Food food and food again

I’ve been thinking about what to write, picking up on the first three months of my wish to educate myself about everything food – but primarily I think it’s about the ‘food and farming system’ we have here in the UK. It’s been a lockdown project I’ve really enjoyed and I’ve learnt a lot from it. It’s also turned out to be something I can multi-task with, which of course means more knitting and crochet.

My days have panned out to have a clear pattern.

It takes me a while to get going in the morning, so I begin with breakfast and coffee and reading the paper. Breakfast is always the same: a large mug of redbush tea; a bowl of muesli and yoghurt, sometimes with some fresh or stewed fruit; a cup of black coffee; sometimes a slice of bread and marmalade. Apart from the tea and coffee, all this is either home made or bought from a local seller, but of course we don’t grow oranges or coffee in the UK, and I know that not all the various grains and fruits I put in the muesli are grown in the UK.

Then I do a few daily jobs around the house – clearing up in the kitchen, whatever washing up needs doing by hand (anything that can’t go in the dishwasher, plus a lot of re-used plastic food bags). Any food preparation needed for later in the day. Putting clothes washing in the machine, hanging it out on the line. Sweeping floors. You know the kind of thing.

Most days Malcolm and I sit down together mid-morning and have coffee and cinnamon buns. He has perfected the art of cinnamon bun making. He uses a Danish recipe. We get through a lot of cinnamon and cardamon. I should know more than I do about where these spices come from, and their history of use in Europe, tangled as it is with the history of enslavement – along with sugar of course.

After that I do something much more energetic. This will be either a long walk (sometimes with a purpose – delivering, collecting or buying something; sometimes just an exploration or a walk for its own sake); or working on the allotment or garden. At the moment it’s rare for me to do something different, though in my head I know I have cycling, running, and using the rowing machine as alternatives.

Then it’s time for lunch – always a salad or cooked vegetables, plus a couple of slices of bread and something protein (an egg; hummus; fish; cheese). The vegetables are now all either grown by me or grown locally and bought direct from the producer (with the exception of carrots, which at the moment I still buy from a supermarket and they come in a plastic bag – organic and UK grown, but so far we’ve not found local ones that taste as good). The eggs are always our own, and I make my own hummus, but other protein comes from elsewhere. Cheese is almost all locally made. I make all our bread (though I occasionally buy German rye bread with seeds, which I know is imported). The salad will usually include sat least two of: toasted seeds; sultanas or chopped dried dates/apricots; preserved lemon; caraway seeds; cumin seeds; balsamic vinegar; soy sauce and rice wine – all of these are grown/made elsewhere and imported.

After lunch I usually spend a bit of time on the laptop dealing with emails or admin, and then I tend to hit an energy slump for quite a bit of the afternoon.

All of which is a very long way round in explaining that I’ve been spending quite a chunk of my afternoons listening to food-related podcasts and either knitting or crocheting. The BBC R4 Food Programme is always interesting, as is the Farming Programme broadcast daily. I subscribe to several food policy related e-newsletters, some of which have embedded podcasts (usually interviews with food producers or academics). By chance I also came across a series of food interviews by the owners of the London restaurant Honey and Co. These have been fascinating, especially in my thinking about the new cafe we’re working towards building at the City Farm – it’s a warning to find how many of the inspiring business owners interviewed a few years back have now closed down, and not just as a result of the pandemic.

We share cooking our evening meal pretty much equally. This is our main meal of the day. Each of us has our favourite dishes to cook and to eat. Like everything else about sharing life with someone else, it’s often about compromises – I suspect we’d both eat differently if it were not for the other’s preferences. But on one thing we’re agreed – we both enjoy eating seasonally, in which the wait and the anticipation for particular foods is part of the enjoyment. We would both rather eat strawberries when they’re in season here than eat them all year round. Likewise asparagus, raspberries and (for me) apples.

Food is a thread throughout every day, and this project is encouraging me to think more (and maybe differently) about what comes into the house and what we do with it.

Posted in Uncategorized, Food, Reflections on life (and death), Do what you can with what you have | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Different weeks

I decided this month was going to be a month of catch-ups. With the end of lockdown approaching (we hope…) my time is going to be more in demand and there will be less unallocated time to play with. Back in the autumn I fell behind with several projects, notably the allotment and garden. Time now to put that right.

