Tag Archives: old-fashioned

Hoo~Doo Voodoo

Ad_lardThere now follows a Public Health Announcement:

What is mentioned here are old ‘wisdoms’ that have now been roundly debunked and should not, under any circumstances, be followed!

Have you ever heard an old wives’ tale and thought: How on earth did they come to that conclusion? / How cruel / How stupid / Were they mad? 

Last night my husband and I were discussing cats (as you do) and he told me that when he was little the other French people in the community in which he lived had advised his parents to cut off the tip of their kittens’ tails to prevent them from getting worms.  That’s a special kind of weird and horrible, now isn’t it?  How did anyone first draw that conclusion?  I’m sorry to say that they apparently followed the advice and duly sent the little bairns off to the local ‘witch doctor’ (for want of a better description).  It was, mercifully, the first and only time they did this, as presumably said kitties got worms anyway and a visit to the vets provided them with the information that they should ideally have been privy to all along.

This started me thinking of some of the other little madnesses that I’ve come across over the years. 

For instance, my mother once told me that when she had her first baby my French great grandmother told her to squeeze the baby’s head in order to close the gap (the fontenelle).  (If you see a pattern emerging here by the way, you’d be correct.  It’s not that the French have wacky ideas, [certainly not that I’m aware of!]  it’s that the French community here at that time were poor, ill-educated immigrants who were only faithfully passing on what they had traditionally been told). 

Then I remembered the special kind of crazy that was apparently happening in the first part of the 20th century – selling radioactive drinks as ‘health giving’.  Seriously!

And you must have heard the one about doctors for years promoting smoking as healthy?  No?  It’s true. If you don’t believe me, just go and Google it.

I’ve often wondered what we are doing, or being told to do now, that in years to come will be seen as completely and utterly bonkers.  We may like to think we are modern, sophisticated, wise and pretty much know it all, but the reality is that we undoubtedly still have much to learn.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

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Thank you

Woman in blueMy generation was possibly amongst the last to be taught old-fashioned manners, including routine acts like acknowledement of the little kindnesses that people show us with a thank you note.  Thank you notes are not only for occasions like thanking grandma for a birthday gift, they should be sent whenever thanks are due for a present, hospitality or a personal favour – basically any time when someone has shown a kindness in thinking of us or put themselves out to help us. 

We’ve all got into the habit of emailing and Twittering and it’s sad that a hand-written note is therefore becoming a rarity.  The fact of the matter is that there is no substitute for holding a note that someone has taken the time to hand-write.  Imagine that you are the recipient and you’ll know that’s true.

Thank you notes should be written promptly after an event and if you’re unsure what to say just remember the golden rule:  Keep it simple, sweet and from the heart.  A personal reference of any kind in the note will help to make the standard text come alive – mention a particular food that the hostess prepared and that you enjoyed, tell her why her gift was so special etc.

One final note: When writing to a married couple, a thank-you letter is traditionally addressed to the wife only.

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Filed under General house tips, General tips

Bird? What bird?

roadr_coy1What size of bird (turkey) should you buy for you and your guests?  Aim on 1 pound of turkey for each adult guest (1-1/2 if you’re aiming to have leftovers).  Many people just go ahead and buy a great behemoth of a bird, regardless of this calculation – it’s no wonder they get sick of the sight of the thing by day two!  (A simple ‘What size turkey to buy’ chart is posted at the end of this article for quick reference).

If you only have a small group to cater for, you may like to consider an alternative.  Nowadays you can buy just a ‘turkey crown’ – this is literally just the turkey breast meat, so if you don’t like the brown meat anyway, this may suit you better.  Disadvantages: You’re unlikely to find it complete with giblets so you won’t easily be able to make your own turkey stock for the gravy (normally well worth doing), it won’t look as impressive if you usually take the bird to the table to carve (!) and it won’t cook in the same way.  Nevertheless, it’s a simpler option for a smaller family get together.

