Washing without detergent

For many years I have been allergic to most washing detergents. I have narrowed down to about 1 brand that I can just about tolerate without breaking out in hives. Whilst reviewing the family’s single use plastic intake I realised that the plastic boxes that this particular brand of washing detergent ‘pods’ comes in are a big part of that. I also realise that the amount of washing detergent going into our water system, with all the chemicals they contain, is not good for anyone. However, my household generates at least 2 washing loads a day and much of this is sports kit which is (a) sweaty (b) muddy or both and so I need something that’s going to wash properly.

I have always been slightly skeptical of alternatives to detergent as I am wary as to their effectiveness. However, this year, with my renewed impetus to try and do what I can for the environment I decided to try out an alternative and so, after some research, I purchased an EcoEgg . When I bought it just after Christmas there was an offer for a Complete EcoEgg Laundry Kit which comprised an EcoEgg Laundry Egg, Dryer Balls, and Instant Stain Remover.

The whole package cost around £30. The Egg has refills which mean it is good for 720 washes, I have been buying Fairy Non Bio Pods at £22.80 for 114 washes so I would have to spend £144 on those to get 720 washes and that’s without the dryer balls and the stain remover.

I have been using the Egg for about 2 weeks now and have been really impressed with the results. All my washing has come out clean and the dryer balls have cut dryer time by at least a third.

The ultimate test of the Egg came today – my middle daughter plays as Goalkeeper for an Under 15s girls football team and this morning they trained in our local park. It was raining and the ground was very muddy. When she came home her kit was absolutely filthy –

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I put her shirt and padded goalie trousers, both covered in mud and grass, on a 40 degree synthetics programme with the the EcoEgg and waited to see how it would come out – I was impressed as you can see –

 

Not only has the mud and grass gone but her shirt smells clean – no sweat, no mud just clean clothes.

So how does it work? Well, you fill the egg with two different types of pellets. White mineral pellets and dark tourmaline pellets. According to the leaflet with the Egg the tourmaline pellets ‘weaken the adhesive forces between the dirt and fabric’ and the mineral pellets ‘naturally ionize the oxygen molecules in the water which then penetrate deep into the fabric lifting away the dirs and grime’

I did some more digging online and found some research that was done into the EcoEgg which seemed to conclude that the tourmaline did in fact raise the pH of the water giving the water a greater natural ability to dissolve and remove organic matter from clothing. In conjunction with the mineral pellets this then increases the washing effectiveness.

As I write this I am thinking I need to run a control for my experiment and wash dirty football kit without anything in the washing machine at all – I’ll let you know how it goes….

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First week of a new regime…

So, one week in to my plastic reduction/eco shopping regime and all is looking good. I kept to my meal plan and didn’t have to do any top-up shops so this week we were all fed on my one shop on 4th Jan which cost £55 plus delivery of a pint of milk and a pint of orange juice on Monday, Wednesday and Friday by the milkman – everything else we ate was already in the cupboard, fridge or freezer.

My meal plan for the week – breakfast is either toast or cereal for everyone and we all have packed lunches every day. My lunch is invariably whatever was left over from the previous night’s dinner. The girls have sandwiches, wraps and this week homemade pastry cheese slices, nutella turnovers and fairy cakes made by D1 and D2

  • Thursday – spaghetti bolognese
  • Friday – homemade pizza
  • Saturday – Kidney bean fajitas
  • Sunday – roast dinner (chicken for the carnivores, quorn sausages for the vegetarians)
  • Monday – Chicken curry & vegetable curry both made with homemade curry base sauce from a Jamie Oliver recipe here. There was loads left so I’ve bottled it and frozen it for curry another day.
  • Tuesday – Veggie Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash very quick as D2 has to be out to rugby and D3 to dance at 5.30 and I made a second smaller one for hubby to heat up when he got in from collecting D3.
  • Wednesday – Warm lentil salad with Buttnernut Squash. This is a recipe I got when I used to have Hello Fresh deliveries and one I’ve made a few times.
  • Thursday – I was out on my work’s Christmas meal so just did baked potatoes with cheese, baked beans, bacon, salad and whatever else was left in the fridge!

