It struck me this week that the way we shop has changed so much over the last few decades, largely due to the influence of supermarkets. As a country we have become very used to being able to go to just one place for everything we need. But it's more than that. What we feel we need has changed too. In the past, you could only buy what was available. That meant mainly local and seasonal produce. Now though, we can go and buy tomatoes in the dead of winter and leeks in July. We've learned to expect everything to be available all the time.
Therein lies the problem.
If everyone knew that they wouldn't be able to get a parsnip in August then we probably wouldn't fancy eating them then. But imports from far-flung countries and an immense demand for more and more different kinds of food to be in the shops all year round have taken away the need to learn about the importance of eating local and seasonal produce. They've taken away the sense of winter that root veg can bring, or the taste of summer that is a fresh salad. Maybe I am a bit of a lunatic thinking that these things matter.
It was a real struggle to get out of the habit of thinking of a meal, then going to the shops to get what I needed to cook it. I'm still learning now that giving up supermarkets means a different style of shopping. Now, when I go to the Slaithewaite shop, I don't have any thoughts about what I want to make. I just get there and see what's fresh, and delicious. I see what veg are having a good season, see what's British or locally grown and just get it all. Then I get home and decide what to cook with it. It's a liberating way of shopping and it's improving my cooking skills too. There are things that I can always make of course- chilli, bolognese, sausage and mash- things that have always readily available ingredients (I am yet to manage life without tinned tomatoes).
And then imagine my delight when we went shopping a couple of weeks ago and there was an English lettuce, local cress and a couple of other salad ingredients on the shelf! We had a lovely big salad and it felt like forever since I'd had the pleasure (no tomatoes yet of course).
Anyway, in other local food related news (I promise to stop ranting now) I ordered food from the Suma website this week. They sell organic and British products of pratically every nature. Anything you need for your home, or anything non-fresh that you want to eat can be found on this site www.sumamarket.coop. I found the service really fast and easy to use, though admitedly it is not cheap. Ed and I bought pasta, rice, a big box of recycled toilet paper, fairtrade coffee, tinned tomatoes and beans, cereals and a few bathroom supplies such as toothpaste. The total was around £25 and I opted for next-day delivery which cost £5.95. It came on time, everything we wanted was in there and it was packed in recycled materials. I will be using the site again for sure.
Rather less successfully, we ordered a veg box and a fruit box to be delivered from The Organic Farm (http://www.theorganicfarm.co.uk/index.aspx). Not only did it not arrive last Thursday when it was supposed to, but they never answer the phone when we call or reply to answerphone messages. I tried e-mailing a couple of days ago but to no avail. It's this kind of disorganised service that makes staying out the supermarkets difficult. I'll keep you up to date on whether or not our food ever turns up.
Until next time, my green friends.