Tag Archives: New Zealand

Not so sweet; Mr Whippy

I just had to post this photo of Mr Whippy.

I heard the familiar jingle as I was walking through the park on a warm spring evening. Instantly I was taken back to my childhood when we used to love the sound of Mr Whippy on a hot summers day and after convincing mum to part with a few coins, nothing seemed nicer than watching the white creamy ice cream being twirled into a cone then sprinkled with 100s n 1000s and if we were lucky a small chocolate flake being pushed in the side. Continue reading Not so sweet; Mr Whippy

Sugar, to Tax or not to Tax

Today the UK media reported that England’s Chief Medical Officer suggested that taxing sugar, similar to the tax on alcohol and cigarettes would assist in reducing the endemic obesity problem in the UK.

I have been in the UK for about 18 months and yes I do believe that action needs to be taken on the ever increasing problem of obesity here. I am not going to discuss the problems and issues for the country of overweight people, those problems and the cost to the country are well documented and discussed and make for very worrying statistics.  What I do want to comment on however is how I observe this country dealing with this problem. Continue reading Sugar, to Tax or not to Tax

Dhal vs Lentils – Tastes of Faraway Lands

I first got introduced to lentils when in my pre teens my mother and my older sister decided to go on what was colloquially called a ‘health kick’. My mother who suffered from terrible migraines, was prepared to do anything to get relief from the merry go round of severe headaches and pill popping to try and relieve them. My sister as I remember was becoming aware of her health and body as girls tend to in their young adult years. It was also  at the end of the hippy era where sprouts, chickpeas and alternative living were in fashion.  Things such as cottage cheese and tofu appeared in the fridge, ryvita crackers and vogels bread replaced the thick soft white bread we had been brought up on, alfalfa sprouts were being cultivated in an agee jar on the window sill and hard, flat, greenish- brown pea looking things called lentils were being stored in our cupboard. Continue reading Dhal vs Lentils – Tastes of Faraway Lands

Confessions and Observations of a Supermarketaholic

I like supermarkets, sometime times I pretend I don’t, but really I do. This is my second go at living in England, the first time was about 14 yrs ago when there didn’t seem to be too many supermarkets around. My shopping was mainly done from the wonderful family owned small stores that lined each high st.  At that time I lived in Islington and Stoke Newington, the only supermarket within walking distance was a dark scruffy place that I really only visited to get toilet paper and dishwashing liquid, I can’t even remember its name.

Don’t get me wrong I do love the European culture of tiny well stocked stores selling the most divine fresh meat and produce and jars of exotic sauces along with the staples of everyday living.  Buying fresh food each day on the way home from work and eliminating the need for large storage spaces in the kitchen. Italy really sold me on this concept, no need for cars to lug big bags of shopping, just buy the freshest of produce each day and have enough room to store your olive oil and a few fresh spices.

Growing up in New Zealand, I was introduced to the supermarket culture from a young age. Mum making me carry the old brown paper bags full of the weeks grocery’s home; home always being up the hill and not down.  Supermarkets in those days were boring, small dark isles to hide away from mum, nothing interesting on the shelves. New Zealand didn’t allow easy importation of foreign goods until the 90s, about the same time immigration was opened, so all those ingredients that I used to read about in exotic recipe books, like coconut milk, spices, variety of rices, limes, fresh chillies, pulses and so on were just not avail to me, a budding cook with a taste for anything hot, spicy and exotic. In the 90’s suddenly we had a deluge of people and things from foreign lands that previously I could only dream about, introducing me to tastes and sensations that rocked my senses that had been brought up on lumpy mash, dry meat, overcooked carrots, boiled peas and the only exotic spice that hit our food was an occasional sprinkle of black pepper.

We did have corner stores, these we called ‘The Dairy‘, mostly they sold milk, butter, newspapers, snack food etc. Too expensive and understocked to live out of unless maybe you were a student, too lazy to go to the supermarket and content to live on crisps and soft drink. The Dairy’s were also my first introduction to the Patel’s from Gujarat, it seemed that most dairy owners in those days hailed from that region of the world. How they must have missed their own local food, I doubt if any non -Indian kid in NZ had heard of dhoklas, rotli, khichdifarsan, mint chutney or my now favourite dabeli at that time.

