Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Life in the Greenhouse and FREE glass

Dear Nigel,

There's something about the word 'FREE'...really free that is just lovely. Not 'free', but we're going to charge you a massive delivery charge, or 'free' but please make a donation you think is appropriate, but 'free' as in - we made the effort to store this glass, we made the effort to put up the sign, and we want NOTHING off you in return. How refreshing. How lovely. And doesn't it make you want to pass that feeling on somehow? I've never tried free-cycle myself but I'm guessing that the feeling is the same.

So, we are out visiting someone else's garden, looking at the early Magnolias and Rhododendrons. David takes one back for the hall. We've filled up looking at the treetops alive with giant mopheads and are winding our way back home. There it is again, that sign: FREE glass - a whole large greenhouse dismantled. The farmer seems more than pleased that good honest stuff won't end up needlessly in a skip. The greenhouse at the farm can also be mended, and the large glasshouses at the
hall will always be in need of more glass.

It is the new economy. We live in an era where we are sucked into being consumers, often whether we want it or not. To be content with less, to spend less, to desire less, is not allowed. There is a whole army of media out there convincing us we are wrong, making us feel inadequate, failing. Yet when we do, often as not we are dissatisfied the minute our consumption high has worn off. We are addicts looking for our next fix, comparing ourselves to others, letting others erode our sense of self.
We need to reclaim our individuality, our right to be different, to be unique. Our truth is as valid as any other. Often more so, being honest.

So back to the Greenhouse, where the tiny seeds we sowed only a fortnight ago are pushing up against their glass covers, thrusting towards the sun. They are reliable vegetables like leeks and chard and courgettes. The friable soil here is easy to weed and we are lifting out the last of last year's crops, adding it to the day's dinner, and preparing the ground for this year's offering. There is an honest therapeutic effect in this. And Free sunshine - as long as we look after it with care and treat it with respect.

And I am learning more and more each day about the change in climate. Once, it was just a small voice at the back of my mind reminding me to recycle plastic bottles and cardboard. The deeper I look, the more concerned I become. And what concerns me most of all is the way that mild-mannered scientists who dare to flag up their research findings, are being vilified and threatened in their own homes. It is like the worst days of McCarthyism. I google this to find Wikapedia has a definition for McCarthyism which is 'the practise of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.'

This is what I believe is being perpetrated by climate-change deniers. We like to think we live in a society that regards free speech as important. We may not agree with it or like it, but we allow it. Our default setting is for honesty. We tend to believe things automatically. And any 'expert' claiming to be a scientist is treated with gravitas and respect initially. Even if he is simply an actor and his research credentials are nil. And this is what the other side - the climate deniers - are putting up against legitimate, independent research. We are being manipulated in ways we barely comprehend and our emotions tugged. We recently watched a wonderful, thought-provoking documentary called 'Merchants of Doubt' (available on You Tube) which was simply eye opening. I like to think that I will be perhaps a little more sceptical next time, but the mind is so easily fooled.

Back in the kitchen I have found an up-to-date recipe for the perfect Cauliflower Cheese. It is one of those old stalwarts that perhaps you used to make, and then it lost favour, and now you no longer make it. Until now. This is midweek vegetarian meals for a new generation. It is tasty and quick and doesn't deserve it's tarnished image. Try it. I will be making this one again. The combination of Gruyere cheese and creme fraiche and mustard makes a lovely topping to the roast cauliflower. Thoughts of slimy cheese sauce couldn't be further from your mind. It takes a bit of 'reinventing the wheel' mentality to replace one image with another in your own mind; but I promise you, if you try this you won't be disappointed.

Having a fluid and flexible mind is a fine thing, and one which is devilishly difficult to obtain. The more adamant we are that we are questioning, thinking individuals, the more entrenched we have often seamlessly become as we age, and no longer realise it. Children are the most flexible in their thinking. Often, when dealing with an obstinate toddler this can seem not to be the case, but they are capable of leaps of understanding and thinking, mental gymnastics, whilst we who are so bogged down in our own doubts and prejudices are often incapable of making that leap of faith that leads eventually to a higher understanding. Obviously, I am talking here about a simple vision of Cauliflower Cheese, but it applies equally to our understanding about climate change, or many a new progressive issue.

love Martha x

Cauliflower Cheese

1 large cauliflower
2tblsp olive oil
4tsp maple syrup
salt and pepper
350g creme fraiche
50g Gruyere cheese
2tsp Dijon mustard
1tblsp Parmesan (grated)
1tblsp chopped chives (fresh)

1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
2. Cut the cauliflower into florets. Place in a large bowl and toss with the the oil and maple syrup.
3. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Place in a roasting tin and roast for 30 mins. until tender.
5. Put the creme fraiche, mustard and grated gruyere cheese in a bowl and combine.
6. Tip in the roasted cauliflower and mix until coated.
7. Place in a fresh roasting tin and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
8. Cook in the oven for 15-20 mins. until golden.
9. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

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