Three things: Pea play, raspberry round 2, and no tomatoes

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My kids are 4 years apart. Upon learning this, people sometimes remark how easy it must be to have such a big gap. It may be because I am not a super-parent, but I haven’t found it especially easy. Sure, the older one is able to zip up his jacket, pee in a loo, and fetch me things when I need him to, but the emotional stuff (which I have found one of the hardest things in parenting) is tough. The other morning, I asked him to tidy away the pens he was using because his younger brother was using them to redecorate the bedroom… this was after I suggested that putting together a large puzzle while his brother was awake was perhaps not a recipe for fun… this was after he decided he would put the pieces of his dismantled (by younger brother) Lego creation up. He came to me crying, “there’s nothing for me to play with that S. won’t play with or ruin!” And it dawned on me why I spend so many of my waking hours outside. Outside is the great democratic space. Walking miles with my kids is an easier choice than sorting out indoor entertainment and emotions for them. We are all happy outside. We can all participate outside. However, life requires bouts of indoors so I was pleased to remember the activity that kept L. occupied for hours when he was younger. Dried beans on a sheet with a variety of pouring+burying objects. Both kids (and other kids) have loved playing side by side with the peas the last couple of weeks and the clean-up time is short. Huzzah! I, myself, like to stand on a layer of chickpeas and slide my feet around, giving my feet a massage.

More raspberries, y’all! My autumn fruiting ones are lovely and enormous. I appreciated them even more, simply because, being that apricot colour, the kids didn’t realise that they were ripe… so I got the first few handfuls. Ha!

Next year: no tomatoes. I grew tomatoes this year for the first time in Aberdeen. They required too much work. They were gross. I did not even get pissed off when I saw a magpie pecking through the plastic of the green house to eat one. Please quote these last three sentences back at me when I say to you next Spring, “oh, but there is nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato ripened in the hot, hot sun and I am about to grow some”. Tell me that is true–there is nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato ripened in the hot, hot sun–and tell me that I should go on holiday to Spain.

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Lest we fully tap the reservoir of goodwill

I took a break from reading for a couple of weeks . Mostly because I can only manage one book at a time and I hadn’t finished the novel that I had started reading. It got all post-apocalyptic on me, and as I only read before bed and have a tendency to believe that the world is going to hell in a handcart at least once a week, I was losing a lot of sleep. (I don’t grow enough vegetables to feed my family! Will we be stuck in the UK forever?! I still can’t identify mushrooms correctly! I am not coordinated enough to spin my own fibres for making clothes with!).

I do intend to finish that book, but picked up another a few days ago to fill the empty space between brushing my teeth and falling asleep. Hillbilly Elegy has received a lot of press. It has been described as the “hillbilly” answer to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me, and has also been said to explain the election of Trump. I am nearly finished the book and I can’t say that I feel any more convinced about how Trump will help the likes of the Appalachian people, but I did appreciate having glimpse into this culture and family history that is so very different to my own–reading J.D. Vance’s story was a real exercise in empathy for me… and that’s always a good reason to read!

Barack Obama strikes at the heart of our deepest insecurities. He is a good father while many of us aren’t. He wears suits to his job while we wear overalls, if we’re lucky enough to have a job at all. His wife tells us that we shouldn’t be feeding our children certain foods, and we hate her for it—not because we think she’s wrong but because we know she’s right.

[…] For me and Lindsay, the fear of imposing stalked our minds, infecting even the food we ate. We recognized instinctively that many of the people we depended on weren’t supposed to play that role in our lives, so much so that it was one of the first things Lindsay thought of when she learned of Papaw’s death. We were conditioned to feel that we couldn’t really depend on people—that, even as children, asking someone for a meal or for help with a broken-down automobile was a luxury that we shouldn’t indulge in too much lest we fully tap the reservoir of goodwill serving as a safety valve in our lives.

from J.D. Vance’s Hillybilly Elegy.

