Hot Cross Buns and British Decline


Are hot cross buns emblematic of the decline of British Society? When I was young hot cross buns were only available on Good Friday and possibly the day before. In Waitrose, they appeared just after Christmas. It is rather like the extended celebration of Guy Fawkes Night which is both tedious and unnecessary.

What I really lament, though, is the passing of the Baker’s Dozen which ensured that one received thirteen buns for the price of twelve. Even more generous was the baker’s half-dozen – seven for the price of six. No accountant would stand for that! Accountancy, although an important tool, has taken over every facet of our lives. It is not a productive industry; it sucks out what little profit British companies make and creates no wealth itself.

I made my own buns this year. They may not look very pretty but they do taste good. However, even they will be seen as a sign of decline by devout Christians and the pedants of all faiths and none. They don’t have crosses because, as an agnostic, I couldn’t be bothered. They are hot buns rather than hot cross buns and soon they will have cooled and be just buns.

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Why I Hate Supermarkets

(This ranting may be habit-forming!) When I briefly joined the noble fraternity of greengrocers many years ago, it was customary, especially on the trays of peaches, to display signs saying, ‘Do not squeeze me until I’m yours,’ a stern admonishment leavened with a modicum of humour which seemed to have the desired effect.

The modern supermarket is an entirely different matter. I cannot go into my local Waitrose without seeing women (I can assure you that it is always women) with fists the size of ham hocks and, judging from the results, biceps like Popeye’s after he’s been at the spinach, sticking their fat and stubby thumbs into the necks of avocados with the relish of a psychopath throttling a victim. Anyone who has a clue about such matters knows that only the gentlest touch is necessary to test the ripeness of the flesh but these oafish haridans wreak such havoc upon the innocent fruit that it is almost impossible to buy one which is not black and blue from their depredations. Part of the blame for this lies with Waitrose and other supermarkets for labelling as ‘perfectly ripe’ various fruit which are often hard enough to prise open packing cases or hammer nails into brick walls.

The flimsy plastic bags supplied by supermarkets to contain loose items are another cause for concern. I don’t use them myself because I am worried about the environmental impact, but they are extremely difficult to open and I have seen people licking their fingers to help open them and then put their saliva-drenched hands into the loose tomatoes. I have also seen staff in another supermarket lick their fingers before opening plastic bags. These practices are extremely unhygienic. Perhaps we should all just swap blood and get it over with.

Another frustrating aspect of supermarket shopping is their insistence in pandering to the lowest possible taste. A sad example of this is the treatment of purple spouting broccoli, one of the finest vegetables ever to adorn the dinner table. Both the flowering heads and the leaves are flavoursome and nutritious but Waitrose and other supermarkets insist on providing only ‘spears’, which is to say flower heads at the end of half a foot of woody stalk carefully denuded of most of its foliage. Not only is 90% of what you have bought inedible but you are denied the pleasure of eating the delicious leaves. I hate to think what happens to them. They’re probably fed to pigs (lucky pigs!) or composted.
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My recipe for surviving the recession

In truth, I’m the last person to be giving financial advice. Tiger of the Stripe has never made me enough money to live on. Nonetheless, my income has increased substantially in the last twelve months. This is partly due to hard work and partly due to the pound’s declining exchange rate against the dollar. A year ago, every dollar I earned was worth about £0.50 to me. Now it is worth about £0.70 - that’s a 40% increase!

I’m not by nature mean, but my low income has forced me to be quite frugal. Most of my spending has been on council tax, utility bills and food. I can’t do much about council tax except vote against the incumbent Liberal Democrats whose arrogance, ineptitude and profligacy have been quite astounding. I can do little about the utility bills, except to use energy more efficiently.

That leaves food. I hear that sales of baked beans have soared in recent months. This is understandable, because they are quick, cheap and nutritious. However, it is even cheaper to make your own meals from scratch, and it is more rewarding too. I made a red lentil soup on Saturday and it was so delicious that I can’t wait to make it again. An onion, a carrot and a large handful of lentils (plus some water, of course) is all you need to feed two people at, say £0.15 ($0.23) per head, plus the cost of gas or electricity. I add some chilli powder and ground coriander seeds at negligible extra cost. They make it a very warming, cheerful soup for a winter’s day. A piece of home-made bread completes the meal. It’s absolutely delicious, and there are so many possible variations - you could use yellow split peas or Puy lentils (although both need longer to cook); you could drop the onion and/or the carrot and add, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, or just about anything else.