Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

The Haves and Have Nots

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Consultants © imperator fish

* Average taken from figures from 2008-2009 to 2010-2011 financial years. Source 

** Child Poverty Action Group’s estimate of annual cost to provide breakfasts for the poorest 30% of primary and intermediate schools ($18.9 million)  Source 

Wandering through my Twitter feed, I came across Scott Yorke’s tweet about his latest post at Imperator Fish which contains the chart above.

While I know, like and respect some of the consultants with whom I have worked in my time in New Zealand, these figures only increase my concern about the real costs of the culture of consultation that exists today and raises more questions about who benefits from the same.

Acknowledging that one infographic can never tell the full story and recognising the private sector can spend money however shareholders will allow, I would guess that the true cost/benefit of, and the tangible return on, public sector consultation would be almost impossible to calculate without employing yet more consultants.

On the other hand, the cost of poverty – whether first hand for those in its grasp or the consequential impacts elsewhere in the economy has been diligently recorded in the quarterly Vulnerability Report from The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) since it was first published three years ago. It makes for sobering and occasionally harrowing reading.

As a former public sector social responsibility manager, I know that there are no easy answers to child poverty and the associated health implications or to addressing the cyclic issues that keep families in poverty and debt. As a citizen who immigrated seven years ago to give his own four kids a better start in life, it troubles me that many in this country are unable to do the same and seem to have little hope of ever doing so.

That the government seem to diminish, marginalise, or worse blithely ignore the issue is unconscionable.

Chinese Roulette

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Contrary to what it might seem, this is not a photo of conditions on either of the listing ships making the news recently. Rather, it is a picture of my good friend and fellow blogger Dave Funkypancake during one of our regular lunches, during which we catch up on family news and plan great things.  Given that I have recently moved into the office building Dave vacated not so long ago for another one elsewhere, our favoured ‘lunch special’ haunt is no longer a convenient meeting point half way between our desks.  So, back from our holidays – he in England and me on the couch – we set out to find a new lunch venue equidistant from our respective desks.  This turned out to be a small, new  and as yet not on the web food court on an uninspiring stretch of road on the southwestern edge of the CBD.

IMG00062 20120118 1246

Due to Chinese/English translation issues during the ordering phase of lunch, I was served first but with the wrong dish. After assuring our lovely server that, despite her encouragement, accepting the wrong meal wasn’t something I wanted to do, she took it away. Dave’s order arrived without drama shortly thereafter and I filled in the time by taking a photo of him starting without me whilst looking suitably quizzical. The lovely server arrived once more with another dish that I hadn’t ordered but, whilst the meal was cooked in an entirely different way, it did contain most of the same ingredients as the one I ordered.  This being the case and with our lunch hour rapidly running out, I nodded excitedly like I’d just won the lunchtime lotto and tucked into my surprise lunch of not-satay but still beef on soft-rather-than-crispy noodles with not-ordered-and-not tasty vegetables.  Only time and a few more lunches will tell whether we will make this place our new default m/eating place.

It ain’t Master Chef but…

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Noodle mix

At this time of year, when the Yuletide finishing line is in sight but there’s still a week to go, I still have to rise early for work whilst the rest of the family slumber. The last thing I want to do in the morning is make a packed lunch but our budget is tight so I can’t have cafe lunches everyday either.

Today, I didn’t need to make a lunch as my group boss laid on a fantastic barbecue to welcome his teams to the newly relocated offices.  Not only that but he made sure that all the leftovers were offered to staff to take home, rather than chuck perfectly good food away.

I’ll often take fresh food for youth group to guzzle or to put non-perishables into the food bank.  With youth group done for the year, I grabbed a couple of cooked steaks to bring home, where I sliced them as thinly as possible, mixed the meat with slivers of onion, cabbage, capsicums and carrot and bagged portions to freeze.

