the humble crumble, and a little bit on what I think…

I’ve waffled along on a few other people’s blogs recently about a few things food related. Things that I have felt are important, and before I know it my fingers have typed out half an essay. Rather than completely taking over someones comment sections saying what I think I’m going to try to rustle up a few brain cells and see if I can form an opinion here on my own blog.

Here’s a little snippet of what I think…

(Scroll down to the bottom if you want to skip the soap box waffling and go straight to the crumble.)

* I think it makes sense to eat seasonally.

* I think it makes sense to try and get a lot of your foods as locally as you can, (if you can).

* I think it makes wonderful sense to know what you are eating, and where it came from.

* I think it makes a huge amount of sense to know how to cook.

You don’t have to be cooking like a chef, but a little cooking knowledge can go a long way. You need to eat, so maybe you need to cook. Seeing pre-cooked rice, and avocado in a tube in the supermarket makes me sigh. Is this becoming our normal? Cooking rice, surely is no more difficult than learning to tie your own shoelaces, (maybe not at the same age.) It’s tricky to begin with, gauging the right way to do it, but then with a little practice it becomes second nature and you just do it.

Why do people say they can’t cook? This brings up so many questions in my mind. Is it because they have no interest in it or are daunted by being in the kitchen? If kids were brought up watching other adults go about preparing evening meals, I think it becomes second nature and an almost default setting for them. Here, stir this pot while I chop this. Turn it off when you see bubbles. Do this enough times and without even noticing you child has just absorbed some valuable cooking experience. Maybe that experience won’t be drawn upon completely while they are still living at home and busy being an insufferable teenager, but that experience will be invaluable when it’s time to move out. (No need to buy pre-cooked rice and avocado in tubes then.)

It’s never too late to learn to cook. My grandfather in his late 70’s started to cook, and I’m really proud that he has taken that on. Not out of necessity, as my grandmother still produces the majority of the meals, but out of interest. A school fundraising cookbook landed on his lap, and something in the bottom of his belly was ignited. He started to bake. Under the watchful eye of my grandmother, he starting producing snacks and meals and getting an obvious enjoyment from it. I think he also cottoned on to the fact that if he cooked, he could cater things to his own taste buds and not what someone else wanted him to eat. Sweeties!

Simple cooking doesn’t have to be tasteless. I’m sure some of my most stand out meals have been the ones with the least ingredients. Zucchini quickly cooked in some diced local garlic and olive oil, with a little sourdough on the side and I’m a happy woman. For a lot of lucky people there is an amazing amount of choice of foods out there. Simple doesn’t have to mean an un-interesting diet.  Olive oil, garlic, asian/middle eastern style spices, and legumes can be cheap and all help in making a meal mind blowing within minutes. Choice is a wonderful thing. I really value the fact that I have food choice and I don’t want to feel indifferent about those choices.

Celebrity and competitive cooking shows aren’t a bad thing. In prime time television in every corner of the globe there is probably a cooking programme going on. A lot of people have embraced the celebrity chef and televised cooking competitions. If this encourages people to cook, to jump off the couch and head towards the kitchen, surely it can’t be a bad thing.  A celebrity chef as a pin-up idol seems to be a much nicer alternative to some C grade celebrity famous for being famous. If I had a tween, I would much rather posters of Jamie Oliver on the wall than ….some toad who just got arrested again. There will always be some negative things to watching these programmes, but I really think the postitives far out way. I’ll take watching and learning how to cook a souffle over another dead body in CSI something or other any day.

Knowing where your food comes from, brings a sense of value. I love knowing where my food comes from if I can manage it. When ever a meal is produced from either making it myself or buying the ingredients from a producer I have met or know something of… pickle me in ginger if I don’t feel warm and fuzzy from it. I’ll be more inclined to eat in moderation and be mindful of how it tastes. Mouthfuls aren’t being thrown back willy nilly without a backwards glance to the plate.  If I’ve just spent 2 days making that sourdough, I’m damn sure I’m going to appreciate every crumb of it. I’m really proud to be able to produce something tasty to go on the family table. I have a lovely memory of the first time Monkey Boy helped out making dinner. The pride he had, and the joy he got in telling Mr Chocolate, “I made that…isn’t it delicious!”

Knowing how to cook helps with staying on a budget. Knowing how to cook and stretch the ingredients that I have, has taken time and practice, (and still with much more learning to go.) Knowing how to cook gives you cooking options. Cooking to a budget, also makes you resourceful with ingredients. I’m sure that as a family unit we are spending less on food now than when Mr Chocolate and I were Monkey-less. It bugs me serving up the same meal for 3 consecutive nights, I lose interest and so do The Monkeys…But, I do get a kick out of ‘upcycling’ the meal into something else.

