Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Bread passes the sandwich test!

I am pleased to say the bread made with my new breadmaker is just like "proper" shop bought bread! (but without the preservatives and additives - and most importantly for me - no palm oil!)

I had planned us to have some of the loaf with our dinner last night. I thought I had put it on rapid bake to give a loaf in an hour and a bit but as it ended up taking nearly 3 hours, I must've forgotten to press something cos that's how long the basic bread recipe takes. Practice will make perfect, I'm sure. Anyway, I had a test slice yesterday evening at about 8pm when it was still warm and I was very pleasantly surprised. For my lunch today, I had a sandwich made with cheese and pickle and it was lovely!

I don't know why I am so astonished, I suppose I didn't like to get my hopes up after all the disappointments of my handmade bread. I think I was also sneakily half hoping that a machine wouldn't be able to do it better. Because I'm a craftsperson, I tend to think handmade is ALWAYS going to produce superior results. However, I content myself with thinking that bread probably is still better handmade when made by someone who knows what they are doing and has had lots of practice.

There are tons of recipes in the book that comes with the breadmaker. I am particularly looking forward to trying citrus and walnut bread. The machine will also make cake, tea bread (banana and cinnamon - yum!) and jam; I wonder if I'm too late for apricots, there were some lovely ripe ones on the market last year.

So, I think on the palm oil front, all the things I eat are now palm oil free. The exception is when I go to dinner with family or friends who aren't being as anal as I am about it. But I'm not refusing to eat what they offer me (else I'd never get invited) because when they come to eat at my house, I give them palm oil free items and so it cancels itself out.

All the things I buy for the bathroom are palm oil free.

The next areas to tackle are:
  1. Follow up on the bio fuel. Tesco haven't replied when I asked them what they put in the 5% of fuel that the EU dictates must be bio fuel. After the fiasco last year when they had to repair thousands of motorists cars when their fuel damaged engined, I refuse to believe that they don't know exactly what every drop of their fuel contains right now and they are taking far too long to reply to me, it must've been weeks ago that I asked. I also want to write to other fuel suppliers and ask what they use for bio fuel. I think I may well not be able to do anything about this except let my displeasure be known. I can't remember where I read it but someone once said "The commonest way that people give up their power is by thinking they haven't got any" (or words to that effect). Whenever I wonder why I am bothering writing all these letters and going to extra trouble sourcing my groceries, I bear that in mind and think maybe, just maybe, it will make some kind of difference to the wildlife in the rainforest and the indiginous peoples who are being thrown off land they have lived on for hundreds of years.
  2. Cosmetics. I use very few but after scrutinising the labels against the list of suspect ingredients, I think some may contain palm oil, I want to be sure.
  3. Household cleaning products. I have done a little preliminary research on suppliers but I haven't yet started writing letters/e-mails on that front. I think this will be a big one (s'why I'm leaving it til last!)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Chocolate and toothpaste with some bread

I found this palm oil free chocolate supplier through a link on Nature Alert (warning Nature Alert has upsetting content and unvarnished truths).

As well as not containing palm oil, 10p from every Chokolit bar is donated to various charities which help endangered animals. The different flavours all sound absolutely scrumtious. I'm not much of a dark chocolate fan myself but Milk Chocolate crunch (Amur leopard and tiger), Premium Belgian Milk Chocolate (lions) and Premium Belgian White Chocolate with hint of lemon (tigers) have all taken my fancy. I may even give the Dark Chocolate with a hint of chilli a try cos I really like chilli. :-) They do a gift pack of any five of the chocolate bars for £9.99 including post and packaging.

Apparently their products are being stocked by Sainsburys and you can also buy on-line. I'm skint after my holiday and buying a breadmaker but I have bookmarked and will be purchasing very shortly! I'll have a look in Sainsburys on Saturday in Cambridge to see if they carry it, it's not that big a store so I guess they may not.

My Riddells Creek Lemon toothpaste has arrived and I just tried some. Some small bubbles appeared when I squeezed it out on the toothbrush which I found slightly offputting! It kind of "blobs up" on the toothbrush so it isn't as "tidy" as using Colgate but it didn't fall off so it's still easy to use. I'm relieved to say that it didn't taste like soap, the lemon comes through nicely and it has a pleasant zingy aftertaste.

As I type, I am using my breadmaker for the first time ... more on that soon!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Cadbury reply

I wrote to Cadbury as follows:

I was very pleased to discover that due to consumer pressure, you are not going ahead with using palm oil in your products in New Zealand and Australia. I am concerned though that you are continuing to use it in products supplied to the UK. This suggests that consumer pressure is more effective in those countries. I have been trying to live without palm oil as far as I can as I do not wish my consumer choices to help palm oil plantations continue to destroy wildlife habit in the rainforest. Since the extensive reporting about palm oil and Cadbury, I have stopped buying Cadbury Products. If you have a list of your products that do not contain palm oil, I would find this extremely helpful and would welcome your comments on whether a sustained and effective consumer campaign in the United Kingdom would make Cadbury change their mind about whether to use palm oil in products supplied to the UK.

This is the reply they have sent to me:

Thank you for your query about palm oil and Cadbury.

Cadbury has committed to source all palm oil sustainably by 2014.

