Monday, February 20, 2006

Food matters

With Clare, my wife being away for the weekend, I was charged with shopping for our weekly consignment of organic vegetables from the (BBC Food program award winning) Riverside Sunday market, on the bank of the Taff opposite the Millennium Stadium. This week, I didn’t have three straight services to do on Sunday morning, so when I’d finished over at St John’s, I rode over on my bike, and joined the other browsers in the dank drizzly air, queuing sociably to be served with muddy carrots and parsnips, and Brussels sprouts still on the stalk. It’s no frills shopping, but the quality is just great. There’s also a fascinating range of local indigenous cheeses, sausages, preserved meats, different kinds of home made bread, and I couldn’t help noticing there was packaged venison, and wild boar meat products also on sale. The kind of things you really have to hunt for in Tesco’s. It’s pleasing to think that such markets make it worthwhile for farmers to continue producing high quality food products.

One problem of having so much manufactured food produced and distributed by the big supermarket chains on a large industrial scale is that it drives prices down, not only making it harder for primary producers to earn a living, but making it easier for people to buy more, and eat more than they need. Then they have weight control problems and obesity is denounced as a major public health crisis. Learning to eat less, and making sure what’s eaten is of better quality is quite a challenge. It means learning to limit our habitual choice of food, and not being bamboozled into trying everything promoted with enthusiasm and fancy packaging in the endless aisles of the superstores. It also means restoring the old notion of having a treat to those rare occasional moments of enjoying something new or different, rather than a treat being, as it often appears, an alibi for repeated self-indulgence.

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