Food: Back to testing ingredients

One of my successful low-FODMAP lunches … two pieces of GF toast, 2 pieces dried tomato and maybe a couple of half-olives, tofu, sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Lettuce for a green and water to drink

Almost 2 months after I had the flu which last three weeks as far as I can tell, I’m still coughing due–my doctor said to an asthma flare-up. He puts it down to wood-smoke in the air and a new allergy. He prescribed an antihistamine and expected me to get better forthwith. When that didn’t happen but I’d have an all day coughing fit if and when I went outside, I bought an air purifier for in the house. It’s hard to tell if it’s making a difference, except when I stick my nose outside.

My nearest and dearest people are getting sick of the constant news, no I’m not better yet. Yes I’m still coughing. My son reminded me last call that I’ve been coughing for as long as my new grand-daughter has been in the world. A couple of days ago I researched the malady again–you get like that when you get no resolution from the medical profession. This time I discovered that a tenacious flare-up is a possible after-effect of catching the flu if you are also an asthma sufferer.

No, it wasn’t a wonky website. I think it was the Mayo Clinic. If not that one, something equally as dependable.

While it didn’t give me any hope for when I might hope to be rid of the flare-up, it did give me a bit of comfort that it exists, and people do get well again. Fingers crossed. Next, I researched inflammation. Inevitably, food intolerance came up. The wrong foods for a person can cause a lot of inflammation in their gut, and when your gut goes into a leaky-gut-syndrome, the inflammatory compounds will cross the gut wall and be carried all over the place by your blood.

All this is happening while I’m trialing the fortnightly fruit and veg boxes, with me trying out all sorts of foods I’m not accustomed to. Like the spring onions today, of which I am allowed to have 75 grams a day according to the low FODMAP diet app I have on my mobile. After six years on the diet, it’s gotten a bit onerous to be measuring every mouthful and I’ve let it go a bit. Today, though, after spring onion on my delicious lunch, I had a bad coughing fit.

So I’m back in testing mode. I’ve already cut out black currants for breakfast, of which I’m allowed 13 grams–not worth the bother if it’s going to cause me to cough for hours after breakfast. Tomorrow, no spring onions on my lunch, see how I go.

Transport

This one, yes, this one I would really like … it’s an EV of course … built in 1918 by I think it was Millard

My car is yet again incapacitated. I didn’t drive it enough through my illness and the battery is flat once more. The poor NRMA guys have been to my place at least three times already this year and I’m wondering why I still have a car with an internal combustion engine.

If I had an electric car I could just plug in the power cord and charge it up. Problem solved. It isn’t as though I don’t have enough electricity.

I started to research that today. New EV cars cost an arm and a leg. I’ve never spent more than 20k on a car even when I was still working. Second hand EV cars are as scarce as hens’ teeth in Australia. New Zealand has enough sense to import them from Japan, but Australia is a Johnny-come-lately, still wanting to run the world on coal, oil and gas fracking.

Then I plugged ‘lightweight EV vehicles’ into Google. It came up with the goods, of a sort, but I can’t imagine riding 10 kilometers along a narrow secondary road–two lanes only with a shoulder meant for single file bicycle riders–up a steep hill and down it again on the other side to Brunswick Heads, for example, on something that looks like an electric wheel chair.

I’m not old enough. I’m not a daredevil. I’m not stupid, we get rain here sometimes. and the new bike path is still a long time off. Maybe another ten years, when I have gone into my feisty years.

Food Adventures

My food adventures are nothing like anything you could post to Instagram or any other site lauding the expertise of both cooking and photography.

Sludge gone chewy

My food adventures this year are the result of how COVID19 is keeping me indoors with my two co-morbidities–heart problems and asthma, with my asthma in a long enduring state of aggressive flare-up supposedly due to wood-smoke in the local air–and the resulting difficulties of getting food into the house.

Friends help and recently I’ve begun to order in a fruit-and-veg box fortnightly. All good, one would think. But I’m lacking quite a lot of groceries out of my normal diet. Canned fish. Any kind of fish. Tofu. Tempeh. Olives. Rice milk. Tomato paste. Olive oil. Oil to fry with. Coconut yoghurt.

