Journal etc.: February, Love Language

Food.  Food is our undying love language.  And if you're here, we're assuming it might be yours too.  Fortunately for us all, there's quite a lot to eat - we mean celebrate - in this next week alone.  So, here for you with some sustainable tips and upcycling hacks this Chinese New Year/Valentine's/Pancake Day/Second Week of February.

[And if you want to find out more about the actual 5 love languages, we highly recommend having a read of 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  Note: the examples are definitely dated, but, I feel, the takeaways stand the test of time and can be applied to most all relationships.  Something to have in your bedside table, I think, to come back to, as and when you need.]

11th February is Chinese New Year, and 2021 will be the year of the Ox; the second of the Chinese Zodiac animals. to which one would attribute honesty and hardworking.  It's a time to celebrate with friends and family - albeit virtually, this year - exchange 红包 [hong 2 = red, bao 1 = pocket], with a backdrop of deafening firecrackers and vibrant dragon dances.  Each household, province, country will have it's own traditions, but in our part-chinese household, we would try to eat noodles for long life on new year's eve [11th] and dumplings on new year's day [12th] for good luck.  Try this Cold Sesame Peanut Noodles 麻酱面 [ma jiang mian] we shared with our friends Butternut of London; make your sauce directly in your almost-empty peanut butter jar for the perfect way to savour every last drop so that nothing goes to waste.  Normally served cold, but perfectly delicious warmed up, and a great way to use up fridge leftover vegetable odds and ends.  For dumplings, we'd highly recommend checking out Omnivore's Cookbook How to Make Dumplings from Scratch recipe with step-by-step guide; they are SO easy to make you'll be wondering why you ever settled for anything less.  Much less packaging waste than your average Chinese takeaway, too.

14th February is Valentine's Day, and this year it falls rather conveniently, on a Sunday.  Maybe you feel it's an entirely capitalist-fuelled holiday.  Maybe you don't.  But to be honest, if the past year of lockdowns, quarantines, travel bans, restaurant and shop closures, and social distancing has taught us anything, it's that you really can't tell the people that you love, how you feel, often enough.  And that everyone, no matter how strong, can always benefit from a little TLC.

Whatever your situation this lockdown February, some sustainable ideas for a low waste, Valentine's treat for 2, 4 or 1..:

1. nibs etc. Breakfast in bed: Granola-Dust Bircher Muesli [from our Borough Market stall this Saturday] topped with Triple Chocolate Granola for the ultimate treat.

2. Roses are red, but not green: believe it or not, roses are not actually seasonal to February.  Most are imported [often from South America] leaving behind a hugely negative environmental impact.  Some slightly more sustainable - but equally beautiful and heartfelt - alternatives: a bunch of no-shelf-life dried flowers or long-lasting eucalyptus.  Locally grown or potted varieties.  Seasonal aptly-coloured fruits and vegetables such as Forced Rhubarb, Blood Oranges and Chicory [search for these at Borough Market - also available to shop online for nation-wide delivery] your local farmers' markets/independent grocery shops].

3. British Bean-To-Bar Chocolate: from all over the country with strong ethos, beautiful branding, and delicious products.  It's not really a celebration - any kind - without chocolate, in our book.  And who knew there was so much on our doorstep.  Our long-time favourites Pump Street Chocolate can be found in independent shops and delis across England.  Recently discovered [but still untested] Bare Bones Chocolate are in Scotland, packaging chocolate in recycled paper coffee cups.  And Heist Chocolate [ditto re. untested] serving up the quirkiest flavours and packaging in Wales

4. Cards, the sustainable kind: and by this I mean, uncoated, not covered in glitter and foil, or bought wrapped in plastic.  Believe it or not, none of this is recyclable.  Try upcycling one from newspaper cut-outs or hand-drawing your own - you don't have to be an artist, you could try tracing an image from a magazine or book cover.  Alternatively, Washed Up Cards' thoughtful messages are made using bits of plastic washed up on beaches all around the UK.  Or a plantable wildflower card by Loop Loop.  If ever there a moment to pickup card-writing, the middle of a pandemic while separated from friends and family would probably be it.

5. DIY gifts: you probably don't need much help with this one, but a gentle reminder that the power of something homemade can go a long way in lifting someone's spirits.

Wherever in the world you are, whoever you are with, however you are celebrating - or not - there's no excuse not to treat yourself to a cosy breakfast in bed, a little foliage for your home, and ethically sourced, locally made chocolate.

16th February is Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday.  While we're not religious - and respect those who celebrate as a factor of - you won't see us refusing a plate of pancakes.  Historically, eggs, milk and flour were most commonly given up for Lent, and so in an effort to use up every last bit before fasting began the following day, it was decided that the pancake would be the most efficient way to do so.  Pancakes date from thousands of years BC, and, rather fascinatingly, are enjoyed the world over in all sorts of different ways.  I grew up with the French [/Swiss] kind: standard flour, milk and eggs recipe filled with ham and cheese to start, sugar and lemon [or banana and chocolate-hazelnut spread] to finish.  But pancakes are also a nifty vehicle for upcycling leftovers:

- For starters, you can fill them with almost anything: from leftover chilli and cheese, curry and chutney, to wilted veggies and a fried egg on top.  Or, for dessert, a leftover fruit crumble, stewed fruits and yoghurt, topped with crumbled - slightly stale-d - biscuits [or cake].

- Make them with leftovers: for the sweet - breakfast - kind, try mixing in leftover oatmeal/porridge from the morning before, browning fruits like banana or apple, slightly soured milk or yoghurt past its Best Before date [as was apparently tradition in the Ancient Greek and Roman days, and is still common practice in cultures today, like in Russia and with buttermilk in the USA, which can often be substituted with 'soured milk', or 1 cup milk substituted with 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar].

- I'd venture you could make pancakes with almost any type of flour: this will obviously result in a variety of textures and flavours, and a journey to a different part of the globe, depending.  From chickpea [Italian = farinata] to buckwheat [French = galette sarasin], lentil and rice [Indian = Dosa] to teff [Ethiopia = Injera].  Don't be shy.  And it might just use up all those half open bags of flour you've had in the cupboard, since... 

May we also suggest, topping your pancake of choice with a little nibs etc. Emergency Mix Granola.

What are your pancake traditions?  Better yet, tag us in your creations - we'd love to see your upcycled pancake extravaganzas.  #ThinkBeforeYouToss