You're a liar, and a cheat, and an unfit mother, Sue-Ellen...

>> Sunday, 10 February 2008

(That post title has dated me somewhat, hasn't it?)

Am still feeling rather sorry for myself, so I may have to break off soon to mountaineer to the kitchen for more supplies of Kendal Mint Cake and Lempsip (no, actually, only the latter. As I can't resist it, to have the former in the house would be tantamount to Bird suicide - if you get my drift from my previous post). But Husband is off travelling again, so I have no-one to rage at and I have to get this one off my chest...

I'm afraid I'm one of those sad cases who buys supermarket magazines. Not just any mag, I hasten to add; the Daddy. The Sainsbury's Magazine. I know, shocking when there are so many better quality reads out there that I never get round to - The Spectator (see Reluctant Memsahib for a summary of what this provides), The Economist (see Dulwich Mum), National Geographic (anyone want to put their hands up to this one?) , The Ecologist (I have my suspicions about Nunhead Mum of One), and Grazia (Frog in the Field and Mya, obviously) - but I'm just a sucker for the pretty pictures in The Sainsbury's Mag.

Of food.

I love food.


Now, it's a rare day that I actually get to cook my way through an issue, in fact, more often than not I never get round to a single recipe, but it's nice to know that I could. I'm not a bad cook, to tell the truth. Not in the realms of Pig in the Kitchen (gosh, this is turning into a name-drop-fest of a post, isn't it?), but pretty OK. An invitation for dinner or lunch at our house is usually accepted pdq.

So, I like cooking. Husband and I rarely eat a take-away or a ready meal, my Boys eat well - that is, I cook 'proper' food for them, no turkey twizzlers here - and on occasion I have been known to turn my hand to home-made shortbread and biscuits for them to nibble on. (But not that often since, as I've mentioned before, I can resist anything but temptation. A biscuit is not safe if it isn't nailed down when I'm peckish...) I've even been asked at Boy #1's birthday parties where we bought the cake (Nigella's chocolate - it never fails).

So when I bought the Sainsbury Magazine yesterday, I was interested to see on the front cover that Delia Smith - 'the guvnor', as Jamie Oliver calls her - is featured in an article about her new series and book on 'cheating' in the kitchen. No, not that kind of cheating. Just the foodie make-believe kind. And all sorts of culinary luminaries are quoted.

I read it.

And apparantly, I am a sham. A cheat, of the first order, m'lud.

I had been expecting all sorts of interesting ways of cheating with food. I don't know, like, like buying a pot of ready mashed potato at Waitrose, decanting it into a tureen and talking loudly of how the King Edward's are so easy to peel this year. Or maybe buying a pre-cooked chicken and stuffing and serving it up with lofty claims of having picked the chicken yourself at your local free-range butcher and following their cooking instructions to the letter. You know, outright lies.

We've all told them, right?

Or even useful cheats like putting a banana in the same paper bag as wood-hard pear to speed up the latter's ripening time, or cutting an onion vertically crossways not quite to the root in both directions (so it looks like a chess board from above), so that when you slice it horizontally you end up with pre-chopped pieces.

But no. Just look at the list of things that proper chefs see as 'cheats'. All this time you thought were cooking 'properly' for your family or yourself. You have been living a lie. You are great big fat cheater if you use any of the following;

  • Stock cubes. I'm sorry, have you TRIED making this stuff yourself? I have, and it isn't pretty. Husband threatened to leave home on a number of instances when post-baby madness convinced me that boiling up a chicken carcass with vegetables, scraping the fat off the top, cooling, then decanting into freezer bags was a good use of my time. Life is too short
  • Ketchup. KETCHUP? IS A CHEAT? Sod it, I don't care
  • Hellmann's Mayo. Anyone who thinks throwing ketchup and mayo together to make a sauce for prawn cocktail is a cheat is just to itsy for words
  • Colman's Mustard. Good grief. Does that mean that if you go to the trouble of making your own Shrewsbury sauce and use Colman's Mustard, then it isn't the real McCoy?
  • A TIN OF TOMATOES. Yep. A TIN OF TOMATOES. That did it for me. Are you telling me that whenever I want to make a pasta sauce, shepherd's pie, lasagne, chili, etc etc, I have to source freshly grown tomatoes and peel them myself? In England? In February?
  • Frozen peas. Give me strength.

And to cap it all, one chef - who I shan't name, for fear that sensible women might be tempted to roll up at his restaurant and plaster him in the stuff he comments on - even had the audicity to comment that he allows his wife to cheat occasionally at home: 'I let Tracy use gravy browning!' The exclamation mark is his (or the magazine's), not mine.

Well, isn't that big of him.

I'm off now to start grinding my own flour and milking my own cow.

Or, at the very least, to start growing my own lemons, making my own paracetomol, and distilling my own whiskey. (What? You don't have whiskey with your lemsip?)


