Things the locavore diet has taught me
For the past two months I have been eating a locavore diet; that is to say, I have been eating only food produced within 100 miles of Bristol.
It might sound a bit extreme, but it's all part of a research project called Going Local Going Green where a group of 4 Bristol dwellers have been looking at what it really means to go local and go green in our fair city - including the way in which we buy and eat our food.
The Locavore diet has been a massive learning curve for me. I’ve really struggled on some days. Some days I’ve found it so easy I laugh in the face of my dinner options; on other days I’ve sat down to some serious ideological debate in my head as to why exactly we’re doing this.
There are lots of things I’ve learnt, and, at this point - with just one month left of the 100 days of 100 miles - I wanted to share some of the best parts of eating 100% locally. One thing that runs through all of these ideas like a golden thread is the connection I have with where my food comes from: the story of my food, and the importance of this story.
The Joy of Fermenting
Fermentation is some kind of magic. This book ‘The Art of Fermentation’ by Katz is incredible, and the boys over at Handsome Boy Pickles spent an evening with us to show us just how easy preserving and pickling is, and how delicious it can be when you get it perfectly right (their jalapeno pickled eggs were out of this world). Fermenting foods like cabbage to create Sauerkraut (or beetroot to create a form of beetkraut) is so simple anyone can do it; and what you get is a delicious and nutritional food. Fermentation can be found in loads of cultures across the world, with a huge variety of recipes from Kimchi to Kombucha - showing there is something out there for everyone. This is a perfect way to keep vegetables for winter, and I’m sure those 5 cucumbers I’ve been hoarding under the potatoes will taste delicious with some nasturtium seeds and a couple pints of cider vinegar.
The Vices: Chocolate and Coffee
Diets are dangerous. I have never claimed to have much self-control, and this diet has shown my true colours. After a serious commitment in the first few weeks, once I was out of my home and into the festival world lots of things went out of the window. Chocolate and coffee, however, were some of the last. Only in my extreme moments of weakness (birthday parties, hangovers, premenstrual moments) have I succumbed to these two. I truly believe that everything is okay in moderation, and these two foodstuffs have been around the houses to get to where they are today. Some chocolate companies are founded on their sustainable and fair credentials (likeGreen & Blacks and Booja Booja), and some coffee companies are doing all they can to support indigenous communities across the world by using certification processes like Ethical Trade, Fair Trade, organic certification and the Rainforest Alliance. So if I’m going to lapse back into these two, I’ll try and make sure I do it in the fairest way possible.
Now, I have a sweet tooth - a really sweet tooth. I love exotic fruit (I love bananas and oranges in particular), and I thought I might cry when these were taken away from me. But, it turns out, I don’t really miss them. I’ve mostly missed apples, and now that they’re in season I’m feeling very content. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed eating seasonally when it comes to fruit - first cherries and rhubarb, then plums, strawberries and blackberries. Now the raspberries are out, and soon I’ll be able to harvest some rosehips and elderberry. Who needs a pineapple when you’ve got a hedgerow?
Again, tea is something that I thought I would be struggling with quite significantly - and, at the beginning, it felt very surreal not to have a cup of tea when I woke up. But it turns out that I can live without tea (shock & horror). In fact, I don’t really miss it anymore. Some herbal teas I miss (like pretty much everything Pukka ever made), but I have taken to using fresh lemon balm, mint or rosemary. Rosemary is kind of like a roast dinner in a cup; it’s delicious. And it feels amazing to refresh your digestive system in the morning with a cup of hot water and fresh herbs. Hippie? Probably. But my body loves me for this change.
The best thing about this project, which has hands down changed the way I think about food, is the joy of fresh food. Now hardly any of the vegetables I eat have been plastic wrapped. Most of them come straight via my veg box (Sims Hill Shared Harvest) and salad bag scheme (Edible Futures). My meat is fresh from the small local farms that Source supplies from; they know each of their suppliers incredibly well. Fish is more or less the same - via Source. My eggs come from Wiltshire, or from Elm Tree Farm at St. Nicks market on a Wednesday. All these are complemented by delicious Netherend Severn Vale butter and River Cottage yoghurt from the Better Food Company. The only things that I eat that come in packages are Hodmedods peas, Pimhill oats, flour for bread from Sharpham Park and honey from my good friends-come-new-beekeepers Ollie and Eve down in Dorset.
All in all, it’s pretty good. The relative convenience of different foods has become highlighted for me now; there is not much snacking happening apart from fruits or cheese. And booze is pretty much off the table - although now I do allow myself the occasional drink, as long as it’s a local brew from a local company (like Wiper and True). And eating out has relaxed somewhat as well: I’m not going to kick myself if my meal is seasoned with paprika or covered in olive oil. In fact, I’ll probably embrace it.
Read more from Holly here