From then to now … back to the start


I was informed by a phone call from the Catering Manager, that I was to return to the LGI the following Monday. It was as simple as that. I was half expecting it to be honest as the the person I was covering had come back to work. It wasn’t expected as everybody thought that the pressures of the job was too much for him. That was the main reason he had been on long term sickness and the reason I was covering his job. But he had returned and as such I was  surplus to requirement. The worrying thing was that the follow up letter from the Catering Manager, talked about the post I was to take up as being a ‘temporary position at the moment’. That did not sound so good.

At the time, I was not a big fan of the hospitals Trades Unions. The primary two were the National UnionUnion of Public Employees (NUPE) and the Confederation Of Health Service Employees (COSHE). The issue I had was that neither of these would have anything to do with employees under the age of 18. This I thought was unfair as the people most likely to have issues were the youngest of the workforce. However, one of my colleagues, K**** was a good friend of the shop steward. ContractHe mentioned to the steward (called D***) the problems I was facing . He looked closely into my initial contract and found a clause that stated that at the end of my training, I would be found a permanent position within the catering teams. The kicker to this clause was that it never been changed in subsequent contracts and still stood. They had to provide me with a permanent position. I was a bit worried that I would need to join the union, but this never materialised.

This delayed my return by a couple of weeks until I received a letter explaining that there had been “… some confusion … the job was a permanent job, but not necessarily in the same kitchen …” The letter finished with “…please report to the Main Kitchen for 9am on Monday …”

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The kitchen was divided into three sections: the vegetable section; the meat and fish section and my Vegparticular favourite; the pastry section. I was hoping that I would get pastry as it was what I felt was my best area. But there was some new girl in that section. More about her later. No, I got the section I was dreading, the vegetable section. I was not a veggie person, in fact apart from  baked beans and processed peas, I did not eat vegetables. Simply did not like them, and to be given the job of cooking the stuff felt like a little bit of ‘pay-back’ for my unintentional union help.

Hospital vegetables were not cooked the way vegetables are cooked these days. Before the late 1960’s vegetables were always cooked to death and whilst the 1970’s saw new thoughts on cooking, hospital vegetables were still being over cooked. The premise was that poorly people needed soft food. Thankfully, to a greater extent that has changed for the better.

There was a set order for the rotation of vegetables on the main meal. I cannot remember the order, but the list consisted of: carrots, green beans, swede, peas (always on Swede n CarrotFriday with the fish) and cabbage. Occasionally, there were broad beans and very occasionally mashed carrot and swede. The broad beans were always served in a white sauce, but the swede/carrot mash-up only occurred if there was a shortage of one or both of the two vegetables. I love it now but back then I thought it smelled awful, and fully thought it would taste disgusting.

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That first week was terrible and I did consider looking for another job. Staff treated The Goonsme very indifferently at first, but as the weeks went by, I found myself enjoying my role more. The person I worked with shared the same interests as me both in hobbies and music and had a very similar taste in comedy. We were both huge fans of The Goon Show and often talk to each other using a couple of The Goons voices.

I was also getting to know the ‘new girl’ a little better and things were starting to get to a similar stage as they were before I was forced to leave the Maternity hospital. And the ‘new girl’ was beginning to play a very important part in my life.

Don’t believe them …


I used to be a cook. From 1971 to 1986 I was a cook at the Leeds General Infirmary. In fact from 1983 to 1986, I was the Head Cook in the staff kitchen. All this is a little bit of background information for what I want to have a chat about. That chat is about pastry. Specifically short crust pastry. Now, when you watch these famous TV chefs preparing pastry (and I’ll not mention any names here) they will always tell you that it has to be done by hand .. No mixer/processor allowed!!! .. They will tell you that your pastry will be tough/dry/chewy and any other descriptive term for ‘bad’ pastry they can think of. They will tell you that you have to make it by had, if you want the best pastry. I want to tell you that’s a load of rubbish. When you are making enough pastry to cover pies that are going to feed 300+ people, making it by hand is a non-starter. Can you imagine trying to ‘rub-in’ 20lb of lard/margarine into 40lb of flour by hand!. You have to use a machine. If it works for large volumes, then it has to work for smaller volumes too. So here is my recipe for short crust pastry in a food-processor:

  1. weigh 8oz flour into your food processor with a pinch of salt
  2. dice up 2oz of cold butter and 2oz of cold lard into 1/4 inch dice
  3. chill butter and lard in freezer for 15 minutes
  4. add butter and lard to flour and process until looks like breadcrumbs
  5. add 3floz of very cold water and use the pulse function until the pastry starts to come together
  6. tip out onto a lightly floured worktop and gently kneed for a few seconds until all mixed
  7. wrap in cling-film and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes
  8. use as required

They key to this is the speed of the processing and the coldness of the fat. I takes less than 2 minutes to go from fat and flour to pastry, which means that the fat is still cold. I can assure you that it does work.

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March is going to be an expensive month I think. Firstly, there’s Mothers Day and then there’s K***s birthday. This is one of those significant birthdays too. The big ‘six-zero’. Looks like I may need to move some cash from my savings account, but it should not be a problem really. We are going away for a couple of days on the weekend before the big day which will be nice. We’ve been to the hotel before a few years ago and it was a nice place. Good food, good scenery and it will be relaxing break for both of us. R*** is away for the weekend, so there are no worries about getting back for him. Just got to hope the weather is better than present. It has got a lot warmer overnight which has led to the snow staring to melt into slush. Much fun!

 

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FrontBackNow, here’s a poser. Which is the correct way? Front or back?  Is there a right or wrong way? I have no real preference at all but I know how K*** feels about it. For her it has to be Front. There can be no argument and it can lead to a lot of tutting if I put it the wrong way around. I’ve been in houses that drop down the front and houses that drop down the back. I’ve also been in places that have different preferences in different rooms. I’ve also been in houses where the loo-roll is sat on the cistern behind, which is an odd if not difficult location. So this is not a poll, just wondering that’s all.