Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Life Is like a Box of Vegetables

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Life Is like a Box of Vegetables

Article excerpt

Byline: By Bill Oldfield

Life would be fairly boring if it wasn't for the occasional surprise. Surprises make life worth living. Ringing the changes improves things but surprises are the icing on the cake.

However there're good surprises and bad surprises: those that cheer up your dull life and those that threaten to end it.

The latter, like the time sous chef Wayne Greenwood once watched me mend a fuse in the kitchen.

At a particularly tricky moment, when I was testing to see if the supply was live, he clapped, loudly, just behind my left ear.

Of course, at first I wasn't sure if it was an electric shock that made me have to peel myself off the ceiling.

He was close to being pleasantly surprised by travelling home that night clutching a P45 or even being murdered.

However, luckily for us all, he persuaded me that he should live and continue working for Oldfields and this week's recipe is his own personal one for Christmas Pudding.

Now, Christmas Pudding was always once a source of pleasant surprises in that, when I was a child, Mum would stir sixpence pieces into the mix prior to cooking.

I'm sure many of you will know why this was a custom and I'm also sure I've been told but it's lost in the mists of liquor-soaked Christmas-time.

Anyway, it seemed to me, as a child, that the idea was you'd be delighted to have doubled your pocket money in one helping of pudding ( or you would choke to death, ruining all subsequent Christmas days for your loved ones.

I wouldn't advise you putting coins into your food.

Apart from choking someone, they could possibly react with the ingredients and produce a toxic substance that could spoil Boxing Day. Furthermore, it's obviously a waste of money. But what is far from a waste of money, and a delight full of surprises, is an organic box scheme.

This is where local producers will deliver to you, for a fixed price and on a regular basis, a selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables.

At the restaurants, we use such a scheme from Butterby's near Croxdale, Durham.

It's brilliant because you know where the food's come from, that it's not full of chemicals and that it's not taken millions of food miles to get it to you.

But also, because it's seasonal, you can never be sure what you're going to get, hence the surprise.

Every delivery day, the chefs all line up behind the kitchen door, waiting with anticipation, hardly able to contain their excitement.

Well maybe not entirely but it's certainly interesting to watch them go through the boxes and challenge each other to guess what's what.

We've recently had delights such as kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichokes and locally-grown chillies.

It means that the chefs have to use their imaginations, stretch themselves, and the process breaks any monotony of routine, with them coming up with new ideas for using the vegetables. …

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