iamafeeder.net



John


Aug
01


This was taken 3 years ago - I am now significantly chubbier and John is significantly beardier.

So my new thing is listening to podcasts. I listen to them when I'm on my way to and from work and I hear some really interesting things, which I then force my pastry chef to listen to ALL DAY as we make brownies, ice-cream, plate desserts, etc. The other day, whilst listening to Freakonomics, I learned about living organ donors and put the question to my colleagues: would you donate your organs to a total stranger?

They mostly said no and their reasons were, "what if I need it later?" Or, "maybe for a family member...?" And that's totally fair enough, they're your organs, you can do what you want with them. I don't have an answer to this question because I cannot donate organs, tissue or give blood and if you ask me, all of the noble feelings that I have towards humanity make me want to say yes, without hesitation. But that's a hypothetical answer because I still can't do it.

I have this lovely friend called John. We haven't been great at seeing each other over the past couple of years - life has been busy for both of us, but we still try to keep up to date with each other through social media. John is a fabulously talented writer - we met when we both wrote for the same online magazine, we worked on a couple of pieces together, we ate some great food and drank some great drinks, he made me dinner at his home once which was one of the most enjoyable evenings of my adult life, I returned the favour a couple of times, and he and a few of his friends came to my 25th birthday in Central London. It's been about 3 years since we last spent time together, John is now 25, and he found out last Wednesday that he has cancer.

Today I went to visit him in the hospital, was horribly, horribly late (because apparently outside of work I cannot keep time for toffee) and we chatted. We chatted about life over the past couple of years, he told me all about his lovely girlfriend Ella, he told me about the ups-and-downs of work, I told him a little about the ups-and-downs of my work, and, mostly, we talked about cancer. We talked about life, we talked about death, I gave Ella a big hug when she left for a bit, and I thought about how if I were in her position I wouldn't have been able to sit there and listen to this conversation for the thousandth time, either. We talked about friends, we talked about family, and we discussed the good stuff and the bad stuff. I was there for a little over an hour, John was tired at the end of it and he still had plenty more visitors to come, so I left him with lemon tarts and his book, called TS on my way home and got on the bus.

John's cancer is so rare that he tells me he's something like only the 120th person in the world to have it. Because it's so rare, there's very little the doctors can tell him about his prognosis, but they tell him that he has responded very well to the steroids and when he starts chemo on Monday they feel very positive about this, too. John tells me he feels pretty good, all things considered - he's been feeling pretty crappy the past few months, so now, on steroids and antibiotics, he's not that bad. His mom visits every other day, Ella stays with him, reading Terry Pratchett, talking, reading Twitter, listening to other friends talking with John, being together. John takes selfies, Tweets about hospital food, the people around him, and his on-going treatment. Even whilst stuck in a hospital, fighting something that at age 25 he really shouldn't have to, my friend is unfailingly funny, sweet, caring and honest. He half-jokingly quipped that if nothing else at least he'll be a great addition to the research pool for his type of cancer, a cancer that only affects young men under 30. He told me before I left that it would be the greatest thing he would have accomplished with his life: I disagreed.

Anthony Nolan are a UK based charity who help people with blood cancer. They match living donors with those in need of transplants and, since being established in 1974, they have helped with 13,000 stem cell transplants. This is real life superhuman stuff - something which your body creates naturally and replaces naturally, can help save somebody else's life. It's a no-brainer, right? People like you can join the Anthony Nolan registry and, if you're a match, you can help people like my lovely friend John. This great animation from Anthony Nolan shows you exactly what the process involves:

And for the girls, if you're pregnant you can actually donate your umbilical cord blood after you've given birth, which normally gets thrown away anyway. Here's another helpful animation which explains what's going on:

I've talked before about cancer - my friend whom I wrote the post about a few years ago is now cancer free and getting married this October, which is incredible and beautiful, best of all I get to be a bridesmaid at her wedding in the US, and it'll be the first time we've seen each other in person since she left the country to start chemo back home. I might cry a bit (I probably will). I'm writing about it again because it wasn't until two weeks ago that I was even aware you could be a living stem cell donor. But you can. And it's easy. And I really, really do wish that it was something I could do, even for a complete stranger. But you can.

