instead of bowling clubs

Sometimes I imagine loads of Presbyterian churches equipped with nice homely (but not expensive) dining rooms and a lounge for lazy Sunday afternoons (instead of drafty halls) and big pots of soup made from vegetables grown on the gardens that used to be their lawns (or from land donated by a church member with spare land).
When it came to dishes time everyone washed them in a relaxed way not eager to rush home, and the men would be in the kitchen just as much as the women. There would not be someone trying to rush the people out of the hall because he had to lock up and wanted to go home. The last person out can lock up.
If there was soup left over it could be frozen and given to people who are sick or poor, there would be boxes of vegetables to distribute to the needy or just for people in church.

free range bacon

I am typing this and eating my dinner, a bowl of leek and potato soup with some cubes of free range, woodland reared etc etc pancetta style bacon from St George’s Market.

I have rarely, if ever bought free range, organic meat before for two main reasons.

1) It is more expensive and when you’re watching the pennies those extra pounds that an organic, free range chicken would cost (and it would be pounds)are a big deterrent.
2) Sometimes there is an atmosphere middle class self righteousness when around free range, organic meat which I don’t like and puts me off.

But having said all that the reason I am typing this during my dinner is that I was amazed by the difference in the grease and fat that came from my grill when I was cooking my free range, woodland reared bacon compared to what I normally would get cooking some bacon from my local Spar, or even from my butcher.

First up, there was much less steam coming from the grill. Normally there would be clouds of steam coming from the grill, so much so that when you lift it up it could burn your hand.

There was also much less water running into the bowl. Normally there would be a layer of dirty grease water floating on top of the bacon fat. Tonight there was a much less steam from the grill and the fat which ran seemed much clearer.

I guess what I’m saying is that there was something noticeably different to the bacon I cooked tonight compared to the bacon I would cook normally.

organic food good?

Yesterday I read this in ‘The Rough Guide to Ethical Living’

‘The third principle deals with the lesser-known aspects of organic farming: social justice (“those involved in organic agriculture should conduct human relationships in a manner that ensure fairness at all levels and to all parties – farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders and consumers”) and the humane treatment of animals…the idea of fairness also applies to preserving resources for future generations.’

I have to admit that I didn’t know fairness was one of the guiding principles of organic food. Another page on The Soil Association website states

‘This principle emphasises that those involved in organic agriculture should conduct human relationships in a manner that ensures fairness at all levels and to all parties – farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders and consumers. Organic agriculture should provide everyone involved with a good quality of life and contribute to food sovereignty and reduction of poverty. It aims to produce a sufficient supply of good quality food and other products.

Finding all that out has been making me think more about organic food that I had previously.
Many people I know are very passionate about Fairtrade coffee, chocolate etc because it offers a fair deal to the people producing the food.
We are even happy to pay a bit extra to make sure that happens and might make a conscious decision to seek out Fairtrade products if possible.
Yet so many of  our daily essentials are not available in Fairtrade.
I haven’t  noticed Fairtrade flour, Fairtrade meat or Fairtrade tins of plum  tomato for example.

But now I find out that there are products (i.e. organic ones) that claim to be based on a principle of fairness and that is uncomfortable for me to think about because THEY ARE SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE.

Last night (and to my general reluctance) we did our grocery shopping at Asda. For the first time I went with this knowledge about organic food.
I eyed up the Asda ‘Smartprice’ tinned tomatoes and they were priced at 31p. Then I eyed up the Asda Organics tinned tomatoes and they were priced at about 62p.
Twice as much.
What that means is that if I wanted to buy 12 tins of tinned tomatoes to keep me going for a month it would be roughly £3.60 more expensive than buying 12 tins of Smartprice tomatoes.
Taken over a year that choice of buying  12 tins of organic tomatoes per month instead of the Asda Smartprice would be £43.20.
And that’s only for tomatoes.

I was also looking at strong bread flour. 1.5kg of non organic flour cost about 60p (it might have been on offer) while 1kg of organic flour was £1.20.

What that means is that if I wanted to make two of my sourdough loaves the non-organic ones would be working out at about 60p (plus cost of electricity) while the two organic ones would be working out at about £1.80 (plus the cost of electricity). Three times the amount.

From a Christian point of view it was playing all sorts of tricks in my head.

1 There is the stewardship of money question. Growing up money was tight so people like my gran or mum watched the pennies with the idea that you got the essentials as cheaply as possible and then used whatever was left over for the non essentials. ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’ so we needed to be wise in its use which means that if you can buy a tin of tomatoes for 31p instead of 62p it would be wasteful to buy the dear one.  Plus you simply mightn’t be able to afford the more expensive one if money was tight

2  That thing Jesus said about ‘not worrying about what you will eat or drink’ came to my mind. Here I was, a relatively wealthy westerner procrastinating over whether to buy a tin of tinned tomatoes. Do I not realise how fortunate I am to be able to make that choice? On the way home from Asda H___ was saying how a missionary family in Malawi couldn’t easily obtain sugar due to shortages in the country.

On the other hand Jesus mentions that rather than worrying about food we should ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ which means that we should live lives that just and right.
I suppose that means  we should also treat people fairly and with love, which means choosing fairness over exploitation even if that means at personal cost to ourselves.

So even though organic food is more expensive and costly, maybe the cost is something I need to consider paying as a Christian?

I don’t know. I’m still thinking through this one. And there are lots of issues at play.

the ritual of the weekly market

The thought of another Christmas of  cheap sausage rolls, Quality Street all washed down by a bucket of Shloer is turning my stomach.
We eat so much crap this time of the year and it is all excused by it being Christmas.

I was pondering my unhealthy eating habits this morning when I realised something. A week of unhealthy eating in our household usually begins when we don’t make it into St George’s Market on a Saturday morning. Let me back up firstly by saying that a trip to St George’s doesn’t mean that we’ll be eating tofu and raw cabbage, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But  a weekly trip to the market does recreate a ritual in our house,
a ritual in which food is treated with respect at the very start
which means that the whole process of preparing food
and then eating is likely to be treated with respect.
Or healthy eating.

And by the same token even though the market may well work out a bit more expensive that the supermarket (although I haven’t noticed that to be honest ) because you have more joy and pleasure in shopping for your food you are much less likely to waste the food you buy or ponder more what you are buying.
If you pick up  cabbage from the farmer who is obviously proud of the cabbage he has grown and nurtured you are much less likely to waste it when you take it home.
At  moment I have two cabbages in the fridge that need used, a white cabbage from LIDL and an Autumn King grown by the man who sold it to me. I know which one I want to do justice too. The ritual of the market.

In the past couple of weeks I have been unable to get into St George’s and as a result we’ve been grabbing bits and bobs from our local Spar which in all honesty is nothing but a branded sweet shop.

Perhaps the unhealthy eating is all tied into the place you buy it from, or partly so.
If  the place is branded and disposable with the people working there programmed to sell commodified goods,
if the there is no easily recognised story behind the food you’re buying so that you can understand it and respect it
then you will bring it home and carry on the story of the food which is no story, or a story you don’t really care about.

Maybe the government can try all the healthy eating initiatives it wants to but if we’re forced to buy our food in unhealthy places such as the homogenized supermarkets that surround your town then what else do you expect?

If we don’t know the story of what it cost to get our potatoes or apples to our kitchen,
if they’re just phantoms that appeared overnight on a Tesco lorry in a plastic tray and are set on display the next day
then people are never going to treat the food with respect.

With the market we’re much more likely to hear the story of our food, or getting closer to the person who grew our apples or knows the farmer who supplies the pigs and do justice to food when we get home.