Bolognese- to mexican beans- to huevos rancheros

Left over rice- to bread

Dhal- to lentil burgers

Porridge- to sourdough oat bread

I also get a huge kick out of being able to preserve the seasons. Jams, chutneys, marmalades are staples and used daily in our family eating habits. Jams are used to sweeten homemade yogurt, marmalades to jazz up toast and chutneys to take a simple dinner to another level. In time to come, (with more space and more access to produce) I would love to have preserved fruits, tomato sauces, passatas and other goodies all lining my cupboards, but for the moment I’m happy with what I am doing. They aren’t tricky, and it saves us money. Oodles of it, I’m sure.

Having my own vegetable garden would be lovely, but… I can’t grow more than a few token extras where I am. So, by choosing to buy from local farmers markets, or using CSA boxes when ever I can, (and it’s convenient) it helps with buying locally, eating fresher and knowing what’s in season. When I shop at the local fruit and vegetable shop or supermarket, yes, it’s convenient by being all in the one spot, but I wouldn’t have a clue whats in season. Not a tooting clue.

The internet is full of recipes. Lots of them. You can learn how to make just about anything you could possibly imagine at the click of a button, and this I think is rather lovely.

So tell me…  what do you think? Everything up for discussion if you have the time and the inclination…

The Humble Crumble

There are so many variations on the humble crumble. It can be a quick an easy dessert stand by, and without it in my life there would be a huge crumbly hole.

The quickest and most basic way I have found is to…. melt 100gms butter. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, and then add one cup of plain flour. Fork it through so it resembles bread crumbs and then lay it on what ever seasonal fruit you have.  Chopped fresh plums, cooked apples, mixed berries….endless possibilities. It can go in single ramekins, a large deep dish, a low flat dish, an oven proof pot. What ever you have that is bakeproof is fine. Fruit in and crumble mixture on top. From those three topping ingredients you can build. Additions of oats, lemon zest, ginger, coriander, vanilla, almond meal, make it cake-like, crispy, cobbler-esque…

So many combinations of deliciousness! Then bake it all at 180C, until golden.

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57 thoughts on “the humble crumble, and a little bit on what I think…

  1. Completely agree, eat seasonally, makes so much sense and brings a sense of anticipation and excitement too.

    I love crumble. Especially blackberry and apple crumble at this time of year…oh yum…

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    • I think a lot of Italians have got it right with seasonal, simple dishes that taste amazing. I wonder if this knowledge is being passed down to younger generations? Or the lure of ‘convenience’ is too much…

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      • Most Italian women now work, so I also wonder if the traditions will be passed on the way they used to be. From what I can see Italians shop at supermarkets, so will the small markets survive?

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  2. I agree with everything you are saying. I have a renewed interest in cooking and baking, now that I am trying to eat locally and to reduce my food packaging garbage while I am at it. So I have a rule – no food that comes in a box! It is amazing how that simple rule eliminates so much of the packaged processed stuff and forces you to make and bake your own snacks. My only problem is finding the ideas, and knowing beforenhand what works and what will not. For example, I have yet to find a cracker recipe that doesn’t taste like cardboard! I also like the simple. Especially when you have great, local, fresh ingredients. Tasty!

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  3. There are millions of people in this world who cook every day, when they can find food. water and firewood to do it with. Many of them are illiterate, so reading and cooking have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I don’t believe you can easily learn cooking fundamentals from a book, TV might help, but learning from someone else is the best way to get a grounding. Lots of issues here and you have written a thought provoking piece. I would add that many of us simply eat too much and are addicted to food.

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    • Yes, lots of issues that I have barely touched on, and yes I also agree with many of us eating too much and are addicted to food… Why do you think people are addicted to food in the first place?

      I think all the millions of people that manage to cook everyday with limited resources would pass on these valued cooking skills to their children. Children would be involved in the process all the way through, whether physically or just watching- cementing that basic grounding.

