Sauce for the goose works for the gander too?

The idea of new laws setting “minimum service standards” seems sensible, especially when health and safety is involved.   Let’s hope that those drafting the standards take account of the provisions that nurses, ambulance drivers etc already put in place voluntarily during their strikes.   But it surely works in all directions?   For example, while it is a great idea for all young people to learn some Maths until age 18, shouldn’t there be a minimum standard of those teachers having the right qualifications?  (Currently, one in 8 Maths lessons are delivered by someone not specialist in the subject.)

How about standards around health: a minimum level of delay in getting a GP appointment, the ambulance arriving, getting through A&E into a hospital bed, escaping hospital when fit to go?   But all of that is already impossible when the NHS is about 10% under-staffed, what could be more “minimum”.   We are the taxpayers footing the bills but suffer when standards are missed.   New Government laws might add a bit more protection during the odd strikes but where is the accountability for the failings, delays and problems we face all the time?   If cash penalties or job losses will motivate unhappy nurses, teachers or train drivers, wouldn’t the same apply to standards missed every day by politicians, civil servants, executives etc at the top?

Why six?  When did you last buy a dinner service, a set of cutlery, a box of wine glasses or even some dining chairs?   Six seems to be the default number.   Perhaps that was the socialising “norm” dating back to some dim distant past when upwardly mobile people started indulging in dinner parties.   Six might have been the optimum for new middle classes: Enough to talk to someone different for each course.   Six can’t be driven by family size when 2.3 children seems standard issue.   A more sinister answer could be that house developers decided that more eaters meant bigger dining rooms and more cost.   Their new answer: get rid of dining rooms altogether and just have take-aways with (soon to be banned) plastic plates and cutlery.   We’ll be buying single teaspoons and tying them down soon. Why do we let some marketing whizz dictate the “ideal” family size when we are all so different?

Enough frippery. The last cooking demo featured my own sweet and savoury wheat-free versions of classic crumble.

Flour is banned in favour of porridge oats plus butter and crushed nuts. Soft brown sugar or honey makes the sweet topping for fruit while some stuffing mix does for the savoury – superb on top of cauliflower and leeks in white sauce, left-over roast chicken and gravy.   Bags of the raw mixes in the freezer means I can knock up a dish at a moment’s notice.

Valentine chocolate mud cake. The Sacrifices I make for you!   Just tested the second version of this cake to get it perfect and now have to share about a million calories.   It is soft and gooey: perfect soppy love for your Valentine.   We blind bakers will create this indulgence at 1030 on 13 February for the Big Day).  Join us by registering at

If you can’t make the day, the video will be posted with all the cooking demos at

© 2024 - Penny Melville-Brown
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