I’m pretty pleased that we managed the whole week. The amount of waste that has gone in our kitchen bin that is non-recyclable is way less than usual. We haven’t even filled one binful in the week and usually there would have been at least 2 bin bags full. I have also done away with the bin bag in the kitchen bin and so we can only put ‘clean’ waste in there.

The food recycling bin was about 3/4 full and that was mostly vegetable peelings. Our mixed recycling bin is very empty and is mostly cans and glass bottles.

I have just written my shopping list for the coming week and today was going past our local farm shop so stopped in to get my vegetables. Slightly disappointing that even in there salad is still wrapped in plastic – cucumber in a shrink wrapped skin of plastic, rocket in a plastic tray inside a plastic bag, lettuce in a plastic bag. Did get carrots, avocado, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and a nice loaf of bread all without any pacakaging though. Managed to leave my shopping list in there so when I got to the supermarket later I had no idea what I still needed to buy so just got the bits for tonight’s homemade pizzas and will have to go out again!!

My menu plan for this week has been done after taking a stocktake of my cupboards and making an effort to cook things that will use up what is there –

  • Friday – homemade pizza; already have flour,yeast etc to make dough & passatta and cheddar. Bought mozarella & pepperoni
  • Saturday – soup for lunch; Beetroot & Feta falafel for tea.
  • Sunday – taking D2 & D3 to London to see Annie (their Christmas present) so will eat lunch in London. Tea will probably just be cheese on toast when we get home. Will leave D1 and hubby something from the freezer to heat up!
  • Monday – Chickpea, tomato & spinach curry – I have 3 tins of chickpeas in the cupboard and a bag of spinach in the fridge so need to use them up!
  • Tuesday – Mexican Black Bean bake. Again seem to have loads of tins of black beans. This recipe uses buckwheat which I use a lot in place of bulgur wheat as it’s gluten free. It also cooks in 35 minutes which is great on Tuesday when we are all pressed for time.
  • Wednesday – Chickpea & nut burgers with sweet potato chips (I got delivered a huge quantity of sweet potatoes at Christmas when I got someone elses fruit and veg as well as my own so using them up as well as the chickpeas…and we all love sweet potato chips)
  • Thursday – Macaroni cauliflower cheese.

So far I’ve spent about £36 on food, I know I still have some shopping to do after I lost the list but probably only another £15 or so. We are one less next week as hubby is away with work so that is one less person to feed! Will see if they all notice that our menu for the week is completely meat free……

Leftovers

One of the big single use plastic items that gets used in this house is clingfilm. We almost always have a couple of bowls/plates covered in cling film in our fridge – a bowl of tuna & mayonaise from D1 making herself a tuna sandwich, one tin of tuna is alway too much for one sandwich; a half onion left from making dinner; leftover pizza from Friday pizza night.

Even though we try, as much as possible, to store leftovers in reusable plastic tubs inevitably there are occasions when you can’t find a suitable tub so the cling film comes out. So this week I looked into alternatives and came across ‘Cling Cloth‘ so I ordered some. I bought a Variety pack, 3 cloths in various sizes , and a Bread Wrap. They arrived this week, packaged in a cardboard envelope package and I’ve been using them for the last couple of days.

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Cling Cloths are organic cotton cloths infused with beeswax, jojoba and pine resin. They are natural, re-usable and, at the end of their life, compostable. I have found them incredibly easy to use – in comparison to cling film which is, nearly always, a nightmare clinging to itself and nothing else! The cloth moulds around anything and sticks to itself in place. I have used it so far to cover bowls full of leftover guacamole and salsa from Saturday night’s fajitas (saved dirtying another container by transferring them from the bowls they were made and served in to plastic container thus reducing washing up!) and to wrap half an onion which was left from making the salsa.