Food additives are my curse. My gut forces me to commit to the low FODMAP diet and so I need to go down to the shops and read labels. All the above need reading. But I’m still coughing too much for a trip into the supermarket.

More doctor appointments needed. Why haven’t I seen a specialist yet? The state border between us in Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland where all the specialists live, is closed. I mean, did you hear about the sick baby that was airlifted from NSW? The parents had to by road and were denied entry. They were directed to a fortnight’s quarantine at their own expense. Can you imagine?

It’s all too stressful.

So …. when I order a bag of brown rice with ancient grains–and am not able to read the label because the way the product is presented on the website–there’s nothing for it when it arrives but to experiment. [Should’ve read the label when it arrived!]

It’s rice. I cook it the way I cook all rice. Never had a failure. A student from Malaysia taught me when we were both marooned at Waikato Uni (NZ) for the holidays a long time ago.

This time, three-quarters of the mess in the pot is half raw while a few rice grains have made it to the desired density. I study that for a while and decide there is no way I’m going to be able to separate the half-raw from the cooked. I add more water and more heat.

The result is sludge. In the days when my son still lived at home this might’ve been the point where I would accept defeat and traipse the mess out to the worm farm.

But last week I decided I didn’t want to waste my money–ten dollars for the bag–and would continue experimenting. That night, planning for dinner, I extracted three tablespoons of the sludge–pot kept in the fridge to prevent it going to beer mash–added three tablespoons of a chewy, low FODMAP flour, two spoons of curry powder, salt, bit of baking powder and an egg and stirred it all about.

Looked all right. I set it cooking in a heating frying pan, like a big pancake and topped it with tomatoes, broccoli, cooked carrot and a couple of chopped spinach leaves. Flipped it when the baking powder told me, and hey presto.

Nice meal. Enjoyed it. A couple of hours later lots of complaints by my gut. Why, I said? I gave you everything according to the diet?

Next day I thought I would try a breakfasty thing. Two tablespoons of the mash in a mug. Cocoa to taste. Brown sugar. Two tablespoons buckwheat flour. Rice-milk to help amalgamate it all. Pinch of baking powder. Three minutes in the microwave.

A very tasty and and different kind of breakfast. Ate it with a teaspoon. Debated whether to write the recipe on paper to slip into my favorite low FODMAP cookbook for future reference. More gut complaints. I put them down to the one-eighth apple I had been eating every day.

Third day. I studied the mash and thought it probably would be reaching its use-by date pretty soon. But I decided to have a go at making bread with it. A hot oven kills off all kinds of wild-life, right? The yeast mixture bubbled nicely. I drained four tablespoons of the mash thinking to use it to replace one of the two flours used in the recipe. Added the yeast mixture, and the second of the two flours. I used to love making bread in the days when my gut wasn’t the pernicketey animal that it is now.

The ‘dough’ wasn’t like any that I’d ever associated with successful bread-making before. More like a stiffish batter. Too far into the process, I pressed on. Turned the stuff into a bread pan. Topped the loaf with sunflower seeds and pepitas. Set it to rise on the stove. No rising. Set it to rise in the preheating oven. Then thought I might as well bake it. Upped the heat.

The seeds helped to form a nice crust. I ate that. The innards were not edible. Sludge gone chewy. For a while I played with the idea of frying pieces of it… frying improves a lot of foods. It’s the times I was raised. A good fry-up remains one of my favorite meals. But why was this stuff so obdurate?

Next morning, I read the label. Picked out the baddie at once. Lupins. A high FODMAP food. I decided on a trip into the backyard there and then. Mash gone. Chewy sludge gone. The rest of the packet of Ancient Grains, gone.

Personal Headlines

When she was a first-time grandmother. It might take a while before she meets the new baby.

Trawling through my social media accounts during the week, I came across a little article written by a man in his late eighties. He said the thing that cheered him up most through all the troubled times that he he experienced in his life, was his daily habit of composing a positive personal headline.

I had a think about the idea for a couple of days without doing anything about it. I was negative. How could any of my personal positive news compete with COVID, political stupidities, cyber-attacks on all government departments (in Australia), and the thing not sitting just over the horizon but already in our midst, climate change and the continual ending of species diversity?

Then a new baby was born in the family.

