Posts tagged food

May blossom

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We’re now in May and one reliable natural occurrence of the time of year is the flowering of common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), which is also known as the oneseed hawthorn, or single-seeded hawthorn.

Other common names include may, mayblossom, maythorn, quickthorn, whitethorn, motherdie, and haw.

The Woodland Trust have produced a short video depicting one year in the life of the hawthorn.

The specimen below can be found in the Easton section of the Bristol & Railway Path near the Brixton Road access point.

Hawthorn tree on Railway Path in Easton

Hawthorn is amongst the first trees to start budding in the spring (the above specimen first put out leaves in late January. Ed.) and is also a fast-growing plant. This may explain the alternative name of quickthorn.

As it forms a dense, thorny mass of branches, it is often used for hedging, particularly where livestock has to be contained.

Besides its agricultural value as hedging, common hawthorn can support more than 300 insects. It is a food plant for caterpillars of numerous moths. Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The haws (berries) are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by migrating birds, such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals.

Furthermore, the dense, thorny foliage makes fantastic nesting shelter for many bird species of bird.

Green Man ceiling boss, Rochester Cathedral

Folklore and symbolism

Hawthorn is a pagan symbol of fertility and has associations with May Day stretching back beyond written history. It was the forerunner of the Maypole and its leaves and flowers provided the source of May Day garlands as well as appearing in the wreath of the Green Man.

In medieval times hawthorn was never brought indoors as it was generally believed that bringing its blossom indoors would result in illness and even death. In those times it was also commonly believed that hawthorn blossom smelled like the plague. In more recent times scientists have discovered the chemical trimethylamine (which smells like ammonia or rotting flesh. Ed.) in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in rotting animal fish, hence the tree’s traditional linking with illness and death.

In spite of the beliefs and symbolism outlined above, the young hawthorn leaves, flower buds and young flowers are all edible. The leaves are often described as having the flavour of bread and cheese. They can be added to green salads and grated root salads. The developing flower buds are particularly good. The haws can be eaten raw (beware a stomach upset. Ed.), but are most commonly used to make jellies and wines.

A final personal note

In my own life, the blossoming of the hawthorn always reminds me that spring is giving way to early summer.

In particular, it reminds of when I was 8 years old and my mother took my 2 younger siblings and me by train all the way from Stafford to Harling Road in Norfolk – the nearest station to my grandmother’s home. The journey took the best part of a day (showing how difficult it was to travel cross-country in England, even in pre-Beeching times. Ed.). The fields on either side of the railway lines on which we travelled were thick with hawthorn blossoming pink and white.

Whenever I see hawthorn in bloom these days, I’m immediately reminded of that one train journey, even though it’s now almost 6 decades in the past.

Update: After writing this post, I asked both my siblings if they remembered that journey and if so, what they recalled. My sister replied that she recollected the journey as being interminable and her chief memory was all the trackside telegraph poles, whilst my brother – the youngest of us – responded with a question as to whether that was the railway trip during which he was sick. He obviously had other matters than lineside shrubbery on his mind. 😀

Fast food litter petition

in 10 years of campaigning for less litter and fly-tipping in east Bristol’s Lawrence Hill and Easton wards, one constant factor has been litter generated by takeaways, particularly the major franchises like Burger King, KFC and the like.

A petition has now been started on change.org to help tackle part of the problem, namely littering by their motorised customers, some of whom seem to have no compunction at just pitching the packaging their meal came in out of the vehicle window once their appetites have been sated.

Fast food litter

Fast food litter. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The back streets of Easton and Lawrence Hill are a good mile of so from the nearest McDonalds, Burger King or KFC, but that does not stop litter from those outlets blighting the neighbourhood.

