A Guide for the new Stay At Home Dad

Right then,

It seems there are a load of new dad bloggers out there relieving their boredom (as I do) by writing a blog. For those bringing up their tiny ones, those days spent with pooey fingers on nappy tables, maybe bottle feeding at 2 am, maybe midnight runs to hospitals with some injury or other, drives down autobahns with kids arms in an L shape at 160km, days spent feeling in deep despair at the life you lead – well they do get easier. In fact, the phase where the small ones need you wanes. What fills that void? In my case, it was finding some kind of outdoor work such as gardening for old ladies, and lately getting a dog (another topic). As a veteran of this lifestyle, I’d love to pass on some tips for those sailing in my boat today. What would I advise? Here I assume you start from Square One as I did. I had a pretty cool life before children (we refer to life before kids as BC!!).

The first thing I would advise is to get your nutrition under control. This means learning to cook. Get hold of a book like Jamie Oliver’s “Ministry of Food” and in there he teaches enough to get started. With that book, I was able to present decent enough fare on the table. Once you can d the basics, you may begin to see patterns in the stuff you make, like the 5:3 ratio of flour to water when you make a pizza. Go then to Michael Ruhlman’s “Ratio” which pretty much teaches the principles underneath all food prep. You may have heard of the “clean” eating thing. Reducing carbs is a good thing, not necessarily eliminating them, but watching your intake, is to be recommended.

Secondly, once you figure out what you are eating and can reduce the packet stuff, is to get a small veg garden together. Start in spring with a few tomato plants from Aldi, then maybe a herb bed, or some spuds in a pot. I’ve been growing my own a decade now, and love the quality of stuff we eat.

Make no mistake, this gig we do is unusual, and I may be wrong but I think we’ll always be a niche in the family way of things. The pressures we Dads are under are invisible, and when you sit here as I do kind of watching the news and Youtube stuff, days do indeed drift. The constant “do this do that” does wear at you, and yes you will gain if you didn’t before, a respect for the mums who always look utterly haggard on the shop runs. This is where some kind of meditation helps. Yoga, Progressive Muscular Relaxation, Tai Chi or my choice Qi Gong, can ease the way and switch off from the crap at times.

Many of us get so worn out we neglect ourselves, especially with the isolation. The lack of structure and order can take their toll on fitness Some would say go to a gym, but in my case, I found the cliquishness off-putting. Besides, I now prefer to exercise on my own using callisthenics. What’s that? Old fashioned push-ups, pull-ups, squats. Aren’t they hard? No, if you progress along from easy to hard in a structured way. Get a copy of Convict Conditioning (Google this) to see what I mean. Much of this long lost art is coming back, having been preserved in the most unusual of places – prisons!

Many of you are lucky enough to have kept your old employment, at least in a part time capacity. When I began this, I lost my job owing to outsourcing to India, so I lost absolutely everything to do with my old career. I began from scratch about five years ago. I started to do lawn care and landscaping for an old lady. Then I helped a lady in her greengrocer’s shop. An accident at the market made me realise with huge respect to those market stall peeps that this wasn’t for me – I am an office rat. So I began to learn to program in Java. I’ve spent the last two years learning this at the “Cave of Programming” site owned by a kind Britt John. I’ve coded one site but am looking for more and even Android apps to write.

So here are some of the things I really wish I’d known before I embarked on this journey over a decade ago.






Binhuggers – enjoying reclaiming waste food

The last six months I have been cooking as never before – in exchange for driving a trailer full of cardboard to the recycling centre which accepts cardboard boxes – I receive free or very cheap whole boxes of veg and fruit. Sometimes the stuff is of course not fresh and has to be composted but still a huge chunk of it is usable and makes fantastic food.

The trick is to be relaxed and open as to what to cook. The further secret is to have on hand the basics so when it comes in it can be dealt with quickly.

As long as you have the base Western aromatics – onions or leeks, carrots and celery – you can pop what’s there very often into a veggie lasagne – mushrooms, peppers, for example. A load of peppers can be roasted with tomatoes and rosemary for an awesome sauce topping for couscous for example.

If there’s a cauliflower then the obvious direction to go is cauliflower cheese so you have to have milk, cheese and butter on hand for the Bechamel. If there’s any interest I’ll write about some of my decisions and recipes I discover.

I am now a fruithead. If there are pears they get the dead simple poaching treatment in a pan of water and sugar five minutes then whipped cream over that. Bananas get gently cooked in butter/sugar then wrapped up on puff pastry as a Banana Bomb! If it’s fruit glut season then the glut will end up in jam jars! This is what I did last summer with 10 kg of strawberries!

