Come for the cheesy bubble and squeak fritters, stay for the lengthy polemic about free school dinners. Now, some of you on our Facebook might have seen the condensed version of this already, and some of you might have no time for some fat bloke pontificating about the hungry when all you want to do is read a few knob jokes and see what to do with leftover mash, and that’s fine. You just scroll down to the pictures and crack on. Everyone else though: a subject that is close to my heart (because it involves food) and one I, James, wanted to write a little more fully on.
Last week saw our wonderful Government vote against the proposal for kids to receive free meals. These MPs, who have more than likely never missed a meal in their lives and certainly don’t go without these days, directly voted against supporting hungry kids during a time when so many families don’t know where their next meal is coming from. When you read the reports online, the comments are littered with folks in agreement, including such cheering philosophies as ‘don’t breed them if you can’t feed them’. Fuck off.
I’ve previously mentioned that I used to work for a homeless charity, and if I’m speaking honestly, I started out with so many misconceptions about the homeless and the struggling – misconceptions I still see bandied about by others now – that people who were struggling just weren’t trying hard enough, that benefits were spunked up the wall on fripperies and fancies, all that tired rhetoric. But the longer I spent there, the more my eyes were opened to the reality of what is actually happening out there. And mind, this was before the massive austerity cuts and COVID, so it won’t have got any better.
I remember one father who came in – dressed like he was going for an interview with a bank, well-spoken and clean shaven – and because I was a shameless slut back in the day I took him in for an interview. He explained that his wife had been diagnosed with MS and had to give up work. They’d struggled and then he lost his job too, and suddenly they were faced with bills and a mortgage they couldn’t pay. Children don’t stop needing food and uniform and days out and entertainment and medicine just because you’ve received a P45 after all. Imagine that these days with unemployment absolutely rocketing and costs of living giving chase and then ask yourself what a family like that is supposed to do? If anyone out there has an answer that doesn’t extend to applying for Universal Credit – which takes weeks to process and offers scant difference when put up against cost of living increases – then do let me know. These people didn’t plan to be faced with stark choices between heating and eating, they didn’t have children with the expectation someone else would pay for them. Circumstances forced their hand and the truth is, nobody knows what is coming down the line and never more so than during these COVID times. Of course there are chancers who abuse the system, but they’re few and far between. Why not vent your ire at the MPs who pocket £300 a day to sit and kip in the Houses of Parliament rather than someone getting an extra £20 to feed their kids? What’s the alternative? Let them starve in the name of teaching them a lesson about having fiscal responsibility in a system where all the cards are stacked against them?
It’s easy to kvetch about ‘wasting taxpayer money’ as though we’re talking about delays on building a bypass or cobbling together a fancy garden bridge, but we’re talking about starving children and broken families. To dismiss that as ‘hyperbole’ or ‘emotional manipulation’ does nothing but show the person thinking that as the selfish, myopic prick that they are. If they can piss away £156,000,000 on contracts for PPE that doesn’t work, £87,000,000 on contracts for ferry companies with no fucking ferries, why can’t they help families out during these unprecedented times? It’s an absolute disgrace and make no mistake, none of the MPs who voted against the bill will face the consequences of their actions. They’ll never fret about sending their kids to school with empty bellies, after all.
Some of the MPs who voted against have come out since to wring their hands and say that it’s better to cure the need for this sort of ‘charity’ rather than putting a sticking-plaster over it. Think that through. If you tear your leg open on a nail sticking out of a fence, of course you’ll want the fence fixed so it doesn’t happen again, but you wouldn’t expect to go to the doctors and have them say they won’t bother dressing your wound because it’s better they fix the fence. It’s a short-sighted, piss-weak argument and one made even worse by the fact they’ve caused the bloody need for the plaster in the first place. Much fuss has been made about the fact that the Government has given extra to local councils to meet the shortfall, but councils have been cut to the quick by funding cuts after funding cuts and what has been given back – a veritable crumb off the banqueting table – doesn’t touch the sides. And why do they do this? So the Government can turn around and put the blame at the door of local councils when things go tits-up. Kids going hungry in your constituency? It’s the council’s fault now. They did it with social services – stripped the support bare and then stand looking anguished at the fact that families are falling apart – and now they’re doing it with feeding hungry kids.