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All these stayed wonderfully fresh, the cloth does not seemed to have retained any lingering onion odour from the half onion, they were easy to wash afterwards and folded neatly to pack away and use for next time.

I will report again later in the year as to how they have held up to repeated use.

 

 

 

Weekend Waste update

First weekend and end of my first week of my plastic free challenge and I’m feeling I’m doing ok. The amount of waste in our kitchen bin is significantly less than usual and the amount in our recycling bins is also less.

Dinner last night was bean fajitas,   We love fajitas and I often make meat and veggie versions but today decided everyone was going to have bean fajitas to make life easier. I did use gluten free and wheat tortillas though. D3 helped me make dinner, she made the salsa: 2 tomatoes, remove seeds & chop, 1/2 red onion chopped, lime juice;  and we also made some guacamole – 2 avocados, bit of lime juice, shake of cumin, mash it all together with a fork.

The fajita filling we made by frying a chopped onion with a couple of cloves of garlic and some fajita seasoning. We then added three tins of red kidney beans (drained) and cooked for about 10 minutes. Then about 100ml of vegetable stock and cook until the liquid is almost gone and mash a little.

Pics of our dinner –

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Sunday is rugby day – D2 was playing this afternoon so we were all out most of the day. Dinner tonight was roast chicken (Quorn sausages for the vegetarians).

Also made some puff pastry pizza slices for lunchboxes as promised to D2, and had pastry left so we made some chocolate spread turnovers as well. So that’s lunches sorted!

Waste this weekend –

Landfill waste – 2 plastic packets from tortillas, 5 tassimo pods, plastic wrap from ready made pastry, plastic wrap from chicken

Recycling – 3 cans from kidney beans, 2 cans from soup (Sunday lunchtime before rugby), vegetable peelings (potato, onion, avocado, brocolli), cardboard from puff pastry & quorn sausages, plastic trays from chicken & quorn sausages.

 

 

 

 

Day 3 waste update

Packed lunches made = 4 (I ate leftover spaghetti bolognese from yesterday evening as D2 didn’t want dinner)

Dinner = homemade pizzas. Garlic bread from freezer.

My family love pizza – me I could live without them, I really don’t see what the fuss is. Let’s face it, basically it’s cheese on toast isn’t it? Whatever, if they could they would have Dominos every day  or at the very least frozen pizza from the supermarket. I, on the other hand, want them to eat slightly more healthily (and cheaply) and so somehow, sometime ago, Friday night became ‘Homemade Pizza Night’. I’m not sure how this happened but now it is expected and if Friday evening comes along and there are no pizzas then the cries of disappointment are loud and long.

Of course, pizza making in our family is not that simple with our various dietary requirements. I have tried various recipes for gluten free pizza bases over the years and D1 has given feedback on them all. In the end we have come to use a recipe which is on the back of the Doves Farm Bread Flour packet which is quick, easy and (she reports) tasty.

Dough for the rest of the family is made in the breadmaker. This takes some time so I stick all the ingredients (1 cup of water, 4 cups of bread flour, 3 tbsps olive oil, 2 tsp sugar, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp yeast)  in as soon as I get in from school at 4 and then I can go off and do over things. By 5.30/6pm the dough has mixed and proved and is ready to shape, top and cook.

Toppings of choice are passata, mozarella, grated cheddar and pepperami or chorizo for the carnivores among us.

Give it a go – it’s a lot easier than you think. Much tastier than frozen, ready made pizza, way cheaper than take away and no carboard boxes, plastic wrap or polystyrene trays to dispose of!

 

Todays waste

Landfill waste – 2 plastic bags from mozarella, plastic bag from garlic bread, 2 tassimo pods (hubby had one coffee this morning and one this evening)

Recycling – tetra carton from passata (put in our mixed recycling bin), paper bag  from flour (put in paper recycling)

Plastic Free Day 2

So, Day 2 of PlasticFreeMe and I thought I’d share my family’s meals and the waste produced from those, so hear goes

Breakfast 

Cereal & Milk, tea, coffee – waste produced = teabag (which went into the food recycling bin), coffee pod from the Tassimo. The cereal & milk both have plastic containers but we didn’t finish them today so they’ve gone back in the cupboard/fridge.

