Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Some of my MANY BREADS

Quite a lot of Gluten Free people out there exist on a super-healthy diet involving no bread, dairy or sugar. I'll admit I've tried my best to cut down on these foods and have almost eliminated dairy alongside wheat but I draw the line at cutting out bread and cakes. I'm sure I'm not alone in this - I couldn't survive without sandwiches and countless rounds of toast, not just because I love my baked goods but also because being severely limited in my physical abilities, these are pretty much the only things I can manage to make for myself whilst my husband is out at work. A life without bread, for me, does not bear thinking about!

There's a reason why they use wheat in pretty much every mass-produced loaf and roll. Turns out it's pretty hard to make decent bread without it. Initially this left me in rather a quandary. Most of the products I sampled were either too dry, too small, or quite often both. Sandwiches simply weren't satisfying any more because they were either the size of a postage stamp or the bread crumbled into sawdust as soon as I took a bite. I like to call this my 'Nigel Tufnel Problems' phase.


After a bit of market research (eating a lot of sandwiches) I found out the following:

My favourite bread was Sainsbury's Free From brown seeded loaf. For me, this is the most similar to normal bread. Not only does it taste great but it has a good texture so even though it can still be a little on the dry side, it manages to retain its shape. The drawback was the slices were just too small for a decent sized sandwich yet too big to warrant making an extra round.

I also discovered Genius make nicely sized loaves that taste great, although they are a little on the dry size for me, especially as I don't use butter in sandwiches. To begin with, buying this was a bit of a lottery. I think there must have been issues with production as sometimes I would open the pack to find huge air bubbles that rendered half the slices useless. Often the dough would not have been mixed quite well enough, resulting in a spiral pattern on the bread. It still tasted fine though. Annoyingly, I would also find the loaf hadn't always risen as much as it was supposed to and I was back to dealing with small bread again. Nigel Tufnell would not have approved!

Luckily, the folks at Genius are a lovely bunch. They seem committed to improving and innovating their products as much as possible and teething problems in a relatively new industry like this are to be expected. My complaints about small bread were dealt with quickly and I was sent vouchers to cover the cost of a new loaf. Which of course, I keep forgetting to use - I expect they've expired now. Still, it's the thought that counts..........

Recently, the quality of my Genius loaves has been much more consistent. I'm taking full credit for this as its obviously my feedback alone that has helped them to iron out any problems in their manufacturing process (they can thank me later.) But whilst the bread is a good size, it's still a little dry and not as nice as the seeded Sainsbury's. There was however a solution to my sandwich woes and it lay in my toaster.

Whereas no-one likes a dry sandwich, toast is meant to be dry, yet can also gain added moisture from butter. Yes, weirdly I don't have butter on bread but I do on toast. It would, I feel, be a criminal offense to eat toast without it. So now, what I do is keep my MANY BREADS in the freezer to stop them going mouldy. I use the Genius bread (toasted first) for sandwiches and the Sainsbury's seeded for rounds of toast. That way I get the best of both worlds - nice, small bread for toasty snacks and a decent sized slice for my sandwiches. It works really well for me even if it does take up a fair amount of freezer space.

I attempted a product photo of the two breads which, as you can see here, went a little awry. Not only did both breads conspire to be exactly the same size (this never usually happens) thus making me look a complete fool, I have also managed to burn the Sainsbury's (on the right) because it is a little thinner than the Genius and clever-clogs here toasted them at the same time. This is why people with severe ME should not be let loose in a kitchen!

I have also been testing (stuffing my face with) pitta bread, rolls and lovely fresh products from an amazing local company called Batch #5. That's TOO MANY BREADS  for one blog post so I'll leave it here for now and get back to you with the rest once I've done a bit more 'market research'.........

Happy Snacking!

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Beauty of Brokenness

From Wikipedia:
Kintsugi (金継ぎ) (Japanese: golden joinery) or Kintsukuroi (金繕い(Japanese: golden repair) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.

The philosophy behind this is the understanding that the piece is the better for having been broken, that when something has suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.

