Category Archives: Food

Trip to Poland 2013 – Lille

Driving over to Mrs FTF parents in Lodz is now an annual Summer adventure. This year the bigger two flew to Poland with their grandfather and that left us three to do the road trip.

There were four stops, Lille, Luxembourg, Stuttgart and Berlin in as many nights. This cuts the daily miles and with Zooby we thought it best to spare him the marathon runs. It was also easier to find rooms because booking for parents and three children is harder than you’d expect.

We got an apartment in Lille. Drove off the Chunnel train at dusk and headed towards Lille, having to come off at an early junction to put on the light deflectors. I walked Zooby across a farmer’s field while Mrs FTF sorted out the stickers. After that it was plain sailing to Lille. We arrived within an hour and after some zig zagging we found our place.Trip to Poland 2013 022

The landlord led us up three flights of steps into a newly refurbished flat, fully furnished with ingredients for tea! Once settled in, we took off for the town centre. It was a short 15mins walk and with attractive shop fronts it was a stop and go activity. Zooby was in his buggy but did some steps and some arms with both parents.2013-10-02 Lille

 

 

The town square, Place du General De Gaulle, is big and leads to a tiny crepe shop, Crepes de la Vielle Bourse where we decided if they are serving it for dinner, we are eating it for dinner. So we had savouries for our main meals and shared a sweet for desert. Zooby was a charmer for the waitress and made himself at home, walking in and out, unto the sidewalk and back.2013-10-02 Lille02

 

 

 

The walk back to the flat was longer as we took another route and went down a street full of lively bars and dance clubs. That night there was a football match in the town and the atmosphere was vibrant. Zooby was in his buggy and took it all in although it was almost 11pm by the time we got back. Thankfully the apartment had shutters on the windows over the street which helped reduced the noise and light so we had an okay sleep.

By 7am I was up and watched the street come alive as it seems work in offices start from 8am. I got down to the nearby supermarket to pick up breakfast stuff and trailed back past the apartment to a corner bakery we spotted the night before.

10am and we were on the road. The breakfast was excellent with the fresh croissants standing out above the coffee and eggs. We left Lille thinking it was the place we would like to visit again with the full family and plan some shopping.Trip to Poland 2013 051

We drove south to the Somme region. On one documentary I saw an impressive war memorial and although not sure what was its name, I was determined to find it. We first went to Warlencourt British War Cemetery, it was small and very well maintained like all the many cemeteries in the area.

It was a superb setting with gorgeous weather and when we spotted a photo of two soldiers from Australia that was recently placed there, it drove home how much of a sacrifice these people and their families made.

2013-10-03 WarlencourtWe met a group of Brits at Warlencourt who directed us to my quest, Thiepval. Turns out they were headed that way but we stayed back at Warlencourt for a bit and then found it as they described. Standing majestic on a hill out in farming country. It is huge. We were in the tow of a group of school children from Hertfordshire and listened as they got the ‘Show Respect While Here’ caution from the school guides.Trip to Poland 2013 078

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remembered in Trinidad there is the family name on the WW1 cenotaph in Port of Spain and figured I should ask if there is a record of that person. Turns out the records are well organised and within a few minutes I had a printout of the grave’s location (cemetery, row, letter) and other information about him. He was 21. He was in the era of my great grandfather and possibly close relative because the name is rare. Mrs FTF saw my nervousness and I was unable to say why I was. We were about to visit the final resting place of someone I never knew but it felt momentous.

Trip to Poland 2013 103The drive from Thiepval to Ecoivres was peppered with graveyards similar to our first one. Small and well maintained and at times sitting adjacent to each other. There were few villages that did not have a war cemetery curating at least 500 graves. In total there were 1.7 million casualities. It took some getting used to. We stopped shortly at the Canadian Newfoundland Memorial, had a quick look around the centre but thought it best to press on to Ecoivres as we had a trip to Luxembourg later that afternoon.

By this time the skies had opened and the rain caught us just outside Arras. The cemetery was a green luscious lawn carpeted with marble grave stones in neat ordered rows. It was October and the flowers were still bright and fresh but there was no escaping this was a lonely corner of France.

Trip to Poland 2013 107I have no idea which members of his family will have visited here. Any trip to this area still takes some doing. In the early 20th Century that was a long journey from Trinidad to France. I did not have anything to place on the tombstone but took my time with the photos even though the rain decided to come down full pelt.

I expected some emotion to come forward but had no idea what it will be when faced with the fact of a tombstone signalling a burial, the end of a life. When we found the grave, I was overwhelmed by a sense of loneliness and how remote this place was. How far away from home. How abrupt.

The rains persisted, determined to chase us out of there. I made a skull note to come again, bring Big Son and Mella Mae. The car was a sombre mood for a bit as we set off. The drive to Luxembourg soon covering regular routes we have travelled together in the last few years. Seeing the turn off to Ciney reminded of my sister’s wedding we attended there last year. Time.

Trip to Poland 2012 117

Mango

20130818 Mango 02I have been away from Trinidad for 15 years now. It almost feels like another life and true to form as time goes by the rose in the tint rises. I want to talk a bit of the local fruits there and I hope the old grey matter has a true enough story to tell.

Julie, Teen, Rose, Starch, John, Calabash, Doudouse, Graham, Egg, Long, Spice, Hog and Turpentine are the mangoes that I’ve all eaten during the Mango season which starts midway through the Dry season at about Easter and runs for a couple months. (If you can add more to this list, that will be nice, in the comments)

Mangoes are useful from an early stage where green ones are used to make chutneys or mango chow which is a quick peel-slice-salt&pepper snack. For many the emphasis is pepper. As the mango ripens it becomes raw vegan material. When the mango season takes flight, everyone is happy.

