Apples and oranges

July 4, 2008 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

I had meant to go to the farmer’s market yesterday, but I dithered about a bit (i.e. decided to have lunch first as going when hungry could lead to financial ruin) and by the time I made it everyone had packed up and gone home except the indefatigable fruit farm from down the road. It was only about 2.30, so I hope this doesn’t mean rising food prices have turned everyone off local food. I wanted to get something nice for dinner (inc. inspiration!) and a joint of beef or something for Sunday when Scientist Boyfriend’s family will be here, but all I ended up with was some raspberries and strawberries and a money-off voucher for PYO for each of the next three months.

Not that I’m complaining, though – my kitchen smelt wonderfully of raspberries! I think we’ll go and pick some more on Saturday and make raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake for pudding on Sunday. I rarely make anything with strawberries or raspberries, mostly because if you buy really tasty ones, I feel very little can improve on their fresh, gorgeous simplicity. I used to think that about meat, though, too – that marinades and sauces couldn’t improve (and might even detract from) a really good pork chop (or whatever), but after Scientist Boyfriend suggested it might be nice to have pork chops cooked in some other way than browned in the pan then baked in the oven with a glass of white wine and six cloves of garlic, I branched out into almost its polar opposite, some sticky marinade involving all manner of strongly flavoured ingredients such as ginger, chilli and various spices. We both agreed afterwards that actually the chilli enhanced it and that rather than masking the quality (I’ve long agreed with HFW’s statement that supermarkets sell you cheap meat, but you then have to buy their expensive marinades to make the spongy, watery flesh taste of anything) it actually brought it out.

So I’m going to apply the same principle to soft fruit. And marinade it in Chinese five spice powder. 😉 Hmmmm.

I also got a steak in the decadent Italian deli of which we had half each. Their cheese is really quite reasonable though and they sell seeds, exciting things like borlotti beans and yellow beans and romanesco, which it’s a bit late for now but which will be useful next year. Thursday (veg box eve) is normally ‘Uninspiring Dinner Day’ – usually a concoction of tired vegetables that don’t go together in any form of unified meal but need eating up – but we actually did rather well, with the new potatoes not too tired and the mouldy broccoli put into the compost and replaced by some salad and about 3 pak choi leaves each from the garden. Total self-sufficiency still quite a way off, I feel…

I must stop being surprised that the cheese at the deli is so reasonable. Every time I go and buy cheese I wince as he tells me how much it’s going to be, and then think, ‘Oh, actually, that’s cheaper than the supermarket,’ and I haven’t tried the goat’s cheese yet but the Parmesan is also vastly superior.

My friend pulled me up on something the other day. Apparently I have two arguments in favour of local food: firstly, that we should be prepared to pay more for decent food and secondly, that local food generally costs less.

I hadn’t thought about it before, but yes, that does seem rather contradictory.

I would now like to amend my statement to add emphasis to the prepared in ‘prepared to pay more for decent food’. 🙂 We should be prepared to pay an honest price for what we eat, and sometimes (in the case of chicken, for instance, or anything that someone else has to make, like cheese or bread or jam) that is a lot more than simply buying the cheapest option available (and although I’d add not comparable, not everyone would agree with me) and that we just have to live with. But at other times, like with vegetables and, apparently, cheese from the Italian deli, you might be pleasantly surprised.

I would also add that we need to change how we eat as well as what. If you eat a chicken breast one night, pork chops the next, steak the next, lamb chops the next and so on and so forth, yes, you’d get a nasty shock if you got all that from a local farmer! But if you buy meat in bulk and eat it less often (which is a damn sight easier when your vegetables taste nice) you can save a bucketload of cash. I’ve replaced the time spent shopping with time spent baking bread and making jam, so rather than paying for someone else’s time when they make my jam, I get the raw materials cheaply and do it myself, which again is easier when you haven’t got to go around checking the label of every single jar of jam in the shop and trying to find out where the fruit came from and why the hell they have ingredients other than just fruit and sugar in them.

You can’t compare like with unlike. It’s like saying ‘showers use less water than baths’ without looking at, say, my grandparents. They never shower, they always take baths, but they have about three baths a week and share the water (they take it in turns to go first), unlike most of my generation who all shower every day and feel disgusting if they don’t. I bet my grandparents use much less water overall. Nor have I personally ever noticed my grandparents smelling (other than of normal grandparent smells, like Old Spice or talcum powder). A shower uses less water than a bath, just as a free-range chicken costs more than an intensively-reared chicken, but the practice of bathing rather than showering doesn’t have to use more water, nor does the practice of eating sensibly-produced food.

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Entry filed under: cookery, food, local food. Tags: , , .

Independence days update Unconventional Agriculture (or The Linguistics of Environmentalism)

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The Heritage Crafts Network

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"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."

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