Last week was Allotment Week. Instead of getting my exercise from walking, I worked on the allotment every single day. There were many fewer steps to count, but I got so much done. I transformed the allotment from somewhere frustrating to somewhere I’m happy to be. I even invited a friend to join me there earlier this week with our flasks and some of Malcolm’s cinnamon buns.

This week was meant to be Garden Week, but so far that has only happened around the edges. Instead, I’ve finished up a few last tasks on the allotment, and to my surprise I find I have several appointments and meetings dotted through the week. It feels as though not just spring and the natural world are waking up, but ordinary life is beginning to pick up at the same time.

I was sent an appointment for my regular 6 month lymphoedema check (so pleased – I thought I would have to chase it); I’ve attended an online session working on Bath City Farm’s 3 year strategy; I went to the Farm to collect something and for an outdoor distanced meeting with someone

We have arrangements for next week to meet individually (always outdoors) with several local family members and friends, several of whom we haven’t seen for so long. Also next week, it will become April! I feel like March has rushed away from me. As well as seeing some family and friends, I plan to set aside some time for finishing off knitting and crochet projects. I’ve arranged to have a table at Bath City Farm’s plant sale on 24 April, to sell some of the things I’ve been busy knitting and crocheting this year as part of my plan to raise £500 for Farm funds.

Lots of loose ends…..

In other news, my offer to run a Farm workshop introduction to fermentation has been accepted, so I’ve been busy planning that as well. That too will be part of my fundraising effort.

The seeds I sowed last week are gradually, slowly, emerging from the soil. Let’s hope that’s a metaphor for the rest of life.

Window sill experiments with propagation – dragon tree, tradescantia, lemon grass, Thai basil, ginger
Spring on the allotment
First forced rhubarb
Blue sky through twisted hazel

Posted in 2021, Allotment, Community, Do what you can with what you have, Growing, In the time of the virus, Retirement, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye February, hello March!

I know, we’re already a third of the way through March. I’m late. Sorry about that.

I looked through my photos from February to remind myself where the month went. I can see I walked a lot, most days. I watched birds in the garden, every day. I knitted (a lot), and even did some crochet. I cooked (a bit). I gardened (not a lot). We had granddaughter to stay for a couple of nights at half term, to help out her parents, which was great fun. There were snowdrops and primroses, and the promise of daffodils. There were pancakes (only about 3 weeks late to that party).

And most significant of all, I had my first Covid-19 vaccination. In a very beautifully-lit venue (The Pavillion, in the centre of Bath), with its chandeliers and starry-sky ceiling (which youngest son had a hand in upgrading and installing a few years ago). I realised to my amazement that it was the first time for months that I’ve been out after dark. The session was run largely by volunteers. There couldn’t be a better reminder of what we can achieve at our best.

As I write this, I see from my diary sitting in front of me that I’m already on Day 69 of my 100 day challenge to be active. I’m pleased with how it’s gone. True there’ve been a few days when I haven’t done anything very active, but far fewer than I thought there would be. On days when I’ve had to force myself to get out and walk I haven’t once regretted it (and I think today, wet and windy, will be one of those…). I’ve been recording in the diary how long I’ve been active each day, measured using my Fitbit (based on the activity recorded as either cardio or peak) and then working out the daily average for each week. What I’m looking for is an increase in the daily average, and that’s generally what I’m seeing. I’ve nudged it up from under an hour a day to over an hour a day. I don’t include the times when I’m just strolling, which are fewer and fewer now as I make an effort to walk briskly. I’ve also nudged up my average number of steps a day to closer to 12,000. I’m encouraged by how well this is going, and optimistic that I will keep it up beyond the hundred days.

I’ve begun sowing seeds for the 2021 growing season (tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, broad beans, peas for shoots, some flowers and lettuces so far. Many more to come over the next few days. I’ve been repotting and splitting houseplants – I’m developing a taste for propagation, which turns out to be so very easy in many cases. A small and very inexpensive plant bought in Lidl yielded 3 rather nice plants in no time at all. Cuttings from a red tradescantia began to root in just a few days. I’ve been inspired to re-grow celery from the stumps of two heads I bought at the market last month, and I was able to plant out the first into the greenhouse this week. I’m intrigued to see whether it produces edible stalks, but even if it doesn’t I’ll be able to use the leaves in salads.