I let all that stuff up there go. Released it from my mind. I filled my mind with thoughts of the baby’s parents. Her other grandmother, her grandfather. Her little brother. How could I not celebrate her arrival? Even in these frightening times, a new baby is a powerful sign of hope.

My headline? Two-times grandmother welcomes her grand-daughter into the world.

Of course, yes, I know the world is not a perfect place. When was it ever and for everyone at the same time? That’s Utopia we’re talking about.

In this world, there are positive things happening. The #BlackLivesMatter movement. I heard #GretaThunberg speak again yesterday. The Fifth Estate keeps plugging away for more green jobs, green buildings, green cities. People are still planting trees. I’m looking at you #Brunswick Valley Heritage Park, Maslen Arboretum in Mullumbimby.

A fifty-words-or-less competition

A couple of months ago I stumbled across a CSIROscope competition in honor of World Ocean Day and as I had just been researching ocean clean-ups and the work done on the gyres, I thought: Yeah, I’ll give that a go. The prize would be an analysis by a bunch if scientists of the feasibility of the idea and the illustration once it had been used for social media promotions.

Mmm. An illustration by Campbell Whyte? Could be useful for a story I might write one day. It seemed like a very faint hope/plan/dream/possibility.

I thought up the words, reverse engineered them down to the required number, posted my entry and then forgot about it. The Covid thing makes you forgetful on a lot of fronts. Duly got an email telling me the good news that I was one of four winners. I was amazed.

So, yes, I’ve tried embedding to show-off my prize. I’ve tried merely to link. I’ve tried to post the URL. I’ve tried … to no avail.

I don’t see the problem.

Ah ha … stopped the embedding function. Learn something new everyday. I better hurry up and post. Battery is down to 47% …

https://blog.csiro.au/powering-our-future-oceans-floating-lab/?fbclid=IwAR2XN82ZahsgFK8mVokYBUoi0Tx2IK2DSYOGIukVCV85eVIzwXar5W5HQ_Y

Tropes: Time Travel

Watercolour: we spent summers travelling to the beach.

My interest in time travel began when my birth-family arrived in Australia as immigrants from the Netherlands. The first place where we lived was a migrant hostel outside Sydney. We children mostly noticed differences. The English language of course. The food. What the hell is this orange stuff? Pumpkin? But that’s cattle food. And what is vegemite? it’s horrible. Nothing like apple butter.

And the bush. Walking along the dirt road to our house block at midday, there was no shade. The thin vegetation let the sunlight burnish right through it. The only living creature we saw that day was a snake sunning itself on a sandstone slab protruding above the road’s surface. A venomous brown, in suburbia. My father said to stamp on the ground to scare it away. The landscape seemed very alien.

Adults noticed the seeming backwardness of the new country. There was not a decent cup of coffee to be had, for instance. Schooling was 30 years behind European education, many parents thought when they took their kids to the migrant hostel’s school. Most of the breadwinners, having their European qualifications downgraded, could only get laboring work.

A common complaint was that we had traveled back in time.

But the primitive building code enabled a lot of families to live on a house block and build their own accommodation. Many children saved shoe leather by going to school on bare feet. And if you lived in the outer suburbs, it was cheaper to buy a week’s supply of fruit and vegetables at Paddy’s Produce Markets in central Sydney and carry them home in a hessian sack, than getting stuff piecemeal at the local shops.

The existence of tropes as a category of themes tells you there’s nothing new in fiction. But I’m cruisy about using a conventional theme, if I can do something new with it, time travel as an immigrant having prepped me.

Though I’ll tell you right now that I won’t be sitting through the 700+ movies that apparently use time travel as their theme. Wikipedia has a nice page on Time Travel in Fiction listing the main sub-tropes of time travel generating a manageable list of things to read/watch.

From all the above, and without having to watch anything, I gather that what I’ve been writing into is the time-slip sub-trope.

Music: Dirty Three

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_Three

In the present day consensual all writing has ground to a halt. The self isolating jig is in full swing. The main street is as silent as the CBD of a ghost town, which normally is abuzz with cars, coffee places, people and outdoor life generally.

As I live only one block back from it all, and today it might as well be the depths of a public holiday, and the silence is already quite oppressive.

