I was reading the latest issue of Woman and Home this morning as I tucked into breakfast. A small sideline article on farmer’s markets made me smile. Winchester was ranked number one. This bodes well, I thought as I polished off my gluten-free crumpet (a delicious new discovery) as that is the very place I’m heading off to now.
One thing the article praised was Winchester’s huge choice of produce and this cannot be disputed. The bi monthly market boasts up to 90 stalls, all selling local delights from around Hampshire. The market runs all year round and even though the cold wind hurried us along, the tables were groaning with food. As a student catering for one, the quantities I buy are very reasonable and I managed to bring home the majority of my weekly shop.
Much to the amusement/disgust of my housemates, I bought a single pigeon for £1.50 to experiment with. Also in my hessian bag were two pork noisettes for £3.28, two parsnips for 60p, half a dozen free range eggs for £1 (deal of the day!) and a bag of assorted vegetables including onions, brussel sprouts and purple carrots for £1.60. The student friendly prices made me beam. It was also wonderful to take my housemates along to this week’s market. They revelled in the value of the stock and the variety on offer.
I am becoming increasingly intrigued by the ethics surrounding food. I grimace when I think about how much food has been handled before it reaches my trolley. It is unnerving also to think about what has been added to my food to retain the pristine appearance found in the supermarkets. I want to consciously eat vegetables that still have dirt on them, eggs with feathers in the box and meat that was grazing on the surrounding hills not too long ago. I no longer want to rely on the money making supermarkets that are such a hindrance to our country’s farmers. As a nation, I don’t think we should allow ourselves to be at the mercy of our imports and exports. Trade has brought such wonderful things to us, but it threatens our agricultural landscape, as well as our ability to be self-sufficient.
I want to support local businesses but I fear I am too late. Despite my success at the market, I still had to trek to the local supermarket in order to purchase milk, cereal and my specialist gluten-free rolls. The way we shop has undeniably altered since the emergence of the convenient supermarket. I hark for the wartime style of shopping, visiting the butcher’s, baker’s and grocer’s in turn. I do applaud technological advances that mean we don’t have to stand around in daily queues and can store food with greater ease. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the food we pile into our fridges is better for us.
My plan is to visit every farmer’s market this year. As for the in-between weeks, we are currently searching for a farm shop that celebrates heritage, promotes good quality food and is from a sustainable source. Just like Winchester Farmer’s Market.