Saturday, 8 May 2010

veg out

Something is happening to me and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I had to go to the supermarket a couple of times last week - I can’t remember why - I was in a hurry or my usual shops were closed. Standing in front of the vegetables my stomach spoke to me: ‘Don’t eat that stuff. You don’t know where it’s from.’ I walked up and down the vegetable aisle but there wasn’t a thing there I felt like eating, even organic. Normally I get a little joy-song from my body when I think of eating the food in front of me. But the sullen silence meant I left without the planned supper. Maybe it was seeing Food Inc a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I’ve gone off industrial food.

What to do? The allotment is still mid-hungry gap, and my Ashurst veg box is still fortnightly. But there are a few things to eat. There’s the last leeks and some chard, just about to bolt. I’ve been steaming chard, chopping it up with the end of the garlic and olive oil. There’s nettles, of course, which make the best soup on these cold days. There’s rhubarb, loads of rhubarb, still. And there are some good salads around, if you use the young lime leaves along the Pells to replace lettuce, and mix in a few odd leaves like dandelion, kale and rocket. I’ve got some spring onions left over from last year, some just-up chives plus the last parsnips from the old lady in the nearby allotment.

So, in fact, there’s plenty of food. It’s free and it’s incredibly tasty. It’s what there is, until June when the variety starts to grow.

Someone commented recently that I am a rich woman playing at the good life. And the Tesco supporters at the planning meeting implied that local food is for wealthy people. These facile repetitions need to be challenged. I am technically quite poor – poor enough to qualify for tax credits and maximum grants for my children in education, and happy to be so. But I am educated and I read about the world, and so good quality food is a priority, and I forego much of the ‘stuff’ and activity other people seem to find so essential. I’m not alone on the allotment in growing my own food partly because it saves money, and will do so increasingly as economic growth continues to stall and peak oil starts to be felt. The kind of food we eat is a choice. We are not victims of our economic circumstance; we are partners in our own destiny.

Our vicar in Firle, Pete Owen-Jones seems to feel the same in a new BBC2 series, How to Live a Simple Life.

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