Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Or food for free

I am an incorrigible forager.
There's nothing that pleases me quite as much as finding something on my daily walks with the dog and bringing it home as chuffed as a prehistoric hunter returning to the cave with a haunch of deer over his shoulder. Honestly, I am like a child. I collect feathers, firewood and fruit, if I lived near the sea...

And isn't it so lovely to be taking steps, however small, to do that which our ancestors have done since those first hunter/gatherers? To take nature's bounty and store it for the winter.

This year there were the cherries.

The fat, fleshy cherries on the tree that someone planted in memory of a loved one.
And the tiny so-sweet wild cherries that I popped into my mouth, crush with my tongue and savoured.
All of which were harvested and turned into jam and pies and, best of all cherry vodka, brandy and liquer.

And there are walnuts.
Many, many walnuts.
Lying in the wet grass like jewels.
Which makes my daily walks with the dog a pleasurable treasure hunt.

And there are apples.
Which means that my kitchen now smells like my grandmother's spare bedroom in which apples were stored under the bed all winter long, and that makes me feel comforted. 
And there is apple cause in jars and in the freezer.
And The Ragazza and I have eaten our body weights in apple crumble and pies.
And last weekend I found a bush heavy with shiny, red rosehips, hanging like jewels.
Which was a very opportune discovery because I have spent the last three days in bed battling some horrid bugs and am acutely aware that it's just the start of a long winter of such onslaughts.
So this evening I'll be out there happily filling the pockets of my jacket with rosehips until the dog becomes bored. And then I'll be making rosehip syrup. It's ridiculously easy and so satisfying. And since rosehips contain five times more vitamin C than oranges and the syrup is smooth and tangy and packed with goodness it may, just may, help me to fight the winter's office bugs.   

  Here's my first jar of rosehip syrup, made last autumn.

How I make it...
200 gms of rosehips, washed, 'topped and tailed', blitzed in a food processor to chop them into small pieces and put in a pan with 300 mls of water.
Bring to the boil and leave to stand for 20 minutes
Sieve to remove the syrup which is poured into a jug
Then put the chopped rosehips back in the pan with another 300 mls of water and bring it to the boil, leave to stand, sieve etc
Repeat that step twice more
Then add 200 gms of sugar to the syrup and bring back to the boil
Pour into sterilized jar
Keep in a cool, dark place and once opened refrigerate and use within a few days

Can be used as a refreshing drink diluted to taste with mineral water.
A perfect early morning boost for this hunter/gatherer.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Let it Snow

It's autumn.
We've had a fabulous summer and now it's time to look forward to some snow!

snow -> noun [mass noun] 1 atmospheric water vapour frozen into ice crystals and falling in light white flakes or lying on the ground as a white layer.
- ORIGIN Old English snaw, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch sneeuw, and German Schnee, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin nix, niv- and Greek nipha (OED).

NEIGE n.f (de neiger). 1. Precipitation de cristaux de glace agglomérés en flocons, dont la plupart sont ramifiés, parfois en étoile.Quand la température des basses couches de l'atmosphère est inférieure à 0 ºC, la neige se forme par la présence, dans un nuage, de noyauxde condensation faisant cesser le phénomène du surfusion.
(le Petit Larousse 2007)

How full of the creative genius is the air in which these are generated!I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat."--Henry David Thoreau

Picture courtesy of Snowflakes and crystals

You can buy stunning pictures of snow crystals here (I bought half a dozen in a bout of apres-ski trip nostalgia, and a book. I'd have ordered some snow too if it hadn't been too warm to post it)

Yes, we have been known to keep snow in the freezer...

It will soon be snowtime which is, in my small family, the best time.

In the absence of snow in the UK, we have strong winds and blue skies interspersed with downpours, all I can offer are photo's taken in Finnish Lapland, above the Arctic Circle, in 2006...

and my own tribute to snow...

The reindeer farm where we took part in a hilarious hijacking by reindeer. We were paired up and placed in a sled with a mad reindeer hitched at the front and then we were left to the mercy of our furry friend.

The reindeer took off at a canter, racing each other, trying to stay in front of the herd, jostling for position as we were tossed about in our sled, giggling hysterically.

After which we bought souvenirs, including a skin that has continued to shed all over my carpet, pictures and a slab of meat to cook back at our cabin.

Sorry Rudolf, it's a dog eat dog world out there!

We also took part in a husky safari

I can't express in mere words the wonder of a journey through a winter wonderland of snow-laden conifers, deep, thick blankets of snow on either side of the track, the silence pierced only by the panting of the team and our shrieks of laughter.

Pure pleasure...

One of the log cabins in the woods just outside Levi. I believe that the residents of this cabin may have witnessed an English woman of a certain age rolling naked in the snow outside a neighbouring cabin just after midnight on January 1st, 2006.

It's traditional, yes?

Especially after several tequila slammers and a hot sauna

The sun rises late during the winter months above the Arctic circle. By 10am it is just starting to spread a pinky, orange, golden glow across the morning sky.

And by 2pm it is sinking fast, colouring the sky with a glorious rainbow

I had thought that the lack of daylight, the merest glimpse of the sun for a few hours would induce a severe bout of SAD in me. Interestingly it didn't. My body adapted rapidly to the darkness and the thick, gleaming snow more than compensated for the lack of the sun's rays

Everything you ever wanted to know about snowflakes can be found at Snow Crystals

Everything, that is, except how to make it snow in Brittany. Now for that I would pay a handsome price!

and there's a museum dedicated to snowflakes, the Wilson Bentley Museum

I tried, and failed, to buy a pair of their snowflake earrings, a foreign credit card is not to be trusted it seems, tant pis, there will be other opportunities to indulge my passion...

The Perm International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival has been held since 1995 to develop international friendship, mutual understanding, to establish artistic and aesthetic space through the art of snow and ice sculpture, and to position the city of Perm as part of the global art community and a place for international projects.

Wikipedia has an article that explains how to construct an igloo
(Inuit language : iglu, "house", plural: iglooit or igluit)

Incidentally, it has been said the Inuit have many words to describe snow. Probably true but so does English, and if one considers that there are several languages termed Eskimo-Aleut languages, then English begins to compete in the snow-word stakes. For example and according to Wikedpedia, Yupik, spoken by the peoples of western, southwestern, and southcentral ALaska and the Russian Far East, has been estimated to have around 24 — but English has at least 40 words that describe frozen water, including "berg", "frost", "glacier", "hail", "ice", "slush", "flurry", and "sleet".

Still, the idea of linguistic relativism states that our langage affects and reflects our view of the world. The belief that Eskimos had hundreds of words for snow led people to think that an Eskimo's eye-view of snow is vastly different from, say, that of a Mexican, or a man late for work and trying desperately to shovel the snow off his driveway.

Linguistics aside, for now, and speaking purely personally, I see snow as a beautiful, enchanting and fun phenomenon and I will continue to play with, roll in, ski over, throw around and eat handfuls of snow as long as it continues to fall from the sky...

A link to a translation of Hans Christian Andersen's Sneedronningen, The Snow Queen

A website that is All About Snow

And one for the kids amongst us who wish to spend the long winter months making paper snowflakes to hang from the beams of a Breton house

All I can say, in conclusion is