My Uncle David had an allotment when I was a child. I remember the smell of freshly dug earth crawling into my nose, and the few seconds where I would check to see if we had chopped any worms as we dug. I was always told that if a worm was chopped in half, that it would simply become 2 worms, and they would each wiggle away.
I would without hesitation, pick up worms, and be both enchanted and disgusted with the feel of them moving on my grubby palms. I miss that girl sometimes, although I doubt my little Brother misses me flinging worms at him.
Whenever we harvested something, which was mainly vegetables, they would be carried in buckets or wrapped in newspaper and taken over the road to my Grandparents. There, in the kitchen sink that so many of us bathed in as a baby, we would wash away the earthy clods and scrub at the skins with a brush until they resembled something like the ones at the local Greengrocers.
Our bounty, our reward.
We did of course, only grow things that the UK climate allowed for, so we had whatever was indigenous, in season, and suitable for the little patch that Uncle David tended. Like Arthur Fowler, but less of the nicking the Christmas Club money and less nervous breakdown.
Whatever our treasures were, they were soon inside our bellies, in the glorious broths, stews and pies whose fragrance permeated the kitchen, and our hearts.
We have all of this still readily available to us, although no longer via our family allotment. We have all this, and more than we could ever have imagined a short while ago. I suspect that I, along with many of you, lack appreciation for the ease at which out of season fruits and vegetables are still in our kitchens. I doubt we ever marvel that there is a banana in the fruit bowl, despite the fact that it has travelled thousands of miles to be devoured by us.
The Western world has become accustomed, through years of abundance, to everything available to us, all year, in some form. If it isn’t fresh, it is frozen, tinned or dried. Our only consideration is what to do with it, as our culinary skills expand into an ever-increasing plethora of possibility. Yet our beginnings are becoming lost. We have lost our ability to marvel at how lucky we are to get a mango. A mango! So sweet and succulent and so exotic. We only need to decide the form in which we shall purchase it.
My fruit bowl consists of Bananas and Apples currently ( and oddly-some loose change). A quick check in my cupboard found tinned Peaches, Mandarins, Red Grapefruit, Pineapple rings and Mango puree. The freezer brought forth Blueberries, Cherries, Mango chunks and Pineapple pieces. Other than the cost to purchase them, I had given no thought to the fact that they had come from Swaziland, India, Costa Rica, Turkey and The Philippines. The Braeburns were from Kent. 257 miles away from where I purchased them. 257 miles is now local.
When did I stop realising how lucky I am? When it became so normal, that it was no longer a consideration. Gratitude smothered by indifference, delight by expectancy.
So, whether I am hankering after a simpler time, or merely trying to prove a point, I have decided to concentrate on some recipes that celebrate our abundance of UK produce. And whilst my veg box delivery next week may not reflect that, ( it’s a lucky dip and my only current form of excitement) I certainly will not be going out of my way to buy any fruit or vegetables that are not produced in the UK. I need to touch base, with the dark clods of earth, and worms, of my Motherland. Here is a great book to start with A Year of Recipes in Order of Season
Appreciation will return for both our own treasures, and those exotic ones, if I simply stop to think about how amazing it is to have this choice available to me. Go and get your head in your cupboards, go and look. Let me know in the comments where your food is from, and promise me that when you serve it or eat it, you will say
“Isn’t it amazing that this has come all the way from ..….., aren’t we lucky”
And that you will mean it.