Saturday, 12 January 2008

Review of progress so far

Since it's now the start of 2008, I thought it was about time for a review of my 'eating British' progress so far. The first thing that springs to mind is that it really hasn't been as difficult as I thought it would be, well so far anyway!

Of course, I have to be honest and admit that I haven't managed the switch to British food by 100%, there are some things, such as black pepper and lemon juice for example, that I don't think will ever be available from British producers. This is probably the way it should be really, since even though I'm sure it would be technically possible to grow these foods in Britain using heated green houses and other similar technology, it just doesn't make sense to do that when they could be produced a lot more efficiently elsewhere. Also, I have to say that despite this project, I do still eat out occasionally and of course, I can't guarantee the origin of the food I eat at restaurants and I don't force my friends who are kind enough to invite me round for dinner occasionally to cook with only British food. Though that said, I have noticed that those who are aware of my project have probably put more thought to the origins of the produce they are using then they would have done otherwise. One of the main goals of this project was to raise exactly this kind of awareness, so I consider this a positive result!

Before I began this project, I hadn't really paid all that much attention to where the food I was buying at my local supermarket had been produced, so I had no idea of how difficult it would be to only buy food from Britain. However, once I started paying more attention to the source of my food, I began to realise that a significant amount of what I would have bought anyway was already British. I think things have been made easier by the fact that eating locally produce seems to be quite fashionable at the moment, which means that it makes sense to the supermarkets to sell more British produce.

Looking back, I can say that against many expectations, my diet as actually become more varied. I've experimented with cooking venison for example and have adapted my cooking to the range of vegetables available from Britain. I always used to make stir fry with sweet peppers for example, but I've yet to find a British source for these, so I've been using more carrots, peas and broad-beans instead.

Bread proved to be perhaps one of the more interesting items on my shopping lists. I haven't yet found any of the more common brands of loaves which states a country of origin, my guess is that this is because the ingredients are sourced from all over the place. So, since sandwiches are an easy way of making lunch from British ingredients, I quickly realised that I would have to make my own bread. Luckily, I was able to source all of the ingredients for bread from British suppliers, except perhaps for the yeast. Of course, making bread is quite hard work. I was able to put up with this to start with, riding on a wave of initial enthusiasm for the venture! However, I quickly tired of this and found it difficult to be organised enough to make bread in advance. Luckily, I acquired a bread maker, kindly donated by my ex-girlfriend (of pasta making fame). This has made the world of difference to my bread making! Now all I have to do is put all the ingredients into the machine and press the go button. Then, three hours later I have a really tasty loaf of bread. It's awesome.

Early on, I was worried about being able to get enough vitamins through the winter, so I experimented with making fruit leather from hawthorn berries. This was quite fun, although I didn't manage to dry the fruit leather properly, so it went moldy after only a few days. I will have to try this again once the berries are back.

I also found the time to make some tomato chutney, which I haven't actually tried yet. I notice that British tomatoes are no longer available, which is no surprise really, so my stock of chutney will be a good stock of vitamin C and tomato goodness until British tomatoes are back on the shelves.

Fears about the rising cost of food because of the worldwide grain shortage didn't really seem to come to much in the end. I have heard that a lot of grain farmers in Britain have done very well on the back of the higher grain price, but of course this has made things much more difficult for livestock farmers who have to buy in grain to feed the animals. According to Country File on the BBC, many livestock farmers are considering switching to crops, such as grain, because it simply doesn't pay to rear animals at the moment. It will be interesting to watch what happens on this front over the remaining 9 months of this project.

At some point in the not too distant future, I would like to try to review the main supermarkets to see which are selling the most locally produced food. So far, it seems to me that Sainsbury's are one of the best, although since I've been down in Lincolnshire I've been shopping at Tesco's and they seem to be equally good.

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