Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Not Old Mother Hubbard

I’m not really like Old Mother Hubbard, I’m the very opposite. Unless of course you take it very literally as there are no bones in the cupboards at all. At least I don’t think there are; I don’t really look in the backs of the cupboards, but I think I can fairly confidently say that it’s unlikely there are any bones in the cupboard. There are however plenty of other things, like maple syrup, bicarbonate of soda, hundreds and thousands and white wine vinegar. Some of them have been there for a long time. I try not to think too much about the sell by dates until I start a new recipe and need a particular item which I know I have in my cupboard, only to find out it’s not only past it’s “sell by” date and it’s “use by” date, but it’s now well into the “this is destroying your cupboard” date and the “this will kill you and several thousand people in your immediate vicinity if you remove the lid” date.

Part of the problem is I’m a bit of a cookery book fanatic. I have a lot of them, and I mean a lot. If I go to a book fair, a food fair, or probably a fun fair, I’ll return with a cookery book that contains the one elusive recipe for the absolutely perfect dessert that none of my other 25 recipe books contained. I’ll then choose a recipe I like the look of, discover I’ve got less than one tenth of the ingredients already and make my way to the local supermarket. I’ll then be staggered every single time when I walk round only to discover they don’t stock sheep’s milk cheese, fresh rosemary or dried bat’s blood, which is the absolutely essential item for the recipe and which I end up substituting with chicken stock or vanilla essence depending on the sweet or savoury nature of the dish. Almost invariably. I then potter off back home, make the recipe, and don’t get me wrong, it’s usually lovely, but I end up with a cupboard full of boxes, tins and bottles where I’ve used either a pinch or 3 drops and I never, ever come across any recipe ever again which contains them.

This isn’t the only problem I face when I go food shopping. The other half and I had a swish round Waitrose the other day, and I was overtaken by the spirit of a woman who wants to buy a lot of things in pretty boxes, which smell nice, and either say “organic”, “original recipe” or have a quaint little brand name like Fiddledeedee Pies. (If ever someone calls their range of pies that, someone needs to tell me, because I’ll be owed a lot of money). We walked round, I tried to plan meals for the entire week ahead, and we thought we’d got it well sorted, but then arrived home with no eggs which were kind of one of the very important ingredients.

When you’re making an omelette.

The problem, we decided, was that we didn’t use shopping lists. I rarely use a shopping list unless I’m going on one of the aforementioned specific recipe trips, but I associate them with a generation different to my own. I remember all too well being sent on shopping errands by my mum who had a, well let’s say, unique style. Until I learned better, I never looked at the list until I got into the supermarket, then I’d stand there while I tried to decipher what on earth she meant. Trolls were one of my favourite items which appeared regularly, and it took a while to work out that it actually said t-rolls, shorthand for toilet rolls. My other abiding memory is fininger, but I’m sure even the best educated of us could forgive my mum the slightly eccentric spelling of vinegar.

Still, it all makes for a slightly more interesting shopping experience, but if anyone can source me a recipe which uses whole nutmegs, peanut butter, dried suet, pickled red cabbage and lemon curd, I’d be eternally grateful.


  1. Ha ha! Made me giggle. I buy trolls. I have been rebelling against shopping lists and meal planning for so long too. I do exactly what you do, forget the key ingredient. Cheese free pizza? Macaroni free macaroni cheese?

  2. I think the definition of optimism has got to be attempting an omelette without egg.

  3. Very similar here! I've got cupboards full of obscure things I've used once. And I use things way beyond their use by date. I'm currently using custard powder which was best before the beginning of the year. This sort of stuff doesn't go off does it? I can recommend online food shopping for trimming off some of the stuff you buy randomly, but it's not as much fun is it? Farm shops are my worst for buying anything and everything.

  4. Ladies I'm so glad it's not just me! And I'm nothing if not an optimist