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Hashtags, snail mail and my great-grandmother’s roast beef recipe

 A recipe for using hashtags…

As you undoubtedly know, a hashtag means a topic,preceded by the sign #. I could, for example, tweet this post with #sundaylunch. That means that anyone clicking on that hashtag would see all tweets with #sundaylunch in them. However #sundaylunch is mainly used by restaurants promoting Sunday lunch. I don’t see much of a community building. And the theoretical strength of hashtags is not to promote your three-course meal for £24 but to connect with others who have similar interests to you.

…plus a recipe for roast beef

I’ve been using the hashtag #WWWblogs (Women Writers Wednesday Blogs) on Wednesdays for a while now. It was started by Women Writers, Women’s Books. This is an excellent website written by and for women writers at all stage of the publishing cycle, with some very interesting ‘route-to-publishing and self-publishing’ stories. All you do is tweet your blog on Wednesdays with the #WWWblogs (assuming you are a woman and a writer). If you are, for example, a golfer, then it’s not the right hashtag for you….

Then check out other blogs using the hashtag, and re-tweet the ones you think are good. It’s a way of growing your community – provided you give as well as take. For example, you shouldn’t just tweet your own blog, then complain that no-one is RT-ing you.

So when Barbara Bos of Women Writers Womens Books contacted me to invite me to join their ‘#WWWblogs recipe’, I thought it would be fun. And also a good opportunity to find out more about WWWblogs and running a hashtag.

Women Writers Women's Books

Women Writers, Women’s Books – behind the #WWWblogs

…from the days when snail mail was like email…

But first, my great-grandmother’s recipe. It is for roast brisket. It’s easy, inexpensive and delicious. During the recession of the 1930s, she lived in Scarborough, while my grandmother and family lived in Newcastle. My grandfather’s company had gone under, and there was no money. So my great-grandmother used to cook this brisket and post it on Sunday morning to my mother’s family. It would arrive, still warm, in time for their Sunday lunch. Then they ate it cold, minced etc until Wednesday. We think we have speedy communications now, but I doubt we could manage this – and certainly not without prohibitive costs.

Snail mail

Snail mail? We think our communications have improved so much in 100 years – but are we just inching round in circles?

How to find a good cut of brisket…

First, find your butcher. My mother warned me that most butchers don’t believe you when order this cut. You need to ask for brisket boned, not rolled, and with ALL the fat left on. Quite a few butchers have told me that all the fat has been left on, and that they haven’t cut any off. But they had. In the end, I discussed it with the Butcher of Brogdale, in Faversham. They said that it usually arrives from the farm or wholesaler with some or most of the fat trimmed off. But, given enough notice, they could order an untrimmed piece of brisket.

So far, so good. The first time we tried it, one of the butchers fetched the order. While we were talking, he trimmed a thick collar of fat off. It was an absent-minded cut, because he’s so used to doing it. The second time I ordered by phone, and explained myself thoroughly. Or so I thought. When my order arrived, the meat was in one carrier bag and ALL the fat in another. With 16 people to dinner, and the rest of my ingredients already bought, I nearly cried. Really. And my language wasn’t great either. I wasn’t sure if I dared go back there again.

Try, try and try again…

I’m glad I didn’t give up, because on the third occasion I ordered from Brogdale Butchers, a hefty hunk of meat, thick with fat, appeared. So now for the recipe: You put it in the roasting tray (no marinading needed), stick it in a very low oven (100-150 degrees or a very low Aga). And you leave it there for at least 12-16 hours. Every so often you can drain wonderful rich gravy off it, but no basting is needed either. I put it in at 10pm on Friday evening and took it out to ‘rest’ at about 6pm on Saturday. It was meltingly tender and rich in flavour – quite outstanding. We fed 24 people for dinner at 7.30pm, had it for lunch for 6 the following day, then lived on it till Wednesday. It cost £60, so that’s less than £2 a portion for delicious meat. And it was easy to serve, because there was no last-minute fiddling about (we’d normally do Yorkshire pud, roasties and all the trimmings, but with 24 people, mashed potatoes seemed easier).

How to find a good hashtag…

As with the beef, you need to keep trying. I’ve tried finding good hashtags by using hashtag directories, but I don’t think they’re comprehensive enough. Hashtags come and go too quickly to be listed properly. I looked up days of the week hashtags, by the way, and found out that Tuesday is a very dodgy day in the hashtag world.  Heaven knows why – I would have thought Friday would be the iffy one….

Barbara Bos advises doing your research to find the right hashtags for you. Look at which hashtags others in your community are using. Or start your own – #WWWblogs took their inspiration from another writing hashtag #Mondayblogs. ‘Check to see if it’s already been done,’ said Barbara, ‘and if it hasn’t, then register the Twitter handle too. Some hashtags take off, others don’t.’

You’ll find Women Writers, Women’s Books here. Follow them on Twitter @WomenWriters or Barbara on @chicaderock

And my blogging workshops here (Kent) or here (London) – if enough of you book, I could even cook you roast brisket, but it’s best for feeding large numbers and my workshops are usually limited to 6…..

PS this was an extra post – the next one will be ‘How To Write a Successful Blog-Post’ as promised. Don’t miss it – subscribe by email on the right.

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