Sugar at the heart of a trade Triangle of Death

Watching Robert Ludwig’s 5 million time viewed Youtube this week:

made me think about what lay behind the dominance of sugar in our diet and its history. It helps that I’ve been reading a lot about sailing lately too, connected to the trade winds which propelled British ships across the Atlantic to the plantations.
Let’s think about the triangle of death we created in our British Empire:
1. We made weapons and shipped them to tribal elders in African states. We traded these weapons most likely for very low production cost, for slaves.
2. We transported these slaves across the Atlantic to the sugar plantations of the West Indies. It is estimated that half of the slaves didn’t make it. Half of them. These slaves brought their culture with them.
3. From these sugar cane plantations, merchants grew rich in London off the back off this horrific triangle of abuse. No wonder there are rich 1% families to this day from this evil.
Now these slaves were in let’s say at the least in immense pain most of the time and they brought their African voodoo culture with them to ease their sadness. What was this voodoo culture? It was known as the blues.
Some of these slaves migrated from the south of the USA to Chicago people such as Robert Johnson. From this we had the basis of modern rock music.
So whilst prancing to a rock band these days, you may unwittingly be evoking dark African shamanic spirits!

A White Powder Which Kills

I had Robert Lustig’s now famous Youtube lecture on “Watch Later” for three months thinking “Ah yeah, another diet…” then took time out to watch the hour and a half clip. Something had clicked in me. I am known in my family for saying “I’m not one for a sweet tooth but…” and eyes roll. I’ll then dig out the Twix, biscuits or whatever is in the top shelf of our sweet cupboard.

About a week earlier I had a “Discussion” with my wife in front of my inlaws telling them the truth that our family can be “emotional” at times and screaming matches can ensue out of the blue. I’m a believer in full moon being a predictor of crazy behaviour, but I also started to wonder if other factors were at work. I’d never ever in my dreams considered the concept that food influenced moods, but there it seems, that after so long of my son and his tantrums, it may be insulin and sugar derived after all.
We ought to be in spite of this, poster children for the new generation of “green parents”: we have a big veg garden which was my influence (or rather gardening was in herited from my parents back in the 1970s) and my German wife’s very positive influence on us in for form of sport such as cross country skiing in winter and cycling in summer. I dug a veg patch and got Jamie Oliver At Home very early on to learn to cook. I’ve spent the last years planting, reading about what to do with the growing stuff, pruning apple treees and juicing them  – all kind of Richard Briers “Good Life” sort of thing. I’ve even been a member of a gym. However I never managed to lose weight. My doc says we are a very healthy family, but still, we’re not 100 of what we might be. I’ve started to wonder if our seemingly bakery habit might be less innocent than I thought. 
Worse still the mentality seems to have been that weight loss is easy and just discipline, andone who failed must be lazy. How wrong this may seem to be.
From the famous Lustig lecture, if he is right (I believe so) then there are two hormones which control our biochemically derived behaviour (we are thus not as free as we thought). Ghrelin says to me “Eat!” and I duly obey its demind. When I am full another hormone kicks in named Leptin. This is the “full” hormone which has been somehow switched off. Nature ought to tell us to stop, but it doesn’t. What is there in our bodies which may be affecting this hormone?

So if that’s it then we have been misled all along. On the strength of this lecture, oh additionally on another book “Potatoes not Prozac” last week I began to cook breakfast, i.e., eggs noting how full they made often at midday when eating with thie kids. This breakfast is now a meal in the early morning I really get excited about, like I’m turning on the central heating for day. So I’m currently doing the “breakfast” thing and also giving up sugar. The first few days last week were awful. Groggy and tired the whole day for 3 days, I felt rotten.
A friend invited me to a 50th birthday party weekend and I admit the whole thing went to pot and I drank loads of beer. However the last three dayys I’ve been back on track. I’m noticing changes. Some tingles in extremities, like blood is flowing there. This morning I noticed my nose becoming unbelievably clean. I can breathe again. I could smell stuff in my kitchen for the first time in ages. I have a clearer head-. I’ve also given up wheat stuff – the bakery is on hold for the moment. If I get healthier, my son may not be so boisterous in the evening, my wife may be a little healthier every month (she suffers a lot).
Is this abstinence from sugar,and reduction of wider carbohydrates the solution to our admittedly small problem? 