I'd like to continue my analogy of a broken plate for another post about friendship, this time on a much more positive note. Whilst it's true that I have not found the support I had hoped for from some, the upside is I have found plenty of support in the most beautiful and often unexpected ways. For starters, existing relationships with my close family and friends have been strengthened. I feel closer now to those who have stuck by me than I ever have before. Also, I am more happy in myself than I have ever been. My self-confidence is finally blossoming for what feels like the first time in my life, because when you have nothing to lose you might as well go for it! I have also made many new, inspiring friends through the ME community on Twitter. In a matter of a few months, they have become an integral part of my life. We communicate daily, make each other laugh out loud many times a day and help each other through the ups and downs of spoonie life. It is strange in a way, to feel so close to people I have never met in real life, but the amount of love and generosity I have encountered from my virtual friends has left me speechless on many an occasion. I wish I could list each and every one of you by name but I know with brain fog (a common symptom of chronic illness) I am bound to forget a few.

So to those friends, old or new, real or virtual, to everyone who tweets me or posts on my Instagram or my Facebook, thank you for being there when I need you most. To Ray Butterlumps, Team Princess and my Spoonie Sisters, thank you for using your precious energy to make me presents and send me surprise post to make me smile. To SuperRoy Record Hunter, my fellow Spoonie vinyl junkie, thank you for traipsing around Birmingham on Record Store Day on my behalf. I know you were going anyway but only those of us with chronic illness can imagine the after effects of negotiating buses, queuing for an hour,  not to mention hiking round a city centre. 

It's not just ME tweeps either - the Healthies have rivalled my Spoonie friends for amazingness and sheer insanity at times! There's Barry the Phelps Finder who collared the Weasley Twins at a celebrity cricket match and got them to sign a birthday card for me. There are my dearest friends who send me love and sleep-masks, or stay up late spray-painting wheelchairs purple then drive from Worcester to Bath the next day for surprise delivery. I have learned from you that extreme fangirling and surprise visits are not so good for my health but they do make my heart swell several sizes. Thanks too to old friends who cheer me on even though I haven't seen them for over a decade. To those of you in real life who are brave enough to 'visit the cripple', especially those bringing flowers and Gluten Free cake, I am eternally grateful, as I am to my wonderful husband and family. To each and every one of you, I thank you all for putting me back together again. 

You are my Kintsukuroi - my golden repair.

Kintsukuroi (The Beauty of Brokenness)

You watch me fragment 
As I hit the bottom.
Shard-sharp spikes
Shattering against hard rock.
You do not judge.
You do not waiver.
You do not tell me what to do,
Or how to be.
Silently stooping to pick up pieces,
You cradle me in your hands
As if I weigh nothing,
No burden at all - a breath of air.
Your love flows over me.
Molten gold covering the cracks,
Cementing the joins,
Smoothing over chips.
I am whole again,
More beautiful than I have ever been
Because of you,
You and your golden love.

© Charlotte Green

Saturday, 6 September 2014

All apologies

'I'm sorry.......'

'I've been meaning to.......' 

I hear that a lot. I understand that life for you healthy folk is busy and that time has a habit of running away from you and so I make allowances. I sympathise because I know it's not easy, keeping up a friendship with someone who is chronically ill however there comes a time when the excuses I make for you simply aren't enough. 

So here's what I'd like you to do.......

Imagine you are in your kitchen.

You open a cupboard and take out a plate. Any plate you like. Now take the plate outside.

I want you to imagine yourself standing on the road, plate in hand. Raise your arm up high and throw that plate on the ground. Imagine it hitting the hard Tarmac.

What happens?

Perhaps it breaks first time. If you're lucky it might bounce but stay intact, or merely get a few chips or scratches. If so, pick it up.

I want you to imagine yourself throwing that plate onto the road as many times as it takes until it breaks. Until you see it shattering spectacularly into a multitude of shards, razor sharp fragments flying everywhere.

Look at the plate, or rather what is left of it.

Now say you're sorry. 

Imagine yourself apologising to the plate for breaking it.

What happens?

I'm guessing not much. The plate is still broken, the pieces still scattered forlornly over the road. 

So now you have a choice. 

You can try to fix this. You can pick up the pieces and do your best to put them back together. With time and effort maybe you'll end up with a fairly decent plate again.

Or you can give up on that plate. Sweep up the broken mess and dump it in the bin. Cut your losses. Go back to the cupboard and find another plate. 

It's up to you.

But realise this.........

Without the actions to back them up, sometimes words are just that, empty of any true meaning or value.

And sometimes, 'sorry' just isn't enough.