It is a remarkable fruit. I’ve eaten it since I was a baby. Back then the prized mango was Julie. It is big and pulpy. I suspect it was a graphed version as the trees planted in back yards were never that tall compared to those up on the hills. If you can get through four at one sitting, you’d do well. Very sweet, quite filling.

As luck will have it we never had a mango tree in our yard. We tried a couple times to get one going but it never happened. We had Governor Plums, Pommerac, Soursop, Bananas and Dasheen but no mango. And were we to have one, it will have most likely been??

Mr Maraj planted a row of Starch mangoes on his side of the fence when he moved in. He had great foresight and I had great fortune long before I knew it. When those trees grew old enough to reach into my yard, Starch by then was the fashionable mango. I’d start the day eating five or more off the tree.

One of the bigger trees refused to bear on Mr Maraj’s side, so coming close to the end of the crop, he’d be getting bowls of his m20130818 Mango 01angoes from me. Nice living.

 

Paleo Resume

20130816 FTF Paleo ResumeAs a family we’ve been focusing on food for over ten years now.

When Mrs F and I first got together I was still a full time student with a part time job. She moved from Warsaw to the UK and the plan was to start a family and divide the responsibilities. I will earn the money, she will manage the home.

Food for us then was a matter of ‘eat what you can afford’. We shopped at the cheaper supermarkets and most times bought their named brands. Even back then it was apparent that there is a difference in something as simple as good spaghetti and bad spaghetti. I think salt might be the only product you will find hard to differentiate.

We ate a lot of homemade food during those years but I remember taking to work the packaged snacks that were considered healthy. My first job was at a business park out in the sticks for a small company with no canteen. I ate at local pubs occasionally but the closest was half a mile from the office so it was not often with English weather and what I could afford.

We were conscious about food in as far as we were trying to stretch our budget and figured home cooking was a smart way to do this. If you audited our kitchen then it was mostly the standard ingredients for conventional meals. We still included sodas, juices and grain products, like breads and pasta, on the shopping list. We were never big into confectionery.

As my career grew so did our shopping list. By 2008, we were eating more packaged foods and the take away bill both at home and during lunch at work was growing. The store brand days were behind us but it was the same group of products. The medical niggles were also stepping to the fore.

At my first job, the one out in a field, I had a one hour drive each way, every day. I started to experience bouts of anxiety while on the road. Once I remember being stuck in a traffic jam and hunched over the steering wheel, cold sweating and feeling my heart in my mouth, dreading it was the end of me. I braved through that period but the threat of a blackout was always close.

My next job was in London. More money, more food. The blackouts were just one of a growing number of ailments that doctors consoled me as evidence of age. I accepted that and the medication that came with it. I can count about five major problems, some of which I hope to write about in other posts, which were plaguing me at the time.

In 2008 things came to a head when I was sent home from work after blacking out and being too ill to continue. At that point I decided I had to make some changes to my diet. This idea did not come out of nowhere but it was as a result of information I was getting online that started at an information security blog by Chris Hoff who mentioned Art DeVany and his randomness theories.

Then I read Nasim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness and was a regular visitor to Mark’s Daily Apple and Free the Animal by this time. So the idea was to stop all the grains, although recommended by the doctors, and cut the sugars to a minimum. I also did regular fasting. I found it an easy step and Mrs F was very supportive although to this day, Pancakes on Sunday mornings remains a family tradition no one is willing to shed.

As all converts, we were very strict in the start and the recipe books were a needed guide. As time passed and the more I read and the more we practised on the subject of Paleo, the more of a mile high view we took of nutrition. Now we focus on real food but still with the proscriptions on wheat products, packaged foods and drinks.

The medical ailments have mostly disappeared. I take no medication now, no supplements and I’ve reduced visits to the doctor to an almost annual event.

We do not use Paleo recipe books but draw on our Trinidad and Polish backgrounds to put together meals made of local and imported ingredients. The macro nutrients we get can be listed as below:

Protein – eggs from a local farm, meats bred in the UK, Polish meats and sausages, fish (tinned like wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, cod livers), smoked mackerels, fresh fish, roasted nuts and almonds, coconut milk

Carbohydrates – dasheen, eddoes, potatoes, cassava, plantains, fruits, organic spelt flour (for pancakes and occasional cakes), plantains flour, gari, millets

Fats – coconut oil, butter, palm oil, animal fats, olive oil

This list is not exhaustive but it is close to what our cupboards stock on a regular basis and from this we make every effort to create new and exciting meals for the entire family. There is no weekly rota of dishes and each evening on returning home it is pretty much a guessing game of “What’s for dinner?”

Our eating is a continuous journey of taking responsibility for our health. We engage the children in the making of the shopping lists, the shopping, the gardening, the cooking and the rituals we’ve built around family meals.

The next level for us is to have more produce from our garden that we are starting this year. We bought the house with raspberry, gooseberry and apples and added strawberries and tomatoes so far. In the Autumn we want to set up some beds for produce in 2014.

There is also a plan to get a freezer now that we have more space and source our meats locally. The idea is to have a closer relationship with the food we eat in order to develop the reverence necessary to maintain our health and vitality and to better appreciate the interconnectivity of all life.

Resources:

Chris Hoff – http://www.rationalsurvivability.com/blog/

Art DeVany – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_De_Vany

Nasim Taleb – http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/

Mark’s Daily Apple – http://www.marksdailyapple.com

Free the Animal – http://freetheanimal.com/