Cauliflower Cheeeeeese!

Shrubbery Kitchen says almost farewell to this years season with a classic cauliflower cheese swimmin’ in cheese sauce, with spuddies!

Polyculture – the gift that keeps on giving!

Right then,

Following on from my development of a new veg bed in the spring, incorporating the permaculture principles of “hugelkultur” and the keyhole bed principle, I thus decided to develop another idea, that of polyculture gardens. The inspiration came from Toby Hemenway’s book “Gaia’s Garden” yet he further attributes Ianto Evans as the source of the idea in his work. It may be viewed in this link.

So I sowed in the same place seeds of radish, dill, parsnip, calendula, and lettuce after the last frosts and waited. I’ve kept a photographic record of the progress of this fascinating little garden. Here’s the first from the 23rd of May:

You can clearly see the most rapid growth is in the radishes which are always fast growers. The leaves look somewhat like butterfly wings to me at least.

After this I went on holiday to Corsica and now look what awaited my return:

17th June:

Stuff is jumping out of the ground! The most amazing is the radish set which are the biggest I have ever seen! I was swamped with them and was eating them like there was no tomorrow. What is noticeable is how there are almost no slugs in this bed. Could it be something to do with the marigolds which are attracting pest eating insects?

29th June:

I’ve been harvesting lettuce after lettuce from the bed. Now I have the rather wonderful “problem” of to much dill and what to do with it. I grabbed a handful the other day and took it to my local grpocer who promptly swapped it for a kilo of mushrooms! The final crop to expect is the parsnip which I have seen peeping from underneath. I am looking forward to eating these with my Christmas diner. So as one can see, from radishes to parsnips, one gets a crop for a very long time from such a small bed.

Gonna start a revolution from my (veg) bed

So sang Liam Galagher in 1997 on What’s the Story (Morning Glory)? Or not. But with an extremely tedious UK election looming and having been abroad so long – about fifteen years – the only way I actually see a way to make any difference in your life is to try to “be the change”, to become as self sufficient as possible. I’ve tried a Sonnenacker German style allotment the last two years but it needed petrol to get to, was difficult to water and ended up full of weeds, so the logical thing to do was to chop down two old-and-excess-to-requirements plum trees last autumn and build a raised veg bed on top.

The project started with registering for a Häckselaktion a rather cool offer from the local Gemeinde (council) where they shred your tree prunings for 15 minutes for free.

I woke up one morning at 7.45 to this loud noise. No small garden shredder this, was positively street-blockingly enormous! Some cars couldn’t get past, indeed some German cow screamed at me like it was my fault they’d parked across the whole street.

I ended up with a huge pile of shredded material on my drive thus:

Immediate help from the kids thus shifted it into the garden. Bring back child labour:

You may be able to make out the beginnings of a “horsehoe” shape permaculture bed. It’s essentially a long bed curled round to maximise space yet allow access to the middle. So I designed it (a rather grand way of saying I improvised it) to have wooden walls in the end. Initially I tried walls made from the old trunks of the knocked down plum trees, but the look from the wife gave the answer so for about 100 Euros from the baumarkt for timber I had all the stuff for a foot (30cm) high raised bed. The overall area was 4.5m by 3m, so it needed an access point in the middle. The outer walls were straightforward to build yet the inner path took a bit of thinking, not easy with kids wrecking the rest of the garden, digging the odd hole in the lawn and the neighbours’ daughter screaming on the trampoline.

Following Toby Hemenway’s advice in Gaia’s Garden I developed a “lasagne” style bed, starting with old cardboard at the bottom to suppress weeds, then on top the shreddings – about a cubic metre. A chance comment with one of the Omas at the kindergarden, who owns a gärtnerei led to a trailer load of horsey plop of a year old vintage, which was surprisingly odour free. I went down with the two kids and we loaded up the trailer. The event was tarnished by the accidental throwing of muck by my son over my daughter, al in my poor girl’s hair and on her coat! I was thus reminded of that famous song by the Yetties of Yetminster:

“Fling it here, fling it there.
If you’re standing by then you’ll all get your share.”

I mean with quality lyrics like that they’d beat the hell out of the Wurzels.