When I next cannot be bothered to make a packed lunch, I’ll simply grab one of these bags from the freezer and a packet of instant noodles from the larder so I can whip up a slightly more appetising and healthier version of a pot noodle.

Like I said, it ain’t Master Chef but it’ll fill a gap.

Escalope à la diable

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

After an afternoon at the beach, we wanted a quick and easy supper.  While the rest of the family opted for chicken fajitas from a packet mix, I converted a great recipe for Blackened Redfish, from my twenty year old copy of Cajun Cooking by Marjie Lambert, to come up with ‘Escalope à la Diable’.  It turned out great and my mouth is still zinging from the flavours and the heat.  Here’s how easy it is.

After beating chicken breasts into escalopes, coat them with the following mix of herbs and spices, freshly ground to a medium consistency in a mortar and pestle.

2 tbsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp sea salt to taste
2 tsp onion granules
2 tsp garlic granules
2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
2 tsp dried thyme leaves

Pre-heat your barbecue plate or cast iron pan to the highest temperature.  You’ll need a raging hot barbecue plate or cast iron pan to cook this dish and, if you cook it indoors, make sure the kitchen is very well ventilated.  The first time I cooked this in our tiny apartment kitchen in London, the smoke hit me like riot gas and left me with streaming eyes and nose! Once fiercely hot, cook the escalope on one side until the coating is blackened and the flesh whitened, probably no more than 2 minutes.  Gently turn over and repeat for the other side.  Serve plain with steamed fresh vegetables, flavoured rice or a mixed salad – or serve as a burger with your favourite toppings.

Bread and cook books

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

BreadMaisie and I have been busy this morning making a couple of common or garden white loaves of bread, following a recipe from The Complete Cook, one of two very well-used Hamlyn cook books on our kitchen bookshelf.

It is a fine family cook book and encyclopedia that contains information on ingredients, tools & equipment, basic techniques as well as over 1,000 recipes across a range of many cuisines – including what one reviewers claims to be the best chocolate mousse ever.

The other is the Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book, a birthday present from my Dad that even has his birthday card stuck inside.  Dating from the mid-1970s, when my foodie tendencies started to surface, it has some great highly styled photos of trendy dishes straight from the world of Abigail’s Party.

Itchy feet or a nudge?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

I had an interesting day with SWMBO today starting with an offhand discussion that started with us talking about moving our shed so we could paint the house.  This led to a discussion about whether or not to pursue the idea of buying a sleep-out to accommodate our growing band of teenagers. Before we knew it, we’d concluded that this idea had little merit and were driving up and down the Hibiscus Coast looking at properties.

While we’re blessed to have this lovely home and feel happy & settled here, our family is now effectively comprised of two mid-lifers, two young adults, a ‘tweenager’ and fast-growing primary schooler.  Similarly, with changes in schools and colleges, the geography of our life has subtly shifted and we now find ourselves spending a significant amount of time on the Hibiscus Coast.  So, while we have no immediate plans to move, we find ourselves thinking about shifting again and all that it entails.  I find myself excited in an unexpected kind of way and, in the light of a number of things going on in our lives right now, wondering if this is God’s prompting; definitely something to pray on and consider.

To end a lovely day, we ate freshly-caught kingfish fillets, care of our good friend and intrepid film-maker Tony, and the crew of the seafearing launch Ballistic.  I cooked mine to an authentic Cajun recipe that you can find on my much-neglected food blog, Big Boy’s Brunch.

Getting To Simple

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Isn’t it funny how our self-reliance and self-centredness so easily convinces us that we’re the only one that feels a particular way when all along there are many, including those close to us, who feel the same or share the same concerns?

Having been enlightened by Tony and Felicity Dale’s Simply Church, I have spent a week or two processing my reactions to the politics and demands of denominational church and how it affects my behaviour and feelings.  After a year of scratching this particular itch, I am now aware that I am not the only one feeling this way and can now see more and more people are seeking a more authentic expression of their faith.

