Monday, 9 January 2012

CHALLENGE: Best of British – The Difficulties of Eating Local

The past few days I have been eating only British food. This means no tea, rice, pasta, beans, couscous, sweet potatoes or chocolate. The salt in processed food is almost certainly not British, so these are a no-no! It is not enough to be simply made in the UK, the foodstuff must also have entirely British ingredients.

Over the past couple of days I have met several difficulties. The challenge is much harder than I initially thought it would be. I encourage anyone to try it however, to learn more about the food that goes onto their plates!

The Veggie Dilemma
The challenge of eating entirely local would be much simpler if I ate meat. I've been a vegetarian for almost a year now, getting most of my protein from beans and dairy products. Different beans come from different places, but most beans are grown in the Americas, Asia, Africa or the Mediterranean, so unless I found British varieties (unlikely in winter) they were off the menu!

Instead I have resorted to a lot of cheese and milk, with an omelette pretty much daily! A vegan would have major difficulties in getting enough British protein, especially at this time of year.

Location, Location, Location
Some supermarkets are very good and let you know where all of your fruit and veg come from. It can, however, be very hard to determine where the ingredients in various products come from. If you are eating British, make sure you look out for added sugar, salt, oils, etc., which are probably manufactured on the cheap in other countries!

Surprisingly Hard to Find!
Retailers go for cheapness of product rather than worrying about sourcing locally. Things that are commonly grown in the UK are bizarrely difficult to find! My local grocer only had mushrooms from Holland, whilst the supermarkets had British ones! Apples are seasonally available in the UK, yet even at this time of year most of them are grown in New Zealand!

It's cold, it's wet, and it's no good for growing fruit! There is very little British fruit available at this time of year. I found some DELICIOUS apples (Cameo variety, if you're interested), but of course there are no berries available until the summer. My beloved bananas don't grow here at all (well, they do in the Eden Project but they're not for sale).

Fortunately there are several vegetables ripe for munching at this time of year. As this calendar shows, it is peak carrot season! I've also been eating leeks, parsnips and cabbage, and cauliflower is around pretty much all year.

Lack of Caffeine
Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, chocolate and cola. None of these things grow in the UK, which made for a steep drop in my caffeine intake! It's not the withdrawal symptoms I had when I stopped drinking gallons of tea after my finals (headaches all day - I drank A LOT of tea!), but I've been feeling a lot more sleepy!

I feel like the grasshopper who sang all summer and is paying the price now that winter's here! I will definitely be getting my vegetable patch to work for me this year! Come back tomorrow for another post about this dratted challenge! :)


Pamela said...

Oh, wow. You are a brave soul. I read a book called "Plenty" which was about a Canadian couple who tried to eat only locally grown food (within a 100 mile radius) for one year. It was very, very interesting. I'm not sure I could do it the way they did it, as I do like the odd bit of bread, etc. I imagine it's the same way for you, right now.

When I lived in the UK on exchange, I was impressed by the food labels there. We didn't have that in the US at the time--we didn't know where the food was grown/shipped from, or what was in it (unless you could understand the chemical names in the ingredient list). Saying something was vegetarian or vegan, etc. really struck me.

Anonymous said...

I just found this and find it very interesting. I have been trying to buy products found in America but havent thought about food. I think I will start looking more into this

Isa said...

brave girl!

Frugal Down Under said...

So hard..

Some of our local products are sent down south to be packaged and then sent back up looking pretty in plastic. Or sent down to be redistributed by the supermarkets.

Crossing Australia is like crossing Europe. It's crazy and no one really thinks about it. Great challenge - I'm very interested in your findings, experiences and frustrations... Don't forget to look at you tube for inspiration, there are some great wacky people out there who have a wealth of valuable information.