Omega Mum 10 February 2008 at 22:57  

I love the idea of the tinned tomatoes. I mean, I used to make my own cans, of course, but when the spot price of tin shot up on world commodity markets I had to stop. Well spotted.

Tracey 11 February 2008 at 00:50  

Gah. Oh well, lucky I've never even remotely considered myself a good cook. (Passable, yes. Good. Not really.) I once bought a book about cheating with cooking (like you thought it was going to be) and gave it to my sister for her birthday. I'd chuckled my way through it in the bookshop, so thought it was a good present. Seemingly not. Never heard a word about it. A shame, I wish I could remember what it was, I'd buy it for myself. I could use all the cheating in the kitchen (tinned tomatoes, tomato sauce, mayo, etc) I can get.

Iota 11 February 2008 at 04:22  

Gaaaaah, is all I can say.

I occasionally make stock out of a chicken carcass, but a couple of times have switched off the heat (after I have boiled the thing for more hours than seems decent), left the contents to cool before putting in the fridge, forgotten to put them in the fridge, and 24 hours later decided to throw them out rather than risk food-poisoning. Probably a bit paranoid, but after you've done it a couple of times, it does make the investment of all the effort seem a bit risky.

Mom de Plume 11 February 2008 at 07:23  

Oh dear - I am a cheat of the highest order too! Not sure if you get it in the UK but not only can you buy tinned tomatoes here in SA but also tinned tomato and onion mix... and there I thought I was a cooking-all-meals-from-scratch kinda gal, as it turns out...just a cheat *sigh* Not to mention on "those" kind of days I have convinced myself that ketchup constitutes a vegetable for my 3 year old's supper! oops

Potty Mummy 11 February 2008 at 14:27  

Hi OM. Who'd have thought that we are all such failures for not going the extra mile and canning our own vegetables? 'Out of touch with reality' is a phrase that comes to mind...

Tracey, if you come across that book can you send it's title my way? I mean, if I'm to be a cheat then I may as well do it properly...

Iota, I have done that myself - and more than a couple of times. And all the trouble involved in making your own stock might be worth it if you could taste the difference between that and the better on-shelf stuff, but since you can't, what's the point?

MdeP, we've all been there. And why not? If you get Heinz I think all it contains is tomatoes and water anyway! Sounds like a veggie substitute to me!

Jonny's Mommy 11 February 2008 at 15:47  

Sounds like you are feeling a bit better. I'm still a bit under the weather, but getting there . . . now please excuse me I have to go tug a cow's nipples for my morning milk. Wouldn't want to be scolded by the world's greatest chefs for "cheating." Of course, if Jamie Oliver wants to "scold me" that is OK.

aims 11 February 2008 at 16:05  

I'm so grateful The Man does all the cooking. I can self-whip at the drop of a pin and don't need any high and mighty chefs helping me along.

Girl - why hasn't anyone scooped you up for writing a book? Your humor and prose is precious!

Expatmum 11 February 2008 at 16:51  

Oh poo! Here I am feeling very proud of myself for buying the ingredients for a shepherd's pie - and it's a packet sauce mix. Does it count that I am going to boil and mash the potatoes myself, peel some carrots and even throw some fresh peas in? No? Next you'll be telling me that pasta sauce in a jar soen't cut the mustard either.

Milla 11 February 2008 at 18:09  

how depressingly ridiculous - and I actually LIKE cooking. But def thought "cheats" would be along the Alison Pearson line of roughing up shop bought mine pies for that authentic "just dropped on the kitchen floor, that's the kind of cook I am" look. Life is well too short, etc and it kind of surprises me about Delia, whom I'd thought wasn't given to such precious silliness. I mean, they're still tomatoes, right, even if they've been confined to a tin, they haven't morphed into something totally other or been propped up by chemicals. Mind you this is the woman who advocated freezing "left over wine" .... nuff said.

Potty Mummy 11 February 2008 at 20:19  

J's Mommy, Jamie Oliver? REALLY? He always looks like he could do with a good hair brush to me... Or maybe that's the point?

Aims, self-whip? It may be the Roman Catholic in me, but that doesn't sound remotely culinary to me... I think a post is in order. (And thanks for the compliment - but no book offers yet. I must get round to changing the title of the blog...)

EPM - it doesn't. We are both going to food hell. Pass me the ready-meal lasagne and let's just be done with this cooking lark once and for all, for chrissake...

Milla, I LOVE that book. That scene where she distresses the mince pies is a classic. And I must say that actually, I'm not sure about Delia's take about the whole thing because - although she was featured heavily - there was not a single quote from her in the article. It was the Marco Pierre White's, Jamie Oliver's, Sam something other (from Momo), and Anthony Worrall Thompson who came up with that list. So perhaps she is not quite as black as I paint her - though she is the one who wrote the book about 'cheating', so reserve judgement and read the book before exonerating her completely.

