Sunday, 2 September 2012

Think local? Time to act!

It's amazing what you can learn from reading the local paper. For instance, this week I learned that a small bush caught fire on a slip road on the A14, and that the fire brigade took about 15 minutes to put it out. I also learned that the local Young Farmers Association had a camping weekend in which they managed to avoid setting fire to anything, unlike last year. They were a credit to their parents, apparently. Now that is news gathering at its finest. It's a wonder that they don't have Piers Morgan beating a path to their door.

More usefully, I found out about an organisation called Transition Ipswich, and the People's Community Garden not far from here. Now, Ipswich is not exactly a hot bed of radical activity, so it's something of a relief to me to learn that there are people actively working on issues like climate change in the area, and I went down to their open day to see what was going on. Very impressive it is too - lots of people working together to come up with practical schemes to help local people change the way they live, and interestingly for me, there's a good focus on food.

Don't get me wrong, I don't agree with everything they say. They seem to have a sort of pre-apocalyptic paranoia which, while they will almost certainly be proven correct in the fullness of time, makes them look like those American survivalists who cache weapons and baked beans to defend themselves against the day when the government decides to give them free healthcare. Damned commies.

Anyway, they have a really interesting challenge on the go this month. The idea is that we should try and eat only food produced in a 30 mile radius for the 30 days of September, and that sounded too interesting to ignore. You can cheat a bit, giving yourself 3 wild cards - chocolate, for instance, or tea - that can't be produced locally. I have decided to give it a go, with a further caveat that I'll use up ingredients that I already have in the larder, as throwing stuff away seems to defeat the object of the exercise somewhat.

I have started well, going out to a couple of the farm shops I mentioned in a post last year to get my ingredients for the week. It's a bit of a change for me - I normally plan a menu and buy specifically for that, whereas shopping like this I have little idea of what will be available until I get to the shop, so I have to make it up a bit more.

The other place I discovered is Baylham House Farm, a great rare breeds farm a couple of miles outside town, which, in addition to 1/2 kilo of sausages (£3.50, and worth every penny), provided a morning's entertainment for Master Jay. It does transpire that he is afraid of chickens, which I reckon can't hurt you, but not of goats, animals which are solely driven by food and which will bite, kick and butt you for a small handful of oats. There's obviously a little way to go before I can leave any major survival decisions to him.

So, using up some potatoes I had in the cupboard, and some beans from my friend's allotment, I had a little slap up lunch which you can see below. The sausages were great - lean and peppery, and chunky enough to make me feel that three of them might have been a bit much....

Tonight I have a pie with potatoes and cabbage - total food miles around about 8, by my reckoning.

And I will leave you with a question: what the devil do I do with some chard, smoked trout, and duck eggs?


  1. This is brilliant. Only food sourced within a 30 mile radius, for 30 days... Will look forward to seeing how that works out. I, like most people I imagine, have little idea what is produced and available locally if I'm honest... Might be time to learn!

  2. Hi Tom, thanks for the reply. It certainly is a challenge, but as a regular reader you'll know that I like things that make me think about food in a different way, and I'm really interested to see what is being produced locally. There's the obvious farm shops and so on, but also Stokes (sauces and mayonnaises), Adnams, Fairfield crisps etc are all within my grasp. There really is an embarrassment of riches around here, and if something like this challenge opens up some new experiences for me, I'm happy with that.

  3. Smoked trout on a bed of braised chard with a poached duck egg?
    Would add fried chorizo in the chard... Not sure about the egg, let me know!