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      • Sugar, salt, meat and fats are all high value foods. Historically scarce and we are ‘programmed’ to value them above others. So when they are more easily available we simply eat more of them, hence all the efforts to make fats that we can’t digest, but make us feel ‘sated’ and fake sugars and so on. The food addiction stems from that, plus the ‘random reward’ thesis, which basically says you go on eating stuff, in the hope that the next one, will be better, tastier, more satisfying, a bit like compulsive email checking…. Well that’s my current take on the subject – it’s a bit more complicated than that, but roughly that’s it 🙂

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  4. Love a girl who can rant intelligently & I too have “issues” with people who say “I don’t know how to cook” – I pretty much think they’re lazy & sometimes when I’ve got my cheffy personality wanting to bust out I ask them if they can’t read 😉

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    • Oh I can quite often rant unintelligently, with mumbled responses and a series of indistinguishable grunts. Cohesive words aren’t always readily available Anna.
      … and I’d love to see your cheffy personality bust out!

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  5. Funny, today I was walking up the hill through the top orchard to our house after collectng the eggs and I was thinking about Autumn and wondering if I’d made the most of its bounty. I feel like I’ve been baking and preserving for months now. I feel like I have picked and used so much of what we have grown or been given BUT I realised with horror that I have not made one single crumble. Not one! Mark my words I will make a crumble before the week is done.
    I agree with all the other stuff too. Cooking, eating seasonally and locally and growing your own are super duper important and my personal favourite is eating organic. I think eating food that is grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Food that is really food and not a bunch of numbers or a chemical equation, food that is grown with love and intent and with care of mother nature should be all our priority.
    Ha! Now I’ve left a rambly essay in your comments. Oops x

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    • Rambly essays are always most welcome here Kate!
      I’d love to sit down with you one day and quiz you on the logistics of running a large scale organic farm… while munching on some of your heritage apples perhaps…
      Now do your family a favour and go make some crumble. Autumn is incomplete with out it’s addition.

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  6. Hehe you might have seen me nodding at this whole post. Indeed knowing more about the food from where it comes from to how to cook it is very important. If you are too far removed from that you lose touch of your own health and your place in the world and community too.

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  7. Hi

    Lovely post. I agree that it makes so much sense and is enjoyable to be able to cook. I find it easier (and more satisfying) to quickly whip up a slice, cake or biscuits than go to the shop and buy a store or bakery brought item. More and more I am upset when I buy things from cafes as they have not been freshly baked or made on the premises.

    I make crumbles for a living (selling through festivals and markets). It is the most popular dessert I do and the basic recipe i have used for years came from an old country women’s association book. It is equal parts melted butter, brown sugar, flour, rolled oats and coconut. It is a lovely texture and my favourite combination are apple and rhubarb or mixed berries.

    My kids would have it every night for dinner if I let them! I also do a lighter version with less sugar and butter – but add some unsweetened juice to the crumble.

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    • Larissa if you ever need a crumble sidekick, (small polite cough). What a great way to make a living!
      I’ve done unsugared ones as well, honey steps up to the occasion quite nicely. I agree with it being quite often easier and more satisfying to bake something rather than buy it. There are some amazingly tasty goodies out there but there is also a lot of ‘blah’ sold.

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  8. Great post!

    1. I agree with everything you said…except:

    2. Food Shows. You know I can’t go past this! I like the ‘teaching’ shows and I know that just about every cooking show gets people excited and heading for the kitchen, but I cannot, Can Not stand the competitive nature of a few shows. Stress..fear..competition..cooking should never be about this! Where is the enjoyment? I know, I know, two sides to the coin and all that, but this is just my 2 cents worth…

    3. I put my name down today for the email mailings from an ethical beef farm..if they get enough orders in our area they will deliver…yay!

    4. Kids SHOULD be brought up cooking, no doubt about that. Pre-cooked rice? How insulting. Why are people ‘dumbing’ themselves down?

    and 5: Love, love LOVE a crumble. Sadly I burnt a crumble to blackness this weekend in our woodoven. This was scrape the coal of the top and pick through the unsinged fruit type eating…so sad.

    Happy shopping, cooking and eating, Bryds and apologies for the lengthy dot.point reply.

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    • Love a good dot.point reply Christine, you know that. Lengthy ones, even better.
      2/ hehehe, I knew you would disagree 🙂 I think with these competition shows you are looking at an end of the spectrum. Most won’t be like this and for the few that are, yep… the stress of it all is going to be there. But I guess they are doing it for a ‘prize’ at the end. Whether it be money, opportunity, exposure. Surely they wouldn’t be doing it unless there was that enjoyment already installed?
      3/ I hope they deliver.
      4/ Do your kids cook regularly? (Growing up my siblings and I all had a designated cooking night.)
      5/ That is sad.

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  9. I love cooking my own food so your post resonates with me.

