How to Choose Dinner

The fig tree is full of summer promises. Every hard green fruit will be soft and juicy by August. Then we’ll race the starlings to get them first. Birds have it so easy, with everything laid on. They don’t wake up every day racking their brains for dinner ideas.

Fig tree in winter

They just take what’s there. Spongers. I am run ragged, chasing them off the fruit in summer, or laying out extras, like mealworms in winter. As if they don’t have time to dig up their own worms.

And the bird feeders cause non stop guilt.

Empty bird feeder against a blue sky and cherry flowers

There are mouldy peanuts in this feeder, which is my fault. The mould has probably killed more sparrows than the cats. If you can’t keep peanuts clean you don’t deserve to own a feeder.

Niger seed against a twisted hazel tree

This one is full of expensive Niger seed, which is addictive to goldfinches. It will be empty in 2 hours.

I’ll forget to fill it. There is cooking to do, decisions to make.

The Dinner Problem

You decide what to cook, eat the food, and then another day turns up. So you have to do it all over again

In the olden days there were breaks.

Friends would come to dinner. A simple choice. Curry or chilli because they’re easy, with olives scattered to prove good taste, and happy chatter. I could plan dinner parties for April but we’ve all forgotten how to talk. We’ll just sit there asking each other what vaccine we had.

Eating out. Paying for something you could have cooked for half the price and then catching food envy. Or wondering why something was a bit dry, late, soggy, cold and not the unrealistic perfection you expected. That will all happen again soon enough. 

For now, dinners keep happening and we have rules.

Guidelines on Choosing What to Cook.

You have to own the ingredients. Leek and potato soup without leeks is mashed potato with extra water. Chicken risotto without onions, wine and herbs and is just chicken and rice.

It has to be different from the day before.  So it can’t be pasta and sauce unless you haven’t had that for two days.

It has to be in fashion, according to current health trends. We’ve had health scares, got too fat, got too thin, flirted with Paleo, cut down on meat, wheat, dairy, gluten, fibre, sugar and anything processed until there is practically nothing left except carrots.

It has to come from the garden if possible. This causes bad feeling. There are bumper crops, with too much of one thing, usually tomatoes. It is not a good day when one person is slaving over a pot of passata and somebody else walks in with a plastic pack of Taste The Difference on the Vine.

You have to know when it can’t come from the garden.

Beetroot in the garden

This looks like beetroot but, after 9 months underground, it is wood. Bake it for three hours and it will be hot wood.

Meat must be happy. At the farmers market, I looked at a piece of lamb and said I thought it looked fatty. The farmer said not to worry because ‘that one wasn’t a very fat lamb’. It feels better if a farmer knows each animal personally.

Lambs in the field

It tastes better too.

But that is only in your own head.  So don’t go mental when somebody else in the house cracks and comes home with a can of tinned sausages from the pork factory of hell.  They won’t thank you for going on about pig farming all day.

Fish must happen. But if somebody doesn’t like the smell of fish, it is fine to have fish and sausages on the same table.

Vegetables have to be organic, except when they don’t. Vegetables are covered in pesticide. So we buy organic lettuce but get normal onions because they cost less, and maybe pesticides don’t get inside onions?

But what about the person that grew the onion?  Watch Simon Reeves in Spain to learn about life on vegetable farms. Instead of worrying about pesticides in the onions, you worry about the worker that grew them. So you plant your own onions but they get weevils because you did not use any pesticide. Then there are no onions for the risotto.

It can’t always be with wine. Weekdays are happy days with good sleep and bright eyes. But weekends are better because food tastes great if it is washed down with several bottles of red. Then you can stagger to bed and be vaguely sad for two days.

It must be something we’re used to. A Chinese friend told me: ‘In China, we eat everything with four legs, except the table, and everything with two legs, except our parents’.

It is different for us because we have always had enough food. So we are fussy.


The tadpoles in the pond are coming along nicely. I am glad I don’t eat frog. So are they.

It can always be beans on toast

None of this matters. This time last year, we were about to see empty shelves for the first time in our lives.

Full moon over the village

Across the world we all saw the same moon this week, but some of us have seen more empty shelves than others.

Chicken News

Here they are, after 12 weeks in a shed. Bird flu rules have changed and the chickens are out.

Chickens in the garden

Look at the delight in their eyes. If you fancy chicken risotto, make sure the chicken was a happy one.

5 thoughts on “How to Choose Dinner”

  1. There are some very funny and true observations in this piece, and one can’t help but feel the undercurrent of nostalgia for life before covid. Thank you for sharing!! I so enjoyed it 😊

    1. Thanks Janine, I am glad you enjoyed it. Yes we are all a bit nostalgic about some parts of pre-covid life here. But not all of it. Looking forward to seeing more of your posts soon.

  2. Ha! Always a good start to the day to read your blog.
    The moon is upside down in Australia did you know?
    We had jellyfish for lunch the other day. I don’t recommend it.

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