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Tochitura MoldoveneascaBusy times: having ‘retired’ from my part-time job at the end of October, I launched my new business Extraordinary Writing on Small Business Saturday, 6 December. More on this below. More ‘spare time’ seems to mean that I’ve been roped in to more voluntary activities in my village, Menston in Wharfedale, Yorkshire. And, doing more of the everyday cooking, last night I made something worthy of mention I think – Tochitura Moldoveneasca – first time I’ve attempted it; again, more below.

Voluntary activities – eggs to iPads

I was delighted to get a £500 grant from Lloyds Bank Community Fund to set up a project which has two principal aims: to help ameliorate the loneliness of many elderly people; to integrate more young people in our village with the wider community. The £500 will buy a couple of iPads and cover other small expenses for a year.

I call the project ‘Teaching grandmother – from eggs to iPads‘. A small team of youngsters will teach elderly people first how to Skype on the iPad so they can talk to distant relatives and friends; second stage will be how to use search engines; third stage will be how to shop on line. At each session each youngster will have two elderly ‘pupils’ (I know of the advantages of learning in pairs from my English teaching days; also, my time installing ‘obsolete’ donated computers in Romania and teaching teachers and pupils how to use them gives me a good grounding even if the technology is, let’s say, a little more advanced! We didn’t even have Windows in the Romanian schools then, let alone an Apple OS).

I did apply for enough to buy six iPads but the final stage was a public vote on the four projects short-listed. At the time I should have been campaigning for votes I was pretty seriously ill so couldn’t do it. We came fourth. However, we’ll set up as a ‘pilot’ project and if all goes well look for more funding to expand in the future.

Tochitura Moldoveneasca

If you subscribe to the ‘healthy eating’ bibles look away now!

Principal ingedients for the tochitura: belly pork, smoked sausage, smoked back fat, onion and garlic. The sprigs of (Romanian) thyme are my own contribution to the recipe.

Principal ingredients for the tochitura: belly pork, smoked sausage, smoked back fat, onion and garlic. The sprigs of (Romanian) thyme are my own contribution to the recipe.

One of the best meals I ever had in Romania, more than once, was in a school canteen – in a high school where I taught English and where I met my wife – Liceul Mihail Kogalniceanu in Miroslava village, Iasi ‘county’. I’ve eaten this dish many times elsewhere but it has never compared and that’s not surprising because if you look it up in a recipe book or on line there seems to be little agreement about the recipe. Many times it is made to end up as more like a kind of stew or casserole, but it should be (in my opinion) very nearly ‘dry’ – just a little zeama (juice).

Because my Romanian in-laws brought two important ingredients when they visited, I decided to have a go based on how I thought the school cook might have done it. I was delighted that it turned out to be pretty good (though not quite up to the standard of the ‘school dinner’).

An important feature is that there should be plenty of fat in the meat, either by using a ‘fatty’ cut (eg belly pork) or by mixing lean (eg shoulder) with fatty. Of course, the better tasting the pork the better tasting the tochitura; it took me months to find good tasty pork in the UK. Two other important ingredients are good smoked sausage and smoked ‘slanina’ (back fat). The latter two, home made and smoked, were brought by my mother-in-law. Other than that there are just onion and garlic, salt and pepper. It helps to have garlic from Botosani in the far north east of Romania – one clove will do the job of ten bought in the UK (and has an even better taste).

The finished tochitura, with mamaliga, fried eggs and cheese (Feta in the absence of Romanian fermented sheep's cheese).

The finished tochitura, for two, with mamaliga, fried eggs and cheese (Feta in the absence of Romanian fermented sheep’s cheese).

So, the smoked back fat is sauteed a little, the chunks of meat added, browned then water added. Simmer until the meat is tender. Add the sliced onions and garlic, salt and pepper. Simmer for another ten minutes. Now I had to be inventive to get the almost dry, caramel covered meat I remember from Miroslava. So, I removed the meat, browned it again in a very hot pan with a bit of the fat. Skimmed the remaining liquid (a lot of fat now to be removed), reduced it to a thin layer in the pan then added back the re-browned meat.

It should be served with mamaliga (firm cornmeal ‘porridge’), a fried egg and fermented sheep’s cheese (cas framantat). I didn’t have the latter but my wife doesn’t like it anyway so she had cottage cheese and I had crumbled Feta cheese (vaguely similar). Pickled peppers, cucumbers and green tomatoes (gogonele) are a perfect accompaniment.

