Tuesday, 9 December 2014

My German Ménage-À-Trois

A* and I have been together for several years. In a way we were thrown together. There aren’t so many of our sort around. We’re still a minority, despised by some. I've experimented as most do, but for some time now I've been in no doubt about my orientation. He’s the perfect match really: he lives just down the road, keeps the same hours as I do, has the same pragmatic outlook as I do and, most importantly, when it comes to the dirty deed, provides ten minutes of intense, directed attention, rather than a tedious, directionless, hour-long slog. We are, as they say, compatible.

I see L* once a week. He lives in the next town. He is of the same deviant sort.

I never meant to be unfaithful. I guess a lot of these stories begin like that. I didn’t mean to stray; I didn’t even mean to look but one day when I was needy he lent a helping hand, and that’s where it all started. It was on an outing to a weekly gym class that I had a sudden craving. L was there. He showed me an open door and, once I had crossed that threshold, I found it hard to back out. It wasn’t long before he revealed to me his startlingly thick sausage. Kabanossi, he calls it. I wish I could say now that I resisted, but I did not. I grabbed at his turgid banger, clutched it in trembling hands, and completed the transaction.

It could have stopped there. I went home and got rid of the evidence. A suspected nothing. I saw him on our next date as usual and nothing was amiss. That should have been the end of it, but deep down I knew I’d go back for more. 

Attraction for me is always sensual and his heady aroma of freshly baked goods haunted my dreams in the coming nights. On my next trip abroad, my feet took me automatically in search of that intoxicating smell. No sooner had his scent penetrated my nostrils than I was grabbing him by the maple pecan plaits and devouring his seeded triangles. Propriety thrown to the four winds, there was no stopping me. Selection packs of miniature speciality tomatoes, achingly huge pomelos, tantalisingly cryptic foreign chocolate biscuits, TWENTY-FOUR cheese food triangles stacked in an elegant cylinder, Greek style yoghurt in a volume so vast that it comes in a pail with a handle. And chorizo - chorizo twice as long as A’s. 

When you begin to compare, I fear, that’s the beginning of the end. I don’t want it to end with A. I know I will always love him and I want him to still be there for me but I must treat him properly. I’m not sure what I’ll tell my friends. I was one of those annoying people, who raves about their beloved, who is blind to their faults. A could do no wrong, “If A hasn’t got it, I don’t need it,” was my catchphrase, but I’m already planning my next visit to L for things that A can’t give me. Did I mention L’s a bit of rough too? My friends aren’t snobs but they’ve come to accept my unusual preference because A has won them over with his generosity and his classiness. He turns up to a party with D.O.P. parmigiano reggiano and marinated garlic. This week L surprised me with dirty, reduced price packets of Pasta ‘n’ Sauce, more of it than I could consume, and I grabbed at it hungrily. Perhaps I’ve found my true level. Time will tell…

*The names of two budget German supermarkets have been changed to protect their identities.

One Mean Housewife, with pencil and slate, tallies up the brazil nut count in two discount brands of luxury muesli.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Applegeddon - Windfall Traumas

I came home to find a suspicious package on my doorstep. It wasn't the classic dog turd wrapped in flaming paper. It’s not that kind of neighbourhood. No, it’s a lovely, friendly, respectable neighbourhood where people have social standing and gardens with mature trees. That meant it could be any one of those pesky, generous neighbours. I eyed it suspiciously and my worst fears were confirmed: more bloody cooking apples.

A few hours later, my neighbour Roy, a middle-aged gentleman with social standing and mature trees, rang my bell to jovially check, “You got the apples then? Enjoy!” The picture of blithe innocence, his face was, the rotten bugger.

See, the thing is, he knows and I know he knows, and he knows that I know, etc. that I’ve already got half a tonne of the blighters all over my own back garden, from my own bloody mature tree. Age and experience made him the fastest on the draw when it came to 'gifting' his on though. I'll get him next year.

So I have several kilos of cooking apples and I ain’t afraid to use ‘em. Actually I am. I’m having hourly cold sweats at the thought of getting through them but I'm One Mean Housewife: I can't waste them, can I? So I will cook them and cook them and I will bloody well cook them until they are done. Here are some things I have done so far.

Braised pork and apples cooking in a pan
Braised pork and apples 

This is a good one and it’s going on our menu weekly until they’re done. I adapted a recipe in the BBC GoodFood “101 One-Pot Dishes” book. Dust two large pork chops in plenty of seasoned flour and then brown them on a high heat. Remove it from the pan and then brown two cooking apples (peeled and cut in wedges) with a chopped onion and stick of celery. Add 300ml chicken stock, a spoonful of grain mustard and a bay leaf, and stir. Put the meat back in and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Nice with rice, and hoovered up by both husband and toddler.

Lumberjack cake on a wooden board
River Cottage Lumberjack Cake 

I’m finding it hard to talk about this one because it was TOO HARD (I’m rubbish at baking), I burnt it a bit, and the ingredients cost a chuffing fortune. However, it has enough calories to feed London for a week so if I hadn’t eaten almost all of it immediately, it would go a long way. It is moist and delicious. Recipe here.

