Every Little Helps

As Nigel Slater in his Introduction to Tender (a cook and his vegetable patch) says, every little helps.

I’d bought the book as a belated Christmas present to myself in the sales, having always liked his recipes, although I hadn’t picked up on his green leanings before:

“We have damaged this planet. We have plundered its natural resources, emptied its seas, scorched its earth, turned its beating heart into a toxic rubbish tip. There have been decades, if not centuries, of take rather than give. I do not wish to relinquish entirely the deep sense of fulfilment I get from eating meat and fish, but now I place less importance on them in my diet than I did… When you lift the lid on my casseroles, peer into my pots or read my plate, it is the veggies that play the starring role.

And yes, it is worth ‘reading’ our plate before we tuck in. Where did that food come from? Does it sit comfortably with our conscience and what we believe good food to be? What, other than our immediate appetite, does it benefit, and crucially, what damage is that plate of food doing?

If digging up our gardens, getting an allotment, shopping at farmers’ markets, growing organically and eating sustainably is seen as a sign of our collective guilt for what we have done to our planet, then so be it. We can never totally undo what has been done. But there are some of us, hopeful, deluded, possibly a wee bit mad, who are happy to try to put in more than we take out. One of the ways we can do that is to eat a greener diet.

Swapping my own lawn for leeks and lettuces has a lot to do with wanting to know as much as possible about what I’m eating. It is, I suppose, my way of making a deeper connection with my food, a desire to know the whole story rather than just what it says on the label. More than anything, the move is about a desire for simplicity. Our food production has become so complicated, with its air miles, pesticides, extended shelf life, marketing and packaging. I hanker after something simpler, more honest and direct. More holistic if you like. The idea of planting a seed, watching it grow, then eating the result instantly does away with much of the baggage that goes hand in hand with our modern food supply.”

I feel as though this blog is a bit of a cheat, but I couldn’t have said it better myself, although it would be great if his weekly food columns and TV programmes could reflect these musings, and even better still, if his recipes used more home-grown ingredients. However, growing your own veg and fruit, shopping at farmers’ markets, cooking at home for friends and family is the transition message through and through. And the recipes aren’t half bad either.

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