your kids to climb the walls, so be warned.

The red kidney bean in it's dried form seemed to suddenly appear in the seventies, where it had been hiding I don't know. What we didn't know was that you could not eat it raw or sprouted like you could other soaked pulses, and warnings started to emerge about people who had died because red kidney beans contain phytohemagglutinin a substance that can be destroyed by cooking, but proper cooking with high heat. Another popular invention to compete with Voyager interplanetary craft, that appeared in the seventies, was the slow cooker. Red kidney beans and the slow cooker are a deadly combination.

Now here was an instruction for vegetable cooking that my grandmother could get fully on board with "you must boil them for at least 30 minutes", unfortunately she missed the first part of the advice and assumed it was applicable to all vegetables.

The best Pauper's Puddings are free and so it was that I usually spent a day or two wandering along the disused railway line that ran along the back garden of my grandmother's house. All in the cause of the common Bramble or Blackberry.

I don't know if coal dust benefits the growth of Blackberries but there was certainly something about that stretch of trackside that produced the largest, juiciest Blackberries I have seen to this day. At that time the tracks were still down but like everything that has changed in the years since, the tracks came up and then went back down. Life in many ways seems to travel in a sort of Yo-yo movement.

The blackberries were cleaned, bagged and nestled into the enormous deep freeze cuddling up to the chickens already in there.

I remember early one morning when I was woken up in the tiny back bedroom of the farmhouse by the strangest noise I had ever heard. It was a sort of loud whining, rumbling and hissing all accompanied by shouts and lower voices talking. Bear in mind this was a farmhouse nowhere near a main road or another residence so silence was the normal background sound. I leaned through the deep window recess in the three feet thick stone walls of the ancient house to open the small four paned window to see what was happening. Craning my neck to the left gained just enough advantage to see a nightmare calamity of chaos happening just feet away from the back of the house.

Workmen in bright colours and safety hats and goggles wielding torches of sparks and fire, slicing through the rails like butter. Rails that had been there for decades, casually lifted and stacked on an advance guard of working train headed backwards up the track to the main line, leaving an empty path of ballast behind it, like a churchwarden rolling up the confetti strewn red carpet at the end of a wedding after all the congregation have left, leaving a confetti edged path down to the lychgate to only hint at what had gone before.

Looking out of the window, the most incredible part of this sudden intrusive spectacle was the speed at which the procession passed, a hundred years of tradition gone in less than five minutes, leaving just a distant clatter which rapidly faded to be replaced with bird song.

It was 1981 before a heritage line was inaugurated to reverse the change and the next phase they are laying track for is this very section, currently under construction. As I say, life is a Yo-yo.

Yo-yoing back to Mandy, I can just imagine stopping her with a handy microphone to enquire after her thoughts about British puddings like Spotted Dick.

"Pardon ?"

"I just wondered Miss if you were partial to a bit of Spotted Dick?"

"Oooooohhh you are awful, but I like you.

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Peter Smith
Peter Smith
Jul 06, 2022

The concept of buying a book about being frugal amuses me. My mother was certainly frugal in the 70s and I remember some 'imaginative' dishes involving mince meat and spaghetti hoops and a cheese pudding affair involving, if I remember, soaked bread and of course cheese and undoubtedly some other magic ingredient. Never had any of them since I've grown up. Fish, as I recall was a treat if we saw Grandad as he worked in a wet fish shop. Still, we used to have a summer holiday so I'm sure any odd coppers went in the holiday fund rather than financing literature on frugality. So who bought it. Did you get it for a relative at Christmas effectively saying…

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jul 06, 2022
Replying to

I'd forgotten Fine Fare and I was very surprised to stumble upon a Budgens a couple of weeks ago. I thought they were long gone.🙂


Unknown member
Jul 04, 2022

This is one piece where our twinsiness, disappears. You outdid yourself, granted it took you more than normal to write but......well worth it! Are you looking for a publisher now? 😉

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jul 06, 2022
Replying to

I don't know if a publisher would touch a book based on a book. I'll maybe carry on practising for now. I have two other "book reviews" in the pipeline.

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