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Category Archives: Food

Great expectations – when what we get is not what we anticipated

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“They’ve got the name of these wrong,” said the elderly gentleman as he passed the coffee shop counter, pointing at the biscotti he’d opted for along with his cup of coffee.

“Oh?” The assistant smiled brightly in response. I could see her wondering what was coming next.

“Yes, they should be called Concrete,” he admonished, shaking his balding head in distaste.

She laughed lightly. “Oh, yes – they are quite hard, aren’t they? They’re Italian. That’s the way they make them.”

No doubt he had been eagerly anticipating the buttery chewiness of a McVitie’s Hobnob. Or perhaps even the spicy crunchiness of a ginger snap. But not… well, not what he got. Not an uber-crisp, fairly plain Italian biscuit that should be softened by dipping it in either strong and aromatic mid-morning coffee, or after-dinner fortified desert wine.

He trudged away, disappointment hanging about him like a heavy, ill-fitting coat.

So often in life it comes down to our expectations, doesn’t it? We have an image in our head of how circumstances should be, or of how things should turn out. But what we anticipate and what we end up with are often at odds.

It seems sometimes it’s that way in our walk with God too. And when things are not going the way we planned – in our relationships, our work or our ministry – we can become frustrated and disappointed. When God answers our prayers in ways we haven’t predicted, it can be challenging.

This weekend I baked my own biscotti.

Granted, I did know they would turn out really crunchy (due to being baked once in the shape of a loaf, then sliced and returned to the oven), and yes – what I got was different to the biscuits we usually eat in the UK.

But they were delicious in other ways… their little taste sensations of bitter chocolate, chewy cranberries, citrusy orange zest and almonds exploding through the plain but crunchy biscuit dough. And I could eat them relatively guilt-free because of a lack of butter and not too much sugar.

If God has presented you with something you least expected, something new and unfamiliar and not what you were hoping for, ask Him to show you the good in it. Ask Him for the grace to embrace it.

He just might lead you to new and wonderful discoveries.

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Got the cooking blues?

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How do you feel about being in your kitchen this weekend? Are you looking forward to creating another tasty family meal or perhaps an extravagant dinner party menu? Or do you have the cooking tedium blues I seem to run in to every now and then?

Sometimes deciding on, shopping for, and cooking yet another meal makes me want to scream… or at least grumble and whinge loudly. But a recent visit to a National Trust property in Cornwall helped put things in perspective!

Lanhydrock’s fascinating history has been beautifully recreated in interiors fashioned by its former Victorian/Edwardian owners, so we were able to immerse ourselves in the family’s storyline. But after traipsing through room after room dedicated solely to the production of food – nine in total – my other half queried incredulously: “So, how many people were they cooking for?”

The upstairs/downstairs divide

It was a pertinent question. This family of two parents and nine children, along with innumerable ‘downstairs’ servants, all needed to be fed. Actually, ‘fed’ is something of a misnomer. Wealthy Edwardian families feasted on several huge meals a day, interrupted only by teatimes, evening appetisers and late suppers.

And the implications of such output for the cook (and her helpers, if she had any) were staggering. Everything had to be made by hand. Every can (oops, sorry – no cans in those days), jar, bottle, tub, tray or dish of anything used in the kitchens was produced by her, down to the butter, jam and clotted cream in those gloriously-indulgent Cornish cream teas!

Little wonder servants were up before dawn, retired to bed only after the last family member, and were treated to just one afternoon off a week.

Modern technology

After a devastating fire in 1881, Lanhydrock’s owner commissioned repairs that incorporated the latest technology for the times, including new range ovens, heated cupboards (connected to central heating pipes) for warming the food and plates, and a high-gabled kitchen roof with louvre windows to remove hot air. The massive roasting spit was particularly impressive, with the rotisserie being turned by a fan located in the flue above the fire.

But the mod-cons don’t appear to have made life any easier for those toiling in the extensive kitchens, which comprised a scullery (with yet another, smaller range oven); a bake-house for a constant supply of biscuits and cakes (the oven took four days to bring to temperature); a pastry room; a still room for making jams, chutneys, jellies and broths; and a meat larder.

For ‘refrigeration’ there was a pantry room with cool slate slabs for storing cooked foods and an ice chest for making ice cream; a dairy scullery where butter and clotted cream were made and the milk kept in pans in cold water; and finally a dairy room where jellies, mousses, cold puddings, soups, custards, milk puddings and the cream and butter were all stored on marble slabs and over slate runnels cooled by spring water piped from outside the house.

Whew! I’ll think about that next time I sit down for a quick cup of coffee and a warm scone oozing jam and cream! And tonight, if I don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen, I’ll open a can, throw its contents into a pot with some other ready-prepared item, perhaps add a little chopped this and that, and dinner will be on the table.

For that I’m immensely grateful.