E~LICIOUS a Guide to Fine things to Eat, Drink and Savour
Local Food. Is it worth going the distance for? Gavin Wren argues that mistyeyed romanticism about local food can prevent us from seeing some of the benefits that industrial food has brought us.
Sourcing locally has been a buzzword for ecologically woke foodies for a long time, especially in a food world characterised by fads and novelty which pass quicker than a “new year, new me” resolution. Buying food produced as close to our front doors as possible holds an enchanting allure, evocative of the good ole days, pre-dating our modern, globalised, hyperindustrialised food chain. Many London eateries proudly announce their food is sourced from the latest crop of tattooed, beardy, thick-rim bespectacled hipsters, who’ve eschewed a life of turmeric lattes and coding on a MacBook in Dalston, to pursue artisanal pickled onion production from a railway arch in Clapton. It seems restaurants often
fetishise the sourcing of their sourdough more highly than their staff. Recent exposés have left me wondering if the belly of pork receives more respect than the humans cooking it and delivering it to the table, but we’ll hold that thought for another time. Local food blends the ideals of smallscale farming, short supply chains and local business, supported by great minds such as Michael Pollan, who advised to only eat things that your grandmother would recognise as food. Local, simple and minimally processed food feels like a very straightforward answer to a complex problem. Thus, it reminds me of the words of the great American journalist and satirist, H.L. Mencken “For every complex
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problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”. Pollan’s suggestion of harking back to a rose-tinted, bygone era of food seems like a great solution, but involves eschewing un-local food, such as mangoes, sushi, bubble tea, dim sum and guacamole. These are but a few contemporary foods that my gran would probably turn up her nose at, if she were still with us. It begs the question of why local is so important, when we live in a global society? In the 1880s, New Zealand lamb began landing in the UK, providing better value meat than local farmers could and today, Brexit will probably broaden the sources of UK food even more. We no longer live in a ‘local’ world.