ExpatKat 11 February 2008 at 22:05  

Sorry, but Delia Smith is to the UK what Martha Stewart is to the US - a 21st century woman's worst nightmare!
Although I am an avid cook I had, until now, never considered myself a cheat. I've always thought that the 'turkey twizzlers' fall into that dept. But Delia and an army of executive male chefs with an entourage of kitchen assistants, supportive spouses and absent children have decided that I, a humble mother of 3 with travelling other half, am a cheat in the culinary dept because I use a stock cube! Grrrrr! Obviously they have not tasted my cheddar cheese and broccoli soup or my beef in Guiness! Shame.

The Rotten Correspondent 11 February 2008 at 22:48  

Good Lord. I'd hate to imagine my blood pressure right about now. I've never considered myself a cheater. Before now, that is.

I do bake bread from scratch. But I don't make the yeast.

I've been known to do shortbread. But I draw the line at churning my own butter.

And I make a mean shrimp stir-fry. But I can't get the hang of growing the rice.

I feel terrible.

GoneBackSouth 11 February 2008 at 22:57  

Poo indeed. Anyone who thinks like that has seriously far too much leisure time on their hands. I use frozen peas, have never made my own paracetamol, AND I buy Heat Magazine ... and I have no shame.

Pig in the Kitchen 11 February 2008 at 23:12  

Didn't you give the game away by writing 'tracey' isn't she f***@@$$ t@t bum sh*t w*** ar%$£*@#e's wife? or have i got that all wrong?

pretentious bo.....x that's all i can say. Although I do worry a bit about bisephonal A which is supposedly contained in teh skin of cans, but APART from that little carcinogen, of COURSE you use tinned tomatoes. (altho it's quite easy to skin real toms, leave em in boiling water for 20 mins, prick the skins...)

anyway, you're ill. drink whisky.

Potty Mummy 12 February 2008 at 13:25  

Expat Kat - I think you've said it all, really. (And the beef in Guiness sounds delicious!)

RC, I think that the ranks of the culinarily shamed are only the place to be right now. It's where all the best people hang out. (And you left out catching your own shrimps - although you're such a multi-tasker I wouldn't put it past you...)

GBS, frozen peas? Surely, like all the best restaurants, you only serve peas when they are in season and you have picked and podded them yourself?

Pig, I think you're referring to Tana - and no, it wasn't him. I actually suspect that GR has much better things to do with his time than contribute to magazine articles calculated to drive us crazy. But you never know. It was actually another chef entirely, who I had actually never heard of, so won't bore you with his name.

And thanks for the heads up on the tomato cans - that maybe an incentive to actually go to the trouble of skinning the odd one or two myself - but only when they're in season! (Macrobiotic foods only, please.... Yes, right.)

Mya 12 February 2008 at 20:53  

I have never trusted Delia Smith - and I certainly wouldn't take any nonsense from her about cheating. She's a Norwich supporter too. I rest my case.

Mya x

Frog in the Field 12 February 2008 at 20:54  

What's the Ecologist?
I've never even seen it, true we have been featured in the National Geographic though, Ha! see! didn't expect that did you?? Hmm? Say?
Two photos of Darling Husband in there!!!!

I'm agreeing with Pif, I mean Pig (for once), and even the vulgar use of language, which of course I fully understand, I'll admit. Only though because she threatens me frequently with her suggestive comments. Am I waffling?

Speaking as a farmers wife (sniff!) I use quick yeast and a bread maker daily, mayonnaise is a must (Hellmans of course) and we love a stock cube in our lasagnes and Shepherds pies.
But, Ha Ha! there are times we have a completely home produced Sunday lunch, fresh peas from the garden, purple sprouting, yummy potatoes and of course home produced meat. Actually, thinking of filing for divorce as we have no spuddies this year!
ps, I could live on biscuits !

Potty Mummy 12 February 2008 at 21:26  

Mya, good point, well presented. I am going out to burn all her recipe's. Well, maybe not the one for Eton Mess. Or hazlenut roulade. Or roasted carrots with coriander. Or... Damn, can I never carry out my threats????

Frog, hi; it's a magazine published by Zac Goldsmith (which I haven't read), no I didn't know you are Celebrities, and wow, get you! Then; yes you are (waffling), and stop showing off with your bread maker, home grown veg and sunday roasts. And so could I (live on biscuits...).

barb 13 February 2008 at 08:52  

Milla quoted "left over wine" - I refuse to believe there is such a thing.

Isn't Mr delia the editor of the Sainsbury's mag?

Frog in the Field 13 February 2008 at 09:18  

I think I know his brother and sister in law (honestly), must ask them what his rag is all about.

Potty Mummy 13 February 2008 at 13:39  

Hi Barb - thanks for the visit, and I think 'left over wine' is a mythological thing - rather like a unicorn.

Frog, I would be very interested to know!

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