As I write this I am also eating my lunch (cheese and ham sandwiches, with mustard and pickle, on wholemeal bread, if you’re wondering!). I’m also mulling over in my mind tonight’s dinner, which will be curry. I think I may have made curry once or twice before but I can’t particularly remember how. Still, we’ve got various curry powders in the cupboard so I’ll just make it up as I go along! I often say that while I was taught to cook at school I learnt to cook on Iona, where I worked as a volunteer in the Abbey Kitchen in the summer between A-Levels and degree. I had a great time that summer, and learnt not just how to cook but also that I actually enjoy cooking as well. But in the years since graduating I’ve not really needed to call on my kitchen skills (other than washing up!). After graduation I did a job for which payment included weekday meals, and at weekends cooking interesting dishes just for myself seemed a little too much effort so my meals almost always came out of a tin or packet! And then, when I moved in with the now Mrs Nomad, the practicalities of family life meant that she almost always did the cooking (in return for the aforementioned washing up).
Yet now I find myself doing all the meals, at least until lectures and other stuff kick in at the beginning of the College term. And I’m loving it. Well, I say it’s me but yesterday the wee one actually came and helped out as we prepared a basic casserole to go in the oven, which was a really wonderful experience. Mrs Nomad and I both feel that it is important that children enjoy cooking, and also that they know where food comes from. I do think things are changing, thanks to initiatives like Healthy Schools and the work people like Jamie Oliver have done (love him or loathe him, Jamie’s work on school dinners has made a difference to some children’s lives), but I have seen for myself the look of realisation (and occasionally revulsion) as inner-city kids, visiting Iona, have for the very first time understood that the lamb on their plate is the same thing as they saw bleating and gambolling in the fields a few short hours ago (not the exact same thing, of course, as it takes time to get an animal from field, to abbatoir, to butcher, to kitchen, to plate). Wee One knows where meat comes from (she occasionally asks us “what animal did this come from?” if she’s having something new, or has simply forgotten that, say, ham comes from a pig), and she has helped grow vegetables with various members of her wider family. As someone raised in rural areas I too have also known where food comes from since a very young age – for the almost 10 years I lived in Shropshire our garden backed directly onto fields used to grow cereal crops, so I got to see the cycle of agricultural life, from ploughing to planting, to growing, to harvesting, and back to ploughing. I also went to school with farming kids, including pig farmers.
These experiences have given a strong appreciation for the efforts made by people who work the land, both in the UK and overseas, to provide food not just for their own table but for yours and mine as well. I’ll admit that we as a family generally shop in one of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains, and I am aware of what the almost insatiable demand for lower prices that these big chains make on farmers is doing to the agricultural industry (currently I feel guilt about my shopping habits but also an inability to change them currently). That said, when we were in Coulsdon we also got much of our fruit and vegtables from Riverford – who are both independent and organic (and fairtrade where possible if they’re bringing stuff in from overseas, which is never flown but is instead shipped). We hope, once we’re completely settled, to continue using them, possibly in collaboration with other Wesley residents, and I would encourage others to seek out what options are available to you (there are a growing number of veg box schemes out there, some of which are simply co-operatives of local producers and some which are specifically organic – both kinds of which are worth using and supporting).
We all know food is important, it’s what keeps us alive. But it’s also important to remember where it’s come from, that what you put on your plate and on your mouth is something other people have invested time and effort into. So, enjoy your food, have fun preparing and eating it, either on your own or with company, and always remember to be grateful: grateful for the people who worked hard to ensure the food you’re eating was grown or raised; grateful that you are one of those in the world who has food, unlike so many around the world who will go to bed tonight hungry.
Travel, and eat, well,