Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Hunter-gatherer


Every year, something nests in my workshop. One year, it was wrens which cosy'd up in Joyce Grenfell's hat, hanging on a nail from a beam. This year, a couple of robins built one of their untidy piles of vegetable detritus - happily on a pile of tools which I seldom need to use.

I've been tip-toeing around the place for the last couple of weeks, trying not to frighten them too much. Yesterday I was looking for something near the back of the room, and became aware of a pair of eyes peeping at me in the gloom.

Strange to think that the first introduction to other species on the planet was me, for this little fellow. Now I have to be careful not to step on him or one of his siblings. As if I didn't enough to think about.

I'll tell you what I miss more than most things in this age of air-miles attached to kitchen garden vegetables - seasonality. It really irks me when H.I. comes home with a punnet of strawberries in December, and it also makes me feel wretched when I buy tasteless green beans from Kenya, which I am sometimes forced to do because H.I. is very colour-conscious (you wouldn't believe), and if presented with a monochrome dish of winter tubers, tends to come over all silent.

Most seasonal treats have to be gathered by hand, such as wild mushrooms - or anything else with the word 'wild' in front of it - and whole festivals have been celebrated since ancient times to mark their arrival.

For a brief period of about two weeks, geese lay a few eggs which they walk away from (or get robbed by slavering bulldogs) before laying a couple which they sit on to hatch the next generation to be trussed up for Christmas, and I look forward to the goose-egg season with childish enthusiasm.

There is a smallholding near me which keeps a few geese, and they sell the small number of excess eggs for £1 each. Buying them is pretty much like gathering them yourself, because you have to face the wrath of a very large, very angry, German Shepherd guard-dog which is stationed on the other side of the farm gate to make sure that you put the money into an honesty box.

Waitrose is probably the prime offender when it comes to selling foodstuffs out of season, and they make a big fuss when they don't, by sticking Union Jacks all over the produce, just to let you know why the price is so high.

The reason the price is so high for locally sourced farm-produce is because they do not have to go to the trouble of chartering a plane to get it into the country, then own a fleet of lorries to take it from the packing and distribution centre at Bracknell, then on to all of their many outlets, spread hundreds of miles apart, right across the country. Hang on, that can't be right.

Every Spring, Waitrose sells a few goose eggs - for £7 each.

Seven, fucking pounds, or £6.99 when discounted, like the one below. Do you think any idiots actually buy them, or do you think that they are all thrown away every May, year after year?


34 comments:

  1. Hello Tom:

    One of the joys of living in The People's Republic is that we do have vegetables and fruit in season as they are, to put it simply, unavailable the rest of the time.

    Happily, no Waitrose here. No goose eggs either, come to think of it.

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    1. Although I don't quite remember it, I was brought up during the tail-end of WW2 rationing, and when my brothers and sisters were evacuated from London to Clevedon in Somerset, my father had a deal going with a local farmer to get fresh hen's eggs. What a treat.

      I dread to think how many chickens are slaughtered, world-wide, on a daily basis, because we have come to regard chicken as daily staple.

      The biggest catch-phrase of the last couple of decades has been the word, 'choice', and look where that's got us.

      I would simply eat what I am given, and be grateful for it, but poor families now complain about the price of a Chinese battery-farm chicken if it is any higher than £3.50.

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  2. Seriously do you want me to send you a few in the post
    I have too many goose eggs at the mo?

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    1. That would be lovely! I'll send you my address if you don't have it.

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    2. Yes send it and I'll post you some

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    3. I tried, but got back tonight to find my email returned - have you changed your address? Send me one please, and I'll reply.

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    4. Just tried by replying to one of your own, but there's something wrong. I would post it up here, but I think I might get killed in my sleep.

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    5. I can receive messages from you, but - for some reason I cannot send them. I don't know what the fuck's going on, but I'll try to sort it out tomorrow...

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    6. What makes you think I'll wait until you're asleep?

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    7. What makes you think I'm talking about you? You're self-obsessed.

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    8. Kinell.
      I hope you have a shit day.

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  3. I suspect that you're looking forward to Alphonso Mango season Tom ? ….. I always buy Clarence Court Legbar chickens eggs ….. they are the best hen's eggs from a supermarket but, I've never had a goose egg….. are they just bigger and richer ? We were watching Michael Portillo's Railway Journeys last night and he tried a buttered egg in Ireland { it is a way of keeping eggs fresh and the flavour of the butter penetrates the shell, giving them a buttery taste } ….. something else that I've never tried. There's always something new to be eaten. XXXX

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    1. You have just reminded me. Last week, the E.U. banned the import of Indian mangoes to the UK, because of the risk of some little fly ruining our salad growers. No more Alfonsos.

      I am not making this up.

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  4. I often check the color arrangement on our dinner plates. Small farmers have it tough.
    I never understood finicky eaters. I'll eat whatever is given to me; grew up in a large family with not a lot of extra income.

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    1. I think you'll listen to whatever is given to you too, judging from your last post.

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  5. It's the difference between No 5 Railway Cuttings, and Clarence Court (complete with coronet) Goose eggs.

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    1. Gwil's got it about right - see below.

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  6. It's the goose that lays the golden egg-boxes.

    But now I know why so many people are telephoning in supermarket aisles. They are pretending to telephone but are actually taking photos.

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  7. They cost £1 each from farm gates around here.

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  8. We buy wonderful produce, each in its season, from a large farm market near here. And wonderful Amish pies. We are fortunate.
    Three colors of food on the plate are a healthy meal. One summer I survived on three colors of vegetables, if I could get them.
    I wonder how near we are to too little food to feed the planet. Perhaps we are past the point.

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    1. I've never eaten an Amish. Aren't the adults a bit tough?

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    2. TOO LITTLE FOOD??? Apparently 30% of the world's food production is wasted!

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    3. Not in certain parts of the world, it isn't. We in the West might chuck away 30% of our weekly shop (I know you don't, Cro), but not in dryer places.

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  9. The best way to get seasonal vegetables is to grow them!

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    1. I have enough to do as it is without tilling the soil.

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  10. There are a few possibilities to get vegetables, fruit and chicken right from the farmers here, but on the normal market they sell the same things as the supermarkets, only more expensive and, as you are not allowed to touch, they always put a few 'bad apples' inbetween. Good are the special organic markets (though they have changed too: the carrots are washed now, as the potatoes, the apples no longer have worms - not that I miss those). I don't buy strawberries before I have a chance to believe the seller that they are from here. At the moment they sell so much "Beelitzer Spargel" (asparagus from the region Beelitz), that husband mused about the enormous vast fields that would be necessary to produce them. I changed a bit to an doubting Thomas in the big city.
    But I do love rituals, thus I can wait for the seasonal fruits.

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    1. Eat what you can, and can what you can't.

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  11. Fucking unbelievable! Am taking my aging mother there tomorrow and may stand in front of said eggs repeating myself.

    By the way, I laughed out loud (no abbreviations there please) at HI coming over all silent over a drab plate of food.

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    1. It's true. I wish I could still laugh about it, but now it's only when I tell her daughter, whose laughter is infectious.

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    2. 'Daughter; and 'laughter' in the same sentence - there's a test for Britta.

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