Reading further on simple faith, I am drawing some comfort and much inspiration from Marcus Borg’s Reading The Bible Again for the First Time, finding it to be a serious, cogent and scholarly examination of the scriptural literalism that I find so hard to process intellectually.  Likewise, I have been similarly intrigued by the simplicity of the The Church of Two concept which, in its simplest form, is about two people practising two spriritual disciplines and sharing together daily.  From the stories posted at LK10 resources, Stories From The Revolution and The Scilla Blog amongst other places, it seems like this practise is helping folk to deepen friendships, get closer to their families and initiate postive change in their lives.

I mentioned CO2 to the three guys I meet with weekly with a view to taking things up a notch between our weekly catch-ups.  As a result, I have swapped a couple of emails and calls with one of them by way of a gentle try-out and we intend to explore it as a group. Then, at the end of the Sunday service, our youth pastor was prompted to speak on our need to been more immediate and authentic with each other.  Rightly calling us to reflect on dashing off from church the second the service is over or remaining only to swap snippets of news over coffee after the service, he asked why we don’t stay and share the deeper fellowship we so easily speak about but rarely practice.

In the discussion that followed, I shared a little about my recent journeying and CO2, while others spoke of seeking more connection and relationship, rather than religion and ‘church’.  After praying for a couple who are leading a youth mission to the US to work at The Dream Center in the weeks to come, we parted with a commitment to make small but intentional changes to support one another better.

Elsewhere, we have been trying to be a little more intentional and missional in our lives.  One way of doing this has been our Tuesday night pot luck dinners where we open our home to all comers for a few hours, with the only aim being to share food and friendship with whoever steps across the threshold.  While far from a new idea, we felt this was a solid and sustainable way to get alongside others on a more regular basis.

On the first Tuesday, no-one came.  We sat around the table eating our meal and feeling a little deflated that nobody had taken up the invitation.  On reflection, this was a good thing and perhaps challenged us on our motives and ensured our hearts were in the right place.  Last week, with our expectations adjusted and hearts humbled, we were blessed to see another family of six and two couples join us at the table for what was a lovely evening of simply fellowship.  The eight kids wolfed their food and were soon engrossed in a variety of games, while the eight grown-ups shared freely and laughed heartily for a couple of hours.  With today being Tuesday, it’ll be interesting to see who, if indeed anyone, joins us in half an hour’s time.

Catch up

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Life has been busy since my last post and I have had a fair amount to occupy my time. Consequently, blogging has taken second place to real life but, in the fashion of my good chum David, here’s a quick visual catch up.

Home made Cornish Pasties

SWMBO is a great if somewhat reluctant cook and regularly surpasses herself in serving up just the right dish at the right time.  In recent weeks, we have been treated to a few dishes and flavours that recalled memories of our life in England. One of these greeted my nostrils when I arrived home one evening recently.  A great and enticing smell wafting from the kitchen heralded a great supper of homemade Cornish Pasties which tasted as good as they looked.

Homemade goodies were supplemented with a few bits and bobs from the shops. On a recent trip to Countdown, our local chain supermarket, she picked up some English Marmite which, in my opinion and those of most other UK folk I know here, is far superior to the Aussie and Kiwi varieties.  However, even this tasty surprise was trumped by a lovely chunk of Tuxford & Tebbutt Cheshire cheese.  While the Kiwis make some good cheeses, I do miss the drier, crumblier and saltier British cheeses like my Dad’s favourite, Wensleydale.

Fush without chups

We headed into our local pet store a couple of weeks ago to check a few things out, little knowing that they were having an open day.  Having successfully deflected pleadings for another kitten or puppy, we left an hour later with a starter cold water aquarium but no fish.

The instructions from the very helpful fish lass in the store was that we set this up in the family room for a week, filling and treating the water so it could get a good stock of healthy bacteria in it before we introduced this fish.