Back to the Supermarkets, how they have evolved and almost against my will most now sell a range of the freshest produce, the most exotic spices, the best cuts of meat, freshly caught seafood and the largest array of packed food and the cheapest and most extensive range of alcohol that one could imagine. All of this is sold in an ambiance of  a clean light and an almost exciting atmosphere with competitive prices, bright packaging and smiling cashers, keen to give you tokens, cash back and vouchers for even better deals next time you visit.

What to do? succumb to the clever advertising, the bright lights and the one stop shop, convenient and almost exciting or keep supporting the local family owned local. I now live in North London and have a myriad of choices, Waitrose, Aldi and Sainsbury’s within walking distance, M&S and a large Tesco not much further away. While I love to roam their aisles for both the bargains and the not so cheap exotic packed goods all wrapped in cellophane and nicely stacked on clean shelves, there is something that keeps drawing me back to a store that is close by, I am unsure of its name but our family colloquially calls it ‘The Mediterranean store’ . Typical of London this store is packed to the brim with jars, cans, packets and sacks of food, some I recognise, some I don’t, all seeming to vaguely come from the Mediterranean or Middle Eastern part of the world. Along with the packed food comes fresh produce, a huge range of in-season fruit and vegetables, stacked up outside, inside, wherever there is space and a meat counter selling fresh Halal meat, not packed and sanitised behind cling film and polystyrene, just clean and fresh waiting to be brought by the kilo, chopped or minced to order. Open sacks of nuts, large bowls of olives, stacks of baklava,  spices, fresh hummus and other exotic delights finish the scene as you venture in. As much as I love to roam the shelves of M&S or Waitrose, something draws me back to this shop and others like it. The ability to pick out the best of the not so perfect looking fruit, pick of a packet of something from the precariously placed pile and chat briefly with the woman behind the counter, who has the knack of multi tasking down to a fine art, who can switch languages seamlessly depending on who she is serving and remembers me with a large smile when I enter.

So a supermarketaholic or just a foodie that loves meandering amongst aisles of fresh fresh food always looking for that ingredient I have never heard of or difficult to pronounce to try in my next family meal, I am not sure, but I do know that regardless, ingredients that I can smell, touch and create from scratch a meal with, will win every time.

First of the first

2014 –  another first of the first. This time in London UK. Woke up late to cold and the type of miserable rain that makes one want to close the curtains and snuggle further under the duvet. I have experienced  the first of January in many countries – New Zealand, India, Thailand, London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

New Zealand is full of childhood memories. New Year on the beach, waking up to the warmth, holidays and exciting times ahead.  Rain for me was always disappointing; chilling the air, making playing outside uncomfortable. It was usually a welcome break to the long hot summer days, but not being a farmer or relying on rain for my well being, I considered it a nuisance and a reminder of the cold bleak winter days that would always follow.

Asia changed my perception of rain. My first summer rain was in Cambodia, a very brief shower, warm, skin tingling and it seemed to freshen and brighten the whole countryside. Since then I have experienced many Asian rains, from the torrential monsoons in Mumbai, flash flooding in New Delhi, sudden downpours in Thailand and the more gentle misty rain in Sri Lanka. For some reason these Asian rains seemed more uplifting, warmer and were welcome as a cleanser and cooler for the dust and heat baked countryside. The sign of cooler times ahead always was welcomed rather than dreaded.  The rain was always more comfortable, less cold albeit it often flooded,the damp and mould always evident in tropical cities. Maybe its the fact that rain in Asia is usually confined to the monsoon season, a sign of the break of the relentless heat, the upcoming cool season and once over it won’t come back for months .

Back to the first of the first. As I grow older and travel more I look for more firsts. I grew up believing what I saw  and what I was told to be true and for many of my formative years it was. Christmas came every year, the New Year was always on the 1st of January, summer followed spring which came after winter which was preceded by autumn, rain was always cold. Simple things, simple beliefs until I started meeting people that had never celebrated Christmas, whose New Year was on a different day and who had never experienced cold rain. Simple things but so different.

Now I look for the differences, actively seek them out, questioning my own beliefs, looking for first of the firsts and not just on the first of January. Any day can be a first, in fact it is. Every morning a new morning, every rain is different, whether it be warm or cold, every person is different moulded by their own upbringing’s, their own experiences.

Today is the 1st of January 2014, the rain outside is cold but I am grateful that I have a warm duvet and someone I love to snuggle into. I have many resolutions, the usual suspects around, eating habits and fitness but more and more I am looking both within as well as outside for those simple experiences I don’t even know exist yet, like the joy in warm rain.