Can anyone tell me…

Lately I’ve been wondering. Quite a lot, actually. And last night I thought perhaps, if I wondered on here, someone might be able to offer some answers. So without further ado:

  • Why does bread go mouldy? I want my bread to go stale so that I can make useful breadcrumbs or (more likely!) warming, indulgent bread and butter pudding. But instead it goes white speckly and green spotty. Where am I going wrong?
  • Is there a chilli plant out there I can grow on my windowsill without giving my kitchen the appearance of Sleeping Beauty’s castle? In English: do all chilli plants grow to five feet tall, or have I just been growing the wrong kind?
  • Is being permanently tired just part of adult life? I can’t remember being anything but tired since I “grew up” and started working the treadmill. Does it ever get better or will I just get gradually more exhausted every year until I retire?
  • Without attending cooking school and/or watching Masterchef how does one learn how to prepare an artichoke or spatchcock a poussin?
  • Are clams really happy? And are people called Larry happy too? If so, why don’t more parents name their children Larry?

Answers on a postcard please – along with any ponderings of your own you’d like answering!


21 thoughts on “Can anyone tell me…

  1. Yay! I can answer some of these!

    Our bread maker bread goes stale after a couple of days, as did the bread I used to make by hand, because it has next to no preservatives in it (you can add natural things to slow this down a bit, but not much). So “real” bread containing what you’d expect it to – flour, water, tiny bit of salt, sugar, oil/butter – does go stale.
    But most shop bought bread has a whole bunch of preservatives in to keep it soft and fresh for longer, which means it goes mouldy while staying soft. When I started making my own bread for fun, I realised how differently “real” bread behaves, and that’s when we got the breadmaker. It’s that or buying posh bread.

    Permanent tiredness – I think it is part of modern life, but for me it’s always worse when I’m overdoing it (obviously), or not getting enough exercise and healthy food/taking care of myself, or when I’m unhappy, especially when I’m unhappy at work, because then I feel powerless to change things, and am less likely to take care of myself.

    To find out how to prepare any vegetable under the sun, get a second hand copy of Sophie Grigson’s Eat Your Greens. Artichokes – cut off stalk, soak in salted water for half an hour if you think they’re likely to have bugs in ’em, remove VERY tough leaves, boil for at least half an hour in water with salt & lemon juice/vinegar, eat, apart from the scary hairy bits, which you can just remove on the plate…

    Spatchcocking -I’ve never done it and keep meaning to, but you just remove the backbone with a scary sharp knife – pix here

    But I bet you there is, out there, an amazing recipe book that tells you all these things, and I haven’t found it yet either! Till I do, I google.


    • Thanks honey!

      Hmmm, so I need a breadmaker? Balls! 😛

      You’re def right about tiredness, and I fear everything from the words “it’s always worse when…” onwards is applicable right now. I’m hoping my week’s hols next week will help some…

      I do have Jamie Oliver’s “Cook” which covers a lot of the basics, and the Larousse Gastronomique, which is supposed to tell me EVERYTHING I need to know. I also have my Gran’s old go-to book, Cesarini and Kinton’s Practical Cookery… Perhaps if I actually READ some of them I wouldn’t wonder so much!


  2. I can’t answer all your questions, but I do want to say that I feel more tired when the weather is warmer of there is a change in the weather. Also, I go through times when I’m really busy and I can either get really really tired (if things are mundane) or get on a high if I feel the day has been productive.

    I find that bread that has a dusting of flour on it always goes mouldy faster than other breads! BUT I am certain that moisture is a determining factor. Could you dry your bread out in the oven to help make it crustier?

  3. Try keeping your bread in a paper bag , or like some else said pop some in the oven after you’ve turned it off.

    Riverford Farm cook book is good for all veg especially history, storage and basic preparation as well as recipes.

    I’d love to know where all the spoons go to and how to stop hold ups rolling down my legs. Oh and if you find a cure for the tiredness thing let me know!

    • I’ll def try both the oven and the paper bag tips – thanks ladies.

      I stop hold-ups rolling down my legs by being VERY picky about my hold-ups! I only buy lace-top with a broad band of lace and therefore a couple of rows of the rubber “tape”. I therefore only buy the ladder resist lace-tops from M&S, or Dorothy Perkins fashion hold-ups. For 40+ denier, Gypsy do good wide-tops… but since I left Newcastle I don’t know where to get them.

