Monday, 28 March 2011

Get fresh - and real!

Two things made me stop and think this weekend.

The first was on Saturday when I was reading the paper - we buy a paper on the weekend for the tv listings - and I came across an article about "just how fresh is fresh food at the supermarket?" - short answer appears not to be very fresh at all. Apparently, eggs could be almost a month old, bread 10 days since it was baked, apples 6 months since they were on the tree. There are two sides to this - I do understand that it is perfectly possible to store apples (my granny used to keep them in boxes in the coal shed, each one painstakingly wrapped in paper) and we used to eat them, knowing that they were every so slightly wrinkly and soft because that is how they go when they have been stored like that. But expectations of the masses are rising, and it is no longer acceptable for an apple to be wrinkly - now it has to look as if it plopped off the tree this morning, fresh and firm, and so today's markets provide us with an apple which has been in cold storage for months to keep it looking "right".

Bread - well, there is a world of difference between the loaves that my grandfather rose hours before dawn to bake in his bakery so that the village could have fresh bread on a daily basis and what is marketed as fresh bread today. It is no longer baked in the villages, but in supermarkets and shops where it might actually not be made from scratch but just part-baked to finish it off. And so it has to travel further....and so it can't get here that fast, so it has to have preservatives and junk added to keep it longer so that it still tastes "good" when it finally arrives at the shop, up to two days after it was made, and then sits on the shelf for a couple of days, before being brought home to sit in a bread bin for a day or two. SO different from home made bread, often made and eaten the same day, or at least made yesterday and frozen this morning.

It appears that legally, eggs can be up to 10 days old before they even get to the supermarket, so how they call those "fresh" I don't know. When I tell someone that my eggs are fresh, that usually means laid that day or the day before. We have on occasions had to go and raid the henhouses to get eggs for a neighbour and that means that the eggs they used for their omelette were only hours old. That's fresh!

I'm not even going to go into fresh fruit and veg, flown half way around the world in some cases, or washed in loads of chemicals and put in bags in other examples. Plot to plate in 10 yards is the best we can do here and even when we get things from UJ, it has come less than 20 miles, and has usually been picked the night before. And fruit juice - the mind boggles - frozen, concentrated, reconstituted, the variations are endless. Can we no longer squeeze an orange?! Or even better, just eat the orange and get all the fibre and goodness from the whole fruit, instead of just the juice, which is very high in sugar.

And then there was counterfeit food! John Craven Investigates is a regular feature on Countryfile on a Sunday evening on BBC1 - an excellent programme, and one we usually watch. Here we learned about honey that may not be what it claims to be, the subtle differences between "produce of"/"sourced from" and a barrowload of other terms which people can use to mislead the general public to make their produce appear more attractive.

All this made me count my blessings and give thanks for the place I live and the opportunities it affords me, the lifestyle I am able to choose to live which allows me to grow food and preserve it simply, the family I have with the years of wisdom to share and learn from, and the skills I have learned and continue to acquire to support my aims and ideals.


Lesley said...

So, is it better to eat apples that have been in cold storage with the associated energy use, or eat apples that have travelled half way around the world? Or not eat apples at all this time of year? The supermarket is an ethical quagmire!

Morgan said...

I guess we should be looking at what is in season first of all and then at food miles/energy usage. The early Spring "hungry gap" is well documented and I don't know the answer - I like pondering the questions and seeing what difference I can make in our lives.

Lesley said...

I think that you are right. Usually I do my cogitating on it half way down the fruit and veg aisle which lengthens my shopping trip a fair bit! It would certainly help if the supermarkets produced honest labelling which gave an accurate CO2 footprint. We do try and grow what we can from home, but you can only grow so much in a small garden!