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A busy few months ahead...

So, what's been going in at Thinking-Cooking Towers. Is that too grandiose a title for where I currently sit? Perhaps, perhaps not... as I sit and glance out of the window at all that Thinking-Cooking owns... hmm. Well it's not Trump Tower but we're happy to call it home.

There's been plenty going on. Our Facebook following is careering towards 1,000. Careering in a stuttering kind of way but careering none the less. And we should have some big news on the horizon in terms of additional products we are going to be able to offer.

We've also had some great feedback, both in terms of products and delivery. We always aim to please, so it is gratifying when we receive nice comments.

By far the most popular item - in some weeks it has been flying off the shelves - is the Slow-Cooker Liner. Even in the heat of midsummer - and it was a hot one - people were ordering, and so as the weather turns distinctly autumnal I can only think more and more will be flying out.

We're also going to looking for distributors and stockists for the Thinking-Cooking range - so watch this space, I'll keep you updated.

All in all it has been a busy few months... and I suspect it is only going to get busier.


Getting in a right HEFF about things...

Now normally I'm quite flippant with my blogs. A little tongue in cheek perhaps.... but not today. Today, I am going to be serious.

Why? Because it's a serious issue. Yesterday I received a note from HEFF... HEFF are the Heart of England Fine Foods, an organisation that helps food and drink manufacturers in this area, especially in their early days. They do things like run a distribution service, run a taste kitchen, and a myriad of other worthwhile things.

In my dealings with them they have been brilliant. Very enthusiastic, very professional, and very helpful. And I believe they do excellent work...

So what I hear you ask. Why are you telling me this... I'm telling you because on Wednesday, out of the blue, they were told by Shropshire Council that they had to vacate their home at the Shropshire Food Enterprise Centre by February. I think it's part of the great Shropshire Council fire sale (County Hall's also on the market I believe from the front of yesterday's Shropshire Star, give it a few months and you might be able to pick up a school in Shrewsbury for £30 on Ebay...)

This is odd in a few ways. Firstly, Shropshire Council receive rent from HEFF. So unless they are going to sell the site, what's the purpose of the eviction? Secondly, the Shropshire Food Enterprise Centre houses not only HEFF, but a number of industrial units for small-scale food enterprises to use, complete with kitchens etc.

So we have a thriving food enterprise centre - paying rent - adjacent to a number of thriving food manufacturers - all paying rent. Collectively they are contributing to the local economy, creating jobs etc - and what's Shropshire Council doing, making them all leave... If it is a money issue, why not sell the site as a going concern complete with tenants?

But here's where it doesn't make sense. Shropshire Council don't intend to sell the site, they intend to re-let the offices 'commercially'. By commercially they mean at a slightly higher rent. But what would the point of a slightly higher rent on the offices be, if all the industrial units quickly become empty. After all, how many of the food manufacturers are based there solely because HEFF is next door in the main building? Probably a significant number I should think... 

I understand council's have to try to balance books as best they can - we don't want Shropshire to be the new Detroit, that's for certain - but you can't help but think there's a lack of joined-up thinking and a lack of long-term planning. A few quid saved to allow the re-letting of the site - which could see 100 or more jobs leave Shropshire - is that truly worth it?

Rant over. HEFF, I hope you find a new home where you're a bit more appreciated... 


Well, what at exciting week...

Well, what an exciting week. The news was gripping last night... if you like live coverage of a closed door, with just a chance, that someone might open it. Come and watch, it's exciting my wife shouted. Well I did. And it wasn't. For 10 minutes, it was just a camera looking at a door, with a commentator desperately trying to keep it together.

I refer, of course, to the birth of the third in line to the throne - who shall remain nameless (not in a Voldemort 'he who must not be named' way but because, as I write this, he actually is nameless. No doubt William and Kate are poring over the Collins Baby Names for Princes book as we speak, wondering whether Rogers Nelson is truly an option (Google "Prince Rogers Nelson" if that went over your head). No doubt Buckingham Palace has already passed them the list of 10 they're actually allowed to choose from.

Could they actually just call the future king whatever they wanted? If Kate is sat there now saying 'I always wanted a boy, and to call him Justin' will she get her way? Or will she be told no. It has to be Philip/William/Henry/Albert/Edward. That's the list. Pick one and move on. The rest of the Royal Family has modernised, will the list of names? 

Or to celebrate the Ashes annihilation at Lords how about Swann? They're royal, or so I'm led to believe. Prince Swann, King Swann... has a nice ring to it. 

Anyway, in other news... a woman in Manchester was fined for taking a horse into McDonalds and 'causing alarm and distress'. Now, on the face of it quite right you might think, you can't take a horse into a fast food restaurant - what was the crazy lady thinking of? But that would be glossing over one strange fact in the story...

The reason why she took the horse into the restaurant was... because she'd been refused service at the drive through. Why? What possible reason can there be for refusing to serve her in a drive through? "We can't serve people on horseback" a spokesman was quoted as saying. Why on earth not? Come one, one good reason why not?... that's all I ask.


Ban packed lunches? Ban government think-tanks more like...

