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Editor’s Comment: Lettuce pray

10:56 20 February 2017

Empty supermarket shelves are food for thought

Empty supermarket shelves are food for thought

Archant

“Put away your damned spiralizer and embrace the native veg that are in season instead.” In March’s issue, editor Mike Lowe asks us to embrace the local and seasonal produce on offer

Lettuce pray. Unusually bad weather across Europe appears to have launched the UK into a vegetable crisis. Salads are in short supply because of snow and storms in Spain and some supermarkets have resorted to rationing customers to just three iceberg lettuces per person and three heads of broccoli. It’s not a Brexit problem for once, although some have suggested that it wouldn’t have happened if we’d voted Romaine (sorry).

(You would have to question why people would want to buy three lettuces in midwinter anyway, but that’s another story, not unconnected with the daft desire to ‘detox’ in the New Year – a completely pointless exercise anyway. The human body already has a detox system built in: a liver to extract nutrients from food and a pair of kidneys to dispose of the waste matter. A month drinking green smoothies instead of tucking into bacon and eggs isn’t going to affect that in any way, apart from making the holier-than-thou faster feel vaguely superior if not a little stupid while making nutjob nutritionists and ‘clean eating’ advocates even richer.)

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There is a wider issue here and that is the one of seasonality. Just because we can buy avocados and raspberries in February doesn’t mean that we should. And I’m infuriated by restaurants that trumpet their “locally-sourced ingredients” and then put asparagus on the menu in November. We know it’s not from Pershore, you nincompoops. At that time of year it’s from Peru, as even that famous native, the marmalade-munching Paddington Bear is aware.

The sad fact is that we import 50% of our vegetables and 90% of our fruit – a truly shocking statistic given that with a bit more care and a lot less greed we could be far more self-sufficient. And it’s us, the consumers, who are to blame. Yes, the big supermarkets might encourage you to gorge on Quality Street and mince pies throughout December, but it’s we (well not me, obviously) who demand courgettes and plastic bags of salad leaves (most of which we throw away) in the middle of grim midwinter. The sight of empty shelves might be a shock, but they’re teaching us an important lesson: put away your damned spiralizer and embrace the native veg that are in season instead.

Mind you, buying locally and with due regard to food miles isn’t always as easy as it might seem. It was this magazine that reported some years ago that the Duchy Original carrots we religiously bought from Waitrose in Cirencester hadn’t actually been dug up at Highgrove and rushed to the shelves within hours, but had instead been on a four-day journey to South Wales and back to be washed and packaged before hitting the shops. Definitely food for thought.

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Working from home can often require a difficult balancing act. Conference calls have to be arranged around the dogs’ feeding time and there is always the Voice From Below to interrupt your train of thought with important news about a woodpecker in the garden or the lack of milk in the fridge.

One benefit, however, is not having to put up with the bad habits of your office colleagues (not that mine have any, honest). My rudimentary research seems to suggest that most of this offensive behaviour surrounds food and its consumption, with the lingering aroma of microwaved prawns wafting across the room now seen in British courts as justifiable mitigation for murder.

I would be interested to hear from you, our army of readers, about your own particular office-based hates. I suspect that we will return to this subject on a regular basis.

For more of Mike’s musings, follow him on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor

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