There are things I’ve started doing since I began writing this blog that have now become routine and just part of ‘what I do’. One of these is making fermented foods. This week I’ve been noticing on my travels all sorts of examples of the sharing (or gift) economy in action, and I’ve been thinking about how I can add to that. On Monday, the first day we were able to meet up with one other person outdoors, I took a long walk to Dundas (one of the two nearby aqueducts on the Kennet and Avon canal) to meet an older relative with our flasks. While I was there I also met someone I had ‘met’ on Instagram and as arranged passed on a kombucha starter for him to take home with him. A friend originally gave me the kombucha scoby. I’ve previously given away jars of my sourdough starter. These things seem to me to embody the sharing/gift economy.

Today as I was sitting listening to a podcast interview with Sandor Ellix Katz it came to me that another opportunity for me to add to my 2021 Bath City Farm fundraiser would be to offer to do a workshop introduction to fermenting foods. I made the offer and it was swiftly accepted. So I think that will be an addition to a programme of workshops to be offered later this year – watch this space! [I’m now trying to stave off the nervousness, thinking about the Pippi Longstocking quote sent to me by my friend in Denmark – “I’ve never tried this before so I’m sure I can do it!”].

I’m very aware of my privilege and good fortune in being able to use this lockdown in creative and positive ways, and aware too that this isn’t a luxury shared by many.

Posted in 100 day challenge, 2021, Community, Do what you can with what you have, Food, Growing, In the time of the virus, Local, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Enough! how did it go? – in the bathroom

They say a good crisis should never go to waste, and the coronacrisis turned out to be a wake-up call for me to change some wastef habits in the bathroom.

Shampoo

I’ve been wanting to ditch the plastic for a long time. I tried a bar shampoo a few years ago and really disliked it. The smell was overpowering (I had to hide it away between uses, otherwise it completely filled the bathroom) and after a short while it crumbled into pieces. It wasn’t cheap, and I was disappointed. Then in January 2020 a friend visited and was very enthusiastic about the bar shampoo she and her mother had been using for a year or so. They were ordering some more, and upped the order to include a couple of bars for me. I’ve never looked back. It doesn’t smell, it gets my hair really clean, and the first bar has lasted all year and I still haven’t finished it. I wash my hair less frequently than many people, but I have thick hair and lots of it, so maybe the two cancel each other out. Anyway, this swap is definitely a keeper.

My one reservation is that it arrives without any labelling from China (or maybe they got the labelling?), so I don’t know what is in it. There are obviously carbon costs of making and shipping, but against that there is no packaging waste (the cardboard packing gets composted or recycled) and no moving plastic packaging around. With two relatively small bars lasting over two years I’m definitely not going to beat myself up over the shipping.

So – not a perfect solution, but definitely good enough to continue with.

Soap

Over the years like many I’d drifted to using liquid soap. Not for any good reason that I can think of. The first lockdown and the lead-up to it, when shops began to run short of some items spurred me on to go through all the drawers bagsand cupboards where nice bars of soap were stashed away. It turns out we already had more than enough to last us through the year, without needing to buy any more. All those nice bars of soap people had given me or I had treated myself to over the years are now in use, and they’ve been lovely to use. There were also bits of soap brought home from holiday stays (rather than leave them to be thrown away). I now have a small bag into which all the left-over small ends go, and I use this in the shower and bath – it’s nice to use, and great for finishing off those last scraps of bar soap.

We also have some liquid soap around (not least of all because not once but several times last year when intending to buy hand gel I actually bought liquid soap). We’ll use it up, mostly for visitors, when such luxuries return. Apart from that, I’m sticking with naked bar soap. Zero waste.

Toilet paper (look away now if you’re of a sensitive disposition!)

Toilet paper became the quintessential lockdown luxury item. People seemed to be buying it as if it would disappear overnight (which of course in some shops it did, because people were buying so much. A self-fulfilling prophesy if ever there was one).