We have been a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since it began. We have played a major role in developing the RSPOs activities and working with other businesses to adopt sustainable palm oil.

We are continuing this work, only buying the palm oil we use from other members of RSPO who are working in the same way and developing sources of sustainable palm oil to use for the small amount of palm oil that is included in some of our products.

Although we only use around 40,000t of palm oil, compared to the millions of tonnes used by others, we have been keen to develop sustainable sources, encouraging others to do the same and to use those sources to help minimise the impact of palm oil production and maintain natural ecosystems. Developing these sustainable sources is also crucial to enable the large users of palm oil in the far-east to also adopt sustainable practices.

This work is continuing and the ongoing support of the multi-stakeholder group of businesses, Governments and campaigning organisations within the RSPO is important in developing increasingly robust farming practices. While our use of palm oil is relatively minor, we view the impact of palm oil development on the environment seriously. As a result, we are also part of the partnership between industry and campaigning organisations such as Greenpeace, WWF, Conservation International, Rainforest Project and the Rainforest Alliance that is speeding up the growth of sustainable sources of palm oil. This also supports a moratorium on any further deforestation that might arise from palm oil farming.

I hope that you would agree that, through our work, we are supporting your suggestions. We will continue to work to deliver and encourage the use of sustainable palm oil in the future. Cadbury Consumer Relations Department

Actually, no I don't agree - just please address my specific requests rather than sending a generic policy that you send to everyone. I have asked for a list of products that do (or do not) contain palm oil (not supplied) and why haven't you addressed why in the UK, we are being palmed off (excuse the pun) with the cheap chocolate whilst the Kiwi's get the better product? (Ignored). I have written back hoping they will address my specific requests next time.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bread ... I surrender!

As you know, I have been buying palm oil free bread from the Co-Op but it's expensive and not great for making sandwiches out of as it's more of a big roll than a loaf. I've made lots of palm oil free loaves myself in both wholemeal and white bread. The early ones all came out very "heavy" and although they were fine when toasted and eaten with soup, they're not very good for sandwich making either.

I have been varying the amount of yeast, doing more kneading, baking it higher and then lower temperatures etc. but the results of my later loaves are the same as the early ones. Home baked bread is supposed to be one of the epicural delights, people write poems about it. I get the smell ... wow, that's lovely, really really good but I have finally had to admit defeat - I just don't have what it takes to make good bread.

I've decided to see if a breadmaker can make a better job of it and have pondered where it could go in my kitchen. The worktops are already pretty full up, if truth be told, I don't have room. If I keep it in a cupboard, it will hardly ever get used (like the food processor). So I have to sacrifice something else. The microwave gets used very little and is actually the first microwave I ever bought - it has kept going all this time since about 1986! It's probably because it's only ever used for scrambled eggs, the odd reheating of leftovers and occasional in-a-hurry baked potato (the ones from the fan oven are much better!)

So, I have done my research at Which? and have purchased a Kenwood BM450; its scheduled to arrive on Monday. After the weekend, my microwave will be consigned to the spare room until I decide whether the breadmaker is of more value.

Palm oil free toothpaste update

Colgate have replied to my letter, they say:

Thank you for contacting us with your question. Your interest in our Company and its products is greatly appreciated. We are happy to have the opportunity to assist you.

The Sodium Lauryl Sulfate used in our toothpastes is not palm oil derived.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us and for your interest in our Company and its products.

I realise now that my original letter, instead of asking whether the SLS was palm oil derived, should've asked whether any of the ingredients were palm oil derived - economy of truth is what big companies do best so I have written to them again asking for an unequivocal yes or no as to whether it contains palm oil/derivatives.

Notice how they have just ignored everything I said about the forest people being displaced in the country where they buy their palm oil.

When searching for other sources of palm oil free toothpaste, I came across Biome in Australia (where else?!) They have two toothpastes listed and I wrote to ask them if they were palm oil free and they have assured me that they are. They are:
  • Pure and Green Organics teeth and guns toothpaste - mint
  • Riddells Creek organic toothpaste
Since discovering the names of palm oil free toothpastes, it's easier to find UK suppliers, I have ordered some Riddells Creek organic Lemon toothpaste from My Pure. During the postal strike, you can have your parcel delivered by DHL and it only costs £3.00 per package which - confusingly - is less than a lot of companies charge by Royal Mail or Parcelforce (must have a special deal or be subsidising it).

I'll naturally report here what I think of it.

Lots of updates

I can either do a really big posting or split it up into little ones, probably better in small ones so this is the first today.

I am indebted to an e-mail correspondent called James who is - poor guy - allergic to palm oil. He has supplied me with a far more compehensive list of palm oil euphemisms so I have updated the list to the left and I'm sure you can see, it has grown extensively! James informs me that palm oil is also contained in UV cured finishes used in kitchen cabinetry and furniture manufacturing - so something else to look out for when leading the palm oil free life.

Some of the things on the list are derivitives, this means they are made from palm oil - however, beware that although commonly palm oil is used when making the derivitives (because it's so much cheaper than other vegetable oils), sometimes things like sodium lauryl sulphate and glycerine (for example) can be derived from other sources like cocoa nuts.