Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Knowing where our food comes from has been a bit of A Thing for a while now. TV chefs are keen for us to know where our food comes from. Hugh wants everything grown with his own blood sweat and tears, Jamie won't eat a meal out in public until he's written a petition and pestered the Prime Minister about it and Gordon insists that his kids name their Christmas turkey before he kills it, which doesn't sound at all festive.
We get it. We should care where our food comes from.
These days you can't go to a gastropub without reading a dossier-like menu telling you the source of every single ingredient and all have our own priorities when it comes to food. Caleigh has to be very careful about her ingredients and double check each one to ensure they're gluten free. Elizabeth isn't vegetarian but she tends to avoid beef because her boyfriend is Hindu but while Sara might be fine with bacon on someone else's plate (and in her biscuits), she'd rather it wasn't on her own thank you very much. And Hazel is all for foraging and sourcing her own food. As for the rest of us, we want the tastiest ingredients we can afford. No matter how our lifestyles change, that's always true.
But it's not always realistic to forage (it rains, for a start). It's not always financially viable to buy the fanciest chicken in Waitrose. It's not always convenient to go to the local farmers' market and buy ingredients to make your own quince jelly. Sometimes, you're going to have a massive craving for Birdseye Chicken Dippers, and no amount of homecooked food will quash that.
Just because we should care what we're putting on our plates, doesn't necessarily mean that we do. It doesn't mean that we have the time to. Sure, we can argue that it's just as easy to whip up a stir fry as it is to go and buy a takeaway, but we don't always want to. And sometimes, buying a frozen pizza from a supermarket is the only option. It may be packed full of rubbish, but we've been working late and we're tired and Eastenders is starting soon.
Perhaps most of us are conscientiousness about their dinner as long as it's convenient. Hands up who's bought chicken that isn't free range when pay day is miles off? Do we always ask about ingredients when we're in a restaurant? It's easy to buy free range eggs and forget about the rest, we've done our bit without really having to think about it. And while we know that people want to be more ethical and aware about their food choices, price does come into it. Ethical, locally produced food is usually more expensive. If our lifestyle doesn't allow us to make those choices, then we're conflicted.
So how do we reach a happy medium? Should supermarkets make it easier (and more affordable) for us to think about what we're eating? Is it down to us as consumers to seek out more information? What part does food journalism play? Sometimes it all gets a little 'middle class shopper in Whole Foods' and it's clear to us that a much larger demographic care about what's on the end of their forks.
So if we do care where are food comes from, what challenges are we facing and what do we about it?