You know what fucks me off most of all? There is ZERO accountability. One of our local MPs has been asked repeatedly over and over why she voted no – on Twitter, on Facebook, via letters – and she hasn’t deigned to reply to a single one that I can see. She’s retweeted the odd tweet blowing smoke up her arse, because of course she has, but people with genuine questions asked politely about a situation that any decent person would deal with? Nah. Happy to claim almost £60,000 in expenses though, and I very much look forward to seeing her face adorning the sides of the A1 when it comes to election time, because lord knows I need another reason to wonder what would happen if I put the handbrake on at 70mph. Doesn’t matter though: she’ll be a shoo-in for re-election because people round here have short memories or deep pockets.
And honestly, I think it takes a special type of cold-hearted shit to endorse a government that can hand-wave feeding children away as ‘not our responsibility’. It bloody well is. Homelessness is rocketing, food bank use is off the scale, and if anyone honestly thinks things are going to get any easier for the poor and the disadvantaged and the struggling over the next few months, you should hang your head.
Paul and I both came from families where if someone dropped a pound it would land on the back of their heads – never had a lot (though never went without) and in Paul’s case certainly, often went to bed hungry. He’s certainly made up for this struggle since, preferring to go to bed only when there’s a real and distinct chance his belly-button is going to blow out like a party popper, but neither of us would want what we went through for anyone else. And that’s what I don’t understand. You see people on Facebook – nearly all of a certain age mind you, and nearly always looking as though the last time they went hungry was back when Thatcher was mulling over the Falklands – saying stuff like ‘well when I was young I used to eat gravel and my mother would go out and work 25 hours a day just to get enough moisture in her mouth to fill the tin-bath with spit so I don’t see why parents these days can’t do the same‘.
What sort of argument is that? Why wouldn’t you want kids to avoid that? It’s not a character-building exercise, living in squalor and poverty, but these people seem to think it should be endured because ‘they had to do it’. Mind, I got into an argument with someone along those lines on Facebook which quickly turned into her telling me how COVID was just a ‘plandemic’ (and if ever there was a portmanteau which made my shit itch, it’s that) and how she had survived many a pandemic in her seventy years. When I enquired which ones she replied ‘scarlet fever’ and then went absolutely spare when I pointed out the last scarlet fever pandemic was in the nineteenth century. She did look good for a foaming gas-bag knocking over 200 years old, though. Same as those people who’ll suggest that parents should get their ‘priorities straight’ and sell their TVs and mobile phones. You need a mobile phone and internet access to apply for jobs now – selling your phone might get you £100, but it’ll mean you can fuck right off when it comes to trying to get a job. But that doesn’t matter, because it’s just another stick to beat the poor with. Maybe there’s no reasoning with these people, content as they are to live in their bubbles of superiority shouting at the clouds to do better. Fuck ’em.
We’re all in this together, after all. Except when, you know, we’re not. But just remember all of this next time. Remember how your MP voted. Remember the absolute contempt they have for the poor and those who elected them on the misguided belief those MPs gave a shiny-shite about anyone other than themselves and their pals with their hands in the till. In the meantime, try and do something to help, whether it’s donating to a food bank or raising awareness.
And, if you need support, if you’re struggling, there’s help out there from decent folk and you should feel fuck-all shame in asking for help in whatever form you need it. Don’t let the media, and the parasitic arseholes who comment on it, tell you otherwise. The country is full of decent, kind folk who will give you whatever they can, and you’ve only got to look at the businesses currently rallying around to try and give away meals in order to prove that. They are the people to focus on and celebrate, not the vainglorious, self-serving shitheads in Parliament who wouldn’t give you the steam off their piss unless they could claim it back afterwards.
You know what worries me though? The very same MPs will look at the help that has been offered and claim the whole thing as a success as it proves extra money wasn’t needed.
