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Take Five: Recipe for wasted ingredients

by Margaret Nielsen


I dont know about you, but Im sick and tired of recipes. It matters not whether you are watching television, listening to the radio or reading a magazine, cooking seems to make its insistent entrance.

Now, the Two Fat Ladies and The Naked Chef were truly entertaining—well, I thought so.

But in the past few years theres been an absolute overkill.

How soul-destroying it is to watch some glamorous, slim chef showing how simple it is to whip up something and pop it into the oven. Even my dog-eared, yellow-paged Simple Cookery Book we used at school 50 years ago has recipes too hard for me to follow.

How many recipe books are in your kitchen cupboard? Or are the beautiful glossy thick hardback versions standing at attention on your sideboard but rarely opened? Oh yes, I agree they make for a dreamy decorative effect.

How many of the mouthwatering concoctions have you tried or in fact have succeeded in making? If you are doing the weight and health thing, probably youve added a volume or two with low calorie suggestions.

How often have you been seduced into cutting out a 'must try' recipe and pasted it into your collection of favorite formulas? And never looked at it again? In all fairness, I suppose the indirect benefit of all these baking incentives benefits the growers and manufacturers of the ingredients. It certainly does if, like me, youve bought the required ingredients, lost enthusiasm for the whole idea, and forgotten why that packet or bottle of weevily stuff was bought in the first place. That happened to me recently.

Every time I opened my pantry door I was dive-bombed by excited little moths eager to explore the light. Im sure it was the opened packet of rice flour I bought with the intention of making Christmas shortbread. And whats that gnarled object at the back of my fridges bottom shelf? Oh yes, fresh ginger for the Christmas Ginger Balls. I decided to buy ready-made Rum Balls instead.

And thank goodness someone has put out an instant garlic product. I cant tell you how many corms have sprouted green ears. I confess to delegating countless shriveled capsicums, celery and mushrooms to the scrap bucket when a Chinese recipe took my fancy. This quite delighted my husband, the gardener, as his compost heap is one of his favorite projects.

How many half bottles of sauce sit accusingly on your pantry shelf? Ill wager at least some of them were bought specifically for a new recipe. Yes, you made it. No one liked it? I rest my case.

Im really rather glad I was born when meat and three vegetables were our everyday fare. My mother-in-law was my guru in the kitchen. She never wasted anything. To this day I often refer to the tried and true recipes she wrote by hand in a half-used bank book (kids used to have them at school to encourage saving).

Eat your heart out, modern gastronomical gurus. I see that on tonights television schedule a brand new series called Secret Recipes is about to invade our homes, though how the recipes can be secret after theyve been broadcast to the nation beats me.

But I wont tell anyone if you dont.

Margaret Nielsen is an Australian writer, former teacher, mother of five and grandmother of six. After 45 years living in 'bush' towns, Margaret and pharmacist husband Barry retired to the small country community where they met. Margaret is passionate about music, theater and people. E-mail


©2001 Margaret Nielsen

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