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Sustainable food?


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Just catching up on the Grauniad. By the time I've read Saturday's (the only one I get) it is too late to write to them on any of the issues raised.

Two letters caught my eye - one questioning where you get makrut lime from - many of the ingredients in the food mag are unheard of https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/mar/01/makrut-lime-the-weird-and-wonderful-citrus-at-the-heart-of-thai-flavours. There is always SMBS foods, Khans or other exotic grocers in Peckham I expect.

The other was from someone at Borough Market dissing the population for buying cheap, processed food of dubious origin from the big supermarkets and asking for the government to intervene.

Got me thinking - I probably had rellies working there at the turn of the last century and my family continued in the wholesale fruit and veg trade until the early 80s (one was a minor celeb). When I encountered Borough Market in the 90s frequenting a little used Market Porter, and Wheatsheaf, with signs up that they were open at weekends, please come, the market was a backwater. I think Jamie Oliver put it on the map and now it, and the pubs are heaving from Friday till Sunday.

But I have never bought any food there, and balk at the prices. Whilst understanding that the percentage of income spent on food has dropped, as has the general quality, and I am not immune to buying occasionally at farmers markets. I thought back to my time when I regularly spent ?20 at the Cheese Block and thought how light my bag was before doing similar at Northcross Road (still love both places).

So I can afford to shop at these outlets, yet struggle with paying a fiver for a loaf. How and why would the masses, many financially challenged, afford to spend four times more on their weekly food bill? (Channel Five or whatever will have the programmes on 'benefit street' or whatever but please ignore these easy targets)

Separately I do love Lidl, have to be choosy either getting your staples at cheaper prices or some of the unusual stuff when it is around. And of course the bakery is superior to the big chains. Fruit and veg can be iffy, but there are some great Turkish Outlets for this. And SMBS/Khans/Peckham stalls when you want to be a little eclectic.

More pub conversations. Good to hear views. Yes I am a hypocrite. Got that one out of the way.

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I was at the Market Porter last nite, the nite before and on the weekend just gone. The area has and is gone through a bit of a renaissance over time, specially since the night of the awful violence there. And I love the place to be fair, not all of it, but in general, it?s a hub that has a real buzz.

It?s starting to remind me more and more of the markets in Madrid , Valencia & Barcelona, where if you watch them through the day, they change, shift and morph. The veg vendors now have wine bars and restaurants in them of an evening, so as you walk through the space that was earlier thonging with crowds of lunchtime tourists and office workers on breaks, you get pockets of people sitting in the part covered market, eating and chatting under the low atmospheric lighting. It?s quite magical.

There?s also a number of new restaurants to open there , with Parrallian (like the outdoor bbq place in Kings X) part of Barafina group, and I think a BlackLock all due to open at some near point. There?s others too I?ve heard of in the pipeline, located on the development where Vinopolis was.

It still feels like London used to in some ways, a bit like Covent Garden once did, way back. And I?m sure they?ve taken their cues from that area. And places like the Market Porter are thriving, beyond what most pubs are. It?s a wet boozer, with some food. And the beer offer is good, with a balance between craft & ale & lager. The place buzzes, and on Saturday we had an impromptu gathering there during the day, something I?d not done for a very long time, and having a chance to bump into old friends, and family. Super nice.

On bread, you pay for what you get pretty much, bread being two components essentially. Flour & water. + time. Good bread from top quality flour cost money, because you can?t rush it. (My yard has the Snapery bakery in a unit opposite, so I buy a few loves and freeze them as required) The difference is poles apart from your supermarket ?loaf?. Real good sourdough is expensive often, but worth it. Look out for grain/flour from Shipton Mills or Wild Farmed, it?s all uk flour and excellent, as is British baking in general, we lead the field when it comes to bread making in my view. Try buying a good loaf like you get here in Spain. I know restaurant owners in Barcelona trying to get sourdough made like we do, but they can?t access the grain quality as we can here with the likes of Gillchesters etc.

Ingredients wise, it?s expensive but convenient to shop at the market, (just like spain and France is, though spain as a municipality model, and even the likes of Lidl can be found right next to a super specialised vendor) though I often buy mushrooms in season, which lately I just have with steamed greens (lots of local Kent stuff this year here) to compliment a good piece of beef (I?m still firing up my bbq to cook that). And during the week a corn fed free range Lidl chicken is good, usually with a bunch of steamed vegetables again. Things have got way simpler in our household, and we use some supermarket and some farm shop and market provisions.

That said, it?s often about time. I know I?m lucky as my job is the restaurant industry, so I?ve time to mooch Borough and such places, I can knit in a quick out of hours visit and grab stuff we want relatively easy during my week. And Borough is easy as my train comics in to London Bridge when I commute up.

Living in ED and the surrounding are gives you good accessibility to the stuff you need, SMBS and such likes are little gems, and even though my life in Sevenoaks is immeasurably better than when I lived on the manor, I do miss some of it.

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Sainsbury's have a good Polish bread section and the vast majority of the bread is sourdough and rye. I love the bread with caraway seeds in but Sainsbury's seem not to stock this any more. Sausages, mince and chicken thighs we purchase from Rose's. Both Lidl and Aldi are good with fruit and veg, fish and some meats. Jams/marmalade good from both stores also some sweets and chocolates. I usually start my 'Christmas Box' of non perishables in October - so far it has only got biscuits in but will gradually fill up as I buy a few extra items each week. Lewisham market has a good choice of fruit and veg at very affordable prices. Prices in NX Road are too high and no way would I pay ?5 for a loaf of bread.

