Monday, 31 March 2008

“Drink?” “G & T please.” “Ice and lemon?”

Oh dear, there is only one very hard and wrinkled lemon in the fruit bowl – not to worry! Problem solved! Frozen lemon slices in the freezer providing both ice and lemon.

Storage and preservation of food was the topic for the third meeting of the West Sussex Love Food Champions. We started the evening by reviewing our goals from the last session, sharing successes and failures. Everyone felt they were making progress and as we tucked into cottage pie and vegetables (even the member who doesn’t like veg had some carrots! – well done Lea!) conversation turned to storage of potatoes. There were tales of smelly, sweaty potatoes in plastic bags, sprouting potatoes and a discussion on whether the containers you can buy to store potatoes really do work. Could broccoli and cauliflower be frozen without blanching first? Some of the group had done this and said it works. Lea, who you may remember doesn’t like vegetables, only buys frozen vegetables so they are available if necessary and this also eliminates waste.

Suzanne stores all her cereals in plastic containers. This she says keeps them fresh and she likes the cupboard to look tidy! Nick seals the inner bag with a peg but with 3 small children the cereal doesn’t last long and keeping it fresh never seems to be a problem.

Although everyone thought they were good at storing and preserving food we have all learnt something new.

Hot tips from this session –
· Freeze lemons sliced, in wedges or whole, Seville oranges for marmalade can be frozen and used as required. Limes also freeze well.
· Freeze leftover cream in the ice cube tray and use in soups and pasta dishes.
· When defrosting fish, place it in a container with some milk, this enhances the flavour.

While looking at The Kitchen Journal the conversation turned to storing recipes as there are quite a number of pages allocated to writing recipes. It would seem that the modern way to collect recipes is in a folder as most recipes are either from magazines or printed from the internet. Recipe cards from supermarkets are also very popular and some come in their own folders. Both my mother and mother-in-law had well thumbed hand written recipe books and some of these recipes I still use. Perhaps one day they will be a collectors item!

We would like to thank the two people who responded to our last entry on the question of “Waste versus Cost”. We particularly liked “Phone a friend and share the fish”. What a brilliant way to spread the word and involve more people allowing us to share our involvement as Love Food Champions.

Only one more session to go – leftovers and what to do with them. Will keep you posted.

Janice Langley

Friday, 28 March 2008

Love Food Champions of Suffolk reporting!

Who would have thought just a routine trip could lead to such an exciting project? On Saturday, 19th. January, I set off from home at 7.30a.m. to attend the Love Food Champions training day at Denman college, as a dutiful member of the Public Affairs Committee, thinking I was only there to meet, greet and help Noelle, NFWI, and Julia from WRAP, in any way possible! How wrong could I be! I joined in gamely with the ice-beaker and other discussions and was very impressed with the whole-hearted, participation of the rest of the group.

As the day wore on I began to realise that I may be here under a false apprehension and over lunch had a quiet word with Noelle who said, “Oh, yes, we thought you were going to be a Champion. You will, won’t you?!” Well, what could I say?! There was no way I could refuse her so that was that and on the way home I thought, “What have I let myself in for and how am I going to do this?”

Fortunately I mentioned this to one of our daughters, Hannah, and she was very interested in the whole concept and suggested I go along with her to Baby Yoga to talk to the rest of the mothers who take part. Well, what an easy way to recruit my group! They were all very keen to learn more about food waste and ways in which to cut back on it and they all signed up for it, including the teacher! Hannah very kindly offered the use of her home for the meetings and we set the first date for 27th. February. So the first part of the challenge was complete! Phew!

What about the meetings? Would they be a success? Would they come up to expectations? Would I be able to put it across properly? So much to worry about but there was no need! They all made it very easy for me – Hannah cooked a lovely meal, which we enjoyed with a glass or two of wine, the girls were more than happy to talk of their feelings about food, how they shop for it, how they store it and the tasks in the Workbook were easily completed! They were more than happy to go home and re-think their planning and shopping habits and set their goals high for the following meeting! The caddies, along with the “truth forms”, were the only things that caused any concerns! Although there was a sense of trepidation as to what they would find out from this exercise they all went home in a very bubbly mood having enjoyed a “girls night out!”

Could this euphoria be sustained through to the next evening in March? Yes! They all came back with a sense of pride as cupboards, fridges and freezers had had an overhaul and complete clean and re-organisation in one case! Their aspirations for better menu and shopping planning had been very productive and they all felt they had achieved far more than they expected. What about the dreaded caddies?! Well, they all surprised themselves and felt they did not waste as much food as they thought they would. In one household it had been named “Fran’s Naughty Bin!” The consensus was that feeding a growing baby who is experimenting with new food was the hardest to monitor as gauging amounts was not a precise art! The feeding of birds and chickens has increased around Bury St. Edmunds – let’s just hope that animal obesity does not set in as a result!!!