So now I'm asking you: would you donate your organs/stem cells to a total stranger?

Until next time, peace and love,

Jax x

PS: If you're in the US, please check out The National Marrow Donor Program.

EDIT: Since writing this, John has now set up a JustGiving page for Anthony Nolan. His initial target of £1,000 was smashed in 45 mins, his second target of £5,000 in less than a day. He is now past £6000, aiming for £10,000 to aid Anthony Nolan in its work. Check it out, read about it in John's own words and if you've got a few spare quid knocking about, please do donate to Anthony Nolan for John.

Keep Pushing: New Job (Again!), Desserts & a Cremeux Recipe


Jul
23


Yoghurt & honey mousse with strawberry jelly insert, strawberry gel & fresh Kent strawberries, coffee granola, cereal milk ice-cream and lemon balm.

If there was one word I could use to describe this crazy industry I find myself in it’s this: fluid.

When I started working as a professional pastry chef about 18 months ago (give or take), I never would’ve guessed that I’d have learned so much in such a short amount of time, met so many great people, or been given the opportunities to develop that I have; I also wouldn’t have guessed that I’d already be onto job no. 3.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about this. I come from an accomplished family who work in industries that value commitment and loyalty, values that were instilled in me from a young age. So moving around jobs so much as an adult leaves me feeling a bit torn – on the one hand, I feel disappointed in myself for not sticking it out or “going the distance”; on the other I know that the decisions I make are based on sound, logical (and sometimes medical) reasoning, and they’ve led me to the position I’m now in, which makes me incredibly happy.


Blueberry curd slice on maple pecan biscuit base, chai white chocolate cremeux, blueberry compote and sugar tuile; “The Malteser” – malt biscuit brushed with milk, dark choc & white choc cremeux, milk choc sorbet, malt meringue, malt streusel.

Everybody told me (and still continues to) that this life that I’ve chosen is a hard one, that I will sacrifice so much to it and that’s why I really have to love it; the talk I gave last year repeated this sage advice. The normal rules of “life” do not apply in the professional kitchen: when you burn yourself you pick your cookies up, run it under cold water and slap some cream on it, then you continue; when you cut yourself you wrap it up and keep going, unless you’re bleeding over everything, in which case you might go to the hospital, but probably you’re just going to do something weird like using meat glue to stick yourself back together (side note: meat glue is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard of); racism, sexism, abuse and harassment are just kitchen banter and if you want to complain about it you’re going to be labelled as “that-person-who-bitched-about-everything”. In other words, any normal “work-place propriety” does not apply here and that’s something I’ve had to get used to very quickly.

I remember the first time I saw something I deemed “inappropriate” in a kitchen: a senior chef was bollocking a junior for something they had messed up, which he then followed up by grabbing him by his chef whites and practically shoving his head into the pot of food. I froze, felt my stomach rise into my throat and I remember thinking, “this is really happening, this isn’t on TV, this is happening right now“. It was terrifying but the thing that shocked me the most was how the rest of the staff did nothing. If anything, they sped up, terrified that they would be next (and now, having been on the other side, I know exactly why they did/said nothing). I was called over to a station and truffles were thrust into my hands with the instruction to hurry and put these away as fast as I could – I practically ran, my cheeks red, still hearing the shouting coming from behind me.
“Why am I doing this?!” My head screamed at me, “why am I here?!”

And yet I’m still here, still working, and I’ve finally grown that thick skin everybody told me about. But I was sick of the 16+ hour days, of coming home to find my partner asleep and leaving before he woke up, of not even having enough time to look after my health properly, of being so exhausted and stressed out that I was getting sick every two weeks. So after a year in a busy hotel and a few months in a busy restaurant, I needed to take a step-back, re-evaluate and find a job that would allow me to develop my own work and progress, as well as look after myself and my partner a little better.

Amazingly, I found that and I am now so happy in my work life it’s unbelievable.

