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,