Having reviewed their month we then came to the fun bit of our second evening. I had asked each of them to bring something from their cupboards or fridges that needed to be used up so that we could prepare a meal on the spot. Hannah had provided several different sorts of pastas and we set everything out on the table to see what we could make! This not only tested our ingenuity but also our portion control with the pasta! Trial and error certainly came into play on this occasion and we supplied some storage bags for taking home anything surplus to requirements! Three delicious pasta dishes were concocted from half a bottle of sun-dried tomatoes, peppers, sprouting broccoli, half a bottle of pesto, cheddar and parmesan cheese onions, basil, mushrooms, eggs, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Everyone helped with the preparation of the food before Hannah tossed it around - Ummmmm….
It worked exceedingly well and we had a super, off-the-cuff supper! To prove that freezing items also reduces waste I had prepared a pavlova-base from five frozen egg-whites I had had in my freezer and to top it off I managed to find some half-price strawberries and kiwi-fruit as they were both at their sell-by date! Only three people went home with bags of pasta to either freeze or re-heat so we felt quite proud of ourselves!

This activity not only made us aware of how we really do need to be careful with our portioning but also gave us some fresh ideas about how to use those bits and pieces that would otherwise have been consigned to the naughty caddie! They found the Handy Hints section in the back of their Journal, very useful. A good, hands on exercise, also illustrating how easy it would be to batch prepare meals to save more of our precious time.

Roll on our next meeting in April!!!

Fran Saltmarsh

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Climate Change Bill Week of Action

Take part in the Climate Change Bill Week of Action beginning this Saturday 29th March until Saturday 5th April 2008! The week of action is being organised to ensure that the Government’s Climate Change Bill, due for Royal Assent this summer, includes a carbon reduction target of at least 80% instead of its current 60% and includes aviation and shipping emissions within this target.

Throughout the week members of Stop Climate Chaos will be holding open public events across the country. If you would like to find out if any of these are happening near you or if you would like to take action to encourage your MP pledge their support for a 'Climate Bill with Bite' please visit
I Count.

Belinda Fairbrother

Visit the WI’s Climate Change campaign.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Disturbing news for victims and survivors of domestic violence

I found today’s news article in the Metro Domestic violence ‘triples in a year’ (page 2) very disturbing indeed. It reports that figures announced by the Home Office yesterday reveal almost 659,000 incidents of domestic violence were reported to police compared with 241,000 the previous year.

The Home Office believe that this is a reflection of the improvements in the criminal justice system and that women are becoming more confident that they will be listened to and their reports investigated.

This may be so but the article goes on to say that the conviction rate is still roughly the same at 18.8%. What message is the criminal justice system sending to women in violent relationships if they report violence, it is investigated and then nothing is done about it?

The other disturbing matter about the article is the accompanying photo makes the woman look like she’s smiling while her partner hits her. The media need to beware of what message this light-hearted image is sending as it takes the reader’s attention away from thoughts of violence and diminishes the gravity of the issue.

Noelle Virtue

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Rape Crisis needs your help

I have been spending a lot of time in the last month researching various strands of violence against women. The other day I was speaking to someone at the Rape Crisis centre in Essex and was asking her about the number for the national rape help line. I must say I was horrified to learn that one does not exist.

I cannot imagine what it must be like for a woman who has gone through such an horrific experience to then not have a national telephone number that she can ring to seek help. I mean what is she to do? Ring the police? Although there seem to be many improvements in the response from police to rape we still hear many horror stories of women feeling victimised a second time by those who are meant to help and support them.

I suppose she could ring her local council to find out where her nearest support service is located but then again if she was from London her nearest rape crisis centre would be in Croydon!

If you feel as disturbed as I do by these revelations then please make her voice heard. You can sign the Downing Street petition or write directly to your MP asking them to support the issue in Parliament on your behalf.

Noelle Virtue

Visit the WI End Violence Against Women Campaign.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

I am in danger of turning into my grandfather

I am in danger of turning into my grandfather – he used to tell tales of his childhood, of how much bread cost in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and how modestly he and his family lived, despite having had a butcher’s shop and two pubs in a small provincial town. As a result of our recent campaigns I keep catching myself wanting to share memories of my childhood with others: no one in my school was ever obese, we played outside in free time, roaming the suburbs and the little woodland near my home, I used to be sent for milk to a tiny shop in the basement of the house next door and it was poured from a large aluminium container, the bread was cut from loaves (you either had a whole, half or quarter), ham was cut of the bone, we shopped daily in small quantities, and coffee, citrus fruit, bananas and cocoa were the only items that came from afar. And if the milk went sour, then we made cheese from it by pouring it in boiling water and then hung the curdled lumps on the balcony in cheesecloth. And we had no fridge, so kept butter in an earthenware pot in the pantry on the floor. Then things started to change and there may be a bit of nostalgia attached to my memories. No, I would not want to live without a washing machine or a modern iron. But I can now see how much of what we have considered modern and better was in fact leading up to the current selfish and disastrous way of life. Those plastic bags that were so exciting in the beginning and replaced the expanding string bags have come to be one of the ugliest signs of our modern lives. WI campaigns are tackling the issues where they matter most: in our lives and I think they have united members and given us the strength to start this difficult century as a confident and positive organisation. My husband came back from a business trip last week and confessed to chatting up a fellow passenger who he noticed had a WI diary with a bit of an unusual pick up line: Excuse me, are you a member of the WI? She answered yes, I am and added, a bit cautiously, actually, I am proud to be a WI President. My husband responded by saying ‘and I am proud to be married to the General Secretary’. Once he explained that I was working in the NFWI HQ, they enjoyed a WI filled conversation and I was so happy to hear that the member felt that recent WI campaigns have been behind our success, put the organisation back in the general public’s eye, and have brought new members in. Farah Nazeer who has been heading the Public Affairs team for the past 3 years has been poached by the British Retail Consortium and so we will have to say goodbye. I want to thank Farah and the Public Affairs team for helping members become such a formidable modern campaigning force. If anyone can green up British retail, Farah can – and if not, members would know what to do.

