Going backwards to go forwards?

Sometimes it’s worth looking to the past to help us move forward.

As I am increasingly doing in my journey with food – revisiting old ways of doing things; gradually reducing any reliance on ‘convenience’ foods; trying to ditch unnecessary  and unsustainable packaging.

This is a thought that repeated itself to me several times during our recent trip to Germany.  As usual, most of our stay was spent in a holiday flat on a vineyard.  We witness just how hard the owners (and their neighbours) work to grow the grapes that will become the local wine.  Every month brings different chores to ensure as good a harvest as possible.  This is the first time we’ve been there during the grape harvest.

This year their son has joined the family business.  Until now they’ve sold all their grapes to one of the larger wine makers in the village.  With his parents’ blessing he has taken the first steps in a new direction.  He is using some of their grapes to produce their very own wine.

Rather than buy brand new (and very expensive) modern pressing equipment, he’s bought a press that’s 40 years old.  He worked hard on stripping it down and rebuilding and refinishing it, and now it’s ready to go.  With all his academic and practical study of winemaking, he believes that this older kind of machine will actually make a better wine than the modern ones.

The first pressing took place while we were still there, and we all stood around as he tweaked and adjusted.  Finally all the grapes were pressed and the juice ready to ferment.  He’s aiming to gather local (wild) yeasts for the ferment.  We hope that next time we visit, we’ll be able to taste their first wine.  The raw juice we sampled was simply delicious.

Collecting the wild yeasts

He’s worked hard, this young man, to produce something in the ‘old way’ that they hope will become his (and their) future.

We left there to visit a young relative who is working on his PhD in Tubingen, a beautiful old university town we’ve never been to before.  He took us for a walk near where he lives and works, which included in a nearby collection of small farms farming traditionally.

There were several small farm shops open for limited hours during the week, but you could buy some of their produce any time you like from their vending machines.  Eggs; smoked ham; bacon; vegetables.  At one of these farms you can buy their own-produced raw whole milk.  From a vending machine.  Wow!  I would love to have one of these near where we live.  That would solve the plastic milk bottle problem I’m still grappling with in an instant.

But then there are those times when going backwards really doesn’t take you any further forward, it simply takes you backwards into a very dead end.  Like Brexit, for example.  The more time I spend time in other EU countries, the more despair I feel about where the UK is headed.


About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
This entry was posted in Community, Farming, Food, Growing, Local, Local food, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Travels, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Going backwards to go forwards?

  1. Your last pic made me laugh! Visiting France and Spain this summer (for the first time since Brexit) made me feel very sad, and slightly ashamed. Can’t help wondering what they think of us now… Those vending machines for farm produce is genius! Sounds like you had a lovely trip to Germany


    • I know what you mean. We’ve been to Denmark, Germany, and passed through France this summer, like you first time since the Brexit vote. Everyone we spoke to was simply bemused about what the UK is doing, and not understanding why. Not sure I could explain in any rational way. And for them, things have moved on and everyone has more important things to focus on than Brexit.
      The vending machines were quite a thing – I first saw one – for free range eggs – in a town in France where we had an overnight stop, then saw several in Tubingen. I think I may have heard of something similar somewhere in the UK, listening to the Farming Today programme on R4. Must find out where it is.


  2. Marian says:

    This was such an interesting post, Deborah. I love hearing about people who are looking for innovative ways to do things, and I find it especially interesting to hear when the innovation involves looking to the past for solutions. And produce from vending machines — now that’s innovation; what a fantastic idea!


    • Thanks Marion. There’s so much we can (re)learn from the past isn’t there. I think that the emphasis on ‘cheap’ mass-produced food and ever-increasing yields since WW2 has resulted in a loss of older skills and knowledge, and if we don’t remake the connections now, it will become ever harder. For us here in the UK Brexit is a massive threat to food stability and availability, but I feel we have to use that threat and transform it into an opportunity if possible. Hard going though!


  3. it must have been wonderful to be there for the harvest. those grapes look gorgeous.


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