JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Monday, June 02, 2008

One Local Summer: first thoughts

This is the week I've got to produce the first all-local meal of the summer. So first I've got to decide on a working definition of local. Harder than you'd think. I've been having nightmares that the only thing to eat will be dandelion leaves plucked from the lawn before we mow.

My first idea was to buy only produce from Oxfordshire. But Harpsden is right on the edge of the county, and produce from Berkshire or Buckinghamshire will often be more local than food from Oxfordshire. All three counties? Perhaps. Not much scope for fish, unless we catch it ourselves in the Thames, which seems a shame when I'm blogging from one of the great maritime nations.

My photograph shows Alfred out fishing on a backwater of the Thames with Dick in Jupiter, the lovely old dinghy he restored in our workshop. It was taken a couple of years ago, and they didn't catch a thing. I'm not sure they ever have. Certainly nothing has ever reached my kitchen.

The 100-mile diet is a tempting idea, although I fret that the scale is too big, too American for this small island: it would take us north to Leicestershire, which feels a long way from here, west right up to the Welsh border, but it would comfortably allow fish from the coast about 50 miles due south (although I wouldn't be able to buy fish from the Brixham fisherman who comes to Henley market each week, as Devon is a couple of hundred miles from here). On the other hand 100 miles makes sense because overcrowding, particularly here in the south, means that farming land has been squeezed, both for development and by hobby "farmers" who produce nothing at all (many of whom, indeed, treat their fields like extensions of their gardens) (don't get me started).

I think I'm going to oscillate between the two, and you're going to have to trust me to source produce as close to home as I can manage. Actually, that's pretty much a given, because I don't want to be driving around looking for things to eat - much of what we eat is delivered by organic box suppliers, on the grounds that the least eco-friendly part of the food chain is the bit where I get in the car and buy a bag of shopping. (Also on the grounds that someone else puts the shopping on my kitchen table, and the value of that is not to be underestimated.)

We are going to have one massive problem, one that's only just crossed my mind: my blog began because my husband had a heart attack, and I used the blog to keep track of the changes we were making to our diet. Thankfully, a lot of that dark time has receded to a haze, but one thing that still rings in my ears is the last part of the dietician's orders: blah blah blah, blah blah blah, butter - never! So we use oil instead, no butter substitutes, although I do use soft margerine for (very occasional) baking. Our locally-produced fat is butter. There's a bit of vibrant yellow oilseed rape, but I imagine it gets sold to the big producers ... you know that there will be rejoicing on the day I discover a local oil producer, cold-pressing the fruits of south Oxfordshire.

My challenge to you - for one week only, any week you choose:

One Local Summer is largely an American initiative, and registration has closed. I'll be posting the (small) International section every Tuesday for the next three months. I'd really like to increase non-American participation, so that next year it would be worth separating Europe from Canada, and involving other parts of the world too. So have a go, just for one week, send me your link, and I'll include you in the round-up. This is what you do:

The challenge will begin on Sunday, June 1 and run until Sunday, August 31. Your challenge: prepare one meal using only locally-grown ingredients - the exceptions are oil, salt and pepper, and spices. Send me the link to your post, and I'll include you in my round-up.

Useful links for One Local Summer

The Thames Valley Farmers' Market Co-operative
- they'll email you with reminders; I signed up this morning
Big British Food Map - this is a Channel 4 initiative, I was asked to contribute some ideas a couple of months ago, but I'm not sure how it's going. Later (I can't do that crossing out thing): Food bloggers' Britain (starting with my recommendations - thanks Andrew!)
The Fife Diet - a lively local food experiment
Local food web - this link is set to Oxon, but you can search for local produce outlets all over the UK
Slow Food UK
Slow Food Oxon ... this week's task: join this group

Links to related posts

Nettle soup
Nettle tea
Nettle beer
Ground elder salad
Elderflower syrup, plus a note on citric v tartaric acid in syrups
Elderflower champagne
Machine bread, local flour, from Wessex Mills

International participants in One Local Summer

Rural Aspirations
Garlic Breath ... the only blogger in this group that I already know: Riana is inspirational, and her example played a big part in my decision to get involved in this project
Sally at Diario

AND two other Canadians who may or may not have a blog - whatever, I don't yet have their details.

Seven of us. 133 in total. Please try to rise to this challenge, even once.


Anonymous said...

Hi Joanna, re: the Big British Food Map, it's going great. Thank you for your contributions (which folk can read here

Hope to see you when I'm Oxford way

David Hall said...

Hi Joanna, I need to remember this as our garden bucket experiment takes shape. Lots of things sprouting out of various sized containers so it will be about as local as it gets!


Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Great idea Joanna.

Anonymous said...

I saw a reference to locally produced rapeseed oil in Bread, Water, Salt, Oil:

Don't know if the farm in Northants is within 100 miles of you, but worth a try.

Joanna said...

Betsy thank you SO much for thinking of me ... amazingly, I have found cold pressed local rapeseed oil - and I've also found the Northampton oil, which is pretty local (ie within the 100 miles).


Wendy said...

I'll join in! Hoping to get lots of produce from my garden again this year. :)

Karen said...

Hi Joanna,

I'm one of your Canadian blog participants. I've registered with Nicole at FarmtoPhilly.

Seems like the Americans have a hard time with us International types - she doesn't have a bio for you and does for all the other co-ordinators, and the link to your blog on her site is incorrect (but it can be figured out, obviously).
And now I'm reading that you don't have the Canadian bloggers details from Nicole!

Anyway....*sigh*... I'm at The name of my blog is "Karen's Home on the Blog" and I'm in Southwestern Ontario.

My week one post will be up by the end of the day - I'm working on it now.