What exactly is an ingredient?

I have no particular loyalty to one supermarket chain, the choice in my neck of the woods is vast and Lidl, Sainsbury and M & S all regularly take my money. I had cause this week to pop into a very large Tesco for something trivial, and scanned the aisle headings, as you do in an unfamiliar store, because that is what they are there for.

My eye was drawn to an aisle headed “Ingredients”. What ? isn’t everything in the store an ingredient ? Intrigued I headed over, what would I find ? Perhaps a bright spark at Tesco HQ had realised that half the ingredients required for “celebrity chef” recipes can only be purchased online and had decided to corner the market – exciting !

Not exciting. Having scanned the aisle, a long one at that, I was having trouble working out what the theme was. Then it hit me, this aisle contains the components needed to replace the Friday night takeaway. Not rows of exotic spices and rubs however, just your basic jar sauces, stir fry flavour sachets, rices, tortillas etc etc. I was slightly perplexed by the inclusion of stuffing (roast chicken variety) and gravy granules, but I assume that the Tesco boardroom thought shower had progressed to the local pub carvery, along with the Indian and Chinese takeaways!

So exactly what is an ingredient – one dictionary definition is “Any of the foods or substances that are combined to make a particular dish.” Fair enough!

The origins of the word lead to something more profound – “Late Middle English from Latin ingredient- ‘entering’, from the verb ingredi, from in- ‘into’ + gradi ‘walk’.” So, every aisle, being something that you enter or walk into, is in itself an ingredient of the store.

I have flicked through my vast collection of recipe books and see that many list items such as “tomato ketchup” or “plum sauce” as ingredients. But these also have a list of ingredients on the bottle. The more elite of our chefs of the celebrity variety, often bookmark these items to a further list of recipes, usually at the back of the book, with lists of ingredients for the ingredient!

My conclusion Tesco I am afraid is that this is a fake aisle heading, it is meaningless! I cannot imagine that anyone wishing to produce their own version of the local curry house vindaloo would be drawn to this aisle. If you want to corner this market your aisle heading needs to be more relevant, catchy and witty would also be good. “Don’t take it Away” perhaps !


Offspring in foreign parts and homesick

My youngest is currently resident in Melbourne Australia, living with her very Australian boyfriend and working and studying towards her dream career. She is content, happy, solvent and loved up and I am very happy for her. She does however suffer from moments of extreme homesickness. She misses London, her friendship group, firm and unwavering from her school and university of Brighton days; she misses her siblings and she misses me and her dad, as we of course miss her.

These are the hard times for me, the times when I cannot practically cook her a comforting Sunday lunch and pack her back with a goody bag of treats, as I did when she was in Brighton, and as I do when her sister ventures back south from Manchester. I cannot spoil her with her favourite foods as I do her brother when he returns from his working life, that takes him for short spurts, all over the world.

These little interludes in their grown up lives, do far more than satisfy a need to actually see them. They provide reassurance that, generally, all is well in their world.

I was for several years a leader in the scout movement and took many young people away to camps and events, home and abroad, and had a very strict no phones policy on these trips for a very good reason. Everyone feels homesick from time to time, even on the most amazing holiday, there can be an event at home, a missed birthday or social event, that will make you wistful or even tearful. On one particular ten day camp an eleven year old had such a moment and phoned home. After offloading to his poor mum he returned to camp full of joy and threw himself wholeheartedly back into activities without a backward glance. His mum however suffered eight days of anguish and worry, imagining him lonely and fretting in his tent, a far cry from what was actually happening. After this I worked on the policy of no news is good news;  I distributed a daily report on the group facebook page, reporting on the great time everyone was having, and only made one to one contact with a family if there was an extremely good reason to do so, no news is good news, being the main message.

I am however that mum if I get the “homesick” message or call. I can reassure and cheer up and jolly on for all I am worth, and I know that just this contact will be enough to get her back on track. I however am left a mess, worrying that she is not settling, is not happy or is not telling me something. The body language of a one to one personal interaction for a mum with her child, of any age, is invaluable in sensing mood and wellbeing. This cannot be replaced with Facetime and I miss it dreadfully.

Perhaps this is just one of the hazards of being a parent that I need to get over or get used to. How do you turn off that knot of concern that builds without the soothing effect of actual physical contact with your offspring, no matter how fleeting ?