Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Old Song by Carly Simon

My husband pointed out to me a line in this song that I hadn't remembered. "Well you're where you should be all the time..." We were talking about a view of New Year's Eve that a friend offered. We are starting to hear all the parties that are happening around town.

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pride and Grocery Buying Habits

This is an interesting thing that came up when I was reviewing my post about convenience foods, like bagged salads and cooked cakes. I mentioned when I started buying these items if ever and why.

I had mentioned how my Mum has always bought pre-cooked chickens. Well, at some point after we left farm life when I was a teenager she did this. I'm wondering now if she bought cooked chickens while she lived on her hobby farm in recent years, as she had chooks for eggs again. She also buys things or did, like fresh buns or bread rolls, even back in the 60s bought kabana and nuts for dinner parties.

Then I mentioned my Nana's rustic cake racks.

Both these people are house proud. Mum's is slightly different, I am not sure that she does rustic except maybe in a subtle way. Mum's house to me on Christmas Day was like a resort. It isn't an expensive house, very decent though, nothing is out of place. The difference between the two people is that Nana kept her purchases to a minimum, so the gold tasseled new cushions on Mum's couch were very "her".

How does that relate to food?

Do people that spend a lot of time making sure their person and their house look good tend to buy more convenience foods? Do the convenience foods help keep up their standard of showing themselves off? Chicken was in the 70s vaguely a status symbol, it is getting harder to remember now. Cold chicken perhaps. Or is it purely about entertaining? Mum's new husband was very much into entertaining when she met him, but Mum as always had dinner parties.

Nana took no short cuts. She did enjoy buying cooking chocolate to make special slices or bars or tray bakes.

Maybe it is not pride, but hospitality? Can frugal people still be gracious hosts? Does all good entertaining have to involve glamous foods? Are you able to read Table magazine and not find it full of consumerism? Can you read an Australian Woman's Weekly these days and not find it full of consumerism. Has my cutting back gone too far?

To be honest, I have looked at a particular dip on the supermarket shelves all year. Mum had this dip, with nice crackers, grapes, a nice cheese and cashews on a plate when we arrived from our long drive after an early start. It was very much appreciated. I will definitely be buying the dip myself. It was chili and it had cashews in it, a red colour.

Just as interestingly I enjoyed a forum post this year from a friend who talked about garlic scrapes or whistles and her favourite dip. So I guess there are different ways of doing the same thing. My friend made garlic scrape pesto.

Olive Sprig with Black Olives on White Bread, Olive Oil Behind

Modern Convenience Foods

There are lots of different convenience foods. I think we were taught about in it home economics when I went to school.

I want to talk about a time about six or perhaps eight years ago when my husband still worked in a fast paced job in a civilised medium sized country town. I was about thirty seven and talking about that year and three years previous.

We were into wanting to be corporate in everything we did. I had four children at the time, aged about up to four to thirteen. I saw the bags of pre-washed salads in Coles, I may have used them once or twice. For the whole time we have been married I think, I have kept a lettuce in a lettuce container in the fridge, or perhaps in the early days in a colander, it is getting harder to remember. I take out the core, fill with water, turn it upside down to drain in the colander. When the lettuce runs out I buy a new one on shopping day, no matter how long that takes.

More recently, this year I walked into Safeway in our Regional Centre and I was struck by the amount of bagged salads the minute I walked in the door. So I am assuming they have increased a lot in the past five years. Was it beans I saw in a bag? However, my online green grocer put his beans in a bag, it is just not sealed and I assume not washed in chlorine as Jamie Oliver I think suggested those sealed bags are, at least in his country.

I have limited my precooked cakes at that time to birthdays or in lieu of home-baking. I am very stubborn about baking for other people outside those in my immediate household, I am not sure why that is. Maybe that it is one of my few liberated ideas. I used to buy the birthday cakes in Coles in one of those plastic containers. Now of course we live 1 1/2 hours from the nearest Coles. I have missed them, but gradually we have sorted out a new system. We have lived away from Coles five years.

I love at pre-marinated meat these days and wonder about it. The ones with vegetables in them, I just feel I wouldn't like to eat. Years ago, going back to when we were first married or our eldest two children were very small, we often marinated meat in this pottery bowl. That was because the Chinese Women's Weekly cookbook suggested that for the recipes. Recipes have changed a lot and have become easier and quicker. Not saying the marinating at the time was hard. So we don't marinade any more. I probably would be nice to upskill about BBQing but we don't BBQ so it would only be to know what others do, which is probably important.

I did buy pre-cooked chickens just before we left our hometown six years ago, and up until the time I shopped out of town here, not sure how long I have been doing that, maybe a year or two. I don't bring pre-cooked chicken home in the eski, though when we lived 1/2 hour from Melbourne I think I still bought the chickens home with me. We avoid chicken unless it comes in a Christmas hamper these days because of the real or imagined antibiotics they contain.

My mother has been using pre-cooked chickens every week for many many years. I started buying them after not wanting to at all, after reading a magazine called For Me. The lady who I have since contacted online had a very large family and wrote about her meals that she cooked for her family. One was chicken and corn cobs. So I had to try it.

Then after awhile we came across a paella recipe and for the first few years here it was a regular meal at our house, every 2-4 weeks. It involved rice, fresh tomatoes, lemon pepper and kabana or kabanos I think. Cooked chicken was a reliable food at the local shop, and there weren't too many of them, except rookwurst and chicken mince and perhaps I bought frozen pies and beef mince.

I don't think I got any of them to be a super person. It was easier for us to have frozen fish or pies back in the days I spoke of with potatoes and peas, nearly every night. I have spoken before how I am healthier now, either because of the change in diet or atmosphere. Our homecooked meals come from the Taste Australia website. I suppose if I didn't want to have an ordinary looking tea/dinner that would have been considered. Because I suppose salads and chicken do give a person points. Everyone loves the flair my Mum demonstrates with her meals. However, the meals we have made from the frozen fish from our Chrisco, Castle and Hamper King Christmas hampers lately have been very nice and I recommend them. For example Fish with Cheese Topping and cherry tomatoes and Lemon Crumbed Fish with Butter Bean Salad. I suppose it is a left over from the 60s where everything had to be done with flair. Remember those garnishes?

I had resisted the chickens for many years, even though my Mum was using them. Isn't it awful how once you have done the thing like bought the chicken you can't quite remember why you didn't buy them in the first place. I think it was a discipline thing. Maybe some people my age or older can relate. A similar thing goes on with washing clothes. Because of my self imposed discipline at the time I wouldn't buy the chicken.

The cake rake pictured below reminds me of my Nana's lovely vintage cake racks. We have a large one where lots of things fall though, and two small square ones that are very shiny and perhaps date from the 80s. I was interested that there were two kinds of cake racks in the hamper catalogues this year, a round one and a rectangular one. Yes, I could go to the hardware store, but I don't tend to do that.

Lemon Cake with Icing Sugar by Nikolai Buroh

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Decent Poverty

There is that poverty word again, and as always it makes me think. Without being rude, it is a cultural difference between Western countries. I am not a newspaper reader, but I don't think we use the word poverty quite as much in Australia. I would love to hear thoughts on that.

Another article came up in my group of articles this one from Frugal Country Living.
"Decent poverty, frugality, and some sacrifice should be expected of young people." John Rice, 1946.

I was reading a book on The Home, from 1946 and came upon this gem. I just love the term 'decent poverty'. It distinguishes decent, lower income from the impoverished that are that way because of shiftlessness or addiction. Many feel there is no honor in being poor and while that may or may not be, there is an honorable poor. Perhaps it's the family of 7 children where the main breadwinner is working a simple job. Or the young widow with children trying to make ends meet. Or as the paragraph suggests, the young married couple just starting out in life."

The article was quoting page 80 of Home, Courtship, Marriage & Children by John R. Rice. The quote continues on with: "It is far better for a young couple to marry at twenty-five on small salary than to wait five years more and marry at thirty with every comfort, but having missed five glorious years of doing without together and helping one another and enjoying one another."

"The status poor - those at the bottom of the ladder - are a threatening group to the citizens of the poorfare state because of the possibilies they embody and imply. Even thinking about the poor must be done cautiously, such that one does not inadvertently devalue one's own achievements and merits or one's image of those accomplishments. When happens, though, when one changes from thinking about the bottom class to the next rung? How do people think about the next-to-lowest class?

The members are seen as decent poverty-stricken individuals. If the lowest class can be regarded as the welfare class, the class that has given up, then the next lowest class is perceived as one which has continued to try and is still interested in achieving success, or has, above all, the motivation, the will, or the nerve to try."

From: Does America Hate The Poor? Chapter 4.
Wiki describes poverty as:


Definition: Any deficiency of element or resources that are need or desired, or that constitute richess; as, poverty of soil; poverty of the blood poverty of ideas.


Definition: the state of having little or no money and few or no material possessions."

What if you have lots of possessions that are dated I wonder?

Anyway, we have all heard stories of people who are now nearing 70 who did things like had car seats to sit on to watch TV etc. However, things have changed a little, so furniture etc. is very cheap. My son went about it by sharing a house with others to start with and bought a desk. Then he got the bed with the very cheap mattress, and borrowed sheets for the first little while.

When he went into a flat, he didn't use a couch, just the kitchen chairs, did without a refrigerator and used the group washing machine. The kitchen chairs are borrowed. It sounds terrible, but he has lived in style the whole time. Now all his stuff is new, and I don't think he used credit to buy it. It has probably taken nearly a year.

Myself I went into a furnished flat with some things that may be described as a glory box that my step-Mum thought to give me. I gave my son a new set of kitchen things when he went to uni. His girlfriend was given some money to start her off and she bought linen, more cutlery and bowls. At Uni I think I helped with fans and toasters as the need arised.

This year I think I will get similar items for the kitchen for our second son with the saving plan you get from Chrisco or Castle hampers. They have kitchen items in their catalogue.

Given the fact that only two trainees in the large organisation where he works have come from outside the city, it is a bit of a moot point. I will have to ask how many don't live at home.

Decent Lady by Yenhuei Hsu
Decent Lady

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Life Was Always Meant to be Fabulous

I came across this article and thought it gave an insight into things. It is called Living Simply Can Be Simply Fabulous. At my age I can hardly remember how I came to be in the lifestyle I am in. I know I have been living modesty all along I think, maybe with occasional minute burst here or there.

"I don't know what your life was supposed to be like, but mine was supposed to be modestly fabulous.

I would maintain a modest-but-hip wardrobe (Banana Republic with occasional forays to Henri Bendel sales), live in a modest-but-ample Manhattan loft and eat at chic Manhattan restaurants, while dashing off once a year to someplace remote yet trendy. You know. Nothing fancy.

For several years I actually tried to live this life, only to find that I was getting deeper and deeper into debt. Giving up the lifestyle to which I'd become accustomed didn't seem like an option. But neither did getting a job as an investment banker.

Which left me two choices: I could continue to live my dream lifestyle, even though it was turning my finances into, how do you say in English -- garden fertilizer? Or, I could figure out how to live a life I could afford. A far more ordinary life.

Hordes of people who reek of money

When you think you're entitled to a certain standard of living, "ordinary" life seems beneath you. It's mundane and tedious and involves things like cooking dinner, doing dishes and staying home to watch the "Six Feet Under" tape your uncle made for you . . . because, in point of fact, after doing the math, you can't afford your once-hectic nightlife. To rub salt in my ego, there is the pressure of New York -- bright lights, big city, fat wallets -- all around me. Living well is just a given for many people who live here."

I think the area in bold writing must sum things up in a way that I haven't heard before. No one wants that retro way of living. And I find as time marches on, I have gone more and more away from it myself.

Rereading the bold letters, it seems more about escaping the role of a homemaker. I didn't take it that way when I first read it. Seeming the picture of the family watching TV in this video really made me understand how much my family and I have changed since moving to the isolated area we live in, away from that model, which is amazing since this location lends itself very well to some form of dropping out.

"People stayed home watching three channels on their TV". Since living here five years ago after one year in another unusual place, a rustic kind of place; we have had satellite TV for the first time at an age of 44 I think. Kids here probably do have more of that kind of TV because in some places the normal free to air reception is bad. I know when and if we move to our new house that we are renovating for a debt free life required payTV, although of course I could go back to how it was when I was little, though reception was pretty good most of the time. Thanks probably to Dad's patience with the aerials.