Monday, 26 September 2011

Something good from the Soviet Union

Can you name five things that the Soviet Union is famous for? Here's what I'm guessing would appear on many lists:
  1. Brutal repression
  2. Cabbage
  3. Stalin
  4. The Hunt for Red October
  5. Winners of the space race
Ok, so number five will probably be argued by my American readership at least, but given that the race was to get the first man in to space and the Soviets did that, it's a point I like to make whenever I get the chance. Most people know a great deal about the Soviet Union and the list above could be very different depending on your political, historical and geographical perspective, so let me ask another, harder, question: can you name five things that Georgia is famous for?

Firstly, let's be clear that we're talking about the Georgia that has Tblisi as its capital, not Atlanta. Some of you clever types might cite the fact that Stalin was a Georgian, and that there was a Rose Revolution there a few years ago. Current affairs buffs may note that it was the venue of an attempt on Dubya's life in 2005, and that they had a widely reported and badly advised war with Russia in 2008.

How many of you would mention the country's fabulous cuisine? Not too many I'll wager, but as those of you who have had the pleasure of spending time in Russia, the Georgian restaurants which proliferate there are one of the few gastronomic treats available. It's a wonderful tradition of hearty food, full of fresh herbs and spices, utlitising chicken, lamb and goat alongside vegetables like aubergines and some of the most incredible breads I've ever tasted.

So when challenged to make up a pot of something that could do us for a few different meals this week, I opted for a chicken chakhokhbili, which I last made some years ago and adored. I even managed to set some aside for Master Jay (who has just discovered finger food, without having actually mastered the act of putting it in his mouth as opposed to on the floor, on Mrs Jay's blouse or down his own t-shirt) by adding the herbs, chilli and salt at a very late stage.
Chakhokhbili, with parley sprig artfully added by Mrs Jay

One thing I did learn: when a recipe says "tomatoes, peeled, chopped and seeded", what they should say is "Look, if you want to spend an hour dropping tomatoes in to alternately hot and cold water, peeling a bit of skin off before cutting your thumb with a knife, and then repeating the whole process to get the other 3/4 of the skin off, then go for your life. Otherwise, buy a tin of tomatoes and save yourself the bother." At least if they gave me the facts up front I could make an informed decision, but blithely mentioning it without presenting the whole story is cruelty. Just say no, kids.

Georgia is also famous, in Russia at least, for its wine, though during Gorbachev's attempts to lower alcohol consumption (which unsurprisingly failed) he ordered many of the vines there to be pulled up so for a while it was both expensive and bad. I fuzzily remember drinking some during my time in Russia, but has anybody else had the pleasure? Is it any good? And can you buy it in Britain, just for research purposes, naturally?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

September BBQ madness

Firstly, an apology - I don't have any photos of this lot. When you've got 20 members of The Family Jay in your house, all of whom need feeding and watering, photography tends to take a back seat (and besides, having been to Nick Ilott's photography exhibition at the Brewery Tap, my little holiday snaps do look a little inadequate. I'll get over this disappointment by next week, I assure you.).

Many of my aunts and uncles haven't yet met Master Jay, even though he's coming on for ten months old, so we invited them all round for a barbeque - yes, I know it's September, and I know it's England, but we're nothing if not optimistic in this house - and we duly convened for the ritual of burned burgers and abandoned salad. But of course, chez Jay we try to do things a little differently.

We did have some burgers and sausages (none of which I made, I'm afraid) we also managed to put out:
  • Mackerel with a spicy dressing: both Mrs Jay and I love mackerel but have a golden rule never to cook it inside the house, so every bbq features them in some form. Sometimes in the summer we even light the fires simply so that we can sup on this delicious, cheap, healthy luxury, but we fear this may have been our last chance this year.
  • Pork with a lemon and herb crust. Brilliant and simple, a marinade of parsley, fennel, olive oil, bay and lemon can be applied to the pork the night before and the whole thing grilled quickly with some nice flame coming from the olive oil. We should have had more of these, they disappeared quickly.
  • Chicken tikka skewers: Delia would be proud, we cheated here. Simply mix up some supermarket brand curry paste and some yoghurt, and marinade the chicken overnight. Once they're skewered and grilled, the meat is moist and delicate and takes on all the spices. And it's p!ss easy.
The other excellent discovery of the day was the Gainsborough Spring Ale from St. Jude's Brewery. As you know, I love things that I can source locally and it was a disappointment that I simply didn't have the time to get much local food on the grill, but this beer travelled no more than a quarter of a mile to reach my kitchen, and it's damned fine too. There's been a real increase in interest in local beers and ales recently, with 99 new breweries opening in the UK over the last year, and that at a time when we're told that the pub industry is in major decline. It seems that the pubs that are thriving are those without ties to the major breweries, who can choose their produce and negotiate for themselves, which I for one think calls for a large "Hurrah!".

