Memoirs – Food Glorious Food

These are the stories that shaped my life.  These are My Memoirs

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Joe Hoover is the multi award-winning author of the internationally applauded sign “Do not deposit feminine hygiene products in toilet – use container provided for this purpose”. 

He is currently working on a series of essays to Camden council examining the relationship between their duty to collect the rubbish on a weekly basis coupled with their failure to carry out that duty on his street for 3 weeks.

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It is a staple of childhood that we will have issues with our food.  You can bet that in Neanderthal times, hairy children would refuse to eat mammoth excrement, a surefire way to be sent to bed early and miss watching the clan simultaneously bugger each other and beat each other senseless.

I never really had many food issues apart from the usual allergic reaction to vegetables, in truth we don’t give children a chance to appreciate them, I recall a school Christmas dinner when I was five.  If you imagine the dining hall in Oliver Twist then you will be along the right lines, forced to stay at the table if you didn’t eat your peas.   Christmas was thus forever ruined.

To this day even food as innocuous as pasta is not eaten in my parents house, dismissed as “foreign muck”  forgetting that the ingredients of flour egg and water are pretty universal.   This is unfortunately a common British trait of certain generations, but try showing a hard-nosed British-only food nut that their precious HP sauce is a mixture of wildly exotic spices from the far-flung corners of the globe.  “Don’t talk rubbish”  they say “it has a picture of Parliament on it”  Even in the days before mass consumerism, marketing execs knew the subtle art of association.

As I grew up I ate what I was given, and that would usually be of an orange hue, everything on the plate coated in a crispy crumb, this was of course in a golden era of convenience when food could be sapped of flavour and frozen instantly for the consumer to suffer at home.    There were supermarkets dedicated to the frozen food, the store we visited to shiver in frozen aisles was called ‘Cordon Bleu’ – the irony obviously not lost on its owners.

You know you are onto a downward spiral when a manufacturer has to take a perfectly formed piece of meat and reform it.  Reformed chicken breasts, like they were not breast shaped to begin with –  like breast augmentation for chickens.  Or fish fingers made of “reformed fish style pieces”.  How can something be styled like a fish?

I never even got to taste what resembled a fish in the fish style fish fingers.   Fish was an unknown quantity in our house, my mother defending it’s ommitance since it “smelt of fish”.  You can’t really argue with that reasoning.

I tried my first real piece of fish, albeit covered in an orange batter and deep-fried, when my mother had to go to hospital for her hysterectomy (The procedure was explained to us in full detail at the time, including diagrams).  My Gran therefore came to look after us for the week and I tried my first piece of fish, food procured from somewhere other than the icy depths of our freezer.  This was also my first proper taste of real chips too, I recognised the colours having now been accustomed to every food source being orange, but the taste was something else, this was the taste of deep-fried rather than our usual frozen foods semi-defrosted and semi-cooked simultaneously in the oven.

If this was what semi-real food tasted like then I wished for my mother to have a hundred hysterectomy’s (they failed to mention it can only be done once)

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61 Comments

  1. The traumas of childhood. So, when did you start really getting into cooking? It is weird how properly prepared food can make such a huge difference.

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    • When I was about 15, my mum would work cleaning the school so I started cooking for myself, trial and many errors. I did learn a bit in home economics at school, a vegetaable cobbler which was nasty and a risotto which I still make now.

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      • Will you write a post about how you make your risotto?

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        • I have it ready just never published it. I will add it is not entirely authentic in that when you spoon it on a plate it doesn’t spread so much, It’s supposed to be fairly liquidy, creamy but I happen to hate the texture when it’s like that

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          • I don’t actually know what risotto is, but it sounds Italian, which I love. I have to try making new things, but I want to try stuff that has been tested and is good. If you’ve been making it for 15 years or so, I imagine you have it down.