So upon return the bed was filled with fine plop. The final layer needed was a load of topsoil. A half hour with Carl my neighbour taught me so much about raised beds – he being a farmer and forester couldn’t resist coming over for a nose round and I thus probed him for tips and info. I learnt so much in that short time. So the next thing was to go out and search for a building site where topsoil was being scraped off, or some such. My first attempt was a quarry, but the bloke there wasn’t that friendly and I had to spade in all the soil myself as he moaned that soil would make his digger dirty for shifting gravel which was his normal job. So another idea came to me today – just drive round the town and find a big JCB digger and ask. As luck would have it I found a bloke levelling a field who said I could have some and home I drove to fetch my trailer. A good hour later the stuff was settling nicely in my newly built veg bed with wooden sides:

So there we have it. Took a while and still needs a bit more topsoil but this will hopefully feed us this summer salads, cabbage, maybe tomatoes, the lot. The other bed will also be used – it’s indeed sprouting up some garlic which I planted last year and forgot about – evidently the ice cold winter helped the bulbs to open up this spring. The plan is to follow a Ianto Evans style polyculture. I shall blog about the experience when we start after Eisheiligen. Work in the garden on tender plants cannot start until these days are out of the way.

A British style curry – solved!

Before I got ill I was heavily into this. I managed to simulate a “six pints and hit a policeman” British curry house curry! It was currier than a British curry!

More here soon! Update to come!

A British style curry. An “open sauce” approach to food.

As I cooked up this wonderful dish I couldn’t help grinning when I hear that expression about for example, politicians “currying favours” with their minions. It always struck me as a silly expression.

Right then, as a homesick ex-pat who missed those chips and curry sessions straight out from the pub, I thought I’d attempt an approximation of such a taste, based upon my (limited) experience of flavours. I’ve travelled in India and the East and generally what is presented here is in no way what is eaten there (Indian food is actually much more diverse according to regional traditions) but it approximates what we in Britain know as curry. Don’t forget in the 70s all many of us knew of it came in the form of two dehydrated packets of Vesta!

When making a curry, the two most important building blocks are what I call the Alliums and the Powders. I like to take a bit of time to discuss them here….


Garlic – one of the healthiest ingredients in the kitchen, and I use loads of it. I understand however that most of today’s supermarket supplies come from China, even in France where I’d think it should be cultivated. I’ve tried to in fact grow my own but a west summer put paid to the attempt. In any case, peeling garlic can be done with a trick – crush the clove with the flat of a knife then cut of both ends, which should reveal the important stuff. I like to drop in about two to three of these in my “Serves 4” meal.

Onions – another plant I tied to grow several times on my damp Bavarian soils yet failed. Countless websites show how to chop this small. One big or two small should do the trick.

Ginger – I’ve seen many books advocating powdered ginger. No! Go to any veg shop and ask for a chunk of ginger root. I’m told leaving it half submerged in a bowl of water will start off the shoots, no luck here either. You need about an inch of this, maybe more as this will give the flavour. Remember top peel the outer skin off.

The above could in fact be wizzed up in a food processor (need not be expensive – mine came with a few missing bits from a flea market for 15 Euros)


Cumin and coriander – For this section I recommend buying a pestle and mortar as we’re going to use the spices as they are. I picked up mine at a cheap supermarket in fact. If I’m in a rush I’ll use the powdered form but having read the Indian kitchen goddess Madhur Jaffrey I believe it’s best to buy if possible the original whole seeds. This gives you flexibility later in that you might want to dry roast them, or add them as they are whole to curries according to the recipe. So buying whole seeds does give you the potential for three different flavours from one seed. Here we need one teaspoon of each of these spices, crushed together in a pestle and mortar.

Chilli – now I understand that to most the hotter the curry is the better, and here is where those who want the maximum number Scovilles can go to town. As a family bloke who doesn’t want to make his kids cry I only use a small amount of my own home grown chilli powder – a few years ago I grew a chilli plant, dried ’em then put them in a coffee grinder – God the powder got everywhere in the kitchen, up my nose and all sorts of places! I only use just the tip of a teaspoon for this spice.

Turmeric – although I dream of a “curry garden” where one might grow all of the spices for one’s food, this one is impossible to grow in our temperate climate, as it’s the root of a tree. It’s important for two reasons – to impart colour to the curry – that delicious yellow , and it helps to settle the stomach. You don’t need a huge amount, maybe quarter of a teaspoon, yet keep it to to one side if the curry starts to lose its yellowness during cooking.


Right, the above is the foundation of the curry. To this we might add some extras….

Tomato purée – I used to use a tin of tomatoes but found that the curry just tasted wholly of tomatoes, so I just use a dessert-spoon of purée instead.

