National ‘Cook From The Cupboards’ Week!

  • 8 November, 2011


Ok, at the risk of painting myself in an inappropriate light for someone pushing their business into stratospheric proportions, suffice it to say that although I have exciting projects gestating they are not yet fledged and I have found myself ‘resting’ for a period – of course I’m not resting, I’m doing the things in the office that I am usually too busy to do, such as promote the business and write blogs.

I do not intend for this period to be sustained but I have to say it is interesting. I’ve gone from cautious anticipation thru mild panic and now calm optimism. (I’ll let you know about the next stage).

As the saying goes ‘the only constant is change’ (I can’t find the source of this by the way so if you happen to know I’d be interested to hear – I thought it was from the Toe Te Ching or from the I ching (book of changes) but cannot find any references)?

I am experiencing the ebb and awaiting the flow. It will come. I will not go out of business. I may have to adapt a little, but it will all be fine.

When I started my business I did not borrow any money. In that I did not get a business loan. I figured I already had some debt and saw no reason why I couldn’t do it gradually and without borrowing.

That was before I realised that I was paying for my own apprenticeship.

You see I never really intended to go into business.

I had lost my job in London as a bar manager for All Bar One (how I ended up doing that is a whole other story). As is how I stopped doing that, but I digress,)) as usual))) and ended up in Bristol.

I say back. I had been based in Bath before but close enough.

I was helping my friend out for a while who had opened a new jewellery store ‘Justice’.

While I was in London I took the opportunity to visit my grandparents once a week (as they weren’t getting any younger and I wanted to get to know them as an adult) they lived in a village near Beaconsfield)) on the pretence of ‘doing their garden’ for them, which usually consisted of an hour or two of my grandpa showing me how to pot-up broad beans or a bit of digging, followed by lunch and an afternoon of chat or walking in the woods.

I was already growing a garden on my boat and enjoyed it immensely and drew from it what has now become a deep seated belief that nature or the nurturing of plants and the witnessing of the interactions of beasts, birds & insects is life giving in terms of its capability of easing ‘dis-ease’.

With the stresses of London and of my job I sought great relief in it and believed that if only the people that I met that seemed stressed could experience some of that, it would have been a great relief to them too and that if they couldn’t go to nature then nature would have to come to them.

I was already a great convert to the organic method of horticulture and animal husbandry.

So, when I ended up in Bristol, I saw a course in organic horticulture and used a day off in the week to attend.

A year later in 2004 I was being asked to help people in their gardens and fell into business.

From the start I wanted to make garden spaces for people and taught myself to build and design.

I waited for about four years to call myself a designer and still suffer occasionally a ‘crisis of credentials’ – the curse of the non-formally educated. Even though I have designed and built in excess of 40 gardens of all shapes and sizes, am a pre-registered member of the Society of Garden Designers and am on very good and friendly terms with most of my clients. I’m even godfather to one of their children.

But the benefits and difficulties of the formally and non-formally educated is a subject for another day.

This was a very long way round of saying that in the early years of the business I used 0% interest credit cards to help with some purchases and to support the business. This went wrong in ways that can easily be surmised without me having to explain and things got messy for a while.

The business has been solvent for about four years now so I no longer borrow or want any means to borrow. I refuse to use credit cards, bank loans or overdrafts.

So if things slow up a little occasionally then I have to tighten my belt – I am lucky though I have to say that my overheads are fairly low.

If you read my last blog you will see that I spoke of a simplicity that can be gained from a narrowing of one’s choice through circumstance: It can also give you creativity.

If I were to attempt profundity I would probably say that there is ‘a lesson in everything’. But the fact that a friend of mine narrowly escaped getting clawed to death by the use of the words “every day is a learning day” to another friend on a bad day with her three kids under the age of five and husband with a recently broken leg, I think I’ll refrain.

Let’s just say that I had very little money for food so I went cupboard diving and that with the timely arrival of a cook book from my brother as a late birthday present, got stuck in to what I hope to launch as a National ‘cook from the cupboard’ campaign, held one week a year (by choice rather than necessity hopefully) when you don’t shop, or shop very little for supplementary items and see what you can rustle-up.

It can be an exercise in creativity and thrift.

I, last week and this have had stews from a roast chicken carcass and leftovers, soups from veggies (and a bit of chorizo), pancakes with maple syrup or Nutella (a purchase for my twelve year old godson) and courtesy of the new (to me) River Cottage – Everyday. Soda bread: OMG that is so amazing and so easy. Not to say satisfying.

I’ve been picking sloes and will add gin when I can (that is a luxury I grant you and I do it every year but I didn’t say that I wanted to suffer).

I intend to get the last of the haws and make a simple chutney.

I still have tomatoes in the cupboard (tinned); I have some garlic and I have some onions left from this year’s crop. But I ‘m not sure I can face that basic tomato sauce for pasta (of which I have a mountain, along with rice that the U.N would be proud of, (from the old ‘have I got any pasta at home’? Thing)) until I get much more desperate, as myself and a girlfriend of old would often resort to it in the far worse condition of ‘bare cupboard syndrome’ that we suffered often then.

I still can’t bring myself to eat pasta out as I think of it as what you eat when you have absolutely nothing else left or can’t be arsed to cook.

So if anyone can give me a better simple recipe for a great tomato sauce that could change my mind, I’d love to hear from you!

Out. A.

P.S. Getting to know my grandparents better worked out and has been one of the most fulfilling and worthwhile things I have ever done. Nor was it rushed as Ethel went on to live to 93 and Harold was in very good shape pretty much right up to the end – two months before his one hundred and fifth birthday.

In fact the date of his passing is pretty close, being the day before Armistice Day which is the 11th of November. So don’t forget to raise a glass in thanks to the olds.