In the current coronavirus pandemic lockdown I’m managing food very carefully to minimise my visits to the supermarket, even though they’re doing a great job of social distancing. It’s a case of the less direct human contact the better to reduce the spread of the virus, especially as I’m in a vulnerable group because of my age and (albeit well-controlled) asthma.
Yesterday, my little food notebook told me I needed to use up some bacon and eggs, and so I decided on an all-day breakfast pasta bake. My young children love pasta so I knew I was onto a winner, a 100% comfort dinner on what has been a colder day than we’ve generally been having in lockdown.
I was asked for the recipe by a friend, although I was just making it up as I went along, but here’s the ingredients and what I did anyway.
Ingredients (serves 4-6 depending on appetite and portion size)
375 grams of Fusilli pasta (or whatever you have)
250-300 grams diced bacon (I used smoked, but use what you prefer or have)
8 large free-range eggs (medium will be fine)
1 large tin of baked beans with sausages (I didn’t have sausages readily available)
1 tablespoon of cooking oil (any will do) and salt
Salt & pepper (to taste)
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for 8-10 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, chop up the bacon (unless already diced) and gently fry in the oil until cooked. Add the beans and the sausages (chop in the frying pan) and heat through. Transfer this mixture to a preheated (200C) oven dish and spread evenly. Add half of the cooked pasta. Carefully crack the eggs (evenly spaced) onto the layer of pasta. Gently cover the eggs with the remaining pasta. Cover the oven dish with kitchen foil and cook at 200C until done. Enjoy!
Note: Obviously other ingredients could be added or substituted.
One of the things that’s lifting my spirit and keeping me motivated in these difficult times is buying, preparing and cooking food for my family, Healthy, nutritious meals are important for all of us, especially my three young children. Please don’t neglect to eat properly, and avoid the temptation to snack all day.
Unfortunately, as we all know, shopping online is nigh on impossible at the moment, and we need to restrict our visits to the shops to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and keep everyone safe. Also, just because we can go shopping every day doesn’t mean we have to. Every trip out carries its own risks, even if we are social distancing.
Now, this may seem over the top, but it works for me. I keep a simple page-a-day notebook in which I record the ‘best before’ dates of all the fresh food that I buy (usually once every three days). The non-perishable stuff (pasta and tinned food, for example) doesn’t matter, that’s there in the cupboard when I need it, hopefully.
Each day I simply look at what needs eating and decide on my menu from that. Simple, but effective, and very little waste. What are you doing differently in this crisis? Do share your tips for everyone.
Note: Posting on the blog/website is also helping to keep me sane in this crisis and I hope you’re finding my thoughts helpful.
Welcome to my world of children’s birthday parties, a place I didn’t expect to be inhabiting in my 60s, but that’s how life turns out sometimes. With two grown-up children and two grandchildren, how did this happen? I retire later this year!
That said, I’m loving being a father to three small children (Matilda is three and Pollyanna two) and it also keeps me young and active.
We decided to change the venue for the party at short notice because of a Coronavirus outbreak. The Parks was an excellent alternative venue, with a soft play area and party room. We used the Golden Chippy (our local fish and chip shop) for catering, even though it was four miles away from the venue, because we had 100% confidence that our order for pizzas (and other bits and pieces) would be ready at the exact time we wanted. They didn’t let us down.
Before the party, Freddy helped me compile a Spotify playlist for the occasion. If you’re interested you can find it here.
All things considered, it was an excellent party. A big thank you to my lovely wife Naomi for all the hard work preparing and delivering it, and for all that was involved in changing our plans at the last minute. I just did all the running around, fetching and carrying, and being silly with the children.
Thank you everyone for coming and for Freddy’s lovely cards and presents. We’ve got the children bathed and in bed now, so we’re both ready to relax.
See also here (from 2018) On Being an Older Father
Even though I’m English I do like to have haggis, neeps and tatties on Burns Night each year. Sadly, I feel I’m letting my Scottish friends down today by not having this traditional meal. I’ll have to make up for it in the coming days; although my wife Naomi doesn’t like haggis, she’ll have to have Scottish mince, pie or something else. Liking haggis as I do, I’m fortunate that my local fish and chip shop does haggis in batter, so I can always get her an alternative.
To make up to my Scottish friends for now, here’s a famous poem by Robert Burns, which I dedicate to Naomi (although I’m not leaving her as the poem suggests).
My love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June :
My love is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I :
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun :
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only love,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my love,
Thou’ it were ten thousand mile.
Happy Burns Night to all my Scottish friends!
Note: the photo is from a previous year.
This lovely cafe in Wallsend has become something of a second home for the Ager family recently. It’s a place for parents (or anyone caring for babies and toddlers) to relax and chat over a meal or simply have a tea or coffee. There’s a play area with plenty of toys (so the children can easily entertain themselves) and a baby changing room. The cafe is also breastfeeding friendly.
One of the things that makes Tots Tea Rooms special though is the variety of organised activities for the children, especially in school holidays. Our children have enjoyed sand art, messy play, rock pool fun (see photo below) and cookery – to name just a few of the activities on offer. They have also branched out into children’s parties and other events; for example, before Pollyanna was born we held our Baby Shower there. She now plays there, along with Matilda and (sometimes) Freddy.
Naomi is there more often than I am, but occasionally I take work with me or simply pop in and enjoy good coffee – yes, there’s a proper coffee machine before you ask. There is also free Wi-Fi for customers.
You don’t need to have a child with you, so why not drop in? It’s on the crossroads of High Street East and Park Road, not far from the town centre.
Note: Tots Tea Rooms is now under new management (15/08/18), and it is again under new management in September 2019 (revised 16/09/19).
Last Sunday evening in worship we watched another video from the excellent NOOMA series by Rob Bell entitled Tomato. In the video he speaks about his wife making the most wonderful salsa, here’s the recipe from the notes:
Put ingredients in the blender in this order:
1 chopped jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
leave the seeds in if you like it hot
1 small to medium onion, cut into quarters
1 handful of coriander
8 Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 squeeze of lime
1 generous pinch of sea salt
Blend just until the tomatoes start to get blended. You want the tomatoes to still be chunky and not pureed. Pour into a bowl and eat right away.
Obviously the salsa is merely an illustration of something deeper, and the description of the video is as follows: Do we try so hard to be something we are not, that we miss out on how to truly live? We all get consumed with ourselves; sometimes we’re not even aware of it. We learn from a young age that life is about winning and impressing. We pick up that our worth and value come from how good, how smart, and how skilled we are. So, we twist things in our favour, making us look like we have it all together. Every day we have the choice to prop up these false ideas about ourselves or to let go of them. Jesus invites these parts of us to die, the parts of us that tell us our worth comes from the things we say and do. Maybe it’s only when we let these things die, that we truly begin to live.
Update: Since writing this I’ve posted about his book ‘How To Be Here’ – click here.
See also: Resurrection (Rob Bell)