A Silk Purse out of Sow’s Ear

My mum used to say regularly that, ”you can’t make a silk purse out of sow’s ear”, meaning you needed quality items to make a quality product. However on a daily basis she made a lie of that statement. Within her meagre budget she indeed could, ’make a silk purse out of sow’s ear’, figuratively speaking. She made colourful, woollen, patchwork quilts for our beds out of scraps of fabric which my brother brought home from the coat factory at which he worked. She unravelled old woollen jumpers and used the wool to knit us new jumpers to keep us warm in Christchurch’s cold winter months, and, when the cupboard was virtually bare and her purse empty, she would still manage to put some nourishing, tasty meals on our table. She could conjure up something absolutely amazing out of virtually nothing.

Recently I mentioned to my children that I didn’t think I had conveyed my mother’s best attributes to them. My daughter corrected me, and said that I had frequently sung her praises, particularly in regards to her ability to, ’make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’. She also said that I had inherited that ability from my mum, as she in turn, had inherited it from me.

I often think of this inherited skill, a skill I’m so grateful and proud to have.

The world as it currently is, compared to the world as it was just two short years ago has me wondering what the next two years will bring. In late January 2020 the world anxiously watched as a new respiratory disease emerged from China and spread rapidly throughout the world. On the 11 March 2020 the World Health Organisation declared Coronavirus to be a pandemic. It had spread to all corners of the world. That’s less than two years ago. Now 22 months later, what sounded like the script of a Sci-Fi movie, has turned into life as we know it.

It has me wondering…….. Yes, the possibility of a pandemic had been mentioned from time to time, but with the exception of a few crack-pots, no one gave the idea any credibility, or if they did the thought was that, ’it won’t happen in our lifetime’. Yet, here it is. However, there’s something even more worrying than the current pandemic – GLOBAL WARMING! Global warming isn’t something that’s only given credibility by, ‘a few crackpots.’ In fact it’s the reverse, it’s only a few crackpots that continue to deny it’s existence. Even though most of us now acknowledge that Global Warming will impact the world as we know it, there is still many who think, ’not in our lifetime’.

The facts can no longer be denied. Drought, Wild fires and floods are increasing and as a result our food supply chain is under threat. This is going to get worse.

I’m 66 years old, and I have no doubt that I’m going to see a drastic change to my world brought about by Global Warming. As droughts, floods, and wild fires increase, and destroy crops and farming habitat, I know without any doubt, that if I live to the usual life expectancy of a healthy 66 year old alive in 2022, I will see my world of plenty turned head over heels. I know without any doubt, that I will live to see a world plagued by scarcity.

Back to the current situation though. The pandemic is taking it’s toll in every state in Australia except the one in which I live. Businesses have so many staff off work due to Coronavirus illness, and that’s affecting supplies. Abattoirs have reduced staff so animal protein is limited, causing Coles, one of our main supermarkets to put limits on purchases. Stock isn’t being transported to supermarkets as transport drivers are either ill, or in isolation. Supermarket shelves aren’t being re-stocked as there is insufficient staff to cope with the demands. And don’t let me start on the poor hospital staff dealing with severely ill patients on their death beds. Apparently they are running on as little as 1/3 of their usual nursing numbers – I cannot imagine the stress the hospital staff – nurses, cleaners, cooks, doctors, orderlies and many more are under.

Below are some exerts taken from some recent news bulletins. As I write this the news headlines have just flashed across the television advising of the same news headlines for tonight’s news.

The article went on to say:

The supermarket shelves and fridges are looking bare:

I ask myself, in less than two years if our world has been turned into something resembling the script of a sci fi movie from a pandemic, a pandemic that only 24 months ago was barely the twinkle in a Chinese bats eye, what is in store for us in the very near future from something a lot more assured of happening, Global Warming. What does the future hold for us as the world leaders, (and particularly our own country’s current leader) fail to take drastic action soon enough.

And that brings me back to the title of this blog – there are so many people out there who barely know how to cook. When they do it’s adding a bit of already filleted chicken to a pan with some frozen vegetables and a jar of ready made sauce from off the supermarket shelf thrown in. They serve up their culinary effort over some instant noodles, or some pre-cooked rice bought for an exorbitant price from off the supermarket shelf and sincerely believe they have presented their family with a ’home cooked meal’. So many people have lost their ability to cook from scratch, or they never had the ability to start with. I fear for these people when food becomes truly scarce. My daughter said to me today that if push comes to shove, ’at least we’ll be able to cook up something using the dregs that others have left on the supermarket shelves’.

Can you cook chick peas from scratch? Do you know how to cook rice, and how to make pasta? Can you bake bread without using a pre-prepared mix? Can you grow your own tomatoes and then use them to make a pasta sauce without the help of a can or a jar from off the supermarket shelf. If meat becomes scarce, do you know how to stretch a small piece of chicken adding some vegetable protein to make a nourishing meal for a family. Do you know how to use the left over bone from that meagre piece of chicken to make a real chicken stock? Up until only about 50 years ago this is the way the world cooked. This is the way the world lived. In recent years those skills that had been passed down from generation to generation have been abandoned. If you are one of the many that don’t know how to cook from scratch, then please learn. One day your life may depend upon it!

8 thoughts on “A Silk Purse out of Sow’s Ear

  1. Wise advice, Chris. These are skills I instilled in my kids so at least they can feed themselves. If anything, I sold it to them as a money saver- meals from basic meat and veg are significantly less expensive and healthier. You can live frugally if you are sensible and plan. Something our leaders don’t do!
    800 staff are in quarantine at one of our suburban hospitals. Surgeries are cancelled. And they wanted to open the borders for business’ sake. I’d like to ask the politicians, How is that working out for you?”
    I have not heard the saying from your mum. A sow’s ear…interesting.


      1. We just have to keep being a role model and hope common sense prevails.
        *Pollies was auto-corrected by my phone to ‘polling,’ in that last comment. I have a dreadful habit of not proof reading comments I type on my phone.


      2. I gathered what you meant despite that damned auto correct. I’ve edited it to politicians (my auto correct didn’t like ‘pol lies’ either – as you can see). I sometimes wonder what people think of my literacy skills when I read back something I’ve written, or at least thought I’d written.
        Have you seen the Covid numbers in NSW and VIC today? With the infected, and their household contacts having to isolate for 7 days, it is going to leave the workforce severely depleted – and that’s only going to get much worse. I’m about to to head out and do the biggest food shop I’ve done. I think I’ll take Paul with me, and it’ll be a two trolley job. It’s the fresh produce that’s hard though – so I’m going to get frozen broccoli etc, and lots of tinned fruit. If our borders open on 5 Feb as planned, that’s going to coincide with the expected peak in the current outbreak. It’ll be to late then to try and stock up.
        My daughter has always laughed at me for keeping well stocked cupboards. She calls me a doomsday prepper. Yesterday she proudly sent me photos of her cupboards, all sorted and bursting at the seams with supplies. Indeed, we can only lead by example, and I’m pleased she’s finally following mine.


      3. Sounds like you are planning well in trying circumstances. Taking Paul and stocking up is wise. I did that earlier in the week.
        The numbers today are awfully high. Proportionately more so than USA and UK.
        Keep that mask handy. Buy plenty of sanitiser, flour, eggs and every vege you can lay your hands on.

        Liked by 1 person

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