Juice of half a lemon. This will give the required acidity to the flavour. Keep the other half nearby just in case it isn’t tart enough, it more than likely will end up in the pan later, (but may just as easily end up in the fridge unused for ages). All ingredients do their little jobs in this meal.

A tin of coconut milk. Again you probably will use only half the tin, but keep it to one side when at the stovetop. The purpose of this is to neutralise out some of the acidity of the evolving flavour.

Salt and pepper – as usual.

Sugar – we love our sweet British flavour, so about a teaspoon of that should help.

Apples – either peel and crush one or use a jar of apple puree. Again this is what I think imparts the sweet flavour to the curry sauce we’re used to in our post pub chip shop curries.

Drop of water or stock to stop it drying out.

These last ingredients should be by the side of the cooker, added to taste. The first parts – the Alliums and the Powders, once in are pretty fixed amounts, yet the last group should be added to taste, by feeling. This arguably is the best bit of making curry, where you taste the magic of these disparate ingredients melding together into one tasty different flavour – the whole greater than the sum of the parts! All the stuff should be prepared then laid out on small dishes next to the stove.

The rest

At this point all the other stuff should be prepared…

The stuff to be “curried”, i.e., a bowl of chopped veg – carrots, mushrooms, courgettes, or favours….

Rice – for four one mug should do the job, with three mugs of water and a half teaspoon of salt. Bring it to the boil, then when bubbling put the lid on and forget about it for fifteen minutes. This closed pan method is the best way I know to cook rice.

Yoghurt – what you’re about to eat is acidic for the stomach. Real curry should always be served with some plain yoghurt, perhaps with some cucumber or apple in it, to balance out the sharper flavours, and avoid that dodgy tummy the next day!


Now then fry up the Allium group first, a few minutes. When the onion looks browned, add the dry Powder group from the pestle and mortar, then sniff to see if the curry flavours are starting to be emitted. When the stuff starts to smell good, add tomato purée and lemon juice, coconut and apple purée. This last will give some sweetness to the mix.

You can now add the stuff to the bag of chips or continue to make the whole meal. Add the stuff to be curried. If the mix looks too dry add some stock or water. Let this simmer nicely while the rice is on in the back of the stove chugging away. It’s at this point when all the extras at the side of the stove like lemon juice, sugar, extra tomato, should be added gingerly (no pun intended) to see what effect it has on the mix. Continual tasting is the only way to ensure success (pity we’re not using wine in this recipe). The dish should be ready when the rice is.

Now serve the rice, curry and don’t forget the all important yoghurt. This last is very important as it will help mitigate any tummy effects…


An Unhealthy Passion for Food?

Do I have an unhealthy obsession with food?

I just spent the afternoon slow cooking a wonderful chicken curry. It was a great way of using up leftovers from Christmas dinner, and with my wife home I was able to take more time and really savour the process of cooking good food. She appreciates my cooking and says I like to cook.

As we’d been ill round Christmas time, I only cooked the chicken on the 27th. I  started about 1 pm on that day, gave myself plenty of time to prepare, simply got into the whole process of preparation of the chicken, including preparing a nice stock from the innards for the gravy later, and making a tasty stuffing out of apple, sage and sausage meat. Almost all of the herbs came from the garden, even though some of the parsley I had to pick through snow and ice on the old veg bed, and my fingers got numb bringing it in, no matter. I feel good about food if there is a small story around at least one of the ingredients I use in my meals. It’s like a connection to nature out there. With the bird duly stuffed and placed in the oven at 190C I followed the rule of 20 minutes per pound and 20 minutes over, for a 3kg bird that would make 200 minutes in all, plus resting time of 30 minutes afterwards. The veg side was sprouts, carrots and parsnips, classic winter British fare. The food came together effortlessly after 4 and a half hours and we sat down to a sumptuous meal. As long as the winter period has just one meal like this I’m happy.

The next day was spent dealing tidily with the leftovers. A stock was made from the bones and skin, with herbs, and simmered for over three hours to extract the goodness from the bones. This I froze for later use in a Chinese or a normal soup. Today I made up a lovely curry. Somewhere in my recipe books there’s this template for curry of garlic, onion, ginger then pestle and mortar some cumin and coriander seeds, chilli powder and turmeric.  My reasoning was that as long as this template was followed one couldn’t get it wrong. Thus a passable curry may be attempted from these seven ingredients.