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            • It is Italian! A creamy rice dish, creamy only from the rice having a voloptuous texture which gives it a creamy quality. There are a few important stages to it, mainly letting the rice cook in a tiny bit of oil with onions and garlic to start, it does something to the rice, and proper chicken stock which has to be ladled in and stirred through continuously for 20 minutes, and proper Arborio rice, you cannot use any old type of rice. I’ll stick it up on the other blog soon.

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              • I’m already starting to get intimidated. That’s a lot of real food (as opposed to ‘came out of a box’). Honestly, sometimes it is fun to cook like that, but I can’t every day. Maybe I could, but I don’t want to. Sometimes it’s nice to just throw some chicken in the oven, and make some pasta or something.

                I don’t know if we have that kind of rice here, but I’ll look. Maybe in a health food store if not in the regular grocery. I’ll check your cooking blog. You should put your favorite fish recipe too. For some reason, even my pickiest kid likes fish.

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                • Should be fairly common, or it may just be called risotto rice. You can use store chicken or vegetable stock, you do it in cartons (I know from watching Ina Garten). We don;t have that here, just stock cubes which are crap so I always make my own when I have a spare chicken carcass. Other than that it’s few ingredients, it will be the next recipe I post…somtime

                  My partner won’t eat fish so I don;t get to cook it much, I have a fish pie recipe which is yum.

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                  • Fish pie sounds gross. No offense, but I can’t picture them together.

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                    • 😀 Gross!!! Maybe this is lost in translation as you Americans know a pie as something else. In the UK a pie is traditionally pasty (base and top or just the top in certain savoury pies), but a fish pie or a shepherds pie will just be the cooked fish or meat mixture in it’s delicious sauce topped with mashed potatoes and then put in the oven for a bit until the mashed potato gets a little cripsiness on the top. No pastry involved. Then again I’ve seen your cookery shows and your mashed potato is wrong, Ina Garten makes it with a blander so it’s like soup! WRONG!

                    • I make my mashed potatoes from a box. 😉 I have made real mashed potatoes for thanksgiving or something.

                      Ok, so you’ll have to give me that recipe too, and I’ll tell you how many of my children refuse to eat it. I still can’t really picture it. Fish on mashed potatoes? Seems weird.

                      I’ve had and liked Shephards pie, so maybe…

                    • Other way round, mash on fish!

                    • Food wars! Anyone else wanna diss British food, I’ll take you all on 🙂

      • When I took home economics in high school, we has some trouble maker boys and a kind of ditzy teacher. The boys talked her into putting tin foil in the microwave. Fun times. 😉

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  2. Ah the memories of childhood dinners. We used to have what my mother referred to as “veal cutlets,” some form of heavily processed, pinkish meat patty that was dipped in egg, rolled in water-cracker crumbs and deep fried in motor oil. Good times.

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  3. It is funny how some people can’t eat animals that look too much like they did when they were alive. Hypocrites!

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    • My friend just got back from Peru, the guinea pig they eat still looks the same, they just skin it, spatchcock it and grill it, served splayed on the pate with it’s head intact, little teeth poking out its mouth.

      I have no qualms about that, except fish, I just lop the head off first, something about a fish eye when it’s cooked makes it look zombie like.

      Oh and milk, I can’t buy milk with a picture of a realistic cow picture on the carton, cows remind of cow poo and dirt, and the time I was drunk and ran though a cow field being chased by them and fell in a channel of dirt where they must have pissed, and they run really freakily, and it makes me think my milk is tainted. Cartoon cows are acceptable.

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  4. Also, I love your fine work with feminine hygiene product signs… I have four of those… they don’t always work, but neither do seatbelts…

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  5. Hey, come to Maine! the fish here straight from the semi-polluted Atlantic and are only semi-pre-frozen. Deeelicious! Funny it had to take a hysterectomy for you to try ‘real’ fish. (that is a sentence I never thought I’d type out)

    This reminds me of how much of a bad cook my mom was, I never liked pork chops, though meatloaf was vile, until my husband started cooking them properly for me, then I was like, “hey, this only tastes semi-shitty now!” my mind was blown.

