Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Buttertubs

Next Wednesday is our writers' group meeting and we are all going to submit a piece on our part of the world in relation to the forthcoming Le Tour de France in 2014, which is coming right through the Dale.   Sitting up in bed this morning drinking my morning tea, I began to think about what I should write.   But I got side-tracked.

I find that early in the morning, when my mind is more or less empty of the trivia that fills it as the day wears on, it is very easy to slip into a kind of Stream of Consciousness.   And so I did.

One of the places Le Tour will pass is the Buttertubs, as they traverse on their carbon fibre, phenominally expensive bikes.  'Buttertubs' I thought, and then I was off back into the past, forgetting all about bikes.

I was five years old again, it was a Friday in the school holidays and I was with my mother on Lincoln market.  We would have got there possibly by train from our village three miles down the line.  I loved it when we went by train; so much more exciting than going by bus.

Market day was Friday in Lincoln and we always headed for the Butter Market to stock up for the weekend with all the things my mother put on the table.

First of all was the farm butter, bought from one of the farmers' wives who had a stall in the market.   Each 'pat' would be hand-crafted into a rectangular shape with a special pattern on the top.   Three sides would be covered with greaseproof paper which would be wrapped over the top when you bought the 1lb. slab.  Tiny beads of moisture would be oozing out of the salty sides and my mouth would begin to water at the thought of home made bread and this farm butter for tea when we got home.

Then we would go to the meat stalls, all manned by local and well-known butchers.   We would buy potted beef in a round tub.   Each tub would have a thick layer of clarified butter on the top to keep it fresh.   Then my mother would buy her Sunday joint - pork, beef, lamb in rotation (chicken was a real luxury food in those days).   She would always make sure there was a nice lot of fat on the joint to keep it moist and make it tender.   Then there would be the large brawn, moulded in a special jelly mould and looking like jelly but filled with bits of various 'porky' meats (best not to enquire what they were).

Off home we would trundle, to where quite often the bread had been left rising in the hearth in front of the fire.   And that was our food basically, supplemented by things from the garden - vegetables, lettuce, tomatoes, apples - whatever was in season.

We ate well for the times I suppose and both my parents lived on well into their eighties.   But when I look at what they ate now and compare it with what we eat and what is now thought to be 'bad for us' - it causes some thought:-

Farm butter - we rarely eat butter.   Oh yes, it is delicious, particularly on the crust of a newly-baked loaf (and white at that), but isn't animal fat supposed to be bad for us?

An enormous amount of meat, much of it fat meat.   We eat very little meat and when we do eat it, we eat only lean meat.

My mother made her own cakes - always with butter and there would be five or six types on the table at a meal.    Sugar?   Not good for us - we rarely eat cake.

Fat meat?   We kept our own pig and always had a flitch of bacon hanging in the kitchen.   My father would take the carving knife and cut himself a slice of bacon for breakfast (far more fat than lean - there was usually a contest to see who could rear the fattest pig) and fry two eggs in the fat which ran out of the bacon.

Oh happy days!   Was all that food really so very bad for us - and have we gone too far the other way?  Or am I looking at the whole picture through rose-tinted specs?

Ah well!   Time to get up and get into the real world.  See you tomorrow.        


Gwil W said...

Set a table outside loaded with Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding for when they pass your house in 2014, It'll not make their little legs spin any faster but you'll be famous on French TV ;-)

Em Parkinson said...

I love hearing stories like that - a smile on my face. Thanks Pat.

angryparsnip said...

I too love when you tell stories.

cheers, parsnip

lil red hen said...

We may eat "better" as a whole now, but aren't there many more obese people now? This was oh so interesting.

Woman Seeking Center said...

Sometimes I think what is far worse for us is all the 'chemistry' in our food. The lack of exercise. The stress. Each so common to life these days....

I suspect we'd be far better off with less of those and more of the MEATS/WHITE BREADS, contentment AND those little pats 'o butter with the pressed-in design (I'd forgotten all about those! Thanks for the story - love it - and the forgotten memory)....


Virginia said...

I wonder if the big differences were perhaps- the amount of physical work done by everyone, the walking to and from school, the chopping of wood, the house cleaning before vacuum cleaners and modern chemicals took the 'elbow grease' out of such work, and also the eating with the seasons - times of plenty, times of less?

I also think that now we live longer because we don't die in industrial accidents/childbirth or from diseases that antibiotics and modern medicines control so easily.... so we're alive long enough to get cancers. Listening to my family's stories from early last century, I think people put up with things we'd be cured of so easily.

Glad I live now!

The Solitary Walker said...

Like Angryparsnip, Pat, I love your reminiscences...

Cloudia said...

Real, carefully prepared food!

ALOHA from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° > <3

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I think "real" food is so much better for us than the chemical food they try to push. For example - it has been found that margarine turns to "plastic" in our veins and is much worse for us that real butter. But it has also been found than many doctors invest in margarine companies - you figure that one out.

I bake with butter - the taste is far better, and if we eat carefully, we don't get that much actual butter per serving. Of course if we eat the whole cake or all the cookies - we are doing harm - but no one does that.

They are finally deciding that the chemicals that they allowed to be put in our food are causing a host of health problems that sometimes can be cured by simple eating. Our slogan in our family is to eat as close to the ground as possible, meaning the freshest and most natural of foods.

I've never been a fan of the fat on meat - it used to make me sick to watch my father eat inch thick fat on his steaks, so I do appreciate the lean meat we have - though I rarely eat meat unless it is chicken - or a good hamburger on the grill.

As Julia Child says - everything in moderation - a good motto to live by.

Your remembrances of marketing are charming - I felt like I was right there with you - and wanted the crust of bread with butter. I'll share halfsies with you.

Heather said...

I think the additives in so much of today's food is what does the harm, and the fact that most of us have a car and don't walk everywhere, or even to the bus stop! Food in our childhood was organic before organic had been invented and the diet was simpler.
Your mention of brawn reminded me that my father used to say that every part of the pig went into it apart from the grunt!

rachel said...

I suspect that if were able to see how our convenience food was prepared, there would be many more things we wouldn't ever want to eat again! I stick to butter (in moderation if I can resist!) because the alternatives are created with so many chemical processes and taste of nothing (or just awful). And like you, I can't bear fat on meat. But worst of all is the current trend towards very rare meat - is it my failing memory, or has Sunday dinner just got bloodier over recent years?

MorningAJ said...

I bet you didn't eat half as much meat as you think you did. You possibly ate it more often, but you probably didn't have very much at a time.

I know our family used to make things go a very long way. Half a pound of butter would last us a couple of weeks (family of four - including Dad's daily packing-up for work) Mum used to keep most of the pat in the fridge and get out a very small amount each day to keep in a butter dish so it softened. Consequently she could spread it mighty thin!

In fact everything was carefully measured, because it had to stretch to the end of the week. We couldn't afford to shop more than once.

Joanne Noragon said...

I believe the hard physical work of those days compensated for many modern "evils." Coming round to the present, I eat butter. I tell my doctor to deal with it. And bacon, too!

There is little but mounds of green things at our summer farmer's markets, but at the permanent, year round farmer's market in Cleveland, The West Side Market, you can buy everything you described, and that's only from the vendors of European descent.

Well, enough about food. I'm off to work.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for calling. Sorry Gwil but the Tour is not coming up our Lane - we shall have to go about a mile down the road to see them and I don't think I shall be able to face the pushing and shoving of the crowds.

But it is good that it is coming to our area and will put us on the map - but then I wonder - do we wish to bne put on the map? Good question.