We have been working with the idea of cooking with seasonal products as much as we can over the last year. This is hardly a new concept, and indeed historically it was the only way to eat.
This habit has changed with better forms of food preservation, but even more than that over the last 2 decades as we have increasingly imported our food from all round the world whenever we wanted it.
The last thing I want to do is decry many of these innovations, they have brought lots of advantages to many people.
The flip slide of that though is that we have begun to lose touch a bit more with the seasonallity of our local foods and with local farming. Because of this we have come to expect fresh green beans in the middle of winter, newly picked tomatoes in February and soft fruits the year round. In many ways quite a privilege, but we have also lost that anticipation of waiting for the first green beans and tomatoes of summer, for the first fresh British Strawberries in June and raspberries in July and August.
Whilst not wanting to lose all these opportunities, we have wanted to try and eat more food produced at the ‘expected time of year’ and therefore produced more locally. These thoughts were crystallised by people we knew who wanted to turn to a Vegan diet in an attempt to reduce their negative impact on environmental change. A laudable goal, but one where so often the logic is lost in the detail. Eating a largely plant based diet rather than high meat based diet may reduce your carbon footprint a little, certainly if you forgo intensively reared meat. The argument begins to crumble however when you substitute intensively farmed and intensively irrigated avocados from Mexico or grass reared beef or lamb from 20 miles down the road, or green beans grown under floodlight in Kenya and flown to the UK rather than sprouting broccoli from your local producer. You get the picture I am sure!
When making changes in any part of our lives one of the maxims I like to live by is “to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. In this context therefore if success in our attempt to eat more locally and seasonally was to mean eating any imported food was an absolute sign of failure – then we would fall at the first hurdle! If however success was increasing the proportion of locally produced food and reducing the proportion of our food that was imported out of season – this was something we could move towards! This is the basis of our #EatWellEatSeasonally project!!
The difficult times of the year are late winter and into spring when the range of locally produced fresh produce is the most limited. We have changed our recipes a little to accommodate more root vegetable and the like which has been a bit of a challenge at times but also very rewarding.
Our most spectacular ‘fails’ probably relate to the products of the vine and whilst we are happy to buy local wines when we journey around Europe and transport those with us as we travel (for as long as we are allowed) the New World, South Africa and South America do produce some great wines and so the <5% from the Southern Hemisphere we have been aiming for may in reality be closer to 10%!!
That therefore has been the plan. Where possible we buy food produced relatively close to where we live or where we are at the time ideally from local producers. Where this is not possible we try and use food from Britain or Northern Europe before spreading our net a little wider. Sometimes when this is becoming difficult we may buy food produced in the Southern hemisphere but we are trying hard to keep this down to less than 5% of our intake.
It is as though we are drawing a series of concentric circles around where we are, and where possible choosing food from the smallest of the circles that is feasible at the time. With this flexible approach we have made definite changes over the last year. Have we perfected the process? Absolutely not! – But the flexibility has meant we have not failed trying to achieve the ‘Perfect’, and we have made changes which in a small way have been good for us and perhaps good too for the environment.
……….and we can always try to do a little better next week!!