I’d been toying with the idea of moving to cloth wipes instead of paper. Then last spring I heard an interview with a woman from Cheeky Wipes on Women’s Hour and she convinced me. (She memorably described her job as ‘talking about pee poo and periods’ – if you’re still menstruating, you might want to consider those products as well).

As chance would have it, d-i-l had recently given me some surplus wipes she had been using since granddaughter was born. I gave them a try, and I’ll never ever change from them. Reader, they are so nice to use!

The cloths are pure cotton, very soft (I chose the organic cotton, to reduce toxicity in the making).

There was an investment cost to this. I bought quite a large pack of cloths, plus needed two bins (one for each toilet) – fortunately I already had bins I was able to repurpose. I also bought two mesh liner bags for each bin. The drill is use a cloth, put it in the bin. When I do a machine wash each of the two bags in use goes into the wash along with everything else (with the used cloths in it), and a clean mesh bag goes into each bin.

This was not cheap, but will last many many years. And no waste at all.

They came in 5 colours, so I’ve organised them by having two colours upstairs, two colours downstairs, and the fifth I use as cleaning cloths – they’re perfect for mopping up small spills, wiping away condensation on the windows etc.

Of course now I’m washing more things, but the cloths add little to our normal once or twice weekly machine loads. I doubt they make any appreciable difference to electricity or water use. I’m still washing at the same relatively low temperature as before (30º OR 40º). Mostly they’re line dried. Whenever possible we time doing the washing based on the weather forecast.

I know this swap is controversial. I gave some to a friend, she’s using them but definitely not for the purpose I intended! Nor is Malcolm a convert. But living happily with other people is about agreeing to differ, and negotiating what compromises are mutually acceptable. I use the cloths for wee only, and only I use them.

We still have plenty of toilet paper available for anyone who wants to use it – and that’s everyone except (mostly) me. As for years, we buy a brand that is 100% recycled paper (though sadly it comes wrapped in plastic – we reuse the plastic bag, but would still prefer not to have it).

Toothpaste

I’ve finished the last un-recyclable plastic tube. I won’t be buying that again. I tried a toothpaste tablet and didn’t like it one bit. For now I’ve switched to a brand that comes in a metal (recyclable) tube, which is ok but I’m not particularly enjoying using it (though I’m sure it’s effective). I’m still looking around for the next switch.

Toothbrush

The battery in my electric toothbrush has finally died, after many years use. It doesn’t seem to be replaceable. I’m going to see what the hygienist says about my gums when I next see her – if there hasn’t been any deterioration, I’ll stick with the hand toothbrush. And then I’ll want to find a good one that isn’t made of plastic.

And the failures…

Water. This is the one where I backslid from all my good work the previous year. With all the lockdowns and everything else happening, I just wasn’t in the mood, and once I’d lost the habit it was hard to get back into it. I’ll be looking at the bills relating to the period to see what difference it made, and then come the spring I’ll be restarting to focus again on reducing my water use.

Hair conditioner. I have thick curly hair, apt to be coarse and frizzy. I like using the leave-in conditioners I’ve been using for years, and haven’t found an alternative. Yet?

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Lockdown 3: goodbye January!

Never has January had so many days. It seemed endless. But here we are, now it’s behind us. Signs of spring are with us, and the days are noticeably longer. We can get through this.

The good things (for me) have been:

  • the daily walks: discovering new nooks and crannies in our neighbourhood we would likely have gone through another few decades without noticing
  • knitting: seeing that pile of colourful cotton dishcloths grow day by day. Eventually they’ll be sold to raise money for Bath City Farm
  • being in contact with close family and friends: by phone, by text, by messages, the surprise meetings along the road. Sharing news and commiserations. Encouraging each other along
  • Instagram: I never imagined this would give me so much pleasure. I’ve found new people to follow and learn from, beautiful images to enjoy, insights into places I’ll likely never go but love to see, recollections of places visited and loved
  • cooking for and being cooked for
  • hearing about friends and family being vaccinated. A relief and a joy

The much harder thing has been hearing from close friends and family about just how tough life has been for many of them. Some directly and badly affected by coronavirus. Others suffering from life’s normal difficult times, but overlaid with the intense hardship of having to cope without the supports that would usually be available (which can be as small and ordinary a thing as a simple hug). Others who’ve been hit with a blow they could never have seen coming. I’ve been reflecting on what if anything I can do to help, with all the constraints of lockdown and necessary physical distance.