      As for the spoons… right now I’d hazard a guess they’re on my colleague’s desk, along with all the forks and some pretty manky looking crockery…

  4. I avoid the kitchen like the plague but find bread-making strangely satisfying/relaxing. Maybe it’s the pummeling I give the dough…..?

    Yes, chilli plants grow very tall – you could drape fairy lights over it and make an interesting conversation piece…..

    I just have one question – why have my marbles disappeared and when will I get them back?

    • Your marbles have disappeared because the small child in your belly needs entertaining and has therefore stolen them to throw around your womb. You’ve probably felt them banging about in there. If I were you I’d keep an eye on your purse when he gets out – which, by the way, is when you’re most likely to get them back, if at all.

      I’m really hoping he’s stolen mine too, cos otherwise they’re gone forever!


  5. 1. Bread goes moldy because it’s damp. Leave it on a plate somewhere warm and dry. However, some bread will never go stale because it’s full of weird bread fat. The sign of good bread is that it goes stale really quickly.

    2. According to my mum, chilli plants crave light more than heat. So putting them outside is actually better for them as they get more sunlight and they toughen up a bit – and therefore don’t have the luxury of growing massive. Having said that, my chillis produced green chillis that then got stuck and won’t turn red. So I think you need somewhere a bit warmer than Newcastle.

    3. Yes it is. Grown ups get tired because there’s too much late night TV comedy/good books/washing up and not enough people telling them to get to bed right this minute or there’ll be trouble.

    4. Nobody learns to do that in real life.

    5. No. It’s successful marketing from the Department of Crustaceans and Unpopular Names.

    • That’s funny – I was just thinking about you on my walk home! I was thinking “I wonder if Milly is on twitter….”

      Good answers. Thanks! 😀

      Next question: Is there really a Department of Crustaceans and Unpopular Names – and if so, is it on Gordon Brown’s list of public services to be cut? Because I’m thinking it probably should be…

  6. 1. I keep all my bread in a bread bin. The stuff in plastic bags from the supermarket goes mouldy but the others don’t. Always assumed that the plastic means that it can’t breathe and keeps the bready environment damp and conducive to mould … but am not a scientist, who who knows, really?

    2. I’ve not grown chillis before but would be interested to know.

    3. Let me know the answer to the tiredness question. My boss just bawled me out for having too low an energy level and looking too ethereal.

    4. Genuinely no idea.

    5. I have a pet clam called Larry. He seems to be very happy and spends the day happily warbling ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’. Oh no, that’s not really true. But I wish it was.

  7. I can only answer the chilli question (because you apparently have a bunch of brainy bread nerds who got their first reading your blog, lovely people!). Chillis can be got in a ready potted indoor version which tends ot keep them smaller. You can also get indoor chilli plants which you need to be tough with – or they will often die, or go the opposite way and shoot up! We had a cute little one, and if you trim it back it didn’t get too big. Be mean!

    Oh, and can emphasise on the tiredness thing, I think it is part of our modern busy lives working the 9-5 and then one hell of a lot more.

  8. 1. It must be supermzarket bread. Real bread (made from wheat, yeast, water and salt) just gets harder and harder before finally going mouldy. Have a read of ‘read Matters’ by Andrew Whitley.

    2.My chilly plants never get beyond a few centimetres high. Maybe we should cross breed…

    3. Being tired is probably normal although I’ve found staying hydrated and yoga help.

    4. That’s what youtube is for.

    5. Alas the only being I have ever met called Larry was a goat so am unable to comment on general cheeriness or otherwise.

    • 1. Ooh, I’ll keep an eye out for Bread Matters – thanks!

      2. Cross-breeding sounds the way to go! Last time I grew chillis our spare room began to resemble the set of Day of the Triffids…

      3. Yeah, people tell me water and exercise might help. I think being busier is def the key though.

      4. Yes! And I did actually look both up on YouTube!

      5. Was he a happy-looking goat? I tend to think goats look quite maudlin at the best of times… my uncle used to keep them, and his were quite maudlin of nature.

  9. Apart from the feeling tired bit I never even though about the other things.
    But I also don’t have the answer to that question. Sorry.

  10. Re: spatchcocking… in one episode Nigella puts some spatchcock chickens on a barbeque, and she just uses kitchen scissors to cut out the backbone.

    It seems paradoxical, but exercise is supposed to be really good for boosting your energy levels. I think making sure your body is getting enough oxygen probably has a lot to do with it, I’ve read bits and pieces that say no-one really breathes properly ‘these days'(!).


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