Mid-summer’s night dream it wasn’t. Up beyond the village there was a celebration in a field with Scottish folk dancing and stalls selling delicacies, but the rain kept falling and we didn’t go anywhere except to huddle under the duvet. I was sleepy and reading a biography of Bruce Chatwin, there was football on the television, the night was very dark. A pity and I thought of Wild Huntsmen riding along the ridges of the Black Mountain and springs suddenly gushing in the moonlight, wells echoing in damp groves — but off I went to sleep and woke to more rain and wind.
These days I find that there are some things that I find easier to understand, including the Internet, global politics, paganism, recovery from alcoholism etc. But some things seem unnecessarily cloaked in obfuscation. Choices around purchasing a cell phone, for example. How much definition do I need for the camera accompanying my cellphone? Do I need Bluetooth?
And then there is the mystification and complexity surrounding food politics. The food here in the supermarkets looks gorgeous, plump and polished and colourful, fresh, immaculately packaged and cheap enough. It tastes of nothing. I dread shopping for food. Markets are expensive and the choice is limited but at least what I am eating is local and sometimes grown outside polytunnels. In South Africa, with our hot sunshine, meneral-rich soils and rampant insect life, vegetables can emerge scarred and misshapen but they taste delicious. At least cabbages and pumpkins taste like cabbages and pumpkins. The bread I buy in the Cape, no matter where I shop, is local bread and excellent. It doesn’t have to be enriched. Our poorer communities eat much tastier and more nutritional food than the Englsih middle class. That has shocked me. I come back from a supermarket with fruit from Broazil, Spain, Kenya, Holland or Asia and it tastes like aerated plastic. Real food costs a fortune. I don’t know why this is the case. Pale egg yolks, flabby lemons, watery tomatoes, cardboard apples. Great hygiene and packaging but no content.
Each article I read on food miles or rising prices or the meat industry tells me something different. It is as if the average Brit consumer is so used to thinking of herself/himself as having a privileged and luxurious lifestyle replete with choices that she or he can’t begin to realise they are badly off. Last week I had some Fairtrade coffee and it tasted like soap. The blurb on the packaging read like a copywriter’s dream. So noble, so altruistic, so well-intended. But the coffee was awful. Good intentions don’t make up for inedible produce.
This week less meat and more lentils, pulses and roughage. And more looking into the elusive economics of where my food is coming from, what Waitrose/Tesco, Sainsbury’s is doing wrong, along with the organic farmers’ markets. There has to be a solution buried in here somewhere.