Homemade Indian Apple Chutney in a jar with handwritten label
Indian Apple Chutney 

Until today, I was a chutney virgin (always wanted to say that) and this was a triumph. It's like nippy pickled apple jam and it's very yummy with cold chicken and with cheese. Recipe here.

Apple cored and stuffed with creme fraiche and dried fruit, before and after cooking
Warm Apple With Sultanas And Crème Fraiche

An easy idea from a friend. Core an apple and fill it with crème fraiche and dried fruit. Nuke it for a couple of minutes. I think I did it the wrong way: cutting the apple down the middle and scooping out the core may work better. It tasted good though. The toddler wanted more.

Images of apple and parsnip soup in the pot and then in a bowl with a swirl of cream
Apple and Parsnip Soup

Autumn is soup season and this is a bit different. I used this BBC Good Food recipe. It is delicious and thick. It was crying out for a bit of nutmeg so I put in about a half teaspoonful. We'll be having this one again too. I'm almost beginning to not resent these apples.

So there you are. If you have an unwelcome windfall, worry not what to do with it. That's right: waste no time, gather them up and sneakily deposit them on an unsuspecting neighbour's doorstep. Do it in the dead of night so you can't be caught.

One Mean Housewife, with a mad look in the eye, turns a peeler over and over in her calloused hand...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Mammy, Make Me A Spanner

When I was One Mean Little Girl, I spent my every hour at my mother’s side in a scene of domestic idyll: handing her pegs to hang the washing, cutting out scones with my fat little hands, licking cake mix from the bowl, dying from boredom in the wool shop, standing on a chair to be pricked like a voodoo doll with sewing pins, and lingering for hours in a fug of cigarette smoke and black coffee steam, repeating, “Mummy, mummy, mummy…” as I tried to get a word in edgeways between her and Mrs Harley from across the road.

She was the consummate housewife and I watched her and learned. I was fascinated by the tools of the trade: the giant weapon-like rolling pin, the mysteriously numbered knitting needles, the frankly terrifying pressure cooker hissing in the corner like a malignant kitchen goblin. The thing I wanted badly though was the stitch ripper from the sewing box. Its bright yellow plastic concealed a shiny bit which was Very Sharp And Very Dangerous. I wasn't even allowed to look at it too closely, never mind touch it. When in adulthood I bought my own, for weeks I was too scared to use it...

Now my own 3-year-old spends his days at my side, watching and learning in a scene of domestic squalor, mostly. I’m not the housewife my mother was but I’ve got a few skills and let me tell you my heart swelled with pride when he beseeched me one day, “Mammy, my NEED a spanner like Mammy’s big shiny one. Mammy, make me a boy’s spanner.”

Now, I'm sure such a thing could be bought but would I, the Mean Housewife shell out? Not likely.

And so began my career in crapmazing cardboard toy manufacture. When he is a man I will show him the things I made and how much he loved and played with them (he honestly does) and he will laugh to see how much he truly wasn’t spoiled.

"Mammy, my need a car park." (£0.00p):

"Mammy, my need a tunnel." Finish is everything; I took a fairly minimalist approach to that. He honestly said, "Ooh it's a beautiful blue one with numbers!" (£0.00p):

And the original and best, "Mammy my need a spanner." Just look at the Sellotape work on that. (£0.00p):

I think you'll agree that the quality is second to none, and there really is nothing like a handmade gift. What a lucky boy.

One Mean Housewife prices up a wooden railway tunnel JUST FOR SHITS AND GIGGLES.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Health And Safety In The Workhouse

The problem with child labour is equipping your worker: Brillo pads are so big for little hands and decanting bleach into tiny little bottles is just tiresome. However, there is a lot you can do at home, so here is how to make a tiny wee pair of oven gloves and give your little drone a helping hand getting that roasting tin out without incident.

Bits and bobs I scrabbled together:
  • The scraps of a £2 IKEA fleece blanket, leftover from other projects,
  • One IKEA facecloth, leftover from the wipes project
  • Some white thread.

How I cobbled it together:

Cut a long rectangle of fleece about 70cm by 15cm and two further rectangles the same 15cm width by about 20cm.

Lay the smaller rectangles over either end of the long strip: they will make the pockets for their tiny, calloused hands go into. Trim the corners into a curve - you know the shape. Use those end parts as templates to make duplicate pieces in the towelling material from the facecloth using the existing hemmed edge as the flat edge of the curved shape to save you having to hem it.

Align the towelling shapes onto the ends of the long strip and sew a line of stitches across the existing hem on the towelling.
Next lay the fleece shapes right on top of the towelling and stitch round the other three sides (the curved edge), keeping close to the edge.  Turn the pockets inside-out and the whole thing should look roughly like a pair of oven mitts.
Cut a thin strip of fleece, roughly 7cm by 1cm, fold it along its length and run a line of stitches along it make a little tape which form a hanging loop in the next step.
Turn the mitts over to the side with the pockets.  To make the joining strap look neat, stitch a small hem along the edges between the mitts, stitching in the tape you made to form a hanging loop.