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I’m Still Feeding: New Digs & A Few Developments


Jan
16


My first team, my best girls!

Just when you thought I’d disappeared into the ether, never to be seen again, I figured I’d stir things up a bit and write a blog post. I know, it’s almost like I’ve been doing this for nearly five years, or something!

So what’s going on with me? Well, I’m still pastry chef-ing, though I have recently moved on from a wonderful year filled with learning and excellent people at Claridge’s. I briefly worked with a small business but it wasn’t a great fit so I moved on (it seems strange to have so much turnover in this industry and yet it happens all the time! TS was just remarking the other day how the hospitality industry appears to be the only one where people regularly lose their minds and just walk out in the middle of their shift; I didn’t do this, by the way), and I now work as a slightly higher position in a restaurant/hotel which I officially cannot talk about. It’s a bit like Fight Club – the first rule of your new job is: do not talk about where you are currently a pastry chef. The second rule of your new job is: DO NOT TALK ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE CURRENTLY A PASTRY CHEF. Suffice to say that I am very happy, learning a lot, loving my team and I get to play with liquid nitrogen. Oh, also, my new executive head chef is somebody I’ve admired for a long time so the fact that I get to work with him now is just a dream come true! The chef fan girl in me quietly freaks out every time he talks to me, which I would never admit in person because I’m pretty sure he’d get very embarrassed and then, uh, never talk to me again.

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All Day, All Night: Settling Into My New Routine & An Announcement!


Apr
01

Life has been a whirlwind lately, hence why I’ve not managed to post for the past few months. Early starts, late finishes and an awful lot of heavy lifting fill my days but you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way because I have so much fun doing it all.

Sure, there have been days when I’ve been so stressed out of my head that I’ve had to leave the kitchen to sob for 5 minutes, there have been days when I’ve questioned why I’m doing this, am I too old, too green, not tough enough, but at the end of the questions I come back to the same conclusion: I chose this because I love it, because the work I do is rewarding and because I’m so proud to be a part of it.

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New News Is Good News


Jan
29

Sometimes, being at culinary school, though it is completely exactly what I want to be doing at this moment in my life, can feel like a total drag. I haven’t had routine in my life for so long that now that I suddenly have this incredibly rigid structure (get to school by 9.30am, leave school by 5pm, do homework, eat some quick dinner, pass out around 10pm) it sometimes feels a little restrictive. Gone are the days when I would go out to dinner with friends willy-nilly, purely to discover new restaurants around town as and when I pleased; gone are the days of dozing in bed until late morning, raising myself to sit in front of my laptop with a mug of hot lemon and honey (still wearing PJs until the late evening by which time what was the point in even changing?) to plonk out a piece about a food event I’d attended the night before, or edit a new batch of photos.

But then when I look back on those days I see what a lack of focus I had, how lazy I was becoming. On the one hand I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted; on the other I was bored, feeling stupider and fatter by the day, and was desperately poor with no idea whether this was what I even wanted any more. These days I’m still poor but my brain feels as if it’s overloading with new and exciting information. My need to experiment has come back in full force – the other week I bought an ox tongue just for the fun of it and I’ve been making enquiries into how to get hold of a whole pig’s head to make headcheese – but the result of this is that I’ve become quieter, less social, more reclusive and a much harder worker. So maybe that’s why I’ve decided to change things up a little.

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Important Announcement: RSS Subscribers? New Feed!


Sep
24

So remember how a while ago I decided to take the leap and switch to FeedBurner because I wanted to monitor my blog readership? Well Google decided to shut FeedBurner down which means that oh yay, I have lost all of my data and subscribers. BIG WHOOP. THANKS GOOGLE.

So I switched over to FeedBlitz and have just finished setting it all up but look! Sad empty little zero over on the left there! So if you previously subscribed to my RSS feed and you’d like to keep up to date again (I do actually update the blog more frequently these days, though what with starting Leiths next week things could take an interesting turn), please do subscribe again and let’s get that sad little zero back up again!

The new feed address is: http://feeds.feedblitz.com/iamafeeder so g’wan, update your RSS readers and sign up to get I Am A Feeder in your Inbox for fweeee!