The full list of MPs who voted against – remember their names and DO something about it when you can – call out your MP, make your voice heard
Find a food bank near you:
Find a company near you giving away free meals:
And that’s me done. If this post is anything like the Black Lives Matter post I did a while ago, it’ll attract some good discussion and comments and, more than likely, more than a few comments telling me I’m a leftie do-gooder. You know what though? If do-gooder is the worst someone can call me, then that’s a hill I’m willing to die on. Far better to be known for doing good than doing nothing.
Right: cheesy bubble and squeak fritters then!
See? These cheesy bubble and squeak fritters are the bollocks with the sauce added!
You could eschew the sauce if you want to save a couple of syns, but let’s be honest, you’re not going to – and rightfully so!
cheesy bubble and squeak fritters
Yield 10 fritters
These are an absolute piece of piss to make - if you have leftover cabbage or spring greens to go with your leftover mash, then even better, but even if you have to buy the ingredients in fresh it is a worthwhile cook. They freeze well, and I'm serving them with a cheesy sauce to dip in. Because I'm a whore.
We've worked out the syns - with sauce - as 3.5 for four large hot fritters each. Treat yourself!
This is another recipe inspired from Hello Fresh - we've tinkered with it a little to make it lower in syns for you. We aren't getting paid to promote Hello Fresh, we're just using it whilst our house is rebuilt. We love it, and you probably will too! Click here if you want to give them a go, you'll get £20 off your first box. We also get £20, because damn it someone needs to pay for Paul's extra-wide shoes.
- 400g of mash (or 400g of tatties cooked through and mashed)
- six or eight or even ninety bacon medallions
- bunch of chives
- 160g of spring greens
- 30g of panko (5 syns)
- 50g of Philadelphia Lightest (swap for Quark if saving syns) (but also have a bloody word with yourself, you loon (2 syns)
- 40g of extra mature lighter cheddar
- lighter cheddar? I did yes, but she blew it out after and we've since made up
- enough black pepper and salt to suggest you need to talk to Frank
- chop up your bacon medallions and fry them in a little oil, along with your spring greens, until the greens have softened and the bacon is crispy and you feel really proud of yourself
- in a big bowl mix the mash with the panko breadcrumbs, grated cheddar cheese, spring greens, crispy bacon and all the vim and vigour you can muster
- season to taste by eating about half of it
- tell your husband there wasn't as much mash as you thought there was
- offer to make him a sandwich as a conciliatory gesture only for him to turn it down because he's got a tittylip on because you apparently can read minds and should have guessed that he had forgotten to take his lunch to work and was starving
- have a blazing row where fourteen years of angst and indiscretions come tumbling out so he leaves in a huff and you get to eat the rest which you cook by...
- heating a flat frying pan to a medium heat and spraying with just a little squizzle of oil
- form the mash mix into burger shapes and pop them in to almost dry fry
- serve when they are a bit crunchy on the outside and drizzle with the sauce
The sauce, such as it is, is Philadelphia heated ever so slightly with some chopped chives and black pepper mixed in. Drizzle over rather than drown your fritters.
- the panko is worth it because the dryness of the crumb help soak up some of the 'moistness' - you could just blitz a breadbun but honestly, it's worth getting some panko – most major supermarkets stock it and you can stick them in an airtight jar and use them wherever - see the recipe list below for more ideas
- the stronger the cheese, the better these are
- these make a great little snack for taking to taster nights - stack them on top of each other with a slip of greaseproof paper betwixt them
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Courses snacks or sides
Lovely, yes? Want some more ideas on where to use panko? Sure Jan, here you go:
- creamy cheesy green veg medley
- bacon cheeseburger bites
- cheesy bacon chicken goujons
- mediterranean meatloaf
- cheesy baked broccoli bombs
- proper cheesy crunchy chicken parmo
- summer salad with fried feta
- easy chilli beefy macaroni cheese
- fish cakes, chips and peas
- McDonald’s-style crispy chicken wraps
That’s it from me. Stay safe.