Blimey it's hot. Not just hot, ridiculously warm. There's something about this particular building that attracts heat. There's something about this particular office that attracts all the heat in the building. This is beer garden with a pint of Kronenbourg weather, not weather for even attempting to concentrate in...

Anyway, this morning I nearly choked on my porridge. Don't laugh, death by oatmeal's never been the way forward. No, it was a headline on the news. 'Schools urged to ban packed lunches.' And exactly which crackpot think-tank whose policies never see the light of day suggested that one then?

Maybe Friday was a bad day to suggest it. At that very moment I was deliberating the weekly Friday conundrum. You see, shopping isn't a strength of mine. Well to be fair I am okay with the shopping, I just don't do it often enough. And so by Friday (occasionally Thursday) the kids are dangerously close to having empty lunch bags.

Why is this a conundrum? Well I could stop at the shop and buy them a sandwich and a piece of fruit, or pay for a school dinner. "A school dinner" I hear you cry, "that's the easiest solution. Just hand over a few quid, don't waste time in the Co-op, the car-park is always a nightmare" - blimey you know me well, do we have a stalker? -  so why the conundrum. Well Friday in the girls' school - and I'm sure it is the same in many other schools around the country - is fish & chips day.

So on the very day I hear a headline suggesting packed lunches should be banned, I'm deliberating whether to actually allow my kids to have a school dinner, knowing full well that it will be battered fish, chips, and cake for pudding. Can you see my problem here? From me they would have had a ham sandwich and fruit... and yet I'm listening to headlines telling me that parents aren't feeding their kids healthy enough food? Sorry, forgot Andy Murray won Wimbledon on a diet of fish, chips and cake.

The irony for me is history repeating itself a little. When I started school in the 1980s my Mum - in a rare militant stance never seen since - actually took on the primary school and the LEA in Rotherham and fought for the right for her to provide me and my sister with a packed lunch - as she was concerned at what we would be fed otherwise.

So you see, for every parent sending in a packed lunch of cold sausage and chips, there's another trying to provide the healthiest meal possible. Surely to goodness the answer to this is for schools and LEAs to educate parents who provide junk food, not stop those who are trying to keep their kids healthy? 




Just give me the facts... will it kill me?

So on Wednesday I found myself at the HEFF conference in Shrewsbury. HEFF, for anyone who doesn't know, is the Heart of England Fine Foods - a great organisation and great venue in Shrewsbury who helps local food producers across the 'Heart of England'. They also serve incredible food at reasonable prices.... but I digress.

Not for the first time, not for the last. Digression is one of my major faults. Damn, did it again...

So, the reason I went to the HEFF conference was largely for the afternoon's speaker, a chap from the Design Council. Before you think I've a secret love of 80s music, don't make the mistake of mixing them up with the Style Council. That's something very different best left in 1986. No, the Design Council is an organisation, partly government-funded, that helps companies with branding, design - in fact any element of design that will help a company increase its turnover.

But before the afternoon - and indeed before the toad in the hole, gazpacho, salmon fishcakes and herby potatoes that was lunch (and don't even get me started on the chocolate profiterole tower that resembled a gigantic culinary game of Jenga) - there was the small matter of the morning.

The bulk of the morning's session had been given over to nutrition labeling on food. To be fair, even if you sell food, this is a dull subject. If, like me, you work for a company that doesn't actually sell food, it's mind-numbing. That's not to say I didn't listen, because actually I did.

And what I heard seemed actually quite bizarre. Why the obsession with 100g portions or 100ml portions? After all, if you buy a can of Coke you're not going to drink 100ml of it. You'll drink it all. If I buy a Frey Bentos pie (which I won't ever!) I want to know how much potential death-inducing calories and fat is contained in that pie. Not 100g of it. Not half of it. Not 'a reasonable portion'. No, that actual pie which I am about to eat, will it or will it not harm me...

That's all I want to know. All this traffic light system seems unnecessary. How's about a three-tier classification system for all food, whether fresh, frozen, over-the-counter or in a restaurant.

1) Healthy... go ahead and eat it. You can look smug at the till holding this while surrounded by the lunchtime pasty fraternity    
2) You could do better here, have a brief look at the salads to the right and then buy it anyway if your conscience will allow
3) There's no excuse for buying this. It will make you fat, and if you buy it too often it will kill you. But it tastes very nice...

Surely that would sum it up. Maybe Fat Friday could even be enshrined in law, and items falling under category 3 only sold on Fridays. True, Greggs would be deserted six days a week, but maybe they'd be encouraged to introduce a 'Vaguely Good For You' range.

And the other thing (and I admit I may have this wrong) was that the are changing the GDA (Guideline daily amount) to the percentage reference intake? Not which crackpot sat in a soon-to-be underfunded government department came up with that genius idea? If my imaginary Frey Bentos pie informs me that said pie is 55% of my guideline daily amount for calories I at least know where I am. If I eat two, I'm 10% in debit and can eat nothing else that day...

But if it soon informs me it is 55% of my reference intake, how is that more easy to understand? It's not. It's nonsense....