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Ab Feb

Ab Feb

February is a great month. It’s exactly 28 days long (except for when it’s not), you’ve got past the really dark days of winter and half-term holidays are just around the corner. Also, it features a number of celebratory National or International observances which are well worth observing. Here’s our guide to the days you should really put into your calendar.

For a start, February is National Hot Breakfast Month in America. That can mean a full cooked brekkie with sausages, bacon, eggs, hash brown, fried slice and maybe a bit of black pudding, or to follow the American theme, a precipitous stack of thick pancakes covered in maple syrup.

February 4th is apparently National Working Naked Day. We’re not sure which nation, but it’s presumably a warmer one than France. We briefly considered it, but when our freezers are set to -20°C, and the weather outside can be a similar temperature in the mornings, it seems to unfairly disadvantage the guys in the warehouse. Our drivers seemed keen though…

Saturday 5th is both World Nutella day AND Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. Also it’s a Saturday. This could well be the best day of the year. Plan your diets around it.

What can follow that? National Yorkshire Pudding Day is what. Traditionally enjoyed on the first Sunday of February, this is the perfect day to have a full roast, plenty of perfectly risen Yorkshire Puds and lashings of gravy. Again, plan your diet around it.

The 9th of February is National Pizza Day. Personally I could celebrate this day every day, but an excuse is an excuse.

The 14th to 20th February is Random Acts of Kindness Week, where you are encouraged to spread the love and ‘pay it forward’ by being nice to your fellow human beings for no particular reason. Buy a stranger a coffee, tip your postperson, clean a neighbour’s car… you get the idea.

Why not combine a random act of kindness with February 18th – National Drink Wine Day? Treat a friend, colleague or family member to their favourite bottle of plonk, thus observing two February ‘holidays’ at once.

There are many more great days in February… Curling is Cool Day, National Toast Day, World Pangolin Day… so why not make February your month of observing random days of celebration (not yet an official or even non-official holiday).

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Created On  1 Feb 2022 17:00  -  Permalink
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When Push Comes to Shrove (Tuesday)

When Push Comes to Shrove (Tuesday)

OK, so Shrove Tuesday technically isn’t until the first of March, however, we wanted to give you plenty of opportunity to stock up beforehand ready to gorge yourself on delicious pancakes before lent. Here is a gluten-free recipe for pancakes, using Doves Farm’s Freee plain flour.

Ingredients –

200g FREEE Plain White Flour
2 eggs
500ml milk (or milk-substitute such as soy or oat milk)
Oil, for pan

Method –

Put the flour, eggs, and half the milk (or milk alternative), into a large bowl or jug.

Beat to a smooth paste then stir in the remaining milk to make a thin batter. Traditionally you can refrigerate the batter for up to 12 hours – otherwise it’s ready to go.

Lightly oil a frying pan, so that the oil just covers the surface, and get the pan nice and hot.

Stir the batter, then spoon or pour some into the hot pan, rolling it out to the edges.

Cook the pancake, loosening the edges, until the base is golden.

Turn it over and cook the other side.

Repeat until the batter is used.

Turn the pancakes out onto a plate and keep warm until you are ready to serve them.

Serve flat, rolled or folded with sweet or savoury fillings.

Alternatively, you can also buy gluten-free Doves Farm pancake mix, which makes 8 American-style vegan-friendly pancakes and doesn’t require any additional egg – you just add milk and water. Oh, and don’t forget the lemon and sugar.


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Created On  1 Feb 2022 15:00  -  Permalink
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Now is the Winter of our Discontent

Now is the Winter of our Discontent

We have all heard the phrase “the gift that keeps on giving” but have you ever considered what the opposite of that might be… the uninvited guest who keeps on taking, the bottomless pit of disappointment, the funsponge of unrealized hope? Whatever it is, it certainly applies to Covid-19 and the various trials and tribulations we have all experienced since it first appeared. Despite nearly two years of disruption and difficulties, the start of the 2021-2022 winter season has been possibly the most unexpectedly complicated beginning to a ski season that we have ever experienced, presenting all kinds of challenges and causing all kinds of problems.

The Trading Post began as a primarily winter-based business, supplying hard-to-get British foodstuffs to hotels, restaurants, chalet companies and businesses across the French Alps. Whilst our customer base in the mountains has expanded massively over the last 15 years (and scale has increased accordingly), our preparations for the winter have always been the same… fill the warehouse (to the gunnels) with stock, hire plenty of delivery drivers and be ready-to-go as soon as the orders start rolling in. With predictions for the start of the 2021-2022 season being fairly optimistic, we did as we always do, invested in huge amounts of stock and hired our largest team ever. The orders began to flood in from all the mountain resorts across the French Alps, Italy and Austria and, as we always do in December, the whole team was working long hours to get large start-of-season orders out on time. Then the omicron variant of Covid happened, followed by restrictions on British tourists…

With so many of our winter customers relying on British tourists, the orders immediately dried up and were even withdrawn at late notice. Suddenly, we had gone from ‘full steam ahead’ to ‘out of steam,’ with a warehouse full of produce (plenty of it fresh and relatively short-dated) and a large team of pickers, packers, drivers, kitchen-staff and admin. With the experiences of the previous two winters fresh in everyone’s minds, it was completely understandable that mountain businesses would tighten their belts at the first sign of disruption and it caused an immediate reduction in the quantity and size of orders we were receiving. The main problem was that whilst travel restriction to UK passengers caused massive issues for our customers, internally in France nothing had really ‘changed’ meaning there was no indication that there would be any government intervention to support workers’ contracts. With uncertainty whether these travel restrictions would lead to a full lockdown, our staff found themselves rapidly changing from working overtime to working strictly when necessary. This necessitated changes to our winter delivery schedule (which we had only just implemented) and general disruption to our customers.

With incoming orders seriously reduced, fresh food going out-of-date and no indication whether the restrictions were short- or long-term (or even if they portended a full lockdown or foreshortening of the ski season) we were forced to halt our regular ordering cycle from both British and French suppliers.

When the good news came that travel restrictions were to be lifted, The Trading Post (like so many people throughout France and the UK) were somewhat relieved. However, we were then faced with essentially re-starting the season, but this time with a reduced stock and the prospect of delayed deliveries. Since the UK left the EU, importing goods has been much slower, so by necessarily breaking our usual ordering pattern, we found ourselves running out of some British-sourced items which we would normally have constantly moving through our warehouse. Whilst we are ‘catching up’ with demand a few weeks after the enforced hiatus, the after-effects of the government restrictions are likely to have a subtle impact upon our whole winter season.

Essentially it has been the trickiest start to a season that (hopefully) any of us will experience and, as a result, our service has not been as consistent or predictable as we would hope. We have sometimes been out of stock of our most popular products, we have had to change our delivery schedule on more than one occasion (which we would never normally do in a season) and we have not always provided the high level of service that has become associated with The Trading Post.

If you have been affected by any of these issues, we are sorry. We know the last few years have been extremely difficult for many people and, whilst the lack of beans or change of delivery date might be fairly innocuous matters for some people, we thought it best to just explain the main issues we (and many of our customers) have been dealing with this winter.

Thanks for understanding, thanks for shopping with The Trading Post and thanks for working with us in these Covid-affected times.

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Created On  1 Feb 2022 13:00  -  Permalink
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Holiday Season

Holiday Season

Half-term school holidays are upon us. Families from all over Europe are already descending on the mountains for their ski holidays and soon tourist spots throughout the country will be filled with happy holidaymakers making the most of their winter break. With roads becoming noticeably busier every weekend throughout February and accommodation prices rising accordingly, here is a short guide to European half-term dates, so you can deftly miss the crowds (or prepare for the onslaught).

With travel restrictions now much less-restricted, the road-train of British tourists driving from Calais to the Alps is anticipated in its full glory. British half-term dates are generally decided according to the country you live in, with general time off being as follows: England 14st – 18th February, Wales 21st – 25th February, Scotland 11th to 15th February and Northern Ireland only having two days off (17th & 18th February).

France is split into three zones, with each one having a two-week half-term. Zone A (which includes Bordeaux, Dijon and Grenoble) are off between 13th and 27th February. Zone B (inc. Marseille, Nice, Lille, Reims) enjoy 6th to 20th February. Whilst Zone C (Paris, Montpellier) has the late showing, between 20th February and 6th March. Obviously some of these zones overlap, making French holidaymaking more prevalent between 13th and 27th February.

The Netherlands kids enjoy one week of half term, with the North of the country taking 19th to 27th February off and the South/Central areas 26th February to 6th March.

Whilst there are slight variations according to language zone, young Belgians are generally on holiday between 28th February and 4th March.

Germany is the most unpredictable country in terms of half-term holidays. Each German state decides its own holiday schedule and, depending where they live, Germans have anything from 3 whole weeks to no time whatsoever during the traditional half-term period. Broadly-speaking, German half-term holidays start as early as 31st January and finish as late as 26th February.

So next time you see a convoy of red-lettered Belgian numberplates heading south along the Autoroute or are sat on a ski-lift with a group of Dutch-speaking snowboarders, you will know why. Just spare a thought for the children of Baden-Wurttemberg, Schleswig-Holstein or North Rhine-Westphalia as they toil unremittingly until Easter…

To keep ahead of traffic trends in France, the official government bison fute calendar gives a good indication of predictable busy times on the roads

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Created On  1 Feb 2022 12:00  -  Permalink
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Site for Sore Eyes

Site for Sore Eyes

Nowadays so many businesses rely on their websites as the first point of contact for customers. The Trading Post is no different, with the vast majority of our both our retail and trade customers making their orders online. We are therefore always trying to improve our website to ensure it is both informative and easy-to-use. Recently you may have noticed a number of updates which have been introduced to make your experience of The Trading Post website more straightforward and, hopefully, more pleasurable.

Perhaps the biggest change has been the immediate availability of retail prices on each product page. Whereas it was previously necessary to sign in to your particular customer account to see prices for individual articles, they are now readily available for general perusal. The prices shown are standard, hors-taxe retail prices, and it is still necessary for our Trade and Wholesale customers to sign in to view their agreed rates.

You may also have noticed that our products are beginning to have more in-depth descriptions, including dietary and nutritional information, preparation instructions and various other facts, so you have more information at your fingertips about all of our available products. We will continue to flesh out all of our product descriptions over the next few months. Whilst we will try to keep this raft of information up-to-date, the sheer number of products we stock means that the information on the website should always be treated as a guide.

As you are reading this on our new blog page, it is safe to assume you have noticed our new blog page. This will act a repository for new information about The Trading Post as well as an archive for the various articles and informative pieces we include in our famous monthly newsletter and put on our social media channels (facebook / Instagram).

We hope these changes will enhance our service to all of our customers and will endeavour to keep improving our website wherever and whenever we can.

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Created On  31 Jan 2022 12:00  -  Permalink
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Who Invented the Christmas Cracker?

Who Invented the Christmas Cracker?

Tom Smith, a confectioner in Victorian London, is widely credited with creating the first Christmas cracker. Inspired by French bonbons (sugared almonds wrapped in a twist of tissue paper with an accompanying motto), he began replacing the almonds with small gifts, tchotchkes and jewellery. Utilising the new technology of silver fulminate ‘snaps’ to make a noise ‘like a crackling fire,’ Tom Smith introduced another element of enjoyment to his novelties, which he initially called "bangs of expectation.” He patented his first ‘popping’ cracker device in 1847, perfecting the ‘snap’ in 1860. The shape of these formative crackers became more tubular to accommodate the ‘snap’ mechanism and the various trinkets, whilst the addition of the now-ubiquitous party hats was a development of Tom Smith’s son, Henry.

The name ‘crackers’ probably derives from ‘Waterloo crackers,’ which existed long before Tom Smith brought his novelties to the market. This popular and snappy name (pardon the pun) was quickly attributed to Tom Smith’s "bangs of expectation” (or "Cosaques” as he later rebranded them) and, in 1906, Tom Smith gained his first Royal Warrant for providing Christmas novelties to the then Prince of Wales. Whilst ‘Waterloo crackers’ may pre-date Tom Smith’s invention, his insight, innovation and marketing transformed an otherwise basic gimcrack into the traditional Christmas dinner novelty that we recognise today.

The Trading Post is proud to stock a wide variety of crackers from Tom Smith, the original inventor and progenitor of Christmas crackers and still the official supplier of gift wrap and snapping dinnertime novelties to Buckingham Palace. We also have a large selection of their Christmas cards and wrapping paper to ensure that your festive holidays are fit for royalty. Just order online to receive authentic traditional Christmas crackers throughout France and Europe.

Check out The Trading Post's full Christmas range, for delivery across France and Europe in our dedicated Christmas section.

 

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Created On  24 Dec 2021 10:00  -  Permalink
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