August 2014 Foodie Penpal


Because of work travels and vacation travels, I had to withdraw from the Foodie Penpal group for June and July. So I couldn’t wait for August to come around to get back into the swing of things.

This month, I was happy to break-in a ‘newbie’ to the group. This was the first month Bex has participated, so we exchanged a couple of pep talk emails, and when I knew she was ready, I cut her loose! And she did a grand job! I hope the first package she received was just as wonderful.

So here’s what I got.

The first thing I pulled out of my box was some tofu.


What can I do with this?

And I have to hang my head in shame and admit now that I’ve never tasted tofu, but it’s in my house now, and Bex gave me several great ideas. I’d be happy to hear your ideas, too, if you’d like to drop me a note.

The next thing that I grabbed is one of my all-time favourites – cous cous.

Cous Cous

One of my very favourites!

And I love the Ainsley Harriet range, and this flavour in particular. So well done, Bex.

Next out of the box came an old friend. Chocolate truffles. I have to say that I read Bex’s note first, which explained everything she chose. I read that she sent me truffles, and my heart sank because I don’t like mushrooms . . ..


The BEST type of truffles!

So I was really happy to see she sent me really the only thing that should be called truffles .. . chocolate! I can’t wait to tuck into those.

As Bex lives in Wales, she wanted to send something with a Welsh accent, so I was happy to find oatcakes with laverbread.


Welsh oatcakes with laverbread

I know these are going to go well with some lovely cheese and a glass of red wine. I’ve got the weekend targeted to try those babies.

With two in-laws that were born and raised in India, you’d like I’d have made Gulab Jamun before. I’ve eaten it for sure, but never tried making it.

Gulab Jamun

These should melt in your mouth

Bex says she’s never made them either, so we’re going to compare notes after we’ve made them. My sweet tooth is going to love them.

Bex sent me some cornmeal, which I’m very familiar with, but I am always curious about the recent (past 10 years) interest in polenta, and how it seems that very few people realise they are one and the same.


Cornmeal or Polenta????

I have a friend who won’t eat polenta because he doesn’t like the word ‘polenta’, but he’s fine eating cornmeal. Go figure!

And finally, breadsticks. Breadsticks really need no adornment. But when you go ahead and stick sun-dried tomatoes and olives in them, it doesn’t get much better.


Fantastic breadsticks

And now that the weather’s just starting to brighten up a bit, I even have dreams that we can sit outside under the grapevine covered pergola, eating these breadsticks and chewing on a couple of gin and tonics. I might even turn the heat off in the house! Good heavens!

All in all, Bex should be very proud of her first efforts. It took me several months to really get the hang of knowing what to choose to send out. She seemed to nail it first time. Well done, Bex!
If you are interested in joining a Foodie Penpal club, please visit if you are European based, or if you are based in the US.

The Great Divide

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On weekends, my husband and I often walk about a mile and a half into town and back. It’s great exercise. It’s nice to be out in the fresh air. We like seeing our neighbourhood in slow motion once in a while, which makes a difference to our usual drive-by. We stop and have a coffee when we get there and contemplate which route we’re going to take back and basically solve all our problems.

The shortest way to walk there is through a wooded common, and we often see other walkers and runners here as there is no traffic to be concerned about. Of course we inevitably meet many dog-walkers as well.

My question is this. At what point in that walk does it become not-okay to smile and greet someone?

I noticed yesterday that in the first ten to fifteen minutes in our walk, we made eye contact with everyone. There were always polite and sometimes even warm greetings of “Good morning” exchanged. One elderly woman commented on the lovely weather (there had to be one).

But when we got close to the town centre, I noticed a runner moving towards us, so I locked my eyes on him as he got near, ready to pass on a silent “WAY TO GO” look. And as the smile was just starting on my face, he looked away and just ran straight past us! I then had that jolt of rejection – the proverbial slap in the face.

I somehow managed to keep my disappointment in check and carried on walking to the coffee shop. While sipping my chamomile brew, I thought about what had just happened. If I had driven to the same location and passed a runner between the car park and the coffee shop, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed him, let alone feel slighted by his indifference.

So where do you cross that invisible divide of ‘these are all my friends walking around me’ and ‘I don’t want to make eye contact with anyone’? I leave the house and I know I am surrounded by comfort. How far away from that starting point does it begin to become a more hostile environment?

I think I will have to conduct a surveillance mission over the summer to see where that line falls. I may even erect a sign marking that spot. Or maybe I’ll just got some dark sunglasses to put on to avoid another faux pas.