Todays blog is a case of getting something off my chest. So it's less pictures and more writing - if you get to the bottom you can claim your prize of a jar of best apple chutney!
We are thinking a lot about food at the moment - not just the "mmm i could scoff a whole chocolate cake" type of thing - but more "is there an alternative to eating the highly processed, mass produced, crazily transported food we have been consuming for years?". This has not been something that interested me particularly - and to be honest I have glazed over whenever Ian has been enthusiastically proclaiming the end of oil and cheap food. I quite like not having to write a shopping list and just dreamily wander around Sainsburys picking the same things off the well-stocked shelves week after week, to make the same meals give or take a few variations. I haven't been the sort of cook to study recipe books, check ingredients or even watch Jamie Oliver on telly - I have found it all BORING. I have been LAZY.
Is this slowly coming to an end? With Ian doing his Nuffield report on the big question of how food will be produced for a growing population in the face of climate change and decreasing oil reserves, I am brought face to face with this thorny issue on a daily basis. I even woke up in the middle of the night worrying about how I would save seed from runner beans if i ever needed to .... ok I know that's a bit tragic but your mind does strange things in the middle of the night.... I need to get out more.
Anyway I have learnt a few things from all this and I thought I would list them out to get it out of my head (so i can sleep again):-
1. Oil has only been around for at most 150 years and the price of food commodities now directly follows the price of oil in the world markets.
2. Oil is integral to the production of food - 46% of food is grown with nitrogen fertiliser which is oil-based - not to mention plastic packaging, heating, cooling, and transporting it around the world. It is estimated that 2 pints of crude oil is used in total to produce one roast beef dinner (yuk).
3. Way too much land is used to grow crops for biofuels
4. Way too much land is used to grow beef - it takes 15,000 litres of water and 8kg of wheat to produce ONE KILO of beef!
5. In the ratio of energy in to energy out, organic mixed cropping methods are 25 times more efficient than current farming methods.
6. Water is an issue in the developing world like India - we import lettuces from India which are watered from deep ground water wells. New deeper wells are being dug every year as ground water is running out. We are literally importing their water into Britain (in lettuces), taking it out of an eco-system that desperately needs to keep it.
7. It is estimated that for our country to be self-sufficient we need to either grow two-thirds more than we do at the moment - or eat 40% less. I think we'd all be a lot healthier if we did.
The only conclusion i can come to is that we need to eat local, organic and vegetarian - as much as is realistically possible. Sounds a bit boring doesn't it? I like growing things though - and I like eating cake - and I like cooking delicious meals for my guests (as long as i don't have to read a recipe book!). It's a big change and we're not emotionally ready to do it - let alone agriculturally ready. Life is too busy for most people to grow their own food - and gardens are too small. I guess that's why allotments are in hot demand.
I have also come across different goals - like trying to eat at least one food every day that we have grown, gathered or hunted (!). Today we ate tomatoes and aubergines from Ashfield (that counts). But we also ate farmed salmon from Scotland, rice from who-knows-where, broccoli, pepper and onions from? I find you have to think about each individual food item - where it came from, how it was grown, how far it was transported, is it organic, is it made from GMO's and on and on. And that's before even thinking about Fair Trade issues and supermarket domination. It's a VERY BIG SUBJECT.
On that last subject, we are having a gap year from the big supermarkets. It's been a challenge to buy all the bits and pieces I would normally buy in Sainsbury's - lightbulbs, matches, shoe polish, etc etc - and Llandrindod Wells isn't exactly the centre of the universe for shops!! It's been good using the Coop though - we've allowed ourselves that luxury because we've got to eat something apart from apple chutney and tomato soup and they have the best Fair Trade record. It also makes me feel like I'm kind-of on holiday here in Wales, so that's definitely got to be good.