Hopping Afternoons

Histories and Stories

3 April – 31 August 2020

Online and on social media

Until March 2020 we would run monthly Hopping Afternoons at Valence House, to reminisce about Hop-picking and and talk about important local social histories.
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During the Lockdown we are publishing additional newsletters with materials and stories by authors and special people we have worked with over the years.

18 APRIL 2020
A HOPPING SPECIAL

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This week we are re-publishing Gilda O’Neills stories of women and why they went picking.

“Hopping” is another word for “going hop-picking”, something that was done by tens of thousands of families from the East End from the 1850’s to the 1950’s. “Going Picking” was the starting point for Company Drinks in March 2014, and our very first public event was a hop picking reminiscing session with former hop-pickers. Since then we have been running monthly Hopping Afternoons at Valence House in Dagenham, sharing stories, memories and artefacts from the Hopping Days and beyond.

This very first Hopping Afternoon also introduced us to Vi Charlton, a former hop-picker herself – she has become the most regular and one of the most active members of our Company Drinks Family. Today was Vi’s 90th Birthday and we want to send her our warmest wishes on this very special day. The tea party that was planned for today will have to happen at a later date, but we welcome you all to think of Vi’s amazing young spirit, her cakes and her energy, and to wish her the very best health and many more joint picking trips to come.

Enjoy Gilda O’Neill’s collected stories and the old photos which were all collected during our Hopping Afternoons, and images of Vi during the Company Drinks annual Hopping Trips to Little Scotney Farm in Kent from 2014 to 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 May 2020
Special Newsletter with Ruby Tandoh
writing about Eating …

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We are reconnecting with Ruby Tandoh. Since appearing on BBC’s Great British Bake Off in 2013, she has been cooking and writing about food; tackling the politics of food; while championing the work of makers, growers and sometimes bakers, who are changing our food systems for the better.

Ruby is a food writer for Taste, The Guardian, ELLE, Eater and many more. She is also the author of Eat Up! and two recipe books, Crumb and Flavour.

Ruby first joined us on our annual Elderflower and Japanese Knotweed Foraging Walk last May, which culminated in her writing a brilliant piece about Company Drinks.

Almost exactly a year since Ruby became a Special Guest Picker, we invited her to come back and be a Special Guest Editor; sharing exclusively with you her new writing, lockdown recommendations, and – of course – a delicious recipe.


Image: Toy Story 2, Disney Pixar

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” I have been thinking about food even more than usual over recent weeks….

…Many of you will find yourselves with much more time on your hands than usual: time in which to dwell on food, cooking and eating. Others of you will be rushed off your feet, and food daydreams might become an escape from the pressing matters of the here and now. Some of you will be observing ramadan, your days more thoughtful and less foodful than usual. Whatever your situation, a great many will find that food is looming larger than life in your imaginations at the moment.

I think some of this is a reflex – a way of filling our days with small, manageable, digestible things rather than squaring up to the harsh truths of the world. At least, that’s how it has worked for me. I wrote about these moments of food joy in an article for a food website, in the notes app on my phone and in scribbles on cluttered notebook pages. Again and again, I keep coming back to what it means to enjoy food. When so much around us is in flux, what does it mean to put pleasure at the centre of the plate? And what do we miss when we do?

Most of us want our food to taste good and to bring some brightness into our humdrum routines – there’s nothing particularly controversial about that. But there’s a more political side to these food joys. When I think about taking pleasure in food, I’m thinking about resisting those messages – from other eaters, food snobs, those who push diet culture on you and the food industry – that tell you that the food you eat isn’t good enough. Singing the praises of a Cadbury’s Mini Roll is about pushing back against people who tell you that your diet is ‘junk’, and that you are ‘junk’ by extension.

If you’re made to feel less-than because you don’t or can’t make your meals from scratch, there’s something affirming about really relishing the goodness in the meals and snacks you can access: the piped little mounds of mash on a ready meal cottage pie; that first bite of steaming hot gözleme.

For those who were told that the food they grew up with is ‘too oily’, ‘too smelly’ or ‘too weird’, there’s something resistive in taking extra, spiteful joy in the meals you love…

I believe that there’s something valuable in this kind of pleasure-seeking. In a world where pleasure is so often aligned with (at best) apolitical enjoyment and (at worst) outrageous decadence, there’s a lot to be said for insisting on a politically engaged, thoughtful kind of food pleasure.

By making a commitment to joy across all kinds of foods, all cuisines and cultures, we refuse others the right to set the standard and to dictate which tastes are right or wrong. When we measure food by the pleasure it brings us, we can step back from a preoccupation with calories or weight and instead let ourselves be guided by our appetites.

By putting pleasure at the heart of conversations around food, we undercut those who’d tell us that prisoners deserve bread and water, or that those who use food banks ‘should be grateful what whatever they can get.’ To eat is to be alive, but to take pleasure in eating – whether in the taste or the texture, in the company you keep or the nostalgia your meal evokes – is to be human.

But as time has gone by – and particularly now, seeing the ways in which our food system is being stretched and its failings exposed by this crisis – it’s become clear that the pursuit of, even the insistence upon, pleasure is only a starting point.

In championing our rights to nourishing, suitable and delicious food, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the complex web of connections that surrounds that moment when the food hits our tongues….

There are the rights of those who make our food to consider, many of whom are struggling in the harsh working conditions and with paltry pay. (On this topic, here is an excellent article by workers at the Bakkavor food plant.)

There is the plight of producers, like those cheesemongers who are facing a bleak future since the hospitality business shut its doors, and orders dried up. There are the farmers across the world whose crops may rot in the field now that movement of migrant workers has become so severely limited.

