I’m not great at many chores around the flat (a certain someone can confirm that) but the one thing that really brings me joy is unpacking the groceries. It’s a bit pathetic to admit but I like the comfort of having well stocked shelves, and the satisfaction of having a place for everything and everything in its place. But today it was a joyless task because I was riddled with guilt. It seemed like every second item I pulled out of our shopping bags contained some form of plastic in its packaging. I stared at it and felt like I had failed. Failed to uphold my pledge to reduce our plastic consumption, failed to make any difference at all. It’s times like this that I wonder what is the point of going out of my way to change my habits when almost every part of consumer life is literally wrapped in plastic.
This zero-waste living thing is hard. Really hard. It’s obviously possible, as evidenced by a few useful and trustworthy proponents I’ve heard of, but I think the aim of complete zero-waste zen is a bit impractical for our lifestyle right now. I’ve decided to be more pragmatic, do what I can, and not beat myself up for what I can’t. In the words of Anne-Marie Bonneau aka @zerowastechef, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” So with that sentiment in mind, I thought I would share some of the changes we have been making or attempting in order to reduce our waste and plastic consumption…
Cheese is not an ingredient that inspires much invention in my kitchen, but not because I don’t like to cook with it. Quite the opposite actually, I love adding cheese to my food and use it a lot… just in the most predictable of ways. I know what I like: cheddar grilled on toast, mozzarella on pizza, feta in salads, parmesan on pasta, camembert or brie to nibble on. I was more than satisfied with my stock standard approach, but then the team at Comté Cheese decided to get me in the kitchen and prove to me the error of my ways. Their motto is that ‘Everything is Better with Comté’ and they have their cheesy little hearts set on convincing everyone that this is the case!
But we before we donned our aprons, we had a lesson in comté – where does this cheese come from, what makes it so special? I’d already brushed up on my knowledge during a comté cheese and wine pairing, but for those of you who aren’t as familiar with it; it’s a unique variety of cheese made from raw milk from around 2,700 family farms in the Jura Massif of France, under very particular circumstances. Though it’s all classed as one variety, the cheese comes in many different flavour profiles from sweet and creamy to rich and nutty, determined by both the age and the season in which the milk was produced.
I am the proud owner of a very, very well stocked freezer. That’s probably not the coolest (pun totally intended to add to said coolness) or most glamorous thing to admit but such is real life. And in my life, a well stocked freezer is one key to eternal home happiness. Ridicule me all you like but you know who will be having the last laugh? Me, with my belly-warming bowl of homemade dumplings and broth, ready in just ten minutes. Me, diving into my oxtail stash for a Sunday stew, saving myself the trolley battles in the Sunday supermarket swarms. Or me, wading through my ice cream options for dessert just because I can.
Every freezer should have at least one type of ice cream, but in a well stocked freezer like mine, one is never enough. Oh no, that would be a disgrace! Our current situation involves two staples – a tub of top notch vanilla (because it goes with everything, duh) and a selection of mini Magnums (because I can be sensible in my indulgence), and a new entry… a delectable array of ice creams and sorbets from Simply Ice Cream! When I say there’s something sweet for everyone in that bottom freezer drawer, I really mean it.
According to everyone, 2016 has been a stinker of a year. There have been very few highs, a great number of lows, and bad surprises lurking at every corner – shock exits and the rise of a certain powerful oompa loompa, just to name a few. But if I crawl into my rosé-tinted, food-filled bubble of a world, according to me, 2016 has been quite scrumptious and a most fitting way to see out my twenties… yep, today is my birthday and yours truly is officially thirty!
Contrary to the sexist self-help magazines and old wives tales, I’m not cowering in the corner lamenting the loss of my twenties, nor am I looking up the closest botox clinics for my first nip/tuck of the new decade… I’m feeling content, happy, and hungry. Just the same as I was yesterday, when I was only a baby at twenty-nine. I started the last year of my twenties in Madrid, and here I am in Spain again, marking the start of my thirties in Seville… but where else did I dine when I was twenty-nine?!
Is that how the song goes? Because at the tail end of the year, I always find myself a little more cautious with my cash – aside from the usual dinners out and weekend getaways, there are also a raft of birthdays to celebrate, Christmas dinners to attend, and presents to buy for both occasions! However some might well argue that in reality, every season is one to spend, and the tail end of everypay cycle is when we start feeling the pinch…
You can cut back on a lot when things are tight, but in my opinion, eating well should not be one of them… I’m not an advocate of choosing certain diets or cutting particular foods out, I’m all about the balance which makes me a sucker for a bargain and a little obsessed with supermarkets. We love experimenting with cheaper cuts of meat (lamb’s hearts are delicious, don’t you know) or turning basic ingredients into flavoursome and comforting meals… more for less, you might say if you work in the public sector!
Deciding what to make for an office shared lunch can be quite a challenge. You certainly don’t want your colleagues to think you are incompetent in the kitchen (even if you are, some things should be kept out of the office) but you also don’t want to get too complex. No one likes a show off, or to be accused of trying to pass off a shop-bought item as one of their own. Then there’s the added issue of actually getting the food to the office – there’s no way I’m carting anything bigger than a standard sized tupperware box across London on three tube changes and a bus ride. Yeah, my commute is worse than yours; I know.
Given the list of dietary requirements, general likes and dislikes, and the scrutiny of some discerning diners in your midst, I would recommend you do what I do and play it safe. Chocolate brownies are the answer; a guaranteed crowdpleaser. If by chance there is someone in your team who doesn’t like chocolate brownies, someone else will no doubt be rubbing their hands together with delight because that means there’s another one going spare…
I went through a phase where I thought Vietnamese summer rolls were the best thing since sliced bread. I was in my late teens, had never been to Vietnam (still haven’t…) and just thought they were so much more exotic than the stock standard spring rolls I had munched on all my life! I did and do love spring rolls, my parents make cracking ones, but I don’t think it was cool for a teenage girl to profess a love of deep fried foods back in the day.
Now, years later, I am still quite fond of summer rolls but I find myself ordering them less in restaurants and ordering spring rolls more. Mostly because I won’t let a certain someone get a deep fryer (that self conscious teenage girl had some sense) and summer rolls are so easy to make at home!