My new business – Extraordinary Writing

Having ‘retired’ from employment, and loving to write, I’ve decided to try to add to my meagre pension by writing, specialising in writing news pieces and features for companies or other organisations (for placement in the Press or house magazines) or writing, editing and producing newsletters and house magazines.

I’m not sure how I had the audacity to choose the name I did, with so many ‘extraordinary writers’ among the bloggers I read regularly, but I did.

First step was to make a simple website and I made this ‘live’ on Small Business Saturday – ie last Saturday. If you would like to have a look at it go to:

http://extraordinarywriting.net

I had landed my first job, to write, edit and produce a regular newsletter, by Monday :) .

 

A recent post on a forum of UK freelancers to which I subscribe asked “Why do we write?”. Not surprisingly, given the context, most answered “To make money” but many answered with something like “To shout about something”.

The author at a computer with some of his writing on the screenI can associate with the latter response but not with the first, even though for much of my life my income has derived to a great extent from my ability to write, either as a journalist or on the other side of the fence in marketing communications. And now, having recently retired from my part time job, I am about to start up a business offering a writing service, for money (to be launched on ‘Small Business Saturday’, 6 December, with yet another WordPress website).

Nevertheless, although I may find myself writing blogs for pay (and did so, indirectly, in my previous employment) it is not why I post on the three WordPress personal blogs I run. Moreover, having been unable to post for a period  and, even now, less frequently, for a variety of reasons including ill health, I feel guilty for the omission. Why is that? 

This set me thinking again about the question “Why do we blog?”. Some do it for money but not, I think, the majority. What is more, it seems that for the majority it is the subject of the post which is of interest, rather than the writing itself. So it does not seem to be driven by the same urge as that for the so-called ‘creative writer’.

Some obvious examples can be seen in two categories of blog which I follow. First, photography blogs, which often (the most popular?) have very little text, if any, but when there is it is more often about the subject of the photo(s) or the technique of photography, rather than writing for its own sake. The second example is blogging about food and cooking.

Of course, as these are addressing two of my hobbies I enjoy following them but some, and many more texts in print, I read only because I enjoy the satisfaction I get from reading excellent writing.  An obvious example here is a poetry blog but there are a few bloggers I follow who write about their everyday lives and the pleasure reading them derives not from what they write but from how they write it. The subject is irrelevant.

I can give an example of reading for the writing from my local daily paper, the Yorkshire Post. With the exception of my ‘classic’ vehicles and a few super cars, motor vehicles do not interest me at all, yet I look forward to reading the paper’s motoring feature writer, Fred Manby, because he  writes well. He occasionally digresses into a restaurant review and I read it with pleasure for the same reason as I’ve little interest now in eating in restaurants.

Returning to my opening question, I have concluded that the majority of bloggers do not post because they enjoy writing for its own sake, but with some other motive.

So, why do you blog?

 

Menston and Wilberforce have kept me away; many apologies for the long absence. First of all I was busy night and day (literally) getting a much-needed completely new website to its Beta form for the charity (Wilberforce Trust) for which I work, so it could be viewed by all the 70 or so staff for their feedback by the time I return from annual leave in early September. I’ll take into account the feedback then it can go live, hopefully that month. It’s a WordPress.org site so a lot more work than these wonderful free ‘wordpress.com’ sites. 

Menston village blog; screenshot with first post

Top of the new Menston village blog showing the first post

(more…)

I don’t follow the Bucket List Publications blog for the adventure – I think life is an adventure enough without looking for more – and I don’t make ‘bucket lists’ – again because life has always presented me with enough goals and challenges without making more – but I enjoy Lesley Carter’s blog though in many respects our mindsets are completely different. Nevertheless, I thought she deserved my vote, so got it, and she deserves yours too.

Her determination to win the ‘My Destination’ contest has been quite something to follow.

As a former journalist I couldn’t resist her invitation to interview her about it so I sent her some questions and got back the replies below. (more…)

Yet another of my favourite blogs has announced a transfer from WordPress.com to WordPress.org; this time he not only announced it but did it within hours, and so has disappeared completely off the blogging scene (‘server error’ message only). I’m posting this ‘comment’ to both my blogs in the hope he and the others may see it.

But I don’t think bloggers contemplating this move realise that even when the new site works it is so much more complicated for people to ‘like’, follow and comment. (more…)

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