The relevant petition is entitled “Fast food restaurants to print vehicle reg on takeaway packaging to discourage littering” and reads as follows:

The recent break in fast food companies business has given us time to be able to start to clean up the streets once littered with empty McDonald’s bags, KFC boxes and other takeaway restaurant litter.
KFC has been back open merely a couple of days and already pictures of carelessly discarded boxes are circulating on the internet. Let’s not slip back to where we were in terms of litter before the Covid lockdown. Let’s make compulsory that all drive through restaurants, who sell takeaway food, have to print the purchasers vehicle registration onto their bags or boxes. This will make it much easier to trace the litter back to the purchaser and result in a fine or preferably litter picking duties. I am proposing the idea of 3-4 stickers around the size of the bottom of the restaurants cup, printed with date/time and car registration, placed onto the bottom of the bags, cups and boxes to make it difficult for repeat litterers to remove their details without spilling the remaining contents into their cars/vans. The restaurants CCTV will back up this evidence with pictures of the driver and vehicle to provide solid evidence that they were the purchaser of said litter. The fine or community hours need to be big enough to cover costs of enforcement officers investigation times, resulting in nobody “slipping the net”.
If we can reach 100,000 signatures I can show clear public interest and go straight to the Secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and demand change. As this could result in a fine for the offenders this will make it much more appealing to the government to pass as law and thus resulting in a cleaner environment for everyone to enjoy.
Please help your local and national environment by merely signing this petition and sharing on social media platforms and as many large groups as you can, making a small but very needed step in the right direction.
Thank you good citizens.

Sign the petition.

If the petition is successful, that just leaves how to resolve the problem of those on foot who litter after eating their takeaways whilst walking home… 🙁

Iceland reviews bilingual signage policy in Welsh stores

Iceland logoFollowing hot on the heels of the sacking of its Director of Corporate Affairs for insulting the Welsh (posts passim), comes news that frozen food giant Iceland is reviewing approach’ to bilingual signage in its Welsh stores.

The company had previously been criticised for its lack of provision of Welsh and English signage in stores, even attracting protests, such as one in Rhyl in 2018 reported by The Grocer.

At that time, Iceland was not exactly amenable to bilingual signage in its Welsh stores and even went so far as to issue a statement asserting its monoglot stance: “We do not currently provide signage in any language other than English in any of our stores in any part of the UK or Ireland.

However, the company, which is based in Glannau Dyfrdwy (English: Deeside), had now announced this is changing, stating:

“We are currently reviewing our approach to providing Welsh signage in stores across Wales and updating this wherever possible. All new stores and those which are refitted have Welsh signage installed as standard, and this is also in place across all of our The Food Warehouse stores across Wales.”

The move has received support from Aled Roberts, the Welsh Language Commissioner, who has issued the following statement:

Research conducted by The Welsh Language Commissioner shows that customers in Wales want to see, hear and use the Welsh language in supermarkets in Wales. We have worked with a number of large supermarkets to develop their Welsh language services, supermarkets such as Coop and Lidl have responded brilliantly to develop a bilingual service. We would like to applaud their approach in working with us. We have contacted Iceland to inspire them to use Welsh, and encourage them to use bilingual signs, and we hope that they will respond to our request.

Gibberish? You’re fired!

Iceland logo

Keith Hann, director of corporate affairs for frozen food retailer Iceland has been dismissed with immediate effect after he was found to have made disparaging remarks about both the Welsh language and Wales itself.

The supermarket, which has its corporate headquarters on Deeside (Welsh: Glannau Dyfrdwy) in North Wales, was forced to apologise on Wednesday after reports emerged of Hann describing Welsh as “gibberish

It also stated that Hann’s remarks did not reflect the company’s views and added it was a proud Welsh company.

Many Welsh customers contacted Iceland on Twitter stating they would be boycotting the company’s stores as a result of Hann’s crass insensitivity.

In addition to calling Welsh gibberish, Hann wrote on his blog that the Welsh language sounded “like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat”.

Furthermore, in a tweet which has since been deleted, Hann wrote that the “inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe all visitors“.

Read the full story in the Daily Post.

Currywurst reaches 70

Although I graduated over 4 decades ago, I still look back with fondness on the days of my modern languages degree.

One of the absolute requirements for the award of the degree was a compulsory period of residence in countries where the languages being studied were used.

In my instance this involved 5 months’ residency in both Perpignan (France) and Saarbrücken (Germany).