Jana Osborne
General Secretary

Friday, 7 March 2008

Meeting Gordon Brown

We were invited, along with 18 other organisations, to meet Gordon Brown to discuss our views on climate change.

We were a mixed bunch – Friends of the Earth, Christian Aid, WWF, RSPB, Oxfam, the Woodland Trust and National Trust among others, so we all came with a different agenda. We agreed fairly quickly that Climate Change was the over-arching issue, but everyone wanted to include their own take on it. Many wanted to take a very strategic line and challenge the Government on its lack of coherence and sense of urgency on tackling climate change, so we agreed to start off with that, and that the WI should put forward the individual’s point of view. Someone said the WI represented “reality” which was more compelling than strategy. We also agreed to include Europe, coal power stations and air travel as well as the international scene. The wildlife organisations wanted to include adaptation. Quite an agenda!

After we had been through the security post, the famous door was already open across the street. We had to leave our mobile phones in a rack of pigeon holes in the hall. I was terrified of forgetting it. The place was like the Tardis. From the small entrance hall it opened out into large lobbies and reception rooms until we reached “the staircase” with its photos of past Prime Ministers arranged in double ranks all the way up. We were on the last flight before I recognised any of them. At the very top, in solitary state was Tony Blair’s. I wonder where they will go in the future – there only seems room for Gordon in double rank with Tony and then it will be full.

We met in the state dining room, not the cabinet room which was a bit disappointing. The tables, fitted together like any WI office set up, had inlaid marquetry patterns round the edges. I was pleased to see the water was served in jugs (silver) rather than bottled. Other government departments serve House of Commons bottled water – not good for their carbon footprints.

Our meeting went almost to plan, although some were disappointed. I was able to tell Gordon Brown and Hilary Benn that our members (and the public in general) accepted the need to take action on climate change now rather than later, but that we needed accurate information on what actions worked and I made clear that there were real barriers which hindered taking action. We wanted the government to remove these barriers and give clear leadership that they were taking climate change seriously, and that building coal power stations and expanding airports did not give this leadership.

I remembered to collect my mobile phone on the way out!

Fay Mansell

NFWI Chair

Visit our Climate Change campaign.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

International Women’s Day March

This Saturday (8 March) Isla Arendell, NFWI Public Affairs Committee member, will be speaking at the Million Women Rise march in Trafalgar Square. The event is part of International Women’s Day and Isla will be highlighting what the WI is doing to end violence against women.

Please come and show your support, and celebrate International Women’s Day with us! The march begins in Hyde Park at 12:00 and the rally in Trafalgar Square will take place from 2:30-5:30.

Noelle Virtue

Monday, 3 March 2008

Waste versus Cost

How competitive can you be about the amount of food you have left on your plate at the end of a meal?

The Love Food Champions of West Sussex certainly can!

Take-away food and bread seem to be the worst offenders. There was a feeling of frustration in the group expressed by those who had small children, about predicting how much a toddler will eat/leave.

The topics for discussion this week were portion sizes and meal planning.

As we settled down with a glass of wine to discuss how we plan our meals for the week, Nick’s husband is sitting at home looking for new and different ideas for their meals for next week. He is probably surrounded by cookery books and recipe cards; he may also be checking a website or recalling a TV programme. When Helen plans her meals she checks the freezer to see what she has left from previous special offers. Sue has decided that because of their busy lifestyle it is better to shop on a more frequent basis so as not to waste so much food.

The members of the group seem to enjoy talking about food and the many ways in which to obtain recipes.

Portion size discussion led us to the inevitable portion control of spaghetti/pasta and rice – everyone seemed to find this a problem. Referring to the portion guide on the Love Food Hate Waste website we decided that we probably ate more than the recommended portion size, and that getting it right was an acquired skill. On a day-to-day basis, with a little practice we could get it right but when preparing for guests this could and probably does lead to surplus food waste.

The group would like to pose a question:

Waste versus Cost.

For example - If you can buy a whole fish for less money than it would cost to buy the particular portion you require and knowing you will waste the rest of the fish what do you do?

Janice Langley