... the new series - 'River Cottage Veg'.
To some extent I was inspired, but I was also left feeling a little disappointed. The various other series from River Cottage have been great. I love the whole ethos of Hugh's way of life - sustaining his family, providing employment and encouraging more of us to adopt as many of his ways as are practical, all without great compromise to his ideals.
I have been finding myself increasingly confused as to the relative merits of the various 'purchasing criteria' which I have tried to employ. Our family budget is very limited - but that is not really the point. The money we spend might not make much difference to the world, but I still want to feel good about our choices. I have supported 'organic production' since our first opportunities. We do not have a local organic shop and have bought organic lines at our supermarket. That goes against the grain since I do not like the dominance of the huge chains and the influence they have and I am finding the number of organic lines shrinking of late, not a behaviour I wish to support.
There is a lovely wholefood cooperative about 40 mins away. I visit a few times a year and stock up when I go but can't justify the mileage on a frequent basis. I use our local farm shop more and more. A family business with a great reputation - lamb and beef are their own, pork and, in season, venison are local. Unfortunately they don't supply everything we need.
We have two small greenhouses (peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, early salad and strawberries) and a small veg patch. Great but we don't spend enough time on it to maximise output and I end up with 'storage dilemmas'. How in a modern world do I 'preserve' (in the widest sense) food for out of season use without using too much power in refrigeration,given that we don't want too many jams and chutneys.
Then the choice between meat and no meat. I understand many reasons why it is probably desirable for the world's population to eat less meat. I enjoy meat and would find it hard to give it up completely. I always try to make sure it is ethically produced with high welfare standards. I also enjoy completely vegetarian meals, often cook them from choice and would be happy to reduce the amount of meat which we eat. I must confess to a long standing concern/confusion over how to provide a balance diet, with few food miles, using seasonal produce whilst living in North Wales. I often throw in cashew nuts, sesame seeds...... all of which should probably be outlawed or used as occasional treats only.
Back to the new River Cottage series. We don't have enough raised beds to feed a small village, or three gardeners to tend them. Neither do we live on the coast, or have the climate of the West Country, and we certainly do not have the land for goats, pigs chickens.... Consequently, we have always had to adapt and select from the River Cottage offerings. I have always been able to enjoy the programs, admiring the way the business works/family live/other local enterprises are praised and supported etc. With our limited garden we could not expect to sustain ourselves from our own production even on a meat-free diet. However, I suppose that I had expected that Hugh's meat-free summer would be produced from his own garden and other local sources. It all began well. A wonderful, bright green soup. I was embroidering at the time and my attention might have wandered slightly around the 'ingredients list part' - but I think fresh peas, broadbeans, parsley, spring onions were involved. We grow all of those. A great start - I could do this!
The next item, perhaps in an attempt to persuade us that veggie food is exciting, was a visit to a chef and family who served a wonderful, 'Thai influenced' - in part at least - meal, which included an exotic variety of grapefruit...... here my attention wandered ( I think some of the other ingredients might have been 'exotic') and I could be heard to mutter 'all I can see on that plate is airmiles!!' Hugh's next recipe, I had to pop out to check on our own supper at this point, seemed to depend heavily on cashew nuts. I really like cashews but they don't grow in the UK!
The program continued, back on track, to a wonderful, and inventive veggie barbecue. Exactly the sort of food I had hoped to see.
How do I prioritise/weight my puchasing criteria? Which is worst veggie - but with food-miles, or some meat locally and ethically produced? How close is it possible for a family of four, with high ideals but a limited budget and small garden, to get towards the ideal of a diet 100% organically, locally, ethically produced and seasonally eaten? For the first time in years I'm not too sure exactly what to aim for on a weekly basis.
I did enjoy most of the program though!