Thursday, 14 August 2014

Winter soup

The garden continues to supply most of my food. Winter means one of those ongoing soups that is boiled up daily,  and added to… with whatever is in the garden.  Today's soup has potato, carrots, cauliflower, some herbs and leafy greens, lentils, noodles made from eggs and four-leaf flour and a big spoonful of tomato paste that I made last summer… and probably some bits that I have forgotten from a couple of days ago.

Probably not the most elegant of meals,  but it is very tasty and probably pretty healthy too.

I have seen people grow vegetables and leave them in the yard until they are past their prime, eaten by some other organism or because it's too much trouble to gather them.  I often wonder whether people are so used to vegetables coming packed in polystyrene platters or mesh or plastic bags that the odd assortment that one can pick or dig from the garden is too complicated.  It really is quite a change in habits to get used to eating what comes from the garden…  particularly when some vegetables really are seasonal and unavailable for months at  a time.

Recipe books seem to ignore the seasonal availability of various ingredients.  There is often a list of food items to gather in order to make a particular meal… but the expectation is that locally unavailable items can be transported… often from the other side of the world… so that the recipe can be replicated as described.  When cooking from the garden,  it's better to look at "ethnic" combinations of ingredients which have been worked out using those foods that ripen or are available simultaneously.  It's not hard to do,  but it does mean changing the way that meals are planned.

I'm not sure how this started,  though the spectacular glasshouses of the wealthy in England at the time when the empire was large and expanding might be involved.  It must have been seen as luxurious to be able to eat tropical, or even mediterranean delicacies throughout the year and while, to begin with only the very wealthy were able to indulge themselves,  improving transport, the ability to make ice and the upwardly mobile middle classes must have meant that, for a few at least,  the boring diet of local ingredients was left to the poor.

By now,  there is no one who expects to eat only those things that are produced within walking distance,  or even driving distance,  of home.  The "oil boom"generations have changed food requirements, food miles, carbon in the atmosphere and our environment drastically.  It's hard to see where this will end, except that the oil supply will not last, transport will become prohibitive, the environment will change and people will need to work out how to eat "fresh and local" again.

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