I can definitely recommend St. Judes but they're not the only ones around. What's the best beer for you? A refreshing lager? A potent stout from Dorset? A lovely IPA? The press tells me that real ale is making a comeback - what do you think? Would you prefer the certainty of knowing what you're getting from a recognised brand or do you like to try a little something wherever you go?

As usual, all recipes available on request.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

How do you shop?

So I've been writing this blog for a little while, telling you about how I buy my food, what inspires me about food and at a more basic level, what I've been eating. I haven't posted much over the last few weeks as I haven't felt that inspiration - could it be the summer ending, and the attendant slow slide in to winter (and let's face it, it's not been much of a summer)? I think that's part of it - it's easy to be inspired by abundance but even that loses its novelty after a while. What's more important is that I haven't felt that I've had the time to devote to what is, after all, a hobby. Anybody, and indeed everybody, feeds themselves everyday (Master Jay excepted, but he's working on that), but this blog is supposed to be about something more, about enjoying the act of feeding yourself and I have to admit I haven't been doing that.

When we get stuck in a rut - specifically with food here, people, we haven't got time enough to deal with metaphysics - how do we get ourselves out of it? More directly, how do you get yourself out of it? I mean on a very practical level. Do you buy a new recipe book? Do you cook with vegetables or spices you've never used before? How do you turn yourself from thinking "I have to eat tonight when I finish work, what shall I cook?" to "I want to finish work so that I can start cooking?".

I decided that I should make more use of the fact that I do (at least compared to my former South London residence) live in the country. Ok, I'm not in the country really but I only have to travel for 10 minutes and I can get there. I took a drive out to a farm shop that I'd heard about, a little further out of town than some of the more well known ones like this and this - both of which are very fine establishments, by the way, but I wanted something a little different. I managed to procure some fresh peas, still in the pod, along with some yellow courgettes, which are destined for a risotto later in the week, some rolled lamb breast at a very reasonable price, and a woodpigeon and a partidge, for which I'm looking for recipes.

I've also pre-ordered a jointed wild rabbit which I'll pick up at the weekend. Several times I bought farmed rabbits from Smithfields market but I've never found them to be terribly exciting - it's a very light meat when farmed, rather like chicken and the back legs in particular have an alarmingly similar build to those of my cat, which I found off-putting. But some of the best restaurant meals I've ever had, including at this place a few years back, have involved wild rabbit, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I can make of it.

As well as the farm shop I was originally headed for, I found several places where farmers were selling vegetables, eggs, and meat direct from their farms, and during the course of a 1-hour trip I've become fascinated by what's out there. If only I could persuade the farmers to stock nappies, toilet roll and the odd guilty bag of Haribo, I might never need to go to a supermarket again!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The joy of markets

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a market nearby. When The Family Jay lived in South London, I wouldn't have had any idea where to find a market, but given that there was a Sainsburys 2 minutes walk from the house (there is always at least one supermarket less than 10 minutes from the house in London) we probably wouldn't have gone there anyway. What markets there were, were all "farmers markets" which seem to be marketing ploys to allow people to pay over the odds for admittedly good produce, and always put us off with their inflated prices.

However, in our new home town there is a market in the town square for 3 days a week. Despite having lived here for a year, I've never really used it for a weekly shop as it doesn't meet the "time" criteria of RFFTF. Anything we have bought there has been of very high quality and lasts longer than anything we buy from our supermarket, so we thought we'd give it a go this week. It's a big week as The In-Laws are visiting, so we knew it would be an expensive shop. Having planned our menus for the week I headed off in to town with a shopping list clutched in my paw.