There used to be a Tassimo recycling bin in Sainsburys in Marlow but last time I looked it wasn’t there, according to the Tassimo website the nearest one now is Sainsburys in Maidenhead. I did apply to them ages ago to see if I could get my own recycling bin as those little pods going in the bin vex me and my family have a serious Tassimo habit (not me as I don’t drink coffee or hot chocolate) – still waiting to hear from them.

Lunch 

As we are all now back at work/school/college this meant packed lunches. Youngest (D3) and middle (D2) daughters had a bento box each filled with a savoury Pizza pastry (bought from Tesco but D2 and I have plans to make our own), cucumber sticks & dip (hummus for D3 and sour cream for D2) , chorizo sausage & cherry tomatoes (D3), yoghurt (D2), clementine (D3) and banana (D2) and finally some homemade graham cracker toffee. They each had a bottle filled with blackcurrant squash.

I am going to digress here to talk about the toffee . We first made this before Christmas to put in the Goody Bags we gave out as Christmas presents. It’s called Christmas Crack Toffee  and is on the i heart naptime blog here   as well as the Christmas Crack we also made some Peppermint Crunch from the same blog, the recipe is here  we made ours with gluten free graham crackers from Kinnikinnick Foods and it is absolutely amazing. We have quite a bit left and don’t plan to wait till next Christmas to make some more!

Anyway, returning to our meal plan! D1 made sushi the night before for her lunch – first time she had made it herself so lots of supervision but she did a very good job. I took a ciabbatta roll and the last bit of brie from the Christmas cheese board.

Waste produced – banana & clementine peel which went into our food recycling bin (our local council takes food waste and it is processed to produce energy and agricultural fertiliser), paper used to wrap the pizza slices when we bought them at Tesco which went into the paper recycling bin

Dinner

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This evening’s meal plan was for Spaghetti Bolognaise. Minced beef & Soya mince were already in my freezer, onions, pepper & garlic in the vegetable rack, bacon in the fridge and pasta in the cupboard so the only additional purchases were a tin of tomatoes and a carrot. Our family contains two vegetarians, myself and D2, and a coeliac, D1, and so I made one ragu sauce with minced beef and bacon and one with soya mince and two lots of pasta, one GF and one not.

Waste produced = onion skin, pepper seeds & stalk and garlic skin which went into the food recycling; tin from the tomatoes and plastic tray (green not black!) from the mince which both go into our mixed recycling. The soya mince was in a plastic bag but I only used half so the bag has gone back in the freezer for another day as did the bacon in it’s plastic tray back in the fridge and the pasta in it’s plastic bags back in the cupboard.

Overall pretty good day with one exception. I was reading an article on the Friends of the Earth website ‘9 really good alternatives to plastic’ which has alerted me to the fact that most teabags contain plastic. WHAT!!! I live on cups of tea and am very concerned to learn that the teabags, which I had thought were compostable, contain microplastics which are then being put into the soil with that compost. Apparantly there is a small amount of polypropolene added to the bags to ensure that when they are heat-sealed they don’t then come open in the box or your cup. I did some more digging and found an article on the blog Moral Fibres which has detailed some of the main brands and whether they contain plastic or not.

For me, as I own a vast collection of teapots and tea infusers I am going to dust them off and start buying loose leaf tea…

 

My first ‘plastic free’ shop

Well, I always try to minimise plastic when shopping but this is my first shop since setting myself the challenge of reducing single use plastic and I spent some time in the supermarket trying to do so (anyone who knows me will realise this is a true sacrifice as I absolutely detest shopping!)