    I agree I would prefer to watch celebrity chefs than many other rubbish on the telly (though the adverts rally annoy me) but I fear that celebrity cooking and people’s lack of cooking are two sides of the same coin. Does the idea of celebrity chefs elevate the idea of cooking outside the home, make it into an event, a performance, rather than something humble and humdrum. It changes our expectations and our definitions.

    Also my experience is that some people don’t care enough about food to cook. Though a person I have in mind has a mother who cooked but never enjoyed it and as soon as her family grew up she turned to convenience meals.

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    • Two excellent points.
      There are certainly a lot of people out there that just see food as fuel and no other source of enjoyment. So I can definitely see why convenient foods would appeal there.

      I also agree that celebrity chefs can be double edged sword in regards to putting people off and inspiring. I don’t think there is enough emphasis on simple, local, seasonal ingredients used within the shows… I think a lot of people would be influenced by these shows and present their every day foods differently though. My nana now “plates” up, which still gets a chuckle out of me. Maybe if it looks prettier, there is more pride and more push to try more cooking??…

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  10. I had no idea about avocado in a tube – how bizarre and I bet how horrid. I’ve never had a commercial guacamole yet that wasn’t horrible. I have nothing to disagree with about what you’ve said. But then I grew up in the kitchen with a mother who cooked and grew some vegetables and didn’t have much money, so I absorbed cooking, seasonality and thriftiness. There are people now who are have grown up as the 3rd generation who have never cooked – how incredibly hard it is for them and their children. As for the crumble a shaking of cinnamon and a few chopped hazelnuts make the crumble a bit more of a special treat.

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    • Similar childhood as you know Choclette, so I hear you. 3rd generation of people who have never cooked…. it would be damn hard. So what’s the answer for them?
      Cinnamon, I’d be lost without that little beauty.

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  11. Have you investigated community gardens in your area? I’d bet there are some – and if not, I recognize in you the advocate personality – you could be the creative spark to get a community garden program started! Think about it.

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  12. Totally agree. I just wish that I could put my thoughts into actions in my own kitchen. Fundamentally, I love sharing my food with other people, hence my love of baking. Sadly I don’t value making food for myself in the same way. Working on it….

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  13. I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said. You’ve capure most of my thoughts and adding additional points would just be waffle.

    It brings back great memories for me that you’ve twinned this post with a crumble recipe. My mum made crumble practically every day when I was growing up. Using fresh fruit from the garden in the summer and frozen or bottled fruit in the winter. Apples, raspberries, blackberries, goseberries, rhubarb or plum.

    Local, simple, economical and getting the kids involved.

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    • Ah waffle is always welcome here Richard.
      I think there are quite a few happy childhood memories of crumble about. (I used to love looking at all the rows of bottled fruits in the pantry.) Do you make crumble now?

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      • I have to admit not very often!

        It’s quite rare that I make desserts at home in my bid to be healthy. And I can never make one as good as my mum…….

        I always rub my butter and flour together. I’ll try your method for metling the butter next tme I make one as it seems a lot simpler!

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  14. Thank you for expressing everything I have been thinking and feeling. You have inspired me to do more cooking. Actually for our family Easter lunch I made the Blueberry Crumble Cake out of Annabel Langbein’s book “The Free Range Cook”. It was delicious but best of all was the leftover crumble topping that was turned into mini plum and blueberry crumbles- just for me!!!! Keep posting inspiring “rants”. I love them.

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  15. I would have to say that I agree with everything here! Which is part of the reason why my boy and I are happy to live out of town on a half acre lot, with lots of space for gardens to produce our own veggies. Otherwise I go to the farmer’s market, local grocer, or if I can directly to the farm. I also love to preserve and can’t wait to can the delicious fruits of summer.

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  16. Great post. You know where I stand on food… just wanted to say that for some people it isn’t about the difficulty of cooking, but people choose convenience because they are simply in positions where time spent on health, family, work etc. is needed more & worth more than freshly cooked food. I totally agree that we are disconnected from food and people need to put more effort in to feeding themselves & their families, but I also know there are times when we’ve relied on ‘convenience’ foods to get us through… there are plenty of skills & recipes & ideas out there to make it easier for people, but times where a bought quiche or cooked mash might help their sanity (but avocado in a tube… bleurgh!)

    TV cooking shows are great for promoting a better connection with food, in general, but I wished they would promote seasonal, local, real ingredients more… maybe a TV show on how to make family food, what can be frozen or prepared in advance etc. would be good too!