Something they just didn't have - aubergines are in season but may be a bit cosmopolitan for Suffolk (the supermarket has courgettes and corn-on-the-cob in the "exotic" section) and the kind of pre-packaged stir-fry mixes which make life so much easier are not the stuff of street markets - but in the main we did very well and I did a comparison online between what we bought for £12.50, and what that would have cost us at the supermarket.

This is what we had on the list:
  • onions (0.5 kilos)
  • tomatoes (1kg)
  • lettuce (1 iceberg, 1 red)
  • spring onions
  • mixed peppers
  • 1 red onion
  • garlic
  • mushrooms (0.5kg)
  • 5 braeburn apples
  • bananas (1kg)
  • 1 courgette
Sainsburys online bought this lot in at a whole £15.71 - or 25% more than the market. Extrapolated over a year that's a saving of £166.92, which seems like a decent amount to me. (And makes me think - what would you spend that amount of money on? That's a festival ticket, or 8 trips to the cinema for myself and Mrs Jay. That's a whole Christmas dinner for 12 people, based on last year's effort, or 0.001% of John Terry's weekly wage.)

Granted, it took us a lot longer to do the shop, but it got us out of the house and we had a good walk together. It meant a little bit more money that will stay (in the main) in the local economy. But the main thing is - it tasted better. I don't mean that I had a warm glow and some sense of moral empowerment, but that the food had more flavour, and surely that's the point?

Anyway, during the week we had a RFFTF special meal. It met all the criteria - quick, easy, cheap and I reckon that kids would love it, so it ticks all of the boxes really. Fish and chips is much maligned, but can be done reasonably healthily, as demonstrated here.

The total cost per head of this meal is about 60p, using value-range white fish fillets (pollock, as it happens - more information about choosing fish is available here), a couple of potatoes and some frozen peas. I had some leftovers in the fridge such as parsley, mint and a lime but you could do without those.
  • cut the potatoes in to wedges, and dry off with kitchen towel to get rid of some of the starch. Put in bowl with a lid and add a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Give the whole thing a good shake so that the chips are covered in the oil and bake in the oven at 200 degrees for about 40 minutes.
  • In the meantime, season some flour on a plate with salt, pepper and finely chopped parsley.
  • Drop the fish in to the flour to coat it (just use a dinner plate, it's the easiest thing) and fry in a little bit of butter and vegetable oil for about 5 minutes on each side, until it's gone golden brown and crispy.
  • Boil the peas with a tablespoon of finely chopped (or dried) mint.
  • Serve with lime wedges, tartare sauce, and a schoolboy grin.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Spring Rolls - as requested

Well, the lunches project was not an unmitigated success. The salmon and potato salad worked well, packing the key ingredients in one box to be warmed up, with a dressing in a smaller pot to be added afterwards. The chorizo salad (as shown in one of my previous posts) was less of a triumph. How was I to know that our new tupperware wasn't microwaveable? After the plastic had fused to the slices of chorizo and filled the office with acrid smoke I wasn't all that popular with my workmates and it all had to be binned, leaving me with some salad leaves and croutons to keep me going until dinner time. Luckily a colleague stepped in with emergency supplies of chorizo purchased at the Tesco around the corner and I was saved. "Every day is a school day", as Mrs Jay likes to say. Which is a nice way of saying "You're an idiot. You've survived well over thirty years on this earth but sometimes I'm not sure that you tie your own shoelaces."

One thing that worked really well - but didn't microwave brilliantly - is the spring rolls and last week one of you asked me to post the recipe, so here it is. I'd always been a bit afraid of trying to make them as they look horribly difficult, but it's really not a faff at all.

1. Cook your favourite stir fry, and add some vermicelli noodles to the wok. I used a small pack of prawns (cut in half to avoid the rolls being lumpy) and a 300g bag of stir fry veg with ginger, sweet chilli sauce and a bit of fish sauce to season. This made 4 decent sized rolls.

2. Take a sheet of filo pastry for each roll and cut it in half. Brush one half with oil and lay the other on top of it. Lay a quarter of your stir fry mix along one side, leaving about 2cm on the long side and 3cm at each end.

3. fold the ends over the mix and roll from the front so that everything is enclosed. Brush with some more oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

4. bake in the oven at about 180 degrees for 15 minutes, with the seam of the roll downwards.