Three things: RIP summer, coriander, Wow in the World

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When L. began school, I was in denial that it signaled the end of summer. It was the end of the holiday, but surely we’d have more warm days to enjoy, wouldn’t we? Well, we are still eating outside, but Autumn is definitely in the air. The wind in the trees sounds different now; the leaves are drier and some are starting to fall. Pops of berry colour burst through tired leaves. S. can spot a bramble from 100 yards away. Although he has spent a lot of time around his berry-obsessed mother and brother, I do believe that evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense that we would quickly learn to notice where the gem-like food sources are.

I planted a coriander (more prettily named ‘cilantro’ in America) plantation this summer, and it has just kept on giving. When it all bolted (at once, because I am hopeless at staggered planting–you can see the white sprays on the right hand side of the photo), we just picked the flowers and used them in place of the leaves in our food. Coriander flowers attract bees and beneficial insects so I was happy to have them. And now we have seeds forming. Have you ever eaten fresh coriander seeds? I hadn’t until this summer. The early ones taste like orange zest and we used those whole in our curries and salads. The later ones, and older ones, begin to taste closer to those we are used to using as dried coriander seed, and so I will leave the rest to dry on the plant.  Perhaps the best thing I did with the fresh early seeds was infuse some vodka–about two tablespoons of seeds to 500ml of vodka. It is the perfect combo and is lovely to sip at with some ice and tonic water. Although, the season for this kind of drink is passing very quickly…

Over the summer we started to listen to a new science podcast aimed at children. Wow in the World is both silly and educational. The hosts encourage curiousity and wonder at the world, and implicitly (without inducing anxiety about the fate of the world) suggest the importance of caring for our planet. Some things my five-year-old has taught me since listening: the force of gravity with each step you take will always cause your shoe laces to undo; that natural sounds are more relaxing than artificial sounds (actually, I already knew that, but I like that the show confirms my beliefs–that’s how science works, right?); and smelling yummy things triggers the brain to think you are hungry. (I also like that one of the hosts wears barefoot shoes!).

Three things: Neeps, whiteness, and hogweed seeds

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First, a cry to the universe: WHAT IN HEAVENS NAME AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH TURNIPS???  Please tell me how you make them edible. Seriously. My veggie basket is going to have them most weeks from now until forever, and I usually just end up hiding them from myself in a pureed soup.

I have been bingeing on this podcast series, Seeing White. It is a thoughtful and humbling look at whiteness from the podcast called Scene On Radio and I really recommend it.

Finally, at the risk of sounding like I really know a lot about baking, I am going to offer you a recipe that I recently figured out and we survived the eating of. It’s a very simple thing to accommodate these seeds that are all about at the moment–Hogweed seeds. I think I may need to re-name them, to make the cake sound sexier. The seeds are not from Harry Potter’s world, but rather the wetlands and woods near our place. They are, in fact, a spice commonly blended with others in Persian cooking. I wanted to get a clear taste of the seeds, so I used them in a simple cake mix. Here is my recipe for a not too sweet gluten-free cake…

Ingredients

100g ground almonds

100g red teff flour (that’s the only flour I had on hand, which is ridiculous and a bit wanky-sounding, I know. Teff gave the cake a malty sort of taste. You could use white or wholemeal wheat flour, or a gluten-free alternative. Buckwheat would be nice too, I reckon)

2-3 tsps of ground hogweed seed (I ground mine with my immersion blender. It took ages. Better to use a spice grinder if you have one)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

3 Tbsps milk

100mls yoghurt

100mls maple syrup

2 tsps vanilla essence

3 Tbsps oil (I used avocado, but use whatever mild tasting oil you’ve got)

Directions:

Heat oven to 180 degrees and grease a loaf tin.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together well.

Blend together all the wet ingredients for about 30 seconds, so that the mix is a bit frothy. I used my immersion blender for this task.

Gently fold the liquid into the dry ingredients until the mix is just combined. Don’t overmix!  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for about 30 minutes.  Let it cool for about 20 minutes before tipping out onto a rack to finish cooling.

Both a friend and my partner thought that this cake would do well in the family of sticky date cakes, and would benefit from either the addition of dates or caramel sauce (uh, what wouldn’t benefit from those additions?). I, on the other hand, thought it might be nice to have stewed apricots with it. That said, we wolfed it down plain. So, you decide based on how lazy you’re feeling.