Purpose and Food

This week has been a busy one for me (not unusually to be fair) but work has provided it’s fair share of challenges this week, leaving me feeling washed up and demotivated. ¬†I am seriously lacking in mojo currently ūüė¶

However, that is no excuse to be sitting on ones laurels, so I have been getting on with the day to day chores, and trying to catch up on finishing the book I’ve borrowed from my colleague. ¬†The former of these two tasks has taught me one invaluable lesson;¬†always have a spare meal in the cupboard. ¬†On Wednesday I tried to make vegetarian meatballs. ¬†On the face of it they sounded nice. ¬†Grated sweet potato, carrots and parsnips mixed with beans and spices and flour, fried then baked in the oven in a sauce made with roasted cherry tomatos and roasted garlic. ¬†However, when you forget to grind the fennel seeds you toasted, discover you have run out of butter beans and chickpea flour, so make do with black eyed beans and some alternative flour (I forget which, I fear I’m traumatised), the result it transpires, is a culinary disaster of epic proportions. ¬†They were, in a word, minging! ¬†I ate mine (mixed with feta to hide the taste) out of sheer bloody mindedness, as I didn’t want to waste the food or the effort, but the rest of the family admitted defeat, and it was a merry dinner of cheese and biscuits in the end.

The other task, finishing the book, is proving a slower task than original anticipated. ¬†I’m reading Your Money or Your Life, and so far am really enjoying it. ¬†I love putting an actual real value on your hourly wage, and then working out how much life energy you need to give to buy each item. ¬†It certainly provides a fresh and different perspective on the value of *stuff*.

I have also enjoyed the exercises to determine what drives your life. ¬†Remembering what your dreams as a child were (to be a vet – not clever enough) and figuring out what is actually ¬†important now (family, the environment). ¬†One question was, what would I do if I knew I only had a year to live. ¬†My immediate answer was to spend as much time as possible with my family,¬†which definitely wouldn’t involve work. ¬†I have come to the sad realisation that I’ve spent the last 20 years building up my career, and I now don’t want it. ¬†I want to be a home maker, the very thing I had been determined not to be as a child. ¬†We, or at least I, was bought up to believe that there was no value in that. ¬†Now I strongly disagree. ¬† We are losing, or indeed have already lost, all the skills our previous generation cherished and handed down. ¬†If the food crises does come about, how many of us will be able to support ourselves? ¬†I am trying to grow food at present, to try and supplement that which I have to buy, but last time I tried this I found myself with gluts of produce which I either gave or threw away. ¬†My grandmother would have know how to preserve and keep these for the winter months when there is no fresh produce. I don’t. ¬†I’m relying on books and blogs. ¬†We need to regain these skills, and pass them on to our children. ¬†I strongly believe that we live in a charmed age, but are by and large, unaware of how fortunate we are. ¬†There are many different predictions of how the future may pan out, one popular one being the passing of peak oil¬†causing a food crisis. ¬†This paper¬†from 2007 talks about the impact and gives these figures;

While food exports from the UK have increased significantly since 1961, from 2 million tonnes to 15 million tonnes in 2000, the value of these exports is declining. And the UK still imports almost twice the amount of food it exports, with imports growing significantly in value and weight. In 1980 the UK trade gap in food, feed and drink was £3.5 billion. This increased to £5.9 billion in 1990, £8.3 billion in 1999, £10 billion in 2002 and £12.2 billion in 2004. More recently the trade gap widened by 11% in just 12 months

This is disturbing news, especially when you see stories like this, where farmers are having to deal with surplus stock due to low demand.

The paper regarding peak oil impact also states;

Transport, because of its almost complete dependence on fuels from crude oil, is very vulnerable to decline in availability of cheap oil.

We need to invest as a country in our agriculture to support our farmers and maximise our food production.  However, we are still struggling with our milk farmers being paid a pittance for their milk.  There have been recent rumours that Tescos have changed their milk supply chain, which used to be a straight 50:50 split between Muller and the Farmers cooperative, to be 100% Muller.  This is a huge blow to our farmers.  I have take the step of buying all of my milk now from our local farm shop, which supplies milk direct from the local dairy.  There is also the sticky question of whether or not to stay in the EU, with opinions fiercely divided on what would be best for British Farmers :

In addition to the energy crisis, there are also concerns regarding the ever increasing population, along with new strands of rust disease in wheat, blue tongued virus in sheep (caused by insects) and the decline of bees and other insects which we depend upon to pollinate our crops.

UK food security threat

However, there are many alternative, but equally as dismal theories, such as the Limits to Growth book and subsequent review, which suggests we are going to run out of resources which will trigger a massive population crash. See the Guardian’s piece on it here.

Whichever theory you believe, one thing shines through to me and that is we ought to be becoming more self sufficient as a country, and I believe that needs to start at the grass roots level, i.e. us.  We need to lead the way and support our country.  Some important ways which I see we can start this are :

  • Buy local. I get my eggs from a farm in the next village, but the lovely lady delivers them every Saturday. ¬†I get my veg, flours and meat (for Mr EN and the 2 elder girls) from my local farm shop or butchers. ¬†I try to avoid Tescos like the plague. ¬†And buy seasonal. ¬†Get used to planning what you cook around what is available.
  • Cook!¬† And teach your children to cook. ¬†Don’t rely on ready meals. ¬†Cook your own. ¬†Much healthier and tastier (unless you make veggie meatballs!). ¬†And it doesn’t have to be time consuming.
  • Grow your own. ¬†Everyone can do some growing, whether it is just a few herbs and come again lettuce on the window sill, with maybe a couple of pots of tomatos and strawberries on the patio, to a fully converted oasis of food production. ¬†Every little helps, and will teach you and your children valuable skills should the worst come to the worst.
  • Community. ¬†Get to know your community, know where there is local produce available. ¬†Do swaps for seeds, vegetable gluts etc at work or down your local.

Our economy is in tatters.  We should be supporting it, not the economy of Japan, or China or New Zealand.

Anyway, I have finished my lunch (home made bread made with local flour, locally produced salad, and cheese, followed up by home made anzac cookies – yum!) so I’m off.