One makes a good starter, 2 with some salad on the side makes an excellent lunch.

With Mrs Jay heading back to the smoke next week to work after an arduous 9 months off looking after Master Jay (who now spends his days charming the pants off nursery staff - they seem to find it more amusing than we do when he blows a raspberry with a mouthful of food, bless them), I'll definitely have to spend some more time in the kitchen making sure there are decent meals to take in to town, but I think with a little imagination it can be done cheaply and well - and without resorting to that national institution, the over-priced sandwich bar.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Two new projects!

Apologies first of all for the lack of posts up here - it's not that I'm being slack, you understand, more that there hasn't really been anything noteworthy in the Culinary World of Jay to delight you with. As so often happens, life has taken over in the last few weeks and while I have, of course, been eating, I haven't been thinking about food in the way that I like to. So this week I've pulled my metaphorical socks up, donned a thinking cap and an apron, and gone back to the kitchen.

I have two projects this week - the first is about overcoming my reliance on cookery books. I've planned a set of dinners for which I have no recipes at all, but I'm pretty confident I can cook.
  • Mackerel with harissa pasts and herby couscous
  • pot-roast pork with apples, red cabbage and potatoes
  • Lamb kebabs with homemade flatbread
Ok, so I'm stealing a recipe for the bread as I've never been brave enough to try this before, but the rest of it will be absolutely from scratch and I'll post up the results later in the week.

The second project is some lunches. I'm still working from home at the moment but I'm trying to write some recipes that I will be able to take in to work and prepare with the limited facilities available in the office - i.e. a microwave and a kettle. These will again be made up from scratch, and I've got:
  • turkey noodle soup
  • chorizo salad (as shown in the last blog post - I'll have to fry them and make the dressing in advance, of course)
  • Salmon and potato salad
  • spring rolls and Thai salad
The idea is that I'll prepare them at home, but as I would in the office, as a "proof of concept". What I'd like to be able to do is prepare (and then share with you) 5 or 6 week-long lunch menus for two people that come in at under £2 per person per lunch. I'd also like to stay away from having too many sandwiches as, let's face it, they're no fun.

So what do you do for working lunches? Do you have the best canteen in the world, or are you reliant on a local Subway for sustenance? Do you take food in, or buy something at a supermarket branch and make it up during the day? What's the best working lunch you've ever had?

Thursday, 30 June 2011

A quick summer lunch

At the moment, I have the luxury of working from home most of the time. That's likely to change over the next few weeks and I'll be going back in to the office and facing the most expensive of food challenges - working lunches. The average cost in my area of London for a sandwich and a packet of crisps (at least one that looks like it will fill my belly) is about £4.50 and over a month that quickly adds up to around £90-100 a month!

So I'll be looking for good ideas of ways to save money and have varied, interesting food at lunchtimes. Something that doesn't send me in to a food coma until mid-afternoon but keeps me going until dinner time. Please send in your ideas and save my waistline and wallet!

While I'm still in the home office though, I thought I'd share a quick two-course lunch with you that takes no effort at all in the grand scheme of things. I've started with a warm chorizo salad:

Take a handful of sliced chorizo (which, by the way is pronounced "chor-EE-tho". It's not "chor-IT-zo" and wouldn't be unless it was a) Italian and b) spelt with a double "z". Which it isn't. Rant over.) and fry it in a dry pan until it starts to release it's own dark-red, paprika-flavoured oil. Add a glug of red-wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar.
In the pan
Once that's reduced a little bit, mix with some green salad leaves, halved cherry tomatoes, spring onion and a few croutons.
On the plate
That's it! I used some pre-made croutons, but I could have used one of the many clever ideas in Rose Prince's "The New English Kitchen" and just made them myself with an unwanted heel of bread by chopping it in to appropriately sized chunks, drizzling with olive oil and popping in the oven at a medium temperature until they feel about right. They can even be frozen for a month or so.

It's interesting that the book is called the "new" English kitchen, when in fact it contains the sorts of wisdom that our grandmothers would have taken for granted. Why would you buy chicken already cut in to bits when you can do it yourself much more cheaply and you get the added bonus of the stock that you can make out of it? Do all cheap cuts of meat really need slow-cooking? If you're interested in the kind of things we're discussing in this blog, it's a must-read.

