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.