Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Ministry of Food

I watched 'Jamie's Ministry of Food' last night on Channel 4 and it got me thinking about the war years. People were encouraged/forced out of necessity to eat seasonal home grown food stuffs and 'waste not, want not'. Many had their own back gardens turned into allotments and from what little I have read so far, they seemed generally slimmer and healthier. Were did it all go wrong?

In the recent years of cheap imports, ready made meals and a culture of eating out (especially fast food), we have lost the joy of waiting for our food to be in season, of being creative with what we have. We all know it tastes best ripe and ready, rather than packed up somewhere on the other side of the world, before it's left to ripen on container ship. On top of that, here in Carrickfergus at least, there are NO Greengrocers, you end up forced to go to one of the major Supermarkets (which seem to be taking over the world), or attending farmers' markets which are lovely, but it has to be said, can be a bit of a rip off. I don't believe this phenomena can be isolated to my home town alone.

I personally want to get back to savvy eating. There are tens of cookery books in this house, but mostly they contain ingredient lists from another world - gorgeous and appetising though they are. One book we do have is the 'River Cottage Cookbook', it's great - celebrating seasonal, climate-appropriate (if somewhat odd at times) produce. Another is Nigel Slater's 'The Kitchen Diaries' (which to be honest I haven't even looked at once - I'm at fault here too!)

Also, maybe it's just me, but the close knit families who pass down recipes through the generations seem to have disappeared. I have been watching more programmes about vegetable growing and of course taking part in it and I have realised, I don't know what to do with it all. I have no knowledge about preserving things, making jams or the proper way to store food so it lasts longer. Looking on the Internet, there are a cacophony of wonderful, truly wonderful, books out there, still in print, from the Ministry of Food, to guide me. I know what I'll be asking Santa for this Christmas.

Think of the opportunity we have. What is more important to our health (and under our control) than that which we consume; we have choice. There are too many in the world who would die for our privileges, indeed innumerable amounts of people do, though lack of them. Maybe we should all Grow (some of) Our Own.

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