For a dessert today (I know it's lunchtime, but why the hell not?) I've gone all Wimbledon on you.
The strawbs are in season at the moment - they're not something I would get at any other time of the year as they're always disappointing when you do - so they are served very simply with some Greek yoghurt, torn mint leaves and some cracked black pepper. Pepper, you say, on strawberries? Go on, try it. You'll never go back.

Friday, 24 June 2011

The end of a long week

Well, many thanks to my devoted army regiment platoon squad of readers, we've had a fine week of food despite it being the end of the month. Mrs Jay has been responsible for most of the creations this week as I've been busy with doing those things a person must do to pay the bills (not that Mrs Jay hasn't been busy, of course. She's had time to not only look after Master Jay but also have a heavy cold and find a job - not a bad week's work).

So we took up one of the ideas and had a lamb tagine using various leftovers that we had lying around. Well, "lying around" probably isn't right, I have a better idea of food hygiene than that, but the point is that we didn't have to really buy anything to make it. In fact our entire grocery bill this week, including the sundries and enough foodstuffs for the ever more voracious Master Jay came to about £38 - around half of our normal outlay. I won't post a recipe for the tagine, as this one was out of my hands, but here's a picture, and if you were to do a search for a quick lamb tagine on the BBC Food website you would easily be able to find it.

Lamb Tagine (left), Resident Moggie (right)
As you can see it wasn't just the human family members who decided this was a meal fit for kings. However excited Resident Moggie got about the tagine though, it didn't compare to her reaction to this, which was our lunch today:
What every lunch should look like
Yes, that is exactly what you think it is. A rare delight, a treat of the highest order, a true example (you could say) of culinary genius. It's a fish finger sandwich.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Feasting at the weekend and a store cupboard week

So, ahem. I've been writing this blog for just over a week, and it's nearly a week since I've posted. Oops. We had my brother and his family staying over the weekend so things were rather busy in the Jay household. Sorry about that.

Naturally, as we had visitors we thought we'd put on some good food, the last two recipes from our weeks worth of meals for £35. It was important to choose recipes that didn't include any sausages as last time these particular guests came round I nearly killed them with a toad in the hole that contained 18 - eighteen - sausages which put everybody in to a food coma that very nearly required medical assistance to pull ourselves out of. We didn't have to eat all of them, but naturally we did so the idea this time was to give them meals that satisfied but didn't preclude any further conversation.

On the Friday then, we went for a slow braised pork shoulder recipe, cooked in local Suffolk cider.
Braised pork shoulder in cider with chive mash and gujerati beans
The cider itself was lovely (there was just a smidgen left over, which would have been a shame to waste) and while my guests politely disagreed, I thought the overall dish was a little underwhelming. I expected the flavours to be quite strong and pungent but it was a bit weedy overall. Perhaps I didn't season it well but I often find that when cooking with cider or lager that the results are not as full of body as I expect. This is the recipe I used, so if anyone has any ideas for giving it some oomph I'd love to hear it.
  1. brown the pork shoulder steaks in a little oil in an ovenproof dish. Remove them and add a finely sliced onion and cook until golden brown and sweet.
  2. Return the pork to the pan with about 400ml of cider and some bay leaves and cook at about 150 degrees for a couple of hours.
  3. Remove the pork and roughly tear it in to pieces. Return to the pan with some dijon mustard, creme fraiche and parsley. Cook for about 5 minutes and serve.
I also struggled with the mash - I know, I know, how can I claim to be a cook and struggle with mash? - but I never seem to get the tatties just right. This time round I over-cooked them and the whole thing was a bit sludgy. Any tips on perfect mash?

The Saturday night was a triumph of culinary delight, and cooked by Mrs Jay. A Goan chicken curry which was subtle yet spicy and wonderfully balanced. The recipe can be found in the April 2010 edition of Olive magazine. I'm really sorry I didn't get a picture as it was also a visual feast - so brilliantly yellow that we barely had to turn the lights on in the dining room all evening.

By the way, the beans in the picture above are a family favourite - infuse some oil with mustard seeds and garlic and then fry the beans slowly in the oil. Delightful, and you can add a spot of red chilli if it takes your fancy. If anyone wants to give them a go I'll post the whole recipe for you.