Last week, SWMBO returned with the smallest of our four to choose the occupants and came home with a bug-eyed black eyed fish and a white and orange bug-eyed fish (the proper names elude me).  These were joined a few days back by the last of the additions to our menagerie, a skinny golden algae eater who vacuums the glass and stones free of algae.  There was a mild panic earlier today when this little fellow went missing. Presumed eaten by the other, he was eventually traced to the interior of the tiny amphora we had picked up for a dollar and sunk in the tank. Hopefully, he’ll come out before he grows too big to do so.

Never say never

With redundancy a real prospect later this year, I have started to be a little more intentional about seeking alternative work.  I have a few avenues to explore including a secondment that will see me working in a different area of my field in a very different environment.

To aid me in this and keep things neatly divided, I have grabbed up an HP Mini 210 netbook running Windows 7.  This is my first purchase of a personal computer running Windows in about 7 years. I like the form factor with the 10″ screen being a good compromise between the 7″ of my Eeepc’s and my iMac’s whopping 24″ screen.

It is early days yet but Windows 7 is also proving to be more user-friendly than the XP of my employer-supplied Omnibook or the Vista machines that friends moan about.  I am also trying to keep the apps to a minimum and use web-based stuff where possible, keeping the reasonable resources freed up for document writing, PDF work and the multi-tabbed browsing of desktop research.

The Agile Three

After church, SWMBO and I took our youngest to Scruffs, a local fun dog show.  We got there pretty late but had enough time to enter our Jack Russell/Maltese Terrier cross Abby into the scruffiest dog competition and give her a run out around the agility course.  In two clear runs around the course, Abby managed to reduce her time from 45 seconds to a very creditable 39 seconds, giving all three of us humans a brief but energetic workout at the same time.

We rounded off the day at a friend’s place, eating barbecue and salad whilst catching up on news and swapping offspring horror stories.


Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Another year on the planet, another cake but there’s a twist this year.

In previous years, She Who Must Be Obeyed has been the architect and builder of many a fine birthday cake for each member of the family.  However, this year, my birthday cake was created and decorated by my eight year old daughter.  The photo above shows the end result; the iCake™ is a fine representation of an Apple iBook – with innovative iDigestive™ mouse – detailed right down to the digital clock in the upper right corner and the Apple space image screen saver.

I love my family and am thankful everyday for the blessings and joy I know through them


Wednesday, January 13th, 2010


“This is gonna be fun! We can stay up late, swapping manly stories, and in the morning… I’m making waffles!” – Eddie Murphy as Donkey in ‘Shrek’

My lovely wife gave me a surprise gift a while back – a waffle iron.  She managed to pick one up with some points on a store loyalty card.  It is a gift filled with love because she didn’t want a waffle iron, firmly believing that, just like almost every other waffle iron on the planet, it will soon be gathering dust in a cupboard.  I maintained otherwise and, though only time will tell who is right, it has had regular outings and even been used and a sandwich toaster.

I mention all this because waffles played a small but symbolic part in our emigration.  On our first morning as home-less, job-less and school-less emigrants, we stepped out into the bright sunlight of a Hollywood morning.  Along with Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, Los Angeles was a stopover on our way to New Zealand (mentioned briefly in this post) and, on the recommendation of LA blogger Sean Bonner, we stayed at the trendy Farmer’s Daughter in Fairfax Village.  Across the street, as we discovered that first morning of our adventure, lay the Farmer’s Market and there we had the kind of breakfasts that we had only ever seen in movies.  Bacon, eggs, pancakes, juice, toast, waffles – we ordered large and reveled in the strange dislocation of being between lives, eating breakfast in the world capital of make-believe.

That meal is a fond memory for me and the kids – a snapshot from our transition from inner city Londoners to rural township New Zealanders.  It’s my hope that sharing Saturday morning waffles & maple syrup with the kids will become another tradition and memory to treasure.

L.A. breakfast

Breakfast in Los Angeles