While in Germany, I became acquainted with what would now be called German street food, including the currywurst.

Currywurst

Currywurst typically consists of a bratwurst cut into slices and seasoned with curry ketchup, a sauce based on spiced ketchup or tomato paste, itself topped with curry powder, or a ready-made ketchup seasoned with curry and other spices.

It’s often served with chips.

The currywurst reaches the grand of age of 70 this year.

Here’s its history in brief.

Herta Heuwer had been running a snack stall in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district since summer 1949. There wasn’t much happening on 4th September, so she had time to experiment. She mixed freshly chopped paprika, paprika powder, tomato purée and spices together. The she poured the whole lot over a fried, chopped sausage. The currywurst had been invented.

Herta Heuwer subsequently gave her business the address of “The world’s 1st currywurst cookshop” and had the word trade mark “Chillup” (a contraction of chilli and ketchup) registered for her sauce.

You can’t eat a proper original currywurst any more, because Herta Heuwer took the recipe to the grave with her in 1999. In 2003 a memorial plaque was put up at the former site of her snack bar. According to the German Currywurst Museum in Berlin over 800 million currywurst are consumed every year in Germany.

To mark this culinary anniversary the Berlin State Mint has issued a commemorative coin.

Currywurst coin front

This commemorative coin is the sixth of a series of anniversary issues which the city mint started in 2004 and is limited to a production run of 2,500.

The ultimate cheese toastie?

Earlier this week, Bristol City Council’s licensing committee voted to ban the sale of toasted cheese sandwiches in a north Bristol park due to concerns about anti-social behaviour (posts passim).

Whilst doing background research for that post, your correspondent discovered what must count as the world’s ultimate cheese toastie, particularly if the main metrological criterion for the snack’s assessment is its cholesterol content.

Enjoy! 😀

Cheese toastie shocker

Yesterday’s online version of the Bristol Post (now renamed Bristol Live. Ed.) carried a shocking item about a hitherto unknown catalyst for violence: the toasted cheese sandwich.

According to the Post, this humble snack may not be served at a proposed catering concession in Monk’s Park in Bristol’s Southmead district “amid fears a proposed hot food van could attract booze-fuelled anti-social behaviour and motorbike gangs“.

The Post continues:

Councillors have agreed to grant a provisional licence for cold food, such as ice cream, and tea and coffee in Monk’s Park, Biddestone Road.

But the vendor would be barred from selling hot snacks following dozens of objections from residents, a ward councillor and the headteacher of a nearby secondary school.

A provoker of violence, accompanied by tomato soup.

A provoker of violence, accompanied by not quite so provocative tomato soup. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

However, the fear of violent behaviour was not the only concern for banning hot food: councillors on the city council’s public safety and protection committee also feared children from the next-door school would be tempted to skip lessons due to the lure of grilled fermented curd.

Following the committee’s decision the concession will now be put out to tender.

However, the story does not end there. When your correspondent posted about the article on Twitter, one person to respond was local artist Dru Marland, whose response about fermented curd addiction was hilarious.

XDru's tweet reads they start 'em on Dairylea slices, and before you know it they're mugging pensioners for their next fix of Stinking Bishop

For a more complete understanding of the violence-inducing properties of cheese, I should have asked the committee about their opinions of more exotic varieties of fermented curd, such as Roquefort or Graviera, but pressure of time dictated otherwise. 🙂

Update: Not forty-eight hours after Bristol was opened to national and international ridicule over this affair, Bristol Live reports that residents of Bristol’s Cotham district have branded a hot food catering van an “appalling idea“. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

(Crab) apple blossom time

On my way to the shops this fine May morning, my attention was caught by the beauty of the crab apple (Malus sylvestris) blossom on the tree in the small park that runs up the side of Bannerman Road in Easton, as shown below.

Crab apple blossom in Bannerman Road

Crab apple blossom in Bannerman Road

According to the Woodland Trust, the crab apple is a native UK species which thrives in heavy soil in hedgerows, woods and areas of scrub. It’s one of the ancestors of the cultivated apple and individual trees can live up to 100 years and can grow to about 10 metres in height.