This next week brings its own kitchen challenges. Pay day doesn't come around until Friday (why is there always too much month at the end of the money?) so we're using up supplies in the freezer and the store cupboard. We've got some diced lamb, some minced lamb, mixed peppers and various salads and cheeses in addition to the usual things you'd expect like spices, couscous, pasta and rice. Does anyone have any good ideas for what I can do with these?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A week's worth of meals for £35?

One of the many ways in which I find recipes is through a magazine published by the BBC called "Olive". It's like a less daunting version of "Good Food", and in fact the two publications share a lot of content.

A regular feature that they run is "7 meals for £35" and a couple of weeks ago we decided to test this claim - could you really get all that food for such a low price, and if we did, would it taste any good? We experimented with the July 2011 article.

Spicy salmon with tomato and mint salad
While it wasn't without fault, we rather liked the results. There's a good variety in there: some vegetarian, fish, chicken and meat; Thai, English, Italian. It even got me eating some dill, which some of you will know as my nemesis. (I may do an article on Russian cuisine at some point, which will contain recipes such as soup with dill, chicken kievs with dill, beef stroganoff with dill, blini with dill, salad with dill, chips with dill and sour cream with dill.) By judicious use of the contents of the freezer, we were able to supply most of the ingredients with some minor substitutions for £36.14 from a mainstream supermarket. It's not £35, but it's pretty damned good.

Some things that didn't go so well: it turns out that making ciabatta dough (from a mix, I'm not a baker) is a messy business. When both hands are covered in something that looks like half-dried Copydex and your dinner is stuck fast to the worktop it's tricky to do anything except stand and giggle. I did manage to extricate myself eventually, but not before it looked like I'd been doing Robert Englund's makeup in the kitchen.

I've also got a fridge full of half-used packs of herbs, a bin full of spinach that had gone off before I could cook it and some suitable guilt about the food miles of the out-of-season vegetables required. However, so successful was it that we've gone back to an old edition and done the same thing this week. Pictured in this article are two of the creations - spiced salmon with a tomato and mint salad (couscous added for purposes of filling bellies) and broccoli and goats cheese tart, which we served with new potatoes from the market.

Broccoli and goats cheese tart
My questions for you today - should I freeze the random herbs? How long will they last for? How can I make spinach last more than 3 days? How did that dough get behind the radio on the windowsill?

Monday, 13 June 2011

An introduction

So what is this blog about? Who is it for?

I love to cook. There are few things in life more pleasurable than setting out a collection of seemingly incongruous and inedible ingredients and transforming them in to something beautiful, tasty, healthy and ethical. I avidly consume all types of media regarding food - television programmes, websites, blogs, magazines and recipe books. I would love to spend all of my time in the kitchen or the garden, growing vegetables, curing meat, raising chickens.

However, unlike many of my food heroes (who will become clear to regular readers of this blog) I live in what might be called - unfairly to them, I suppose - the real world. I have to go to work every day. I have to do the washing and change the sheets and raise a child (not without the help of Mrs. Jay, I hasten to add) and see my friends and sleep and....well, you get the idea. I would love to source my food locally and dig potatoes straight out of the ground but who really has the time? And when the major supermarkets, insidious though they may be, will deliver to my door, allowing me to do more of the things listed above, what's a man to do?

So this blog is an attempt to reconcile what I would like to do in the kitchen with what I actually can do. It's a record of what I have cooked, and why I have cooked it. For this format I owe much to Nigel Slater's "Kitchen Diaries", which display an admirable mix of culinary joy and everyday common sense, as well as some damned fine recipes. Sometimes, I don't even cook - I'm tired at the end of the day, the groceries haven't been bought and the takeaway calls, but that's fine. That's what happens in the real world (or mine, at the very least).

I'd like you to share your thoughts with me and other followers of this blog. Do you have suggestions for improving my cooking? Am I feeding my child beetles when at his age only spiders will do? Have you found an indispensable gadget, shop or time-saving tip that would help me or other readers?

The limits that I have to work under are familiar to everyone - time, money and energy, but given that Master Jay is only 6 months old I'm sure I'll find more. Because that's what it's all about - real food for the family within the constraints of the real world.