However to make something with a little more pizazz one must add more. Added to the usual tin of tomatoes, one may add a little garam masala, then try it, then some lemon juice then try…now just a bit of coconut milk, but NOT the whole tin, just to add a little moisture. Then a little more chilli, the  sugar. The point being to taste it each time something is added until  it starts to “take shape” in the mouth. Thanks to writers like Alton Brown and Harold McGee they’ve made me really aware that what I do in the kitchen when I mix ingredients together is really a process of chemistry. Good cooking is like producing a work of art every single day on the family plate. Would that I could. What’s even more magical is if the chief ingredient was pulled out of the ground or picked off a tree or bush, then carried to the kitchen. A more satisfying relationship to earth one cannot find.

Several years ago I became influenced by a BBC show “Grow your own Veg” and dug up a chunk of lawn (doing my back in the process). I think it is something in the British island independence “Dig For Victory” mentality which has influenced me. However my first year hit a snag – what to do with all the produce? I must have wasted loads through ignorance off food and what to do. Previous allotment fodder would be simple stuff which went on the side of the plate, like a plate full of peas or carrots, or even runner beans. it was in the old days,  a little uninspiring.

Then in burst Jamie Oliver with his “Jamie At Home”. My copy was a present from sis in law who is a foodie, and the pictures, his way with words, ideas, spellbound me. Before long I was making up pizza doughs, tomato sauces, even his home made burgers, feeling like a cook. His words in his books were such an inspiration. Following that a permanently borrowed copy of Delia was dived into and weekly Friday fish from a small mobile kiosk became a fixture.

For the last two years I’ve experimented in a German style allotment, but ran into snags here. Much of the food in a bad summer simply doesn’t grow well at my 700m altitude, and the short distance to access the patch uses up petroleum, something I felt guilty about as I already got into growing to reduce my carbon footprint. An old freezer was cajoled off sis in law but I found it to be too much a consumer of energy after borrowing a device to measure energy consumption. The only way in my own case was to grow as much as possible at home in my own garden, and have several crops a year, using poly cultures

Then began, in my nature at least, the beginnings of questioning of where it all came from. Millions of articles later I became aware of peak oil and how dependent food was on cheap oil and how we had to get off our addiction to fossil fuels. I crossed over to energy as  an interest – we ran out of firewood and gas at the same time last year as bad luck would have it – and the more I read about it. the more I became convinced that we needed to adopt a permaculture approach. I became ware of the Toby Hemmenway “Gaia’s Garden” permaculture book and vowed next year – this year in fact – to make a start to turn my garden over to these practices.

Last Christmas I’d intended to buy a farm organic chicken but events conspired against me doing this and so it became a compromise goose from a cheap supermarket. Raised in Poland, according to River Cottage not under the best of conditions it prickled my conscience and made me think of us all going vegetarian. I thus would peruse the Vegetarian Society’s website and attempt to learn some techniques. However my daughter fell on the trampoline and hurt her arm in a hair line fracture. Was this brittle bones due to too little calcium? I also suffered spring  tiredness. Was this lack of iron? Thus I decided with a heavy heart to take us back to meat, but still only organic in the majority, and hopefully the animal had had a quality of life before it got chopped.

A visit to the excellent “Soil and Health” site brought up the Weston Price Foundation site and the book by Sally Fallon “Nourishing Traditions” which states that the people at the margins of the earth away from industrial agriculture live the healthiest. The book is supposed to detail recipes for simulating these ways. That is on my Christmas present list. The other will be Kiko Denzer’s clay oven building guide. These are the new food adventures for 2010.

But being so passionate about food like this has drawbacks. The first is you get this ideal about what you want and the problem is the reality rears its head. Many of the ingredients you want simply aren’t available to purchase in the local supermarket. In my case there is the German-English language barrier, yet sometimes that works in my favour and I get preferential treatment, especially at my favourite bakery.  Another is the quality of the food I want to buy. Often its not organic, and not grown in  the local area. My town at 700m is quite high. This means we eat tomatoes driven up by lorry from Spain, which by the way are somewhat tasteless. The worst is the quality of the meat. Basically hygienic of course, yet the standards by which the animals are reared and the quality oif their lives before slaughter are issues dear to me thanks to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage series on Channel 4. It does tend to frustrate that no one out here other than cooks, chefs and farmers  seem to have this awareness of from where our food is coming and how vulnerable we are to changes in supply. I think the problem is more acute in the US and UK than in Germany, and to that end I’ve started to read a lot of Michael Pollan’s articles.

If he’s achieved just one thing to influence me it is to really grow yet more food this year, get my own garden in order and learn permaculture.