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Living off the land

PUBLISHED: 12:23 03 April 2013 | UPDATED: 21:23 05 April 2013

Living off the land

Living off the land

Graham Downing extols the benefits of knowing where your food comes from

Living off the land



Graham Downing extols the benefits of knowing where your food comes from



The discovery of horsemeat in what seems to be an ever-growing number of processed meat products is an illustration of how detached most of us have become from the origins of what we eat. Both the sourcing of the raw materials from which the offending burgers, meat sauces and ready meals were manufactured and the tangled web of wholesale and retail distribution that has taken them right across Europe demonstrate just how complex our food chain actually is.



How different to the trail which brings the average meal to my own dinner table. Carrots, leeks, onions and potatoes from the vegetable garden, a pheasant out of the freezer, all simmered slowly in home-made venison stock. Or a couple of fresh eggs for breakfast collected straight from the chicken ark, maybe even a succulent lamb chop from one of our own lambs. Absolutely no need there to fret over food safety or quality, provided youre happy to chop the black bits out of the carrots. And whats more, we work in food metres rather than food miles.



Admittedly, not everyone has their own flock of sheep, but its not so difficult to keep half a dozen hens in the back yard and grow your own vegetables in the garden or on an allotment, as my wife and I did for 17 years. When you want to diversify your diet you simply swap with your neighbours a delicious fresh cauliflower for a basket of beans or the four packs of lamb chops I traded the other day for a joint of pork with a pig-owning friend.



Putting your own food on the table turns a simple meal into something very special indeed. But almost as special is the process of sourcing locally grown food from your nearby bakery or farm shop. Speaking directly to the person who produced the cattle from which those ribs of beef were cut, who grew the apples or baked the bread, pies or pasties provides the consumer with a direct link with the land, the very acres from which their food has come.



There can be no greater reassurance than this, short of growing the stuff yourself.



Living as I do in a district frequented, in summer at least, by holiday visitors, I often meet people who come through the farm gate having seen my roadside sign advertising lamb and venison. Mostly they want to take home with them a taste of the area in which they have enjoyed their holiday, and sometimes I find that they have made an extensive trawl through the local villages, picking up a jar of honey here, a pound of sausages there and hopefully, a nice fillet of venison from my freezer.



Its not difficult to turn hunter-gatherer and go on such a food expedition and its great fun. Recently the Countryside Alliance nominated the winners of their Rural Oscars farm shops and local food producers offering the best that the British countryside can provide. To check them out, simply visit www.countrysideallianceawards.org.uk and youre in for a real treat.



We are what we eat. Logically, that means if we know where our food comes from, then we know where we come from too. And anyway, its better than buying processed horseburgers.


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