So – my plastic free shopping this week.  I shopped at Tesco Loudwater I’m guessing  not the best but probably not the worst at overpackaging. In the spirit of less waste I also drastically reduced my shop by going through the cupboard of tins/pasta/jars and the freezer and just buying extra fresh ingredients to make meals with what I already have. I spent a third of what I usually do but I will see if we make it through the week without a top up shop.

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The main things I could not get plastic free were:

  1. Dairy. Cheese all seems to be shrink-wrapped in plastic and the mozarella I bought for pizza is in a plastic bag; yoghurt & sour cream are in plastic pots but I’m not sure how else this could be packaged?.
  2. Fruit & Vegetables: I did pretty well here buying loose tomatoes, carrots, courgettes, beetroot & spring onions. Lettuce, or any salad leaves, are not available except in plastic wrap/bags. Cherry tomatoes are either in plastic bags or in a cardboard tray within a plastic bag. Potatoes there were no loose potatoes in the Tesco I was in and so I bought a plastic bag of potatoes.
  3. Meat: We don’t eat a lot of meat as myself and my middle daughter are vegetarian, however the rest of the family do like chicken. I generally buy a whole chicken and they have it roasted with the leftovers for sandwiches and chicken curry. All the meat in the Tesco store I was in was prepacked in plastic and the chickens are on a plastic tray within a plastic bag. There isn’t a butchers counter but I am not sure even then I could have bought unwrapped meat?
  4. Quorn sausages: I was very disappointed to find that all the Quorn products are, to my mind, over packaged with a plastic tray sealed with plastic film and a cardboard sleeve around that. Come on Quorn! I am sure you could do better with packaging. Their website states that they have a vision for Sustainable Nutrition and are ‘working hard to ensure our packaging can be recycled…and we’re also cutting the amount of packaging’ So I’m hopeful that things will improve. 

The plastic tray used for my Quorn sausages does concern me as it is a black plastic tray. A recent One Show highlighted the fact that most black plastic ends up in landfill even if your local council offers plastic recycling, as mine does.

The black plastic doesn’t reflect light and so the scanners used to sort the plastic and so they could end up contaminating other recyclables such as glass. This means they are often just discarded into landfill. There is an alternative black tray which could be detected and sorted into mixed colour PET but retailers don’t want to start selling it as they want the sorting centres to agree first – nobody wants to take the plunge so the situation has reached a standoff.

http://resource.co/article/one-show-tackles-black-plastic-confusion-11742

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I did try really hard and will see if I can get better. Will be checking the other supermarkets in my area over the next few weeks to compare their packaging. I suspect I may have to revert to buying my fruit and veg from a farm shop – I used to do this every week but that was before I worked and had more time. I used to take my youngest before she had started school as one of our days out each week! The challenge is overcoming the convenience of shopping in a supermarket and getting everything in one place when you are ‘time poor’ and additionally, working to a budget with 5 people in the house to feed.

My other challenge is that I detest shopping of any sort, food shopping especially and for many, many years I have done my food shopping online. The prospect of spinning out my shopping across several different shops fills me with a sense of mild dread.

Wish me luck

Happy New Year

I am resurrecting this blog as I have set myself a challenge for the coming year to reduce the amount of single use plastic in my life and I want to document my success, or otherwise, and perhaps help others who have a similar goal. I am not sure that I can eliminate it plastic entirely  but I am going to have a very good try.

As some background, my family consists myself, my husband, our three daughters, two cats, a hamster and some fish. Trying to feed all of them, on a sensible budget, and be environmentally responsible is going to take some effort but I think it’s worth it.

