Monday, 28 February 2011

Proper Recycling Containers and Improper Sushi

FRIDAY: Lunch on this stimulatingly creative Friday is a bit exciting: smoky Cheddar with a sliced pepperoncini pepper, two sliced green olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh coriander leaf. And it's muy bueno! If it could have been in a proper corn tortilla and heated instead of in a white breadcake it would be even better. But it is a nice juicy chewy savoury smoky picante surprise. Fruit is a glorious mixture of satsuma, Sharon fruit (persimmon), grapes, and apple, with a lychee for dessert. Ooh-la-la, ooh-mama!

For some mysterious reason our street was omitted last week for the biweekly recycling bin pick-up. A neighbour phoned the Council and was told it was because our street was inaccessible that day for the bin lorry, which to all of us sounded like your proverbial crock of shit. So now we're having to wait another two weeks for a pick-up.

The only real worry for my household is the paper receptacle, because we do buy a daily newspaper among other things and it's only a small crate. The cans and bottles are no problem, because the larger wheelie bin is for those, and in another 2 weeks, although it's bound to be quite heavy, it won't be more than half full.

I'm happy we finally have kerbside recycling, but I don't think the Sheffield recyclers have thought it through very well. When I first moved to the green-green city of Seattle back in 1990, they were well into kerbside recycling. For a decade I lived on the South Side of the Washington Ship Canal that had the better of the city's two recycling arrangements. Although our pickup was only once a month we had a huge covered wheelie bin for paper, cardboard, tin cans, aluminium, and #1 and #2 plastics. And the bottles went into a separate crate. Meanwhile my mother in Southern California has had one massive wheelie bin in which she puts everything recyclable, and that's wheeled from her garage down the driveway to the kerb to be picked up once a week.

The problem with Sheffield's system is not so much that they can't take everything -- eg. no plastic other than drinks bottles -- because obviously that's a cost issue. The problem is in their choice of what goes into what container. The little soft plastic shower caps that stretch over the paper crates fail miserably at keeping the paper dry during heavy rainstorms, which we tend to have a lot of in Yorkshire. And dumping the first load of bottles into the tall bin after it's been emptied is such a cacophonic experience it will wake the dead across the Pennines in Manchester. Although I used to enjoy hurling glass bottles into the public recycling bins, delighting at the sound of breaking glass, in my own back garden on a peaceful morning the sound is about as comforting as a multi-car collision or a building collapsing.

Why not have us put the glass into the crate and the other recyclables into the bin? It makes a hell of a lot more sense to me. But what do I know? I've only been recycling for the past 40 years.

WEDNESDAY: Lunch is lovely: some chevre on a white breadcake with pine nuts, a chopped Kalamata olive, sun-dried tomatoes, a bit of spring onion and red pepper, fresh basil, and fresh ground black pepper. It's a Mediterranean festival: absolutely scrumptious.

Last night I experienced something extremely disturbing. Obviously life is disturbing at the moment. The Middle East and North Africa have erupted, with citizens demonstrating, often with horridly violent results, in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, Morocco, and Bahrain, where Formula 1's grand prix has just been cancelled, and all of this while a British firm is at the Abu Dhabi Arms Fair selling crowd control weapons to Libya. Meanwhile an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand has had disastrous results, with an estimated 148 reported dead so far and buildings toppled and roads collapsed, while Australia is still reeling from the recent floods and cyclone. And in the wake of the student demos in Britain in reaction to the rise in tuition fees while jobs and benefits are being slashed by the coalition government's machetes, the banks are avoiding paying taxes and continue to reward their executives with lush bonuses.

Obviously what disturbed me last night will seem trivial compared to the disturbing global news reports we watch, read, and hear every day. But perhaps we need to focus on the smaller everyday atrocities that we might actually have the power to do something about. In a world that can build container ships big enough to carry 860,000,000 bananas at one time, why in the world would anybody produce and sell, much less think up in the first place, a product such as tuna mayonnaise sushi?

In Seattle we occasionally bought those small supermarket pack of maki-zushi (aka sushi rolls) to share for lunch. Not only would they contain California rolls, which were usually crab meat and cucumber or courgette wrapped in rice and seaweed, but also the Seattle version, which was filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado. The pack would also include samples of soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger slices. This would make a lovely lunch for two as a pleasant change from our usual pesto pizza, calamari tacos, falafel, spanakopeta, and the like.

But the crab and the smoked salmon were simple and undressed, nothing like tinned tuna, and the raw vegetable, rice, and seaweed was all the dressing needed, aside from perhaps a dash of soy sauce, a tiny smear of wasabi, and a slice of ginger. I'm sorry, but mayonnaise has no place in a maki-zushi, much less in a presentation of food claiming to be slightly Japanese. I nearly gagged when I bit into the roll to discover the filling tasted like your average supermarket pre-wrapped tuna mayo sandwich. It wasn't even imaginative tuna mayo like I would make. It was truly awful. I was shocked and dismayed. And it was from Tesco, who should have known better.

I was told by a friend that one can get proper California rolls in pre-made packets in Sheffield; but when I Googled "California rolls" and "Sheffield" all of my results included the word mayonnaise. I do hope my friend wasn't just telling me this to stop me packing my bags and booking a one-way flight to America. I do sincerely hope he's right. I shall keep looking, and hoping...

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