But. The snowdrops are coming into flower. At 5pm (and beyond!) there is still light in the sky. The vaccine rollout has been the most amazing demonstration of what communities can achieve when they are given the chance.

We’ll keep on keeping on (because there is no alternative).

View from Bristol View
My entire crop of red cabbage, 2020 (actually – ever!)V

Posted in 2021, Community, In the time of the virus, Local, Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Enough! how did it go? milk and plastic

And as I examine the close link between food and waste, I realise that this post could just as well be headed ‘food’.

Spurred on by observing that I was responsible for a worrying number of empty plastic milk containers going into our recycling, I decided to do something to reduce it. At the same time, I learned more about the environmental impact of dairy farming. Making significant changes to my diet began to feel more important.

The first thing I did was to find out how much dairy produce I consumed. I was drinking a large amount of milk – around a pint every single day. First of all on my daily breakfast cereal (either muesli or porridge), then in my daily morning coffee (half coffee, half milk – a very large mug). Plus added cups of cafe latte when we were out in cafes. Then there was cheese, and sometimes yoghurt. A small amount of butter and extra milk in cooking.

Over the past year I have managed to drastically reduce the amount of dairy I use by about half. I did this by completely cutting out milk from coffee (apart from the very occasional latte treat out). To my surprise, I no longer miss it. This step alone greatly reduced the number of plastic bottles I was responsible for.

The next important step came when I discovered that a local organic dairy farm had bought an on-site milk machine where customers could buy their own milk in reusable bottles. I first saw one of these years ago when we visited my cousin’s son in Germany. I was so excited to find that at last I could do the same close to home.

Just over a year ago I began buying all the milk I use there. I bought 4 glass bottles from them, and since then all the milk I use comes in these same bottles. Unless I drop and smash a bottle, I can see no reason why I won’t carry on using them forever (I bought a few spare replacement lids recently, realising that the lids may eventually fail long before the bottles ever do). At a stroke, I’m no longer responsible for putting plastic bottles into the waste cycle, and I’m supporting a local organic farm. By reducing the amount of milk I use, I’ve also reduced my contribution to the climate crisis.

I currently drive the 4 miles to the farm to buy my milk. To reduce the number of journeys I need to take to keep myself supplied with milk, last year I began making all my milk into yoghurt. This prolongs the fridge life of the milk, and I find that the 2 litres I generally buy last around 12 days or so before I run out – I may experiment with making 3 litres at a time, and see how long that lasts. I’m also considering whether I could walk or cycle there and back instead of driving. Maybe I’ll give that a go sometime soon.

I calculate that having started this drinking approximately 7 pints of milk every week, I have reduced it to just over 2 pints a week. In so doing, I’ve switched entirely to drinking milk produced locally and removed all the plastic bottles from the supply and waste stream, plus of course the carbon cost of transporting the milk (and bottles). This won’t save the world, but I believe it’s a step in the right direction.

So, in answer to my question ‘how did it go?’, I’d say really very well. Far better than I imagined when I started on this journey. These changes are definitely keepers. And I’ll continue further along this route.

Posted in 2020 enough, Climate change, Community, Farming, Food, Local food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My week in food (w/c 18.1.21)

Although I wasn’t really thinking about it, looking back I see I did all sorts of things that fitted with the theme. Some habits are now so ingrained and just normal that I have to think hard about it to realise what they are.

Last week I:

  • made yoghurt and kombucha, and baked bread
  • made pancakes with sourdough ‘discard’ (I hesitate to call it that, because I never actually throw away any sourdough starter)
  • made (usually vegetarian) Boston Baked Beans from a favourite recipe, but added some pork bones bought at the Farmers’ Market on the top – they provided delicious flavour (and a small amount of meat) and made good use of something that might otherwise have gone to waste. The quantity I made gave us two hearty meals each. I will do this again, and next time I’ll make extra so I can freeze enough for a third meal
  • apart from the bare pork bones, used all ‘waste’ produced in the kitchen either for the hens (any green veg peelings, apple cores, cheese rinds, crushed baked egg shells), or in the worm/compost bin (tea leaves and coffee grounds, paper wrappings, cabbage cores). The only things that now goes in our council-collected food waste bin are bare bones and tea bags. I stopped using tea bags several years ago when I realised they weren’t rotting in the compost because they contain plastic, but Malcolm prefers them. I switched to only using leaf tea, and I’m very happy with it. I buy it from a small local business
  • watched a TV programme (Horizon: feast to change the planet) looking at the carbon footprint of various foods. Very interesting – much of it I already knew, but it was nonetheless shocking seeing the actual figures displayed. It underlined that in my own diet dairy products are probably the biggest culprit; also farmed salmon
  • listened to BBC R4 podcasts of Farming Today, including an interesting programme from before Christmas about the Community Farm at nearby Chew Magna (sadly no longer available online)
  • went to the (organic) dairy farm and bought milk from their on-farm vending machine, using the glass bottles I bought there over a year ago. This supports a local business, provides me with all the milk I want, and reduces the amount of plastic I use. The downside is that at the moment I drive there – something I’d like to replace if possible (walk? cycle? bus?)
  • sorted through my allotment seeds to see whether I needed to buy more. To my surprise I found I already have most of what I want/need. I also looked through to identify some more that I can save seed from, having made a good start in 2020 – with Brexit having drastically curtailed the smaller seed companies that send seeds from Europe, the range of seeds available has been reduced and costs increased. I think increasingly we need to be saving our own seed partly to save ourselves costs, but also to broaden the range of available varieties
  • chose some more bare-rooted fruit trees, which I’ve ordered this week – a crab apple tree for the front garden (for blossom, fruit and birds) and two pear trees for the allotment. I wanted a sour cherry tree for somewhere (not completely sure where yet…) and a German plum tree but neither is now in stock, so they will have to wait till next year
  • began reading Sitopia
  • One thing that strikes me as I read this back is how, as I’ve changed my food habits, I’ve reduced the amount of waste I produce. Sometimes it works the other way around: when I tried to change the amount of ‘waste’ I produced I needed to change my food habits. Which confirms my impression that most of the ‘waste’ we produce is generated by our food habits.

To achieve what I’ve wanted to, I’ve switched more and more to buying from small local businesses. This ticks so many boxes: increasing the sustainability of my food habits; reducing the amount of waste (including recycling) I generate; supporting the local economy. And none of it requires a silly amount of time money or effort from me.

Posted in 2021, Climate change, Community, Do what you can with what you have, Food, In the time of the virus, Local food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lockdown 3: how’s it going?

I hope you’re getting through it ok, and that you’ve stayed well. Well both physically and mentally I mean – both are important.

I know so many people are really struggling with this lockdown. I think it’s the relentlessness of it all, coupled with the fact that at times it feels like there’s no end to this tunnel, let alone the sight of light at the end of it.

Today I’m having one of those more difficult days, having had a bad night’s sleep last night. Partly as a result of having (virtually) attended a very interesting and inspiring zoom presentation yesterday evening – difficult to mentally switch off afterwards.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, my way of getting through it is to:

  • be grateful (for all the material benefits I have, and the work commitments I don’t have, and the sunshine)
  • take things one step (one hour) at a time
  • small goals for the day – prepare a meal for this evening; a few small household jobs; a walk
  • enjoy what I can do, and not fret about the rest. Tea, armchair, knitting, podcasts all beckon today

Our oldest family member had the first vaccine dose last weekend. And the best news of all this morning is that d-o-l is going to have the vaccine today. She works in a special school, has been working throughout all the lockdowns (whatever you’ve heard about schools being ‘closed’, they weren’t and aren’t for staff, nor for vulnerable children). She’s already caught covid once and passed it on to oldest, son, so we’re very relieved that she at least will be protected from the worst.

Oh, and I opened a box of chocolates sitting around since Christmas.

Take care, and I’ll see you again soon xx

Shop local
The vase that always reminds me of my mum, and cries out for daffodils …..
….in all their glory
Posted in 2021, Community, Do what you can with what you have, In the time of the virus, Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Food, glorious food! – hope for a different future

Last year I twice (virtually) encountered Carolyn Steel, a visionary thinker who envisions us solving many of our (self-created) problems with food.

