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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Return visit to the first place I ever cooked a meal: on a pile of rocks in Derbyshire!

Nostalgia is like learning to reverse a car: it is all about looking back. On Monday last I went back to my teenage years favourite haunt. No, not a derelict Yoof Centre in the middle of Chaddesden (a big housing estate near Derby) but rather a beautiful Scout camp site in the Derbyshire Hills. In fact Drum Hill Scout Camp site near Little Eaton.

I am currently writing a book about my days in the Wolf Cubs and the Boy Scouts. The book will be a funny and poignant account of me being a wimpy kid and wimpy teenager who never visited a Wimpy Bar but regularly lost his woggle. This is not a euphemism. I wouldn't have known what a euphemism was if it crept naughtily into my Scouting shorts, raised the flag and tickled my fancy. I was a shy boy with an odd interest in learning to tie knots. That too is not any kind of oblique euphemism about latent interests in bondage. Whatever that is. Enough said. The book will be called Where's My Woggle? I expect you all to buy a copy! Scout's Honour and all that. It will be as much about growing up in the 1960s as about Scouting. Promises to be a hoot!

So, after my digression I headed off to Drum Hill walking all the way along Moor Road to the back of the campsite. My intention was to photograph an old gate that sported a hand carved Scout sign. I thought it would make a good image for the cover of the book. I walked and walked and walked and walked. I reached the gate post but no old gate was to be seen. Undaunted I clambered up through the woods in my old hiking boots (one can take nostalgia too far as I was to find out via my later aching feet). Feeling my teenage memories flooding back I was on a high as I finally reached the middle of the campsite and began taking photos and a bit of video. Below is a two minute video of my visual journey at Drum Hill.

The imaginary scent of wood smoke was instantly in my head and the very altar fire on which I cooked my very first proper meal (beef stew and dumplings) was still there right in front of me. I was cooking for my Scout Camp Cook badge. Cast aside any thoughts of a camper than camp Kenneth Williams type flapping vapidly over the flames. This was manly stuff and I was very proud of my outdoor endeavours. The other boys dumplings (stop it!) were all stuck to their hands. I somehow knew to roll mine in flour. Suddenly I had found something I was good at that was practical and useful!

So back to Monday. I spent some time at the campsite wandering from beech wooded enclave to mid field water facility and the trig point which holds a focal memory for camping excursions to the site but no practical application in my own experience. I did however remember dock leaves and how we Scouts rubbed them on our nettle stung legs to ease the throbbing pain after getting stung.

Via Morley Lane I chatted to some young cows and revelled in the good weather. If I had a penny for the amount of times in my young life that I must have hiked up and down Morley Lane I would have at least... I was never too hot at maths.

On the way back home through Little Eaton I popped into Barry Fitch's butchers shop to say "hello" and grab a hot Cornish pasty.

The next day I was going through an old photo album and found a picture of the old gate. Here it is in all its nostalgic glory. "Campfires burning, Campfires burning, draw nearer, draw nearer..."

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Liver Lover? Liver and onions and mashed spuds

Before I start I must alert you to one of most popular blog posts on my 60plus Sit Down Comedy Blog. It seems that everyone and his pensioner's dog want to check out what you can expect when you get to pensionable age. Here it is. How to be a pensioner.

Right now, to save money by going for one of the Winter Warmer type dishes: Liver and onions. A hearty casserole of this has lasted me three meals already and may well extend to four. It is simple.

Dust sliced lambs' liver in flour, fry. Cook down some onions in the frying pan. Make some mashed potatoes and glam it up with steamed cabbage. Add liver and onions to three tins of chopped tomatoes in a casserole and place in hot oven for forty-five minutes. Serve piping hot.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Emma McKeating a star amongst fishmongers.

I have never met Emma McKeating in person but Emma is one of the most passionate fishmongers I have ever come across. She works at one of the Tesco Extra stores in Stoke Upon Trent. We often chat on facebook and we have a common passion outside of food for Musical Theatre. It is my hope that we get to see Michael Ball and Alfie Boe in their Together show at Nottingham Theatre Royal this coming weekend. I am hoping to review and Emma will be my guest.

Emma does an extra-ordinary job as a Tesco fishmonger and is always there for her customers; always super keen to demonstrate her love of her job and the fish products. Emma travels the country in order to further her knowledge and she wins awards for her fishmonger talents. I am proud to have her as my friend. This is Emma and this is her blog. Please read it and share it.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

The distinct smell of properly smoked bacon and faulty tools.

Although I would never wish to go back to a traditional butcher's environment due to the heavy lifting and hard physical work I have enjoyed looking at some images in an online album of mine.

This picture of two sides of smoked bacon brought forth the most memorable memory that was almost olfactory. For some reason I always enjoyed boning out the sides of smoked bacon for the aroma and also the skill in pulling out the long rib bones (which can be achieved with string!).

When I worked at Rydes in The Cornmarket (Derby City Centre) we had a large amount of staff on the shop floor and in the cutting room above the shop. A couple of times a week a retired chap called Ken used to come in to help us slice the huge amount of bacon the busy shop used to sell. The young male staff used to enjoy playing tricks on him. A good example would be the time one of the lads climbed into the chest freezer where Ken would be expecting to find sides of streaky bacon firming up and thereby to be of a stiffness to cut on the bacon slicer. A few minutes after Ken arrived he would put his white coat on and open up the lid on the chest freezer. Imagine his total surprise when he opened the lid expecting to find several slabs of streaky bacon only jump out of his skin when the lad leapt out like a frosty zombie!

Bacon slicer

We also had another tool which was worse than useless. This was the tenderising machine in which the idea was to tenderise portions of beef steak. It was a bit like a toaster to look at. The steak got dropped into the slot at the top and then the spinning blades would score the surface of the meat. Well, that was the idea. The reality was that the two intertwined sets of blades weren't very sharp and there was no method of sharpening them. Therefore, they would just chew up the meat and cleaning the gunked up blades was a real pain.

Interior blades.

Another very faulty piece of equipment was the bag sealer or tape dispenser. Here the ideal scenario was that the colourful tape would seal the plastic bag that the meat was enclosed in. Most of the time it just snapped which was a huge issue when the shop was rammed with queuing customers. Fun times.