It’s been a year since I did a blog post which probably makes it look like I’m doing bugger all. So here’s a snippet of my life in a nutshell.
We’ve had a deal with Lidl for over two years now where myself and my volunteers sort through all the fruit and vegetable waste at the end of the day and take all the unsold bakery products. The mountains of food that we collect every night is then distributed throughout the community.
Our food sharing Hut (made famous by the BBC documentary InsideOut) is filled Monday to Friday and continues to feed hundreds of people every week. When we first set up the Hut people said it would never work, that greedy types would take the lot and sell it at a boot sale. Some even said that the Hut would get nicked. It didn’t happen and we have massive support from people everywhere, many of whom fill the Hut with goods themselves – not just food but clothes, toys and books.
We also take the food to schools, nurseries, OAP centres, homeless centres AND we even hit the jobcentre last week. After they declined our offer to leave the bagged up food for people to help themselves to inside the jobcentre, we spent a couple of hours handing out bags of food (and nappies) outside the centre. The saddest part of our day was when one of the jobcentre employees asked for food. It transpired that he was actually on a workfare placement and really struggling to survive. To see this man in his fifties reduced to asking for food infront of his DWP colleagues was not something I ever want to see again. This is modern Britain.
This Christmas, after a local cooked meat company said they would donate a hundred 500g packs of their delicious turkey to us, we managed to get together the ingredients to make my £1.50 a head, two course stove-top Christmas dinner as featured on my Facebook budget cooking page. I’d been asked to put together the ultimate budget menu for BBC Radio Manchester so we had turkey, piggies in blankets, sausage meat stuffing, roast potatoes and parsnips, carrots and peas with bread sauce and gravy followed by meringue with raspberries and cream. Why cooked on a stove top? Because we’re finding less and less people with ovens in their homes. Most only have a microwave and many supplement that with a camping stove. With the help of dozens of volunteers we managed to deliver 335 Christmas meal packs.
The camping stove leads me onto the next thing I’ve been up to; the FoodRiot radio show. Armed with my camping stove, I had a season of programmes where I cooked live on air (and with a Facebook live video on my cooking page) and never failed to set off the smoke alarms. One week we had the stroke association doing blood pressure checks in the room below the studio when we filled the building with smoke and set off all the alarms. They haven’t been back.
I think my favourite show was “FoodRiot does Fanny” where I donned my ballgown and jewels and cooked Fanny Craddock’s pastry puffs.
My northern magazine column came to a sticky end last year when I discovered one of my reviews had been rewritten by the office pa at the request of the hotel manager. It was the worst piece of writing I had ever seen and I was not a happy girl.
One magazine piece I was delighted to do last year was a restaurant review of eating. ‘Around the World with a Vegan Daughter’. Unfortunately I gained almost a stone in weight in less than 3 weeks and have found that gaining weight quickly is much easier than losing it.
What else? Well, a very good friend of mine and well respected retired editor – Esther Whitby – asked to read my manuscript of ‘Eating My Words’ (the book of private cheffing) and loved it so much that she’s putting pressure on me to do something about publishing.
I’ve always felt that the book will be published when the time is right and I feel that the time is gradually drawing closer. I declared 2 years ago that I would never, ever agree to sell my book through Amazon and was told that no publisher would ever be interested in me. Today, on Twitter I saw that one very brave publisher has declared they will not be selling any books through Amazon.
I’ve always been a firm believer that if you ask the world for something then it will come to you sooner or later. Just be careful what you wish for.
Now I need to get on with writing up my diaries of the last two years to show people what it’s really like up here in the age of austerity. There will of course be funny bits but obviously not as many as in my tale of cheffing for the rich and infamous.
In the meantime, if you want to keep up with my budget cooking page Find it here.
See you in a year, Gill x