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  17. Hi, my first visit to your blog and I have to say I agree with most of what you say and of course, I love a good crumble. I’m convinced anyone can cook and take myself as a case in point. I have moved on a bit from macaroni cheese and apricot chicken from uni days but it does need a degree of genuine interest to move on and maybe not everyone has that. I’m really trying not to be as wasteful with both leftovers and overstocking and have taken to shopping on the way home or at lunchtime for the evening meal which I am really enjoying.

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  18. I agree. I tried to teach my children to cook- and they have taught me about local and sustainable foods.
    Here we call crumbles – crisps or betty- cobbler is more of a muffin topped dish. But I don’t care about the name- love the fragrance and flavors- and because Americans never get enough cinnamon it is always added to apple anything.
    Thanks for a very wholesome rant, Brydie!

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  19. This is a great post 🙂 As someone who is still on a steep learning curve with learning to cook certain foods, I’m finding I enjoy the process more and more as I gain the confidence to just try! I’ve found it interesting since moving in with my partner how that also varies with gender…he used to use a rice cooker but has now realised using a regular saucepan is just as easy. I think it’s practice and having it introduced at a young age, so I hope families continue to value the skill.

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  20. Canned cheese is a big thing over here and it terrifies me. At Thanksgiving my boyfriend’s family stared at me in wonder while I ‘made’ cream…ummm, no, the cow did that, I’m just whipping it. Open the door of their fridge to see a giant tub of Cool Whip, the fake cheese and row after row of No Fat. Chemicals for dinner anyone?

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  21. Hello, I don’t think I’ve commented here before but I found your blog about a month ago, and I have to say I’m very glad I did. It seems your opinions on food and cooking are very similar to mine (I first spotted avocado-in-a-tube in Woolies just the other week and was mildly horrified, though there are far worse products out there), and posts like this inspire me to redouble my efforts to make delicious food from local ingredients and enjoy the process! Also, it’s always nice to find a good Australian food blog 🙂

    I think I’m pretty lucky to grow up in a family that cooked a lot and paid attention to what we ate. I am frequently taken aback by friends asking about what I consider basic kitchen skills. But it’s great that so many of my friends are interested in food and cooking and in developing skills and repertoire, no matter what their background is. I don’t know if it’s a phenomenon that’s on the rise at the moment or if it’s something I’ve only taken notice of in the last few years. I’m trying to learn new things myself (my current project is sourdough). I love the challenge of learning and the satisfaction of making tastier, healthier, cheaper, or greener food – sometimes I enjoy the cooking even more than the eating!

    I love crumbles. I made so many when I was living in Canada for 6 months – I was there in autumn and there were apples everywhere and so many fresh berries that I just about died! Now that I’m back in Queensland I’m adding pineapple & sultanas to my apple crumbles instead of fresh blackberries, but it’s still pretty tasty 🙂

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    • Betsy it’s lovely to hear from another like minded soul 🙂
      I think I was nodding my head through out all that you wrote.
      I’m never sure whether it’s food trends either, that are on the rise or whether I’m just honing my attention on all things relevant to me, and I’m just paying more attention.
      How is your sourdough going? Are you enjoying the process?
      Enjoy all those lovely crumbles!

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      • The sourdough is great fun! I was pretty new to baking bread when I started the sourdough a few months ago, so it took me a while to figure out how to knead properly and so on, but I’m making bread I’m happy with now. It’s pretty fantastic, I’ve always loved interesting bread, and baking myself is cheaper and more fun than always buying bread from markets and bakeries. It was a little frustrating to start, though, as I was having trouble getting enough information on the details – I’ve just been using the internet for recipes and techniques, not cookbooks, so it gets confusing.

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      • That’s great that you are making it though and have been enjoying the process. Sourdough is such a versatile beast. Did you make your own starter or get it from somewhere?
        I still get confused sometimes and have miles of learning to go but like you I think it’s damn fun and enjoy the whole process. Even just feeding it and checking on the bubble action is enjoyable.
        Enjoy those loaves Betsy.

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  22. avocado in a tube! never heard of that one.
    totally agree with all of it, loving your soapbox post. makes sense and it should be a part of our lives.

    i was complaining to a friend that my 5yr old vegetarian is fussy about food, ie, will eat capsicum raw but not cooked, grow broccoli with her dad in the garden yet when it’s cooked puts on a squirmy face, eat green beans raw from the garden yet doesn’t always eat them when they are cooked.
    then my friend reminded me that many kids wouldn’t even know where those vegetables came from let alone tasted them. it shocks me to think.

    keep on cooking, I love your posts ♥

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