Wednesday 18 September 2019

Eco-trad Husband Says Wife Must Freeze

On Monday I had the heat on in my office so that the apple juice would be nice and not-cold for the cider yeast. I enjoyed the cocoon of warmth so much, I put the heat on on Tuesday, too. But as soon as Benedict Ambrose came home, he turned it off and said this was worse for the planet than plastic-wrapped vegetables.

This is actually true according to the scary books I am reading, for although plastic is terrible, fossil fuels are responsible for all the carbon in the atmosphere. So even though I knew B.A. was really worried about the fuel bill, I had no reply except that I was cold. 

He then told me to put on a jumper but I don't have a jumper (long story), so I eventually put on my 100% cotton bathrobe. But I am still cold and worried about my apple cider. Apple Cider 2018 spent October in a toasty warm cupboard in the bathroom and turned out beautifully. What will happen to Apple Cider 2019, I wonder. 

I love Scotland and I very much love Scottish architecture, but one very big problem in British life--in my experience, anyway--is that buildings are cold and damp instead of warm and dry like Canadian ones. My theory is that Canadians acknowledge and understand the cold, whereas Scots pretend it isn't there or that there is nothing they can do about it, save airing comedy episodes featuring Glasgow pensioners freezing to death. 

Alongside being very cold instead of turning on the heat in mid-September, I have helped the environment by making low-sugar chocolate cookies instead of buying anything in a packet. I would feel more of a virtuous glow if I hadn't already eaten so many of them. 

Monday 16 September 2019

Apple Dinner Party

Yesterday I made 4 litres of apple juice for cider, presided over the After-Mass teapot, and made an apple-themed three-course dinner for five.  Then I cleaned up and, oh, my poor back.  I slept well, though.

I love cooking for dinner parties, even if I get a bit stressed. Benedict Ambrose does almost all of the everyday cooking, and his method is entirely different from mine. B.A. cooks slowly. It helps him relax after work.  He potters. He listens to the BBC or some rather more Catholic broadcaster. He never consults a cookbook. Meals usually consist of one course.  If there is a pudding, it is shop-bought. He does not get stressed.

I, on the other hand, cook only for the dinner parties. I plot out three courses, at minimum, and I consider shop-bought puddings at dinner parties shameful, shameful, shameful, except in France. In France you are allowed to get dessert from a patisserie; in Great Britain absolutely not! (Shame!) I do not potter. I follow recipes. I mentally break down all the cooking into jobs, and I try to determine the best order in which they should be done. I need three hours minimum to make three courses (plus veg), and if the house is not guest-tidy, I need large plastic bags into which to store clutter.

Benedict Ambrose has almost learned he must never enter the kitchen when I am cooking for a dinner party. He has known me for almost eleven years, and this kitchen is smaller than my last, but still he creeps in for a glass of water or whatever. At least he no longer attempts to make a sandwich.

I felt a bit homesick for the Historical House as I chopped red cabbage, etc., and the days in which I was underemployed and therefore could have more dinner parties. One of the worst things about leaving the H.H. was losing the memories of dinner parties past, which still echoed in the halls when  B.A. and I were tossed out departed.  However, the more dinner parties we have in the new flat, the more it feels like home.  

Last night's menu was Carrot-Apple Soup with Homemade Rye Bread (the latter made by a friend); Roast Pork Loin with Apple Cider Gravy, Roast King Edward Potatoes, Braised Red Cabbage with Apples, and Broccoli; and Polish Apple "Szarlotka" Pie with Double Cream.

There were Gin and Tonics to drink beforehand, and the last five bottles of last year's homemade apple cider to have with the pork. There was a bottle of red wine for anyone who preferred that with dinner, and there was a dessert wine at the end. And coffee. With the cocoa cookies I had made two days before when I had a snack attack in the snackless flat.

Cleaning up was a Herculean task because I also had to clean up the ravages of juice-making, too. I had squeezed apples until it was time to get ready for Mass and after Mass I went to the grocery store, so I hadn't had time to clean off the apple press, etc.

The most amusing moment of the party that I can remember was when one of the guests discovered a painting by Polish Pretend Daughter-in-Law of a group of wedding guests, including him.

B.A. made a wonderful dish of his own invention for dinner tonight:  half curry, half tagine, out of most of the rest of the pork roast. It has curry powder, apricots, coconut, veggie stock, yogurt and beer, and I am now slipping into a food coma. Zzzzz.

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Cider bubbling away

Just a quick note to record that I put cider yeast in the fermenting bucket yesterday, and so we should transfer it to a demijohn sometime between September 17 and 20.

The cider was already fermenting away when I put the yeast in, which suggests that the Campden tablet failed to kill the natural yeast already on the apples. I'm relaxed about that, but I hope no "nasties" also eluded the Campden tablet. (Thought to self: next time stir.)

The important thing is to get this--and next weekend's batch--done before October 4 because I am going to Rome the next day for most of the rest of October.

Monday 9 September 2019

Yoga Pants are Killing the Planet

Bad news for the wee lassies who love comfort above all---their yoga pants (or leggings as we say in the UK) are made of plastic and are therefore bad for the environment. 

In fact, they are inflicting violence upon the oceans, which means that the are violating the yogic principle of "ahimsa" (non-violence).

Thus, yoga pants are a contradiction in themselves. Bad, bad yoga pants.