Food service workers, some of whom are driven to strike over low pay while big companies enjoy hefty profits, deserve our consideration, too. From care home cooks to pot washers, owners of little cafes to university canteen catering staff, our food system is comprised of countless people, countless lives and livelihoods.

I’m not quite ready to leave behind food pleasures just yet, though. I think we can see this pursuit of pleasure as one small but vital part of a bigger question of food justice, wellbeing and contentment. When we think of things in this way, the work-life balance of restaurant workers exists in the same orbit as the happiness of eating a sweet, fudgy date for iftar, to break the fast.

The thrill of rattling a tube of Smarties is a pleasure that sits alongside – not in place of – a demand that the farmers who grew that cocoa are fairly paid. When we go picking with Company Drinks, we celebrate the companionship of a new, community-led food ritual, while honouring the histories from which it emerged. This wellbeing is about moving beyond bare minimums – minimum wage, minimum job security, minimal labour rights, minimal care – and asking for a food system that soars beyond mere survival.

When we support everyone’s right to take pleasure in food, we imagine a food system that nourishes every last one of us. In the words of Kenyan writer philosopher John Mbiti: I am because WE are and, since we are, therefore I am.

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Here are some things I’ve been enjoying this week:

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Image: Vittles 4.4 Economy and Rice by Mandy Yin. Link. Illustration Marie-Henriette Desmoures

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I’ve been reading… the great new food site Vittles, which has been host to some fantastic emerging writers, covering everything from the joys of Balkan food shops to the efforts of Deliveroo riders to fight for better pay and rights. I’ve also revisited White Trash Cooking by the late American food writer Ernest Mickler, which covers the rich traditions of Southern cooking and hospitality.

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Image: Tuca & Bertie, Netflix.

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I’ve been watching… the animated series Tuca & Bertie on Netflix. It’s a cartoon (for adults!) all about friendship, food and mental wellbeing. It features a LOT of baking scenes. I love it. I’m also working my way through the 1970s series Delia’s Classic Cookery Course, which is on iPlayer now. Those recipes! That styling! It’s a trip.

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I’ve been listening to… Dolly Parton’s America, which is a podcast series all about Dolly’s life and work. I love her so much it’s silly.

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Image: Dolly Parton’s America, New York Public Radio.

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I’ve been eating… a lot of potatoes! I get them in a veg delivery box, which means it’s been potato central around here. Some of them got cooked with cream, thyme and a bit of cheese for a dauphinoise-style side dish. I’m thinking about using the rest in berches– a German Jewish bread similar to challah, using mashed potato in the dough.

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And finally … A recipe for Coffee Cream Roulade with Cherries

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This is a meringue roulade: a sheet of delicate meringue rolled with a fruit and cream filling. It doesn’t contain any flour, so ideal if you’ve had trouble getting hold of the stuff! You can make a simple version by cooking little mounds of meringue and serving them ‘free-form’ with dollops of sweet cream and cherries, but I think that much of the appeal of this pretty dessert is the way that the meringue – crisp on top and mousse-soft within – crackles and splinters as you wrap it around the filling. Swap the cherries for raspberries, blackcurrants or blackberries if that’s all you can get hold of.

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Serves 6–8

4 large egg whites
250g caster sugar
4 teaspoons instant coffee granules
300ml double cream
50g caster sugar
175g frozen cherries, defrosted

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Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas mark 3 and line a 20x30cm roasting tin or Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.

In a scrupulously clean, dry glass or metal bowl, whisk the egg whites until they’re foamy throughout, with no liquid white lingering at the bottom of the bowl. Once the eggs are aerated, add the sugar a quarter at a time, whisking on full speed for 30–45 seconds between each addition. Continue whisking until the meringue is very thick and glossy and holds in stiff peaks. Be patient with this! It can take up to 8 minutes of whisking with and electric whisk, depending on the freshness of your eggs.

Dissolve the coffee in 4 teaspoons of hot water, let cool and then stir into the meringue, taking care not to overmix. The coffee will deflate the meringue a little and slacken it, but it should still be thick and smooth. Spread over the parchment-lined baking tray and cook in the oven for 45 minutes, or until well risen and crisp on top, but soft within. Leave to cool.

Whisk the double cream and sugar together until thick enough to hold soft peaks. Lay a fresh sheet of baking parchment down on the work surface and carefully tip the cooled meringue upside-down onto it. Peel off the original sheet of baking parchment from the meringue, then spread the double cream all over and scatter over the cherries.

Roll the meringue up from long edge to long edge, using the baking parchment underneath to guide it as you roll, then place in the fridge for at least an hour to settle and for the flavours to blend before serving in thick slices.”

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Oyin’s Delicious Granola Bars

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Local chocolate maker Oyin Okusanya shares with us a simple but delicious recipe for Granola Bars with no added sugar.

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Watch her simple guided video on our Company Drinks Vimeo Page .

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Tag @okusnayaoyin to show off your creations!

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Nikki’s Perfect Shortbread Biscuits

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Nikki Elegbede, expert baker, and founder of Temptations By Nikki, has this week shared with us a recipe for Shortbread Biscuit.

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Ingredients:

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150g plain flour

100g margarine or butter

50g sugar

Extra sugar to sprinkle on top

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Method

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  1. Switch oven to Gas mark 3/170C.
  2. Grease a baking tray or cut some parchment paper to fit the baking tray.
  3. Put the flour and margarine into a bowl. Rub together with finger and thumb, stir in the sugar.
  4. Squeeze the flour, margarine and sugar firmly with your fingers until the mixture forms a dough. Do not add any liquid.
  5. Roll out to about 1 cm thickness. Use a round cutter to cut into rounds or use a knife to cut them into rectangles (fingers). Carefully place on the baking tray
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pale and golden brown.
  7. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Lift on to a wire rack to cool.

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The biscuits would not become crisp when they are cool.

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