Some thoughts on English eating…

I’m fresh from my trip to England. It was great and I can’t wait to go back again.

Between work and play I found time to make a few observations about food in England. Where in the US it’s a specialty thing to have locally sourced food, it’s the norm in England. Go to a pub: many of them brew their own house beer or ale from local wheat and even their taps of brand name beers will be labelled “Made with 100% British wheat.” Their packets of crisps are “Made with 100% British potatoes.” Even the street food vendors, like the terrific crepe man (who cooked the crepes fresh in front of you) used all locally sourced dairy.

Britain is very proud of its sustainability and self sufficiency. Perhaps that’s still left over from the Victory Garden mindset of the 40s. They are a tiny island that is both proud and powerful.

Of course they do import many spices and some more exotic ingredients, but their markets are overflowing from food from their own backyard. Even their beef (I don’t really do beef at home in the US) is from nearby. It tastes so much better because it’s allowed to graze and live.

Amidst all the local food, natural flavors, and their delightful ban on high fructose corn syrup, there is one puzzling thing. That’s their love of aspartame. They use natural sugar in their soft drinks which is great. Then they throw in a dash of artificial sweetener to amp it up which is terrible. It makes their sodas sweeter than sweet. Most of us have heard about the risks of these chemicals, even the US government has to admit they might be linked to brain tumors and cancer , but not definitely enough to ban them. Regardless, it’s not a good thing to put in your body and it’s completely unnecessary to the flavor of the beverage.

Ah well, something to figure out on my next trip I suppose.

Visit Your Local Farm Store

Last week I made yet another trip down to Traugers, a farm along route 611 in Kintnersville PA. It’s a great family own farm and store. There are often children and dogs running through the store, in fact. If that doesn’t bother you then you can find many treasures therein.

They sell their own fresh produce as it comes in, as well as local honey, baked goods, candies, items from other local farms, and even some basic groceries like flour, apple butter (wait… that’s not a basic grocery?), and much more.

I picked up some of those great fresh beets in the upper left corner. They are terrific steamed or roasted.

Ideally, we should eat with the season. When a crop is in season we should make the most of it and enjoy it at its peak freshness.  Now, frozen and imported vegetables get us through the winter, but I blamed these (along with the worst culprit: canned vegetables) for being the reason why so many children and adults seem to hate vegetables.

First of all, there are so many different varieties of vegetables, it’s pretty impossible to hate them all. Just in the picture above there;s onions, garlic, beets, cucumbers, green beans, yellow beans. Something freshly picked is always better than something that’s taken a week or two from farm to table. That’s one of the best parts about supporting local farms.

The other great part is helping to keep alive family farms. More and more farmland is being bought up for development or sold to corporate farms to be used in prepackaged, over-produced food sold in grocery stores.

I think the best way to eat healthy is to know what you’re eating. Buying it straight from the source before it’s been tampered with or “improved” with chemical flavor enhancers, you know exactly what you’re getting. It gives you the opportunity to flex your creative culinary muscle with new recipes, or just nibble at something raw. Like these delicious little baby plums I bought a quart of:

They are only somewhat bigger than cherries with sweet, mild red flesh, and some tartness right around the pit.

Hopefully this has encouraged you to check out your own local farms to see what healthy and conscientious food choices you can make there. Many farms and orchards will even let you go out and pick your own apples, strawberries, and other fruits from their crop for a small fee.