Also, they cost $90 or more at Lululemon, so come on. 

In fact, we have enough made-made clothes to last us several lifetimes*, and there is no point to the fashion trade anymore except in natural textiles like cotton, wool and silk even then I'd want to know about the factory run-off.

Yes, I am becoming an eco-warrior this week, but that's partly because I don't think the environmental movement should be left to the Malthusians.  When someone sneers at Traditional Catholics for having "so many children," it would be great to say, "Actually, there's a very strong interest in ecology among Traditional Catholics. For one thing, we are very disturbed about the effects of pollution on fertility, and for another, our children take a keen interest in the sciences that will save the planet, not useless degrees in Gender Neutral Basketweaving. "

I must talk to the Notre Dame mother about this. She took a kicking because she politely asked the young ladies women of Notre Dame to stop wearing yoga pants at Mass, etc., out of modesty. If she had written harshly to them about the cost of the environment, they might have signed a pledge never to buy another pair.

*Although as washing them sends thousands of plastic microfibres into the sea, maybe it's best just to be rid of them (how?) and wear and wash 100% cotton, wool, etc. Meanwhile you can wash them less and also use a Guppyfriend bag, apparently. It too is made of plastic, but is apparently "recyclable".

Sunday 8 September 2019

Cider Time!

It's cider time at St. Benedict over the Apple Tree, the semi-official name of our home. (The Historical House had its own proper name, and I do miss the days of being able to say--with a hint of smugness--"It doesn't have a number." Sic transit gloria mundi.)

Last year we were very stingy with our cider, as it took so much work and we got only 9 litres. Thus we still have many bottles of last year's cider,  with which we hope to be more generous this autumn. This year Benedict Ambrose is also much, much better than he was last cider season. If you recall, he was still recovering from a summer of radiotherapy, poor man. I have indelible memories of B.A. giving up and going to bed while I grimly toiled through the night, apple splatters everywhere.

Making cider is easy but labour intensive, and I am glad we are doing it over two or three days instead of in one great day-long swoop. I wish now that I hadn't been cheap and had got a slightly bigger apple press and glass bottles instead of plastic, but it's all very experimental at this stage. Because our 2018 cider was so dry, this year we're using proper sweet cider yeast instead of champagne yeast.

Our apple tree is so big, its branches stretch out to our neighbours on either side and to at least one neighbour at the back. We have invited the neighbours we know to take the apples from "their" side (legally they're ours even though they're over their gardens), and as luck would have it, the apples are thickest--and most easy to reach--in our neighbour's garden to the left.

They are really delicious apples. Sadly we still don't know what kind they are. I've toyed with sending a sample to a professional apple expert. Maybe this year!

Update: We're going to increase production, so we will resume next weekend. This weekend we made just 7 litres of apple juice, which we got from 100 apples.

I also labelled our little bag of Campden tablets ("Dangerously corrosive") after absentmindedly licking some sodium metabisulfite that got on my hand and spending an hour on the phone with NHS 24. I have a weeny burn on the roof of my mouth and a some resentment against the brewing supply shop for having no warning on their label.

Wednesday 4 September 2019

Eco-trad Worries

The environment. I am torn between hopefully banning all new plastic from the house and despairing that without China and India on board, there is really nothing the West can do to stop the world from becoming a plastic graveyard.

I read Pope Francis "Message" on the care of the earth,  I find it very interesting, and not only because he jetted off to Africa today. (It may be childish, but I always think it funny when environmentalists get on planes.* At least Greta Thunberg made the gesture of putting to sea on a yacht. FIFTEEN DAYS from Plymouth to New York! Yikes!)

The top question that concerns me today is whether or not "climate change" is a matter of faith and morals.

But a more personal question is what I can do to reduce the amount of plastic we use in this flat because I know that our plastic rubbish is not disappearing in a cloud of organic water vapour. I don't know, but I suspect, that everything that goes into the recycling bin it is not all being recycled.

I would love it if everyone who doesn't already have one adopted a "simpler lifestyle" that included a complete veto of plastic products made in China. This includes fast fashion: I am all for cotton, linen and wool, and having a mortgage, I usually get these materials from charity shops.

I feel sad looking at plastic products in shops because whether someone buys them or not, the damage is done. They're here and they're going to be here for a looooooong time.  Four hundred and fifty years for a plastic bottle, says this website. (But as the first plastic bottles were sold in 1947, how do they know?)

Meanwhile, it seems unlikely I will ever have a plastic-free household, but at least I can work on reducing the rubbish. As the eldest of five, not to mention as someone who is childless-not-by-choice, I absolutely hate the idea that a solution to the problem is to have fewer kids. I believe that the solution to solving the world's woes is MORE human brains, not fewer.

And that's my rant. I'm now going to collect apples for our organic household cider.

*NB. I get on planes myself, so there you go. I have looked into transatlantic crossings by ship, but they do take a very long time and are few and far between.

Update: Here's something NASA has to say about climate change.  Here's the Royal Society.

Sunday 1 September 2019


"I read an article by a woman who said her bunions disappeared," said Benedict Ambrose

"Really?" I asked. "Disappeared? Did she get braces on her feet or something?"

"Well, maybe not disappeared," said B.A.  "She went to a lot of exercise classes and they stopped bothering her.

Light dawned.

"That was MY BLOGPOST!" I said.

"Oh, was it?" asked B.A. "Well, see, I do read what you write."