Thursday, 1 October 2009

£230,000 for one in a billion? A refrigerated one in a million?

Would you pay the price of an average house for one of these? Just one! There are one billion plus of them worldwide, granted not all of this sort, or of this value. Would you put the only one of these in your fridge having picked it off your apple tree?

The Texel Ram, with the wonderful name of “Deveronvale Perfection”, has been sold for a world record of £231,000 and has been big news around the world, as I found reference to it down under and across the pond!

Deveronvale Perfection should make new owner a mint: Texel Sheep Society

My mother when she saw the picture said that is a ‘cardigan’ .. and isn’t she right? Brilliant assumption considering her condition – and we both had a good laugh. My uncle, who sadly now cannot see, promptly told me all about the Texel breed, originating on the isle of Texel in the Frisian Islands of the Netherlands, and is probably a mix of English breeds.

There are more than one billion domestic sheep worldwide, fortunately not all as valuable as the Texel, or our lamb chops would be rather expensive! Sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated (probably in Mesopotamia, between nine and eleven thousand years ago); as they have several characteristics suitable for this purpose – such as a relative lack of aggression, a manageable size, early sexual maturity, a social nature, and high productive rates.

The Texels, a white-faced breed with no wool on the head or legs, has been slowly bred into a meat breed of outstanding carcass quality and is now one of the most common lamb or mutton meats available: hence “Deveronvale Perfection’s” rather high price.

If ever a food suffered from an idiom, it is that old reference to “mutton dressed up as lamb” and in recent years mutton has acquired such a derogatory meaning in England and America that it is unlikely to have been on the dining table for a half a century or so.

Particularly enjoyable was a visit home to the Isle of Wight and a dish of boiled mutton with caper and onion sauce.

In earlier times, particularly in the nineteenth century, mutton proved some of the best and most famous English dishes – saddle of mutton, boiled leg of mutton with caper sauce (one of Samuel Pepys’ favourite) and spiced mutton ham. In those days the virtues of the different breeds were understood and preferences were argued. Pepys and Mrs Beeton both extolled the virtues of mutton.

During the 19th and 20th centuries as farming practices changed, industrialisation continued apace, new scientific services were introduced spreading around the world, mutton fell out of favour. Ranges were no longer used for cooking, though our families still revere Agas, so the slow cooking methods were phased out, and the demand for sweet, tender lamb increased; with the introduction of new fibres the demand for wool also fell – all leading to the decline in the demand for mutton.

A renaissance is taking shape with top chefs enthusiastically embracing the complex flavours of mutton, similar to the old favourites written up by Mrs Beeton. This reminded me of the simple fare we ate after the war; we were extraordinarily lucky having a large garden, which my mother promptly turned into a veritable vegetable and fruit garden: so we never lacked.

We had fruit trees of various sorts – apple, pear, plum, walnuts, hazel nuts, with all sorts of soft fruits as well as the array of vegetables. We used to clamber up the trees to pick the fruits which my mother at first stored, wrapped in newspaper, in a dry dark place, and later pureed to put in the freezer: we were always fairly near the forefront with new technology – coming from an innovative engineering family background.

A collage from Glass Brothers, established in 1963 who specialise in growing and processing Bramley apples.

Apples of various sorts grew in the orchard and sadly I do not know much about the different types – though Bramleys were used for big bursting cored apples full of butter and sugar straight from the Aga as a pudding (as we call desserts here). Cox’s Orange Pippin are another name synonymous with the fruit that we had at Christmas time; while the Russets I used to love to eat as they were different; but the new Granny Smith was ‘horrible’ and I eschewed it.

Poor households in days gone by would have utilised all the fruits of the hedgerows, and one recipe I’ve recently come across from the old days is a Potato Apple Cake, when potatoes and apples would have been plentiful and relatively cheap. Here too the left-over mash along with a few Bramley apples and sugar cooked together and served as a ‘cake’ was considered a luxury – I thought this might be quite a nice addition to pork chops.

Going back to ‘my’ two coloured apple mentioned above: this surprising story bore fruit last week, when a retired painter and decorator returned from picking apples for his sister-in-law only to spot this apple of two halves hanging from a bough of his own tree. Not believing his eyes, he picked it to make sure. Now the whole village is caught up in this million to one fruit, with everyone queuing up to take pictures.

I would be stunned too, and my mother, asking how my blog is going, said she remembered me showing her the picture and said amazing! It seems that it is probably a random genetic mutation at odds of more than a million to one. The Golden Delicious will probably taste sweeter on the red side, but I suspect Mr Morrish will not be biting into his fairytale apple just yet.

Ken Morrish, 72, of Colaton Raleigh, Devon, did a double take when he grew a Golden Delicious apple split down the middle - one half was green and the other red Photo: ARCHANT. Courtesy The Daily Telegraph.

The apple originating in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor is still found today, was one of the first fruits to be cultivated, with Alexander the Great being credited with finding dwarfed apples in Asia Minor and bringing them back to Macedonia for propagation. Winter apples, picked in late autumn and stored just above freezing, have been an important food in Asia and Europe for millennia, as well as other parts of the world as the Europeans spread out.