I have only been in Borough Market once - spent around 10 minutes and although I loved the variety of food realised that it was out of my budget. When I was working in Camberwell used to love going to the Greek/Turkish bakery opposite the Green for bread and cakes (they did great sandwiches as well)

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You've missed the point of this thread Seabag - the masses cannot afford to source their food from places such as Borough Market. Someone there suggested that government should compel people to do this.

On your points food markets in France, Spain (and no doubt some other European countries) seem to have got it right and have mass appeal, it is always a pleasure shopping in these places. Some of our markets and farmers markets here are getting there - Herne Hill appears a particularly good one. I'm still shocked at being 'mugged' at a fresh pasta stall in South Ken, fortunately I stopped at buying sauce, as this is simple enough to make yourself. And based on Gennaro Contaldo recipes I'll be making more of my own fresh pasta and saving myself ?20.

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I did deliberately meander on the Borough market (I?ve been in hospital, so maybe it?s the meds somewhat🤪) but? because ?someone? from Borough Market says something like they did, mainly because there?s thousands from BM who say nothing of the sort. My point being, you make your choices, you have your resources. I just cranked on about the gem that?s on our doorstep, which inspires so many other, which gives the whole farmers market scene a fixed focus point, or at least a point of reference.

It leads into my comments about municipal markets, in some shape or other, down to day markets in car park?s too. Of which local boroughs and county councils should be encouraging and sponsoring, even legislating for.

And be fair Malumbu, some of the things you post meander and drift all over the show often, so careful not to nudge others for drifting out of their lane a little.

Sometimes I?ve heard people say ?I don?t go to Borough anymore? and when I ask when the last time they did, it?s often quite a time ago. So I?m duty bound to share the updates as I see them I think.

I live in Sevenoaks mostly now, it?s possible to shop at a local butcher, much of it their own ( Coldbreath the butcher), we?ve a great farm shop, and much more. No real local baker, unless you include Gails. Great fish from Sussex. Lots more. Oh the full gamut here too. Sainsbury?s, Tesco, Aldi Lidl & Waitrose.

Much of it depends how bothered you are to get out and find the stuff, no matter where you live.

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But the reality is this country is overpopulated (as the world is as a whole) and to feed billions of people we need intensive agriculture. Growing fodder for animals is another issue. Back to "let them eat cake" discussion (which she didn't actually say....)
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East Dulwich and the surrounding area has a wide array of retail food outlets, some better than others, some cheaper or expensive than others, we all have choice dependant on our personal shopping budgets.

Shopping for general items revolves around any of the big four supermarkets (even better if what they have and what I need is of on a special offer), Lidl or Aldi for speciality items i.e. jams or Polish honey or spices or dried herbs etc. We have a number of local bakers (not cheap) but IMO far better than 99% of the in store supermarket produced bread, a number of butchers - you take your choice, fruit and veg - generally from Sainsbury as IMO quality is better than the other supermarkets, again you pay for what you need, but given that have not been disappointed in the past by fruit or veg from Lidl.

I've only ever used home delivery for two reasons - bulky items or when I was ill and homebound, otherwise I much prefer to go to the shops and select the items I need as opposed to those items I want. And if they are out of stock either forgo or try somewhere else. I find shopping is a balance between freshness, cost, availability and convenience.

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I've long held the belief that the big supermarkets aren't as good as the concept we were sold back when they started expanding (late 70s onwards)

They promised us a one stop shop for cheap goods, yet to achieve that they built a monopoly of buying from farmers, requesting perfect shaped and long life fruit and veg or pushing farmers into battery produced meats / poultry to keep costs low enough to satisfy the supermarkets buyers to give their shareholders a profit.

Farmers, in an attempt to satisfy buyers, often have a large wastage of fruit or veg that doesn't fit supermarket packaging and it was only when this was highlighted did the supermarkets come up with their masterstroke of selling "wonky" products.

Only when the public cotton on do things change - a good example is battery hens to free-range or barn hens but with an increasingly higher cost to the public.

Another good example is that years ago tomatoes had flavour when you bought them from your local greengrocer, they weren't perfectly shaped and there wasn't wastage at the farms as there was no requirements to sell conformist products.

In markets in Spain, Portugal and so on, the demand for perfect looking products that are easy to package isn't the driver for the farmer or consumer, the drive is for taste and good quality not beauty.

With the rise of supermarkets, there was also a rise in ready meals which are bulked out with cheaper products or made to fool the brain using empty calories and giving us hedonic hunger to make us desire and eat more (normally caused by fat and sugar combinations) this in turn has a partial negative effect by adding to the obesity crisis. The ready meals in moderation aren't necessarily a problem but the cost factor (they often work our cheaper then buying the ingredients to make it yourself) means sales of them have shot up over the years.

Don't get me wrong, there is a place for supermarkets, but they have over the years removed choices including less independent greengrocers, fishmongers, butchers who all sold fabulous in season products thus making them more sustainable and better overall value. They have had a renaissance of late but in order to compete they have become more specialist (organic veg, sustainably reared meats ...) because the farmers who would have supplied them are either gone or now in exclusive supermarket contracts.

Overall, they best way to get to a more sustainable food market is to use local resources more, and less reliance on supermarkets. As demand for local businesses grows, more will open and farmers will start to supply them with the sorts of goods that our continental neighbours get from their local markets.

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I avoid supermarkets, buy fresh at markets (Peckham/Brixton), we cook all our meals from scratch, I?ve never had a ready meal (though I admit I tasted someone else?s - it was salty shite).

We?ll cook a batch of dishes and freeze them in portions for use when we?re pushed for time, but not packet food 🤮

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