The common name “crab apple” derives from the tree’s often knarled and crabbed appearance, especially when growing in exposed places.

In the autumn our local tree produces a fine crop of crab apples, as this picture from autumn 2017 shows.

Bannerman Road's crab apple tree bearing fruit in autumn 2017

Bannerman Road’s crab apple tree bearing fruit in autumn 2017

Each autumn I tell myself I shall have to come and gather the fruit to make crab apple jelly. After all, it will be food for free (mostly!).

As an aide-memoire and incentive to myself, below is the recipe for (crab) apple jelly from my trusty 1950s vintage recipe book (hence the imperial measurements. Ed.).

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs crab or cooking apples
  • 2 pints water
  • 1 stick cinnamon, or
  • A few cloves, or
  • Strips of lemon rind
  • 1 lb of sugar per pint of juice obtained

Method
Wash the apples and wipe. Cut into quarters, but do not remove the skin or core. Put the fruit into a pan with the water and the cinnamon, cloves or lemon peel tied in a piece of muslin. Stew until the fruit is soft. Test for pectin. Remove the muslin bag. Turn the contents of the pan into a jelly bag and leave overnight to strain. Measure the juice and heat in a pan. Add 1 lb of warmed sugar to each pint of juice, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until the jelly sets when tested on a cold saucer or plate. Remove the scum. Pot and seal whilst still hot.

Before we leave apple blossom, your correspondent can’t help remembering and old song called “(I’ll Be With You In) Apple Blossom Time“, which he remembers being sung by The Andrews Sisters, which reached no. 5 in the USA in 1941.

However, the song is nearly 20 years older than the success enjoyed with it by Laverne, Maxine and Patty, having been written by Albert Von Tilzer and lyricist Neville Fleeson and copyrighted in 1920.

Fishy business

When it comes to advertising, your correspondent shares George Orwell’s opinion as expressed in 1936 in “Keep the Aspidistra Flying“, i.e.:

The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket

However, I’ll make an exception for a local fishmonger’s van seen on Good Friday in Fouesnant market in Brittany and depicted below.

Fish van seen in Fouesnant market. Brittany

Click on the image for the full version

Billing themselves as a hard-working/responsible/serious company (Maison sérieuse), Poissonnerie Cabioch & Fils’ signwriter clearly has a humorous streak when it comes to advertising her/his client’s common items of trade.

For those not well versed in French, the bounties of the sea shown on the side of the van are listed below with their equivalents in English. Some also have slang meanings in French. Each link in the list leads to the relevant Wikipedia page in the respective language for the species concerned.

Talking of fishy things, it’s very nearly April Fools’ Day, or for the French “Poisson d’avril“. For children, “Poisson d’avril” consists of sticking a paper fish on the backs of people they wish to make fun of.

The earliest known occurrence of “Poisson d’avril” in French is found in the “ Doctrinal du temps présent” by the 15th century French poet and priest Pierre Michault, dating from 1466. However, its use to describe a traditional trick played on 1st April is only confirmed in the 17th century, when its earliest known occurrence is found in “La Vie de Charles V, duc de Lorraine” by historian Jean de Labrune published in 1691. It is first recorded in the dictionary of the Académie française, the guardians of the French language, in 1718.

Fish fingers going over a weir

A fish-fingery April Fools’ prank. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Finally fish – in this case rotten fish – also come into play in French if one wants to call someone every name under the sun; the equivalent French expression is “engueuler comme du poisson pourri“.

Sexy shellfish?

Many press organisations have sacked sub-editors and dispensed with proofreading in recent years as a means of saving money.

Alabama’s Times Daily in the USA seems to have been part of this movement, as is apparent from the following photo of its front page today on the unfolding story of former Alabama state judge and Republican politician Roy Moore‘s past sexual indiscretions.

Headline reads party divided over sex clams

If one were dining out, what would be the right wine to accompany sex clams? 😉

Hat tip: Dr Ray Schestowitz.

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