Thursday, 5 September 2013

Food From Nature Or From The Supermarket?

Yesterday's post started out as a recipe one, but it interested me that the majority of comments kindly left afterwards expressed opinions about the subject of sterilisation and food hygiene. Obviously, this is a theme that means something to a lot of us at a time when bureaucratic interference extends deeply into the food we choose to eat, as well how it is supplied, and how we prepare and store it.

I remember not long after we bought the hens thinking it would be fun to sell the eggs at the farm gate. I got as far as writing a notice which proclaimed them to be "Organic and Free Range" and was really shocked when I learnt that legally I could face prosecution for doing that: it would not be allowed without the official organic stamp of approval. Our chooks are organic- we don't treat the land with sprays, they eat organic layers pellets etc etc, but unless I wanted to register as a business (with all the jumping through hoops and expense that incurred) I could not sell them as such. 

Denise (at the excellent Much Malarkey Manor) has extended on this theme with a piece today which has got me thinking. She mentions a friend who was reluctant to eat an apple from her garden because it was, essentially, "wild" not "supermarket" food. And this reminded me of a story I heard a few weeks ago which runs along similar lines (D- hope you don't mind me referencing you here)

M's cousin and family came to visit us a few weeks back (hello B if you're reading this), and B told us a story about a camping trip they'd been on with friends, where one of them was unable to go very far from a coffee shop without becoming physically shaky. In other words, she had a proper nervous-system-related-reaction to the perception of being "too far from modern conveniences" and "too near the wild." 
As someone who suffers from the exact opposite (I even get wobbly in our local market town, for heaven's sake, something that affords my town-dwelling friends huge amusement and usually prompts cries of "get a life, you country bumpkin!"), I find this really hard to understand.

A few years back we had a dinner party here where we served pheasant shot on one of the local estates. We generally get ten birds at the end of the season for £1 each, M guts and plucks and we stick them in the freezer and eat over the following 12 months till the next batch arrives. We told the guests where the meal had come from and that it was local and that M and the boys had dressed the meat (plucked and gutted). And one of our guests took extreme exception to the conversation and announced that he refused to even consider that his supper had once been a living creature and insisted he only wanted to see his meat wrapped in cellophane on a supermarket shelf where it bore no resemblance to a living animal and he didn't have to think about it.

I was astonished, because to me, if you eat meat you should take responsibility for the fact the animal has died to feed you, and that means, at the very least, acknowledging honestly where the meal had come from.

Folk are all different, and the world would surely be a dull place if we all thought the same, so I am interested to hear your views on this?

The other point I wanted to raise is that I've witnessed a huge increase in digestive problems during the last seventeen years of working as a healer, and I do wonder how much of that is down to the type of food we eat, its age by the time it reaches us, its lack of seasonality, the synthetics used in its production, and perhaps also the fact it is grown on soils that are far distant from and different to the ones we live on and therefore interact with on a daily level. I am curious how the rocks beneath our feet can affect us, you see?

I think about how our ancestors lived, pre-farming, when the hunter-gatherer culture existed (I am exceedingly fortunate to have on my bedroom window sill three glorious arrow heads found by F that date from this time, which are ancient, ancient, ancient, and I marvel at them every time I look at them and imagine what they've seen, how they came into being, and what they've done). I suspect our bodies have not had enough time to evolve to keep up with the dietary changes we have been through in the five thousand or so years since farming first started. 

Similarly, I like the idea (as I know many of you do) of gathering food from the wild- more than anything else this activity brings us close to those ancestors. It is a very real, genuine and living link with them. There is something so essential and basic in gathering your own food from the wild that I find it reassuring- we are perhaps not quite so modern or far removed from those roots as we think. Although I know there is good reason to do it (the elderly, for example, who may want to but not be able to go out blackberrying), my heart sinks a little every time I see blackberries pre-packaged in Waitrose at £3 a pot. 
I suspect this ancient connection is the impulse that makes so many of us gardeners: we came from the earth, we rely on it to feed and support us, and we will, one day, go back to it.

Have a lovely evening all,

CT :-)


  1. I agree with all you say, and find it odd that people do not feel 'safe' eating food that has not passed through the supermarket process. Being a country bumpkin myself (!) it makes me laugh when a frequent excuse to avoid a camping trip is, 'But where would I plug in my hair straighteners?' I find living in a town very difficult and yearn to see fields, not houses, when I open the curtains in the morning.

    My biggest concern is the over-use of plastics. When I was a teenager, I had a weekend job in a green grocers where brown paper bags were the way to wrap food. And often, customers would come in with a huge basket and say, 'Don't worry about bags - just chuck it all in there.' How times have changed, and in not so long a time - barely more than 30 years.

    I believe we are doing our Earth a serious disservice these days with our modern and so-called progressive ways. And I try my best to be kind to it; I try to do my part. Yet so many people do not care. And that, as a grandmother, I find very, very sad.

    (And of course I do not mind the reference, dear blog friend and fellow healer!)

    1. I SO agree with you about plastics and I LOVE brown paper bags, they are so much nicer. M and I are astonished every time bananas and cucumbers come wrapped in plastic- why? When they have their own coats on already? We over use the horrid stuff at our peril I feel. I try very hard to take shopping bags with me and not have any plastic ones. I think the idea of a basket is so much nicer, although I guess they were big enough to hold a daily shop whereas most of us do a weekly one now, but even so...
      We're on the same page about doing out bit (no surprises there Lady M!) and the positives about that is that everyone doing their bit would be enough to take care of our Earth properly. Education, education, education...
      PS- I also understand the urge to see fields not houses and sincerely wish for you that outcome in future times my dear x

  2. Hi there and thanks for moth ID thoughts. Also, when do you pick walnuts (other than before the squirrels and crows)?

    all warm wishes, M

    1. I've always waited until the tree says they're ready and drops them. There should be enough in a good year (which this looks to be) for you and the squirrels. I'm sure you already know this, but they will turn your hands black if you're peeling them from inside their green capsules and it's pretty hard to get rid of the stain!
      Re moth IDs, I learn a lot from your blog and everyone pitching in thoughts is part of the fun. Will you still write it over the winter? Hope so :-)

  3. I hate pre-packed food-spring onions topped and wrapped in rubber bands, carrots with no green ferny leaves etc. It's really hard to supermarket shop without plastics. I buy locally most of the time and use my own bags.
    I have discussed with my work colleagues where their food comes from when they shop. I used to check where everything I bought (meat and fruit & veg)came from-in the days when I shopped in a supermarket. They were amazed to think someone would do that and asked how long it took to do my shopping! In fact it only took a second or two to check the country of origin on each product.
    Many people and sadly more and more children have no idea where food comes from. Others deliberately detach themselves from the realities of food origins e.g. dead animals, and I have met many like this.
    Our processed food is sterilised and /or treated with preservatives that are not natural to our bodies. No wonder then that illness and allergies are on the increase.

    1. We check for food miles too and I always check ingredients for additives. Like you, it surprises me how few people do this and how many raise their eyebrows when you tell them you check your food.
      I agree about kids not knowing where their food comes from, this is why M taught the boys how to pluck and gut pheasants so they understood the reality of eating meat and took some responsibility for it. They also had veg patches of their own when younger.
      The worst case of deliberate disassociation from food reality I heard was someone who's children ate duck, then when they started keeping their own she pretended it was chicken so they wouldn't associate their meal with their pets! A missed opportunity surely to teach kids the reality of where their meal had come from and perhaps make them think about things for themselves?

  4. Excellent thought-provoking post CT :) I try and buy from local farm shops as often as I can. Frightening the amount of children who have no idea for example that bacon comes from pigs etc.

    Oh by the way - collected copious amounts of blackberries yesterday. Made some jam and today I am going to have a go at M's blackberry icecream - thanks so much again for recipe. Son's making an apple and blackberry crumble and there will still be some left to freeze :)

    1. Local food usually tastes so much better I always think. I guess it is just the convenience factor with supermarkets. They could do more to help by sourcing locally.
      Hope the ice cream works- do let me know what you think of it. The smell is gorgeous :-)

  5. It is so nice to read from your post and the comments about it that a few people at least care where their produce comes from. I HATE the thought that people buy caged hen eggs. I know for a fact that the chef at work uses them for cooking with. I too try and use material bags when shopping and bags for life. I get very cross with myself when we forget them or take too few. When I was studying GCSE geography, we had to do a project where we went to a supermarket and find the vegetables which had come from the furthest away. Makes you realise the awful carbon footprint most have. However an interesting but also saddening fact, which I wish isn't true... it creates more of a carbon footprint to grow tomatoes on a large scale in greenhouses in this country, than it does to fly or ship them over from Spain or the like. Anyway enough rambling from me now! x

    1. What a good idea for a GCSE project. And you raise an important and interesting point about large-scale greenhouse production. Waitrose in Romsey where we do a top-up shop has a farm at Leckford down the road where they source a lot of their products.

    2. My mum's best friend lives in Romsey and has frequented that very waitrose quite a few times!! One day I would love to be totally self sufficient in the vegetable sense!

    3. It is a small world indeed- wouldn't it be funny if I knew her too, Romsey not being that large a place :-)


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x