Until next time, peace and love,

Jax x

Lookit What I Made, Ma


Aug
03

For about a year and a half now I’ve been quietly executing small catering jobs for private clients. I say quietly because I never really expected to be making such a shift in direction, so I didn’t really advertise my services. What started as a couple of small jobs for a favour turned into word-of-mouth jobs, which in turn have landed me with the beginnings of a pretty tidy little business.

So look ma: here’s what I’ve been making.

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Let Them Eat Cake: A Sister’s Engagement Present


Jul
26

I don’t consider myself much of a baker and yet I’ve had more than one person ask me recently if baking is my speciality. I think it’s probably because I actually make an effort with cake presentation – with savoury dishes, not so much. Then it’s usually a case of ‘more is more’ over pretty food – I think I’m probably just greedy.

Having said that, when my older brother called me up one morning to tell me that he was planning on proposing to his long-term girlfriend, rather appropriately in his birth town of Boston, and that he was giving her a ring he’d bought from Tiffany & Co., I started scheming. I thought about an engagement party, I thought about an engagement surprise and I started to doodle a very special engagement cake. Of course, she hadn’t even said yes yet but I knew she would, so when the excited call came through on Jubilee Sunday that he’d popped the question and the answer had been a resounding yes, I started to firm up my plans.

The plan was to make a cake that looked like a Tiffany engagement box: as you can see from the above photo that didn’t quite work out but I think the end result was much prettier and a whole lot tastier… and I still got to use the Tiffany Blue colour we’d made for the box!

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“I Wish You 10,000 Camels”: On Visiting Marrakech


May
30

I’ve been meaning to write this post up for a really long time but, obviously, life just kept getting in the way. So apologies, I know I’ve been promising it for a while!

Back in March, when the weather was still cold and dreary in London, I hopped over to Marrakech for a few days with my “sort-of cousin” Allison who had just turned 21 and was taking a little holiday around Europe to celebrate. I wasn’t supposed to go with her but last minute her friend had to drop out and so I slipped into her place – rather happily, I might add! The trip was lovely, it was wonderful to spend some time with Allison who was heading back to the States shortly (she was only in London to study for a semester) and Marrakech itself was great fun… but three days was enough!

You see, as beautiful as it was, there were times when Allison and I were downright terrified to be two young ladies in a foreign country by ourselves. Allison’s French is non-existent and my French is only at GCSE level and hidden beneath years of Spanish (a language I have always found to be much more intuitive), which meant that we were mostly relying on me to fumble my way through misconjugated verbs and wild gestures. By day three I was managing to communicate – my proudest moment was having a conversation with a stall vendor in the souks about traditional Moroccan sweets and where I could find them – but there were times when we thought we were going to either be run over by the ridiculous traffic or mugged down a dark alleyway by gangs of children.

So here’s my guide to Marrakech – we really only scratched the surface and if I were ever to return I’d probably want to go with a male companion, not ever by myself or with another girl.

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Dear Me: Happy Blog-O-Versary


May
20


Chocolate chip cookie recipe courtesy of Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

So I only went and did it again and totally forgot to celebrate my blog-o-versary (I should really put the date in my diary) and I Am A Feeder is now 2-years-old! It’s weird to think that I’ve been cultivating my little inch of the web for just over 2 years – when I started it I don’t think I ever expected to be doing the things that I’m doing in my life right now or, even, still blogging. So a huge thank you to all of my friends, family and readers who have stuck with me over these 2 years, for all of the lovely messages, comments and emails, and particularly to the new friends I’ve made all over the world. You guys were an unexpected bonus when all I wanted to do was write down my recipes and vent at the world (as I do so often) – am massively appreciative to all of you!

And I suppose a 2-year mark is the perfect time for me to make a couple of little announcements. Well. Maybe not so little. Remember how I talked about change in my last post? Well the first change is that the offer we made on our dream house was accepted and so I’ll be moving to a completely different part of London next month, but the biggest change of all is that this October I’m going to be starting culinary school.

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