Steering away from turkey entirely, did you know that a growing number of people in the UK are opting for chicken on Christmas Day?  There is absolutely no reason why you can’t still do all the traditional trimmings  like ‘pigs in blankets’ to serve alongside the humble chicken. 

If your group is too big for a single chicken but too small to warrant an entire turkey, there is a kind of half-way-house option of a capon.   A capon is basically a castrated cockerel, the meat of which is succulent and tender.  They are, unfortunately, hard to find and big poultry producers use hormones to induce caponization (never something I’m happy with).  If you’re lucky enough to find a small supplier, and like me you’re bothered by hormones in food, check whether the bird has been surgically or chemically castrated.  You may find capons available through small, quality butchers or farm shops.

If you pick the ‘chicken option’ don’t feel you are cheating your family by the way.  I, for one, far prefer the flavour of chicken to the rather bland and often dry turkey.

Moving away from chicken and turkey, on continental Europe goose is the traditional choice in many countries.  It’s moist, tasty and has the added advantage of rendering a supply of fat to use for delicious roast potatoes and veggies.  See chef Gordon Ramsay’s roast goose recipe here.  (Cook the goose on a raised rack in the roasting tin to keep it out of the fat …not mentioned in this recipe).

Those are the most obvious bird alternatives for your Christmas meal.  No rule book says, however, that you need a bird at all.  A tasty roast of beef or pork would be very nice and judging by the number of hits I’ve been getting to this site lately for ham cooked in coke, I’d say that if that takes your fancy then you’d be in good company!

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If you’re going down the turkey route, here is a quick reference chart to tell you what size turkey you’ll need to buy:

5 lb / 2.25 kg                    serves 4 – 6

8 lb / 3.6 kg                       serves 6 – 8

10-12 lb / 4.5 – 5.6 kg   serves 10 – 12

20 lb / 9 kg                        serves 12 – 15

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Filed under Christmas Countdown, Cookery, What's Cooking?

Thawing a frozen turkey

It's not a good time to be a turkeyTHE GOLDEN RULE: Never thaw a frozen turkey at room temperature.

By far the best method is to thaw the bird in the refrigerator (set no higher than 40F)  and, be warned, this will probably take 3-4 days, depending on the size of bird you are dealing with. 

To do this: Leave the bird in its original wrapping and place on a tray in the bottom of your refrigerator.  Allow 5 hours per pound of bird – so for a bird of, say 14lbs, you would be looking at 70 hours (or just over 3 full days).  Be sure to keep an eye on it during that time because you will periodically have to empty liquid out of the bottom of the tray … you don’t want to flood your fridge with raw turkey juice!

Quick method: Check that the turkey is in leak-proof packaging.  If it is, put it, in its original wrapping, in a sink of cold water, breast side down.  In the same way that ice cubes transfer their low temperature to a drink, so your frozen turkey will lower the temperature of the water.  In other words, you’re going to have to change the water in the sink every half hour in order to maintain a consistent temperature.  Allow half an hour per pound of turkey so, for example, the 14lb bird mentioned above is still going to take 7 hours to defrost.  Cook as soon as you have completed this process. 

I wouldn’t recommend using a microwave.  The nature of microwave ovens means that the bones will become hotter quicker and the meat immediately around them may effectively start to cook, causing potential health hazards.  If you feel you absolutely must use a microwave, follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely and, again, aim to cook the bird immediately after.

Here are a couple of charts which may help when calculating thawing times:

Refrigerator thawing (weights represent a whole bird)

8 – 12 pounds ……… 1 to 2 days

12 – 16 pounds …….. 2 to 3 days

16 – 20 pounds …….. 3 to 4 days

20 – 24 pounds …….. 4 to 5 days

Cold water thawing times

8 – 12 pounds ……… 4 to 6 hours

12 – 16 pounds …….. 6 to 8 hours

16 – 20 pounds …….. 8 to 10 hours

20 – 24 pounds …….. 10 to 12 hours

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Filed under Christmas Countdown, Cookery, Get organised, What's Cooking?