These two staples of the western world have provided today wonderful stories of their own, while bringing back memories of childhood, and giving us some insight into their past with their history, while reminding us that food in its simplest form is often the best.

Dear Mr Postman – as I mentioned above my mother asked about my blog and remembered the two coloured apple; I honestly think her brain is improving, which seems absolutely incredible considering everything; today she was in Melbourne, Australia .. but that’s fine! – and Janice asked her who she went with – Mum’s reply: with BA (British Airways) .. Janice thought she was going to get Hilary, Hardwick, her dog, and some of the nurses and carers .. but no: nothing wrong there really! My poor uncle is having a tough time – we had a quick trip to the hospital yesterday evening; I dashed down to be with him, as being blind he gets quite disoriented. He’s not at all well, but tomorrow he moves up to Kestrel, where my mother is. We hope to get him home – and that’s where he’d like to be.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Wilma Ham said...

Hi Hilary
It is interesting how my homeland The Netherlands comes up in your stories.
We do not eat meat often so I won't eat lamb. Lamb in Holand is a delicacy but I cannot remember eating sheep.
Indeed food in its simplest form it the best and still provide surprises as that apple. I wonder if they are going to try to commercialize it when the growers happen to see this.
Again it was entertaining to read this post.
All the best with your mother and uncle.
Love Wilma

Daphne @ Joyful Days said...


I loved the pictures of the 'cardigan' and apple. Wow you pack so much information into these posts, on top of the caring for two people at the same time which is not easy. Great work!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma .. I hadn't realised you come from the Netherlands. Our history here is so interlinked with the European continent .. and influenced by it, and imbued with its characteristics from times of long ago. I too don't like too much meat - but I was interested in the changes in our eating habits over the centuries .. or in this case recent years. I expect as here mutton is making a come back - I know I've cooked with it on occasions, as I like cooking different foods.

As you say food is at its best when it is simple and true to its own taste.

I understand the scientists will watch the tree and see what happens next year. Wisley, our major National Botanical centre, has a few other special types of pear and apple trees.

Thanks for coming across and glad you enjoyed the post. & thanks for your support.

Love Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Daphne .. thanks so much - just very pleased you enjoy reading the info.

I thought Mum's comment on the 'cardigan' was such a good one; The apple deserved a big picture I thought!

Thanks for your thoughts .. much appreciated -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hello Hilary,

What a combination you weave into your posts. Can we get some of those recipes that you were talking about in your post. They sound lovely.

Great post as always.

Hope that your uncle can be moved soon to save some of your energy. To have to go to only one place not two. Take care of yourself as well.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. remind me please in due course - once things have settled down and perhaps I should do a positiveletters recipe sub blog?! Glad you'd like the recipes .. and can taste the food over the pond.

Thanks .. today is going to be difficult .. as my uncle is not at all well .. and I have a meeting I have to attend - so can't be around as much as I'd like.

Thanks for your thoughts - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Liara Covert said...

Hilary, this article helps some people understand why they are vegetarians:)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. sorry but probably yes .. I'm not completely vegetarian, but would prefer to be that way ..

Thanks - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hello Hilary,

Hope that things went ok with your uncle and all. It is difficult to take care of two that need your help so much in different places. It is hard to get it all done.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

PS will do on the recipes.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. at least they are in the same place - but I'm still trying to settle my uncle in.

Not being able to see to properly makes it tricky for him and he's strugging with a few things, that I should be able to satisfy, but with someone seriously ill make it tricky.

We're coping. I'm off the London today to a memorial service .. so will do what I can before I go .. not a lot I suspect!

Thanks for enquiring about us - it's kind of you.
Hope you're having a good weekend ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Peter Baca said...

Hi Hilary,

Interesting story about the Texel does not resemble any sheep in the U.S. Apparently, it must be an exceptional specimen for the high price....probably to be used for breeding stock.

Best Regards

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pete .. thanks for coming over.. It is also a major player in the States! It is now a popular lean meat sheep as it is a heavily muscled animal with a lean meat carcass. It is an exceptional specimen .. and will be used for breeding .. earning over £1 million.

Thanks - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary,
I love the photo of the cute sheep, but then I had a hard time looking at the lamp dish after. :-)
I am happy to hear about your Mom asked you about your blog. That is a good sign, your work is helping your Mom!
Thanks for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. yes I too thought the ram looked rather handsome! I just thought it is interesting that we're looking again at dishes our ancestors used to eat. Yes - my Mum is interacting through the blog and the stories - and being able to see the pictures.

Thanks - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sara said...

Hilary -- When you left this link on my site...I didn't believe it, but now I must. I can't believe a sheep would go for that much!!!! WOW. I'm impressed.

He is kind of cool looking, however. He kind of looks like the Chia Pet of sheep:~)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. I thought you might not .. but surprise surprise .. I'm sure your hubby would be slightly surprised too?!

I didn't know what a Chia pet was .. now I know - the china pets that can grow seeds, so that the plant growth resembles the fur or wool etc!

Thanks for telling me about Chia pets .. he's a fine specimen isn't he .. glad you enjoyed the story! Amazed me too ...

Nice to see you at this post & hope you're better and getting recovered - all the best .. Hilary