Da-daa!  And there you have it: some sort of comeback when The Social turn up at your door wanting to know about your toddler turning up in A&E with a roast beef shaped burn.

They also make nice gifts for little people with little play kitchens.  

One Mean Housewife ponders the practicalities of knitting a miniature toilet brush...

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Double Bubble

"I hardly ever buy Fairy Liquid," says the blithe housewife in the vintage ad.  "I buy it a little less often, ha!" raves One Mean Housewife, triumphantly shaking a fist at the telly.

You see, I can tell by the look of that woman that she has a spotlessly clean home.  I bet she even wipes the nozzle of her bottle.  She wouldn't allow this grotty build-up of gunk in her kitchen, even if it is premium, long-lasting, Fairy gunk.

More fool her.  Every day, she wipes away a little bit of money.  Every day, she squanders a few seconds of her time.  She knows not of the simple scrimping pleasure she squanders.  She doesn't know that she could could have a free sink of dishes, that if she waited until enough of that green gold accumulated she could rinse the nozzle as she filled the bowl and get bonus bubbles.  

The following video contains explicit scenes of a woman enjoying cheap kitchen thrills, and a very dirty nozzle.

Now hands that do dishes can feel smug as can be mmm!

One Mean Housewife, with a sharp implement, commences scraping the soap dish...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Mother / Goose

Only the best will do for my baby's bottom.  The French Renaissance satirist Rabelais reckoned the best thing to wipe your backside on was the neck of a goose.  Decadent!  But they don't sell them in Mothercare and I can never get the damned things to lie down on the changing mat, so baby wipes it is.

Wipes, however, do not please a mean and lazy housewife.  They work out at 1p each and you go through them like, well, geese. They are also indestructible so probably not the best from a sustainability point of view.  In this house, we have gone to reusable cloth nappies and, because it's easier and cheaper, we have gone to reusable cloth wipes too.

The best known brand, Cheeky Wipes, come in at £27 for a kit to use alongside real nappies, £13 more to add the extra bits you need if you don't already have a cloth nappy set-up.  You'd save money after a few months, sooner if you are wipe-happy.

Or you could make my IKEA wipes kit for a fiver.  I used:

How to:
  • Cut washcloths into quarters.  Five washcloths should do.  Save the rest for other scrimping.
  • Run a zig-zag stitch along the raw edges of each piece.  If your machine has an overcasting foot, use that for a great edge.
  • Put the wipes in the box and add some plain tap water.  
You get three boxes in the pack so you can have one for each wing of your mansion and one for the nanny's room.  Or use one to store all the money you've saved.  If you want to go out and about with them, use a sandwich bag.  They are ten times better at the job of bum cleaning than slippery wet wipes too.

Finally, when you've hung your wipes up to dry after the wash, try not to squeak with pleasure as you pull them off the line like this, ready folded to the perfect size for your little box:

One Mean Housewife, with a faraway look in her eye, lovingly strokes a Swedish storage solution...

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Measure For Pleasure

This mean old housewife is a 1980 vintage: pleasantly mature, but young enough to have been bottled up in metric measures.  750ml, not 25 Fl. Oz. That said, we remember the information we use most and I never approach the bar and ask for 568ml of 80-/ ale.  No wonder I still have to thrash through a frantic mental conversion every time I see metric.

A very well used opaque plastic measuring jug.
My tatty and trusty jug.
But measuring is important. If you're going to scrimp, you need to make sure you feed the family and not the bin and that means preparing the right amount of food.  One of my aims is to cook (or defrost) a square meal from fresh ingredients every night.  Get the amounts right and you can have exactly one for the table and one for the freezer, clean plates, full bellies and disgruntled, underfed garden birds.

Modern Wastrel, go tomorrow and purchase a jug and scales and position them at the front of your cupboard. You already have a jug like that?  Well stop using it to microwave beans and restore its dignity (you'll never get rid of the orange glow, mind).

Here are some of my magic numbers, memorised to help me cope with the metric problem:

  • 400ml = a whole adult meal dished up.  200ml for One Weaned Infant.
  • 100ml by volume = rolled porridge oats for one (same for the child!). 200ml of milk.
  • 100g = uncooked pasta for one (less with cheese sauce).
  • 75ml by volume = uncooked rice for one, twice as much water to steam.
  • 100ml = the exact volume of both of my ladles.  They are different shapes.  Also, for breeders, the volume of one of those little Tommee Tippee food pots, up to the opaque line.
  • 100g = enough meat for one adult.
  • 200ml / half a tin = enough cooked chick peas, lentils, etc. for one adult.
  • 1 Brussels sprout = more than enough for anyone.

One Mean Housewife, with pipette and burette, measures out tomorrow's watery gruel and pease pudding.