The easy changes (as I see them at the moment) are –

  1. The drinks pouches with plastic straws/disposable plastic drinks bottles which my children like in their lunch boxes – replace with a reusable drinks bottle filled with juice/squash/water
  2. Sandwich bags/cling-film – we have mostly stopped using these already as we have numerous ‘bento’ style lunch boxes which eliminate the need to wrap food items separately.  Yumbox are a particular favourite for my kids and I love my Lakeland bento box . I also have some Keep Leaf cloth re-usable sandwich bags if I really need to take something without a lunchbox.
  3. Plastic lids on takeaway tea/coffee cups – I’m not a big Coffee shop fan (I hate coffee!) however I am a tea drinker and spend a considerable amount of my time watching my daughters play football and rugby. I therefore do consume cups of tea at pitch side bought from the clubhouse, invariably with a plastic lid. I do have a wonderful ceramic travel mug with a lid bought for me for my birthday by one of my daughters and resolve to get in the habit of always taking it with me to sports fixtures.
  4. Shopping bags – I am pretty good at remembering my own shopping bags but need to make sure that I always remember, and not just for grocery shopping; clothes, books etc the shops all hand out plastic bags even if they now charge. My youngest daughter and I sewed tote bags as Christmas presents for family/friends which we filled with homemade produce so we are trying to encourage everyone else as well!
  5. Food Packaging – this is the hard one as it really takes some effort to buy food without plastic packaging without going to a farm shop which then ups my grocery bill quite substantially. It’s a juggling act between keeping my family budget and saving the planet from disappearing under a blanket of plastic. However, I will try my best to buy food with as little plastic packaging as possible.

Will update this

Imagine, Imagine…

Albert Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge”….so why is it we know more and imagine less as we get older? The scope and strength of a small child’s imagination – despite their relatively small amount of “knowledge” never ceases to amaze me.

In the past week my house has been populated by the following cast of characters ….

Monday – a doctor tending a ward of serious accident victims.
Hello Kitty appeared dressed in her nurses outfit (but she always informs everyone very strongly when she’s wearing this “NO, I’m a Doctor!” – the girl has aspirations) I helped her find the medical bag from the playroom and then had to provide bandages – an old sheet cut up satisfied her – and we found a bottle from the play-kitchen which seemed to be a good substitute for medicine. I could then hear her ordering her two older sisters to stay in bed and rest and take their medicine. They both appeared later wrapped in bandages!

Tuesday – Peter Pan and Astro-Boy teaming up to fight a whole armada of pirates….and a spaceship. They tore around the garden before transforming into tutu-wearing ballerinas and asking me to put on some dance music – they then performed a dance to a Vivaldi piece from the Shine soundtrack

Wednesday – I am writing this whilst two leotard clad figures dance around me to “Better Best Forgotten” by Steps looking like the cast of Fame!

Two weeks ago the three girls and I attended Lighthouse, a holiday club run by the local churches. I volunteered as a helper and the girls were enrolled in the club. It is held on the playing field of The Bratz’ school in huge marquees and the kids do craft, sports, games…..on the Monday The Mouth got up and got herself dressed in shorts and t-shirt…and then put on her Knights costume over the top. This is a tabard top made to look like a tunic with armour over it which we bought on our trip to Warwick castle the Friday before. She wore the costume all day.

On the Tuesday she came down to breakfast wearing her Pirate Queen dress….and Hello Kitty was dressed as Peter Pan….when we arrived the other helpers all said ‘Oh, what are you dressed as today?” and whilst we were clearing up at the end of the day they all asked “So, what are you wearing tomorrow?”

Wednesday was a fairy day – we have about 5 fairy costumes in our dressing up box so this one took a little bit of choosing but she eventually settled for a pink sparkly skirt and matching wings worn over her official Lighthouse t-shirt. The leaders were suitably amused and intrigued as to what she would wear on the Thursday which was our last day …it would have to be something big….

After an extensive search through the dressing up clothes (and persuading her that a mermaid tail wasn’t practical) she arrived for a full day of playing outside dressed in a Belle princess dress with full hooped skirt! She also took this dress on holiday with us last week and wore it out to the pub for a meal one evening to the intense amusement of her grandfather who kept joking he hadn’t realised it was formal and he hadn’t brought his suit!

By the way, the Fame rehearsals have broken up now and there are now two little girls, still dressed in leotards, both with wellies, one with a knights tabard and both wielding swords chasing “baddies” around the garden on bicycles….