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    • And I bet you never type that sentence ever again!

      Most people are scarred by food all due to being badly cooked, this is the main vegetable problem. Always it was cooked until it became mush and it should be the opposite in most cases.

      Ability to cook is essential in finding your soul mate, at least my partner does, everyone he has dated has cooked for him. His ex-boyfriend is actually on a TV show at the moment much to my enjoyment, it’s a baking show for home cooks, which is kinda like American Idol where they whittle it down week by week and send someone home for serving an underbaked flan.

      I haven’t caught the last episode yet so I hope he made it through, I’ve never met him but I hope he wins and publishes his own cookbook like previous winners so I can buy it and taunt my partner with it forever.

      Is meatloaf they thing that gets smothered in ketchup before baking? My other half would through that against the wall such is his ketchup phobia, and I don’t have time to clean up that mess!

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      • Ew! yeah, I would also throw the meatloaf against the wall if there were ketchup on it. I make mine with BBQ sauce (it’s really good, I swear!)

        Here’s to your partner’s ex-boyfriend winning that cooking show so you can fulfill your dreams of throwing his cookbook in your partner’s face.

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        • Oh no, I wouldn’t get violent with it. I’d probably just stick my photo over every picture of him kneading dough or icing fairy cakes.

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  6. An epiphanaical moment for me was when I realized I could make the same thing as frozen dinners from scratch – and they’d taste good!

    Love the intros to these as much as I do the posts.

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    • They’re the bit I enjoy writing most – mainly as I am struggling to recall many stories form my childhood. I must have banished them to the furthest reaches of my mind.

      You’re right though, I’m no gourmet cook and could never make anything highbrow, it’s not how I like to eat, but it’s easy to make better and healthier versions of convenience or takeaway food.

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  7. Reformed Orange food – those were the days – UKIP will be demanding it for all our non Grammar school edcuated kids tomorrow!

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  8. I grew up in a typical English/Canadian home. We ate lots of organ meat (steak & kidney pie, beef & kidney stew, liver, etc.), everything was overcooked including meat (always well done). We had bubble & squeak, Shepherd’s pie & Yorkshire pudding. Once I got out on my own, I stopped overcooking everything & enjoyed it much more.

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    • That’s it exactly, why on earth was everything so overdone that you cook out all the flavour. Bubble and Squeak….so good..

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      • I know! I didn’t have any idea how good food could taste until I left home. My mother was a phenomenal cook & nothing could touch her turkey dinners. As she grew older, she did wise up some.

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  9. Gosh Neanderthal children are just like the children of today as far as their viewing habits go. I wonder what they did before you authored you now best-selling sign? Well, let’s don’t think about it too much.

    I love your mom! I think I would like her cooking. First of all, I love orange sherbet, and I love just about anything coated with crispy crumbs. I’ve never had “reformed fish style pieces . . . I don’t think we have anything like that available to use here. But they sound delightfully artificial. I do hope you’ll share some of your culinary creations with us Joe!

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    • I have a few on my other blog, not enough though,I don;t leave it long enough to take photos before my dinner is inside me.

      In fairness, my mum is great at baking cakes, delicious, but she is not so good at the dinners. I can understand, who wants to cook for a load of fussy eaters when the dad is the fussiest of them all and doesn’t help out. She’s been in hospital lately so my dad had to use the kitchen, he gave up and lived on cheese sandwiches for two weeks.

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      • Oh I’m sorry to hear that you mum is still in the hospital. I hope she’s better soon. You’re poor dad having to live on cheese sandwiches — well at least they are orange-ish.

        I remember for years when I would cook dinner every night for my three kids, each one would come into the kitchen every night and ask me what I was cooking for dinner. And every nite each one would always say ahhhhh is a disappointed tone no matter what I was cooking! LOL!

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  10. Brilliant. Reading this brought back some memories of my own. Thanks for a peek into a different aspect of your life.

    Reply

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