I’ve been filling the silence with music. I’m wearing earphones hours a day. This week I discovered the Dirty Three. An Australian alternative band, led by Warren Ellis, a violinist, they play a great variety of post rock, experimental, rhythm and drone.

Whenever I’ve built up a bit of strength, I move the next item of furniture in my big project of fitting an architect’s drafting desk into the house. Yesterday was Day 3, and I moved a chest of drawers into my bedroom that will be used to store seasonal stuff … blankets and winter clothes.

Trouble is, when that chest of drawers stood in the sun room it contained kids’ toys, photos and photo albums, and various other stuff. All those have been displaced and today is the day of decisions. Hundreds of them. Like, I have too many photos. It’s a cull.

I haven’t started yet, and I also still need to go out … the IGA for food and the chemist for advice and band-aids.

Food: Making Up Recipes

Low Fodmap Chocolate brownies

Needing to be a low-FODMAP eater for life, I’m constantly on the look out for easy recipes for sweet treats. While good cook books and online recipes are now no longer as scarce as hen’s teeth, I’m still always searching for EASY recipes.

Nothing turns me off from cooking or baking quicker than a recipe with dozens of ingredients–also called an ingredient stampede.

Not only that, I’m after a recipe for choc brownies or non-chocolate ‘brownies’. It’s that consistency of batter, I’ve decided, is the easiest to bake. Fill the cup-cake tray with the patty-papers, fill with the batter, and put in oven. Easy.

And I’m not eating the silicone off the baking paper, or from the silicone baking trays. I’m a Luddite in that respect. No silicone baking for me.

So recently I’ve been experimenting with the Rule of the Egg. I came across this rule many years ago in the hand-written cookbook of a friend of the family, Mary Morgan. I don’t think she would’ve minded me mentioning her name in regards to traditional Australian cooking and baking, she was a star. (1925 — 2011)

I have several recipes in my own hand-written book of recipes named after her. You know the sort, Mary’s Sponge; Mary’s Marmalade; and Mary’s Pav. But to get back to the Rule of the Egg.

In the case of today’s experiment I put in two eggs and four tablespoons of peanut butter. So that’s a doubling of the nut butter/butter/margarine/oil.

Then for each egg used, add one tablespoon of each flour you’re using, and one tablespoon of sugar.

I didn’t bother with salt as the peanut butter had salt in it. But normally it’s a pinch.

I mixed the ingredients in as I went, starting with the eggs and peanut butter. There’s a rule about order of adding that I’m somewhat hazy about. I figure though that since I’m not using a flour with gluten in it, there need be no worry about developing the gluten with too much working of the batter.

And finally I moistened the batter to a good consistency with rice milk. I’m sure any milk-like fluid can be used for this step.

Half-fill the cup-cake-cases. I got eight cup-cakes out of this batch.

Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Just Thinking 1: Why Write

In the Fields embroidered by Rita de Heer

It’s useless to be thinking about the future when you are starting out, on anything. You start your working life putting up signs, you have no clue that one day you might be working on high rises installing in glass walls with the help of a robot.

People starting out as writers are the same. I started with writing poetry. I had no idea then that one day I’d take on an sf trilogy.

Nearly everybody here in the Discord’s Writing Cartel has a world/universe that they are either writing into or using as scene setting for any number of creative projects. Yesterday I watched a short film on Youtube, there are people developing games, writing novels, short stories, you name it, it’s being written.

Every one of these worlds/galaxies/universes are huge. Many of us have spent every spare moment of our boring work lives thinking up detail. There will always be areas in any of these worlds that will stay private to their creator, and other areas that will see heavy traffic of stories.

We’re all doing it for the love of it. World building is one of the most satisfying mind games we all engage in, relaxing and psychologically uplifting. Next comes the harder thing. Convincing other people to put their own worlds aside for an hour, and engage with us in ours. So we write stories, develop adventure games, produce visuals, film about our worlds.

The Discord Writing Cartel community is all about sticking our toes in the waters of our worlds, writing though the shallows, and finally committing ourselves to writing fully fledged stories to share first with each other, then with the world.

Only then, with that last word, can you start thinking about how much money you might make.
Though, of course, these are just my own thoughts. Take them well salted.