Watching my children dressing up and going out in public dressed up with no sense of embarassment or self-conciousness I wonder where and when we lose that ability to so totally immerse ourselves in a world of our own imagination? And it is total – a child of a friend habitually pretends to be either Superman, Spiderman or Ben 10. A few years ago the nursery he attended with Hello Kitty was being inspected and the inspector was talking to some of the children. “Hello, what’s your name?” she asked (he was dressed as Spiderman) “Spiderman” was the obvious reply. “Oh, of course” she said “but what’s your real name?” …… “Peter Parker”

Lemon Meringue Memories

I remember being told that of the senses, smell is the most closely linked with memory which is why a faint whiff of a particular perfume or flower or food can trigger such strong memories. However, in my experience, it’s the taste of some familiar food which can send me back years….which brings me to the lemon meringue…. one mouthful and I think of my Grandad Holly.

This afternoon the girls were out picking redcurrants from our garden – the bushes were planted a couple of years ago but this is the first year we’ve had anything worth the effort of picking – about 1lb of fruit in the end.

“What are you going to do with them mum?”

Hmmm, what indeed? A quick search on Google for “redcurrant recipes” and the first site I looked at produced a recipe for Wheat Free Redcurrant and Lime Meringue Tarts. With a glut of redcurrants and a coeliac in the house this seemed tailor made for us and after consulting with The Bratz (the coeliac in question) we decided these would be the perfect cakes for us to take to the school picnic tomorrow afternoon.

This evening, once the girls had gone to bed, I set about making the tarts. I realised that I have never made meringue although I have eaten hundreds of lemon meringue pies made by my grandmother. As soon as I started beating the egg whites I started to think about my grandfather…….

When I started university I was at Middlesex Polytechnic on the Hendon site in North London. I couldn’t get any accommodation near the college and as it was only 3 or 4 stops along the railway line from my grandparents house in Borehamwood it was decided that I should lodge with them until such time as I found somewhere to live….as it turned out I spent my entire first year living with them before I transferred to Bristol to finish my degree.

My grandmother was a wonderful cook but my grandfather was the fussiest eater ever and so as soon as I moved in she was overjoyed to have someone to cook for. The one thing my grandfather really loved was lemon meringue pie and my grandmother would bake him one every week on a Tuesday. The first Tuesday after I began living with them the pie was ready to be served and my grandfather turned and asked me “You don’t like lemon meringue pie do you?” he looked very dismayed when I replied that I loved it and he realised he was going to have to share that pie every week.

We must have shared at least 30 lemon meringue pies over the time I lived with them and now I can’t eat one without thinking of him.

My Grandfather was a remarkable man – he spent his entire working life as an accountant working for the same firm. He was articled with them as a teenager and stayed there until he retired aged nearly 70. He never took a day off sick and rarely even took any holidays. This despite the fact he never wanted to be an accountant – he came from generations of cabinet makers and this is what he wanted to do. In his later years he made dolls houses and furniture for them – my daughters now have the dolls house he presented me with for christmas when I was about 6.
He married my grandmother on the day the blitz began in London and after the wedding they all had to take shelter in the Underground. He was born at the start of WW1 and never knew his own father as he was killed in the last few days of the War when my grandfather was only 4. He was sent to serve in Burma in WW2 shortly after the birth of his first son, my dad, and believed that history was about to repeat itself and so sent my dad regular letters full of fatherly advice. He illustrated these letters with wonderful cartoons and whilst he was serving in the war he produced a magazine to entertain his regiment with more of these cartoons. When he returned after the war he submitted these cartoons to newspapers and magazines and had over a hundred published in Punch magazine. He loved Jazz music, Tolkein and George Bernard Shaw.
I remember him as clever, articulate, grumpy, funny, the man who made me love JRR Tolkein, the man I was proud saw me graduate with a degree in accountancy but sad never saw me qualify as a chartered accountant or get married. The man who had the oddest shaped toes I’ve ever seen – until we realised my little brothers were the same……

…..the man who loved Lemon Meringue Pie.