1. A local food renaissance
When I was growing up on a farm in 1970s Northern Ireland - eating local produce was really our only choice.
As a result of the Troubles, Northern Ireland was slow to embrace the highly processed and industrially manufactured foods that dominated the British food landscape from the late 1960s. However the arrival of the major supermarkets allowed Northern Ireland to catch up with the rest of the UK. The ‘plain food’ that we had grown up with was now eclipsed by the exotic fruits, vegetables, spices and cuisines that Northern Irish people were sampling on their frequent travels abroad.
This celebration of food from outside of Northern Ireland at the expense of local homegrown produce, however, now appears to have come full circle. Local chefs, food writers and restaurateurs are now embracing and contