A food lover’s manifesto

It is a quiet Wednesday morning. It is raining. I had intended to plant out the last seedlings today, to feed the slugs as it were, but will hold out until this weather system passes. But that is ok. I have plenty of things to get on with and no distractions of family demands or other places to be until this afternoon. It promises to be a productive day nevertheless.

I was reading a blog post by Lis at This Simple Life recently, and it was such a stimulating read as she described their work in their garden, how they are preserving the harvest and their serenely beautiful, yet simple, life in northern France. I am so pleased to have found her blog as her writing is sublime, instantly transporting me to her home and on her adventures. Lis and her husband are indeed living my dream life! In her post, Lis delves in deep to unpick the issues surrounding the concept of eating a regional or local diet. Lis highlights some pertinent questions about this way of eating that inspired me to reexamine my views and whether the whole concept is achievable.

It is a discussion I have had with myself for some time. I have touched on it here previously, and while I stand by the value of eating a local or regional diet, I acknowledge that I don’t always follow my own advice. I don’t ever intend to sound preachy, but I appreciate that any effort to encourage others to a new way of thinking or doing is, in essence, sermonising. It comes as no welcome to the time and money poor. So, is it better to live your message and allow the successes and failures, as they come, to provide inspiration and guidance to those who seek it? A quiet message. One that welcomes you to join in. I think it is.

I offer this, not so much as a public declaration or promise, but a quietly expressed intention to tread an old path to what and how we should eat.

My views on what and how we should eat are nothing new. It is how our great-grandmothers ate. The foods they grew in the garden, the staples either produced on farms nearby or brought in a couple of times a year, eggs from the henhouse, meat from the family pig or the local butcher, and dairy produced by the family cow or goat or locally sourced. These were the foods that sustained and deeply nourished a population. This way of eating was, for the most part, affordable and accessible to all.

I have known this and tried to live by this model, but there is something about the way I have approached it that fails me, and I am left somewhere in the middle of where I was and where I want to be. It is here that Lis’s post helped in getting me unstuck. Her wholesome meal of roast pork with chestnut stuffing, and autumn veggies and caramelised apple. All seasonal and essentially local to her. While we couldn’t eat a roast at every meal, it demonstrates the simplicity and honesty of eating a local and seasonal diet. Our meals needn’t be overcomplicated. Our decisions about what we eat needn’t involve such exasperating deliberation.

It just requires some observation. And this is where our current food system confuses and derails us. When the supermarkets, and I daresay the farmer’s markets, inundate us with an abundance of choice, how can we find the truth? We have had access to such a wide variety of food that we are no longer satisfied with less. Would the reality of our local environments capacity to feed us cause us to feel afraid and vulnerable? Would we feel content to simplify our lives and our diets in acknowledgement of these realities? I will be honest and admit that if I knew the true extent of our food security, I would feel somewhat panicked. It is natural, I think. But with fear must come responsibility. It is with a sense of this that I intend to find a way to the old path. Through trial and error, to arrive at a place that is both sustainable to us and the environment.

To be sustainable to us, it must provide ample nourishment, be affordable, and be achievable in a way that does not define our lives but is an element that enhances and supports us. To be sustainable to the environment is perhaps a more complex issue. Nevertheless, it must come to the forefront of our decisions around food security.

I will attempt to switch my thinking around sourcing and preparing food. Instead of sourcing food according to a recipe, I will cook according to what I have sourced. Not revolutionary thinking! But it will make me more mindful of the foods available and whether it is seasonal and local. I love my cookbooks and find immense pleasure in reading and using them. However, recipes are tools to help us prepare the food we have. They are not scripture. It will take me time to adapt to this thinking.

I have a picture forming in my mind of how my seasonal and local diet will look. I foresee there will be some challenges and that some of the habits and attachments to food that I have set up over the years will resist the changes I will make. But I am curious, and even a bit excited, at what impact these changes will have. I hope there will be fewer trips to the supermarket and that my fridge, freezer and pantry are stocked only with whole, seasonal foods produced locally or by me. I anticipate good, honest food on the table. Uncomplicated and unpretentious. That is the goal. The steps to get there I will discover along the way.

I will share my journey here as I go, and you can decide if it is something you would like to do yourself.

As always, until the next time, take care.

21 thoughts on “A food lover’s manifesto

  1. I am smiling so much having read yet another beautiful post, Paula! I should be thanking you again for the inspiration to really think deeply about regional eating which I found in you earlier post, you gave me so much to reflect on. I think you have definitely nailed the best way forward, I love your thoughts in this post. Sustainable and regenerative living isn’t for wimps – every decision is tough and it’s easy to spiral into guilt and despondency over whether or not this or that is the right choice or thing to do. All we can do is our best with honesty and integrity but more importantly, enthusiasm and love. Our meals always start with what is in the garden or what has been harvested and stored and we build from there, sometimes very simple meals, sometimes something more cheffy. I totally agree with your take on recipe books, we use them for ideas now and then but adapt them to what we have – it’s all part of the fun! Good luck, you’re such a talented cook and I’m looking forward to how this exciting adventure unfolds! 😊

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    1. Thank you Lis! I was off to such a bad start today – we have lots of rain coming tonight and tomorrow which means we will probably be flooded in (the river runs across the drive), so I just needed to stock up – Costco and Aldi! oh well! But some really good news today, and I believe it was your words that set things in motion – I picked up a spinning wheel!! Secondhand and really well priced. I think I have worked out how to spin it in the right direction. So much to learn

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      1. Yay!!! I am so happy for you, that’s brilliant news (unlike the possible flood). The only way to learn how to spin is to just go for it, don’t worry about the right and wrong way. I spin one way on a spindle and the complete opposite on a wheel so what the hell? 😆When I was learning, I watched an online video of a (very stuffy British) spinning expert who suggested I should spend several days just treadling to get a feel for it and I shouldn’t even think about involving fibre until I could start and stop the wheel in both directions only using my foot on the treadle . . . thankfully, I’m a bit of a rebel so nine years later, I’ve had a lot of fun spinning all sorts of yarn but – darn it! – still can’t start that wheel without using my hands!!!! 🤣 Enjoy it, this is a grand adventure and I can’t wait to see how you get on. 😊

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      2. hahaha yes, there is nothing to inspire anarchy more than a schoolmarmish instructor! I found Christine Macleod on youtube and her voice is soft and melodic so I am happy to do as she says! And you will be happy to know that she uses her hand to get it spinning too!

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      3. Hooray! Enjoy the lumpy string moments, trust me there will come a time when you will find it really, really hard to spin a thick yarn. (Honest.) Have you watched any of the Ashford videos? I always found them very down to earth and helpful. Just wish I could afford one of their beautiful wheels! Happy spinning!

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      4. D’oh! I’ve just realised what I wrote – it was an Ashford link I sent, wasn’t it? Talk about brain fog – you can tell I haven’t had a coffee shot yet!!!! That said, there’s a good video by them about blending fibres on hand carders which cuts through a lot of the myths surrounding that activity (such as you must NEVER swap hands and label the carders L and R so you only ever use them in the same hands, etc, etc. Mmm.) Anyway, time for caffeine here, I think . . .

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      5. Haha, I was starting to think you had sent more than one link and I was being lazy and only watched one! Do you use hand carders or a drum carder? I’m not sure I have the energy to tackle four fleece just using hand carders! Have your coffee – I feel for your decaffeinated state!

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      6. I use hand carders (they are Ashford, as well as my niddy-noddy and wool gauge – I did manage to indulge in those!). I actually love carding, it’s very therapeutic and there’s something satisfying about making fluffy airy rolags ready to spin. I’ve never used a drum carder but I imagine it would make tackling four fleeces much easier. The only full fleece I’ve ever processed was a Manx Loaghtan and I did it bit by bit, the lady it came from suggested I try spinning the locks uncarded to get the benefit of the way they were brown tipped with gold so the colours didn’t get muddled. It was actually very easy and saved a lot of work. I must confess I tend to buy ready combed wool top these days and just use the carders for blending rather than removing neps and noils. Lazy, I know!

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      7. Neps and noils – what intriguing words! I had to look them up! Yes, I have dealt with neps before and I found them hard to remove using the hand carders. Ready combed wool sounds delightful, although at this stage it would be entirely wasted on me. I have an old fleece I bought 5 years ago now I think that I will practice spinning on, and I will leave the newer wool for when I’ve invested in a drum carder!

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      8. Ah yes, the wonderful words of the spinning world – it’s like learning a new language! Raw fleece is wonderful stuff but it does come full of natural delights like lanolin, neps, grass seeds, bits of twig and brambles, dollops of sheep muck . . . all part of the fun! It’s worth having a go with some combed wool top because you can just peel off slivers and spin directly without carding and it gives you good experience of the short-draw technique (which I love, long-draw is not my forte!). It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun. 😊

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  2. We try as much as we can to eat seasonally and locally produced foods. I plant our garden around what we like to eat and grows well in our area. I also think about what I can get cheaply and locally and leave these items out of my garden. An example of this is sweet potato. It takes up space in the high need real estate of the garden and is available very cheaply locally. The same for tomatoes. I still have some toms growing as we like to pick sweet fresh toms. Stone fruit are difficult to grow due to fruit fly, so these are sourced through the supermarkets. The same with apples. I think you do the best you can with what is available to you. Stay aware of food sources but dont beat yourself up if you stray.

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    1. Hello and welcome Jane! You are absolutely right. I can get a bit greedy and want to grow it all, but not everything likes growing in my garden, so there definitely has to be compromise. How lucky to have access to an abundance of tomatoes – I am envious, our growing seasons are a bit too short for a good tomato harvest. But I still plant them and hope! Thankyou for the reminder to be kind to ourselves. I think there is always the danger of disappointment when you make a conscious decision to do something and it doesn’t play out as you had expected. All part of life I guess!

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  3. Good luck on this wonderful journey Paula! This is the type of cooking I embrace, local, sustainable, seasonal, all the wonderful foods that grow close to home and taste so wonderful! I’ll not give up my imported coffee or chocolate, but I’ll make sure it is fairly traded and sustainably grown. And in return, we’ll send them some Vermont apples and cheese.

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    1. Thank you Dorothy! I have been on this journey for so long it feels. Yes, I could not give up coffee – I don’t think I would ever wake up! Apples and cheese – yum! I actually love the two paired together.

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