The first time I came across her was actually many years ago, when I read her book ‘Hungry City’, a fascinating exploration of how food shaped and continues to shape our cities.

The next time I came across her was much later, at a time when it was hard to find anything to feel hopeful about faced with three big crises (coronavirus, climate, and Brexit). She presented an episode of the BBC R4 food programme which looked at her proposal for Sitopia. Sitopia is a word she coined herself: it’s a play on the word Utopia – sitos is the Greek work for food; she proposes a country where food is at the heart of all policy making. It’s also the name of the book she recently published.

Not long afterwards she gave a keynote presentation at a conference on food and cities which I had a small part in helping with when Bath City Farm was also asked to give a presentation. I wasn’t able to take part at the time, but was delighted to be sent a link to watch online at a later date.

There’s a rather horrible political saying ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’. However, of necessity we are now faced with three awful crises: the pandemic, the climate crisis, and now in the UK Brexit. We can sink or we can swim. My preference of course is to swim. We have to somehow seize the moment to create change for the better out of the crises. We have to start now.

Some of our local food producers responded magnificently to the coronacrisis by building almost from scratch a new and much shorter food chain. I’m thinking in particular of the cheesemaker where I buy my milk. When unexpectedly and suddenly they lost their usual market (when wholesalers supplying restaurants and caterers ceased to buy from them), they managed to build their small following of local people buying from them and also develop sales online. As a result they’ve been able to continue to make their excellent cheese from the organic milk from their farm, and they have expanded their farm cafe and shop. I think the cafe expansion was planned long before covid, but in the meantime they have had to rapidly rethink and change things as regulations have changed. There’s a lesson in there for all of us – it’s no good just mourning that things aren’t the same. Of course there’s a time and need for that, but in order to survive we have to reassess and change and adapt. Agility is no longer just the latest management buzz-word. It is essential.

Some of the cows that make the milk that makes the cheese

And if you want to indulge in some seriously good cheese, I can strongly recommend Bath Soft Cheese. I have no connection with them, I just like their cheese and their milk, and their farm. And I admire how they’ve adapted and adjusted to change.

Do listen to the programme if you feel in need of a dose of optimism. I asked for and received the book for Christmas, and I’ve just started reading it.

Posted in 2021, Farming, Food, Inspirations, Local food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time and time again

I’ve written before about the importance of time as an essential, often unspoken, ingredient in food. There can be no better examples of this than when we make fermented foods or grow our own food.

I spent much of today making (or doing) food things that won’t be edible for some long time.

I’m nearing the end of the jar of red cabbage sauerkraut I made last January, so a couple of weeks ago I bought a large red cabbage at the Farmers’ Market and today I shredded and squashed it enough to be able to cram all 4lb or so into a large clip-top jar. It will sit in the kitchen for the first few days so I can ‘burp’ it every morning, and then will sit in the garage to quietly do it’s thing for a few weeks (at least).

Last week I bought a pack of 6 limes reduced to sell (heaven knows why, they were absolutely fine a week later when I got round to using them). The pack cost 85p. I cut them into 8ths, rubbed them in salt, and packed them into a jar. These will sit for months before I finally use them. They will be delicious cut up in salads.

I finished off the week before last’s batch of kombucha, so I bottled the batch I made last week, and began another batch. Making this is simply making a large pot of sweet tea and letting it cool down, then pouring it onto the scoby. And leaving it for a week or so to ferment.

I started a batch of bread (using the sourdough from the fridge), which won’t be baked until tomorrow of possibly the day after.

I cleaned out the hen house and gave them fresh bedding (scrap paper I shredded earlier this week). I topped up their food and water.

I cut down half the (autumn fruiting) raspberry canes. I’ll do the rest later this week. I started pruning the soft fruit bushes. None of them will bear fruit until late spring or summer. Time spent now will produce a yield later in the year. Some of that fruit will be frozen or bottled to enjoy next winter.

For lunch I had a salad I’d made earlier and added some of the preserved lemons I made last January.

The time we invest now will feed us in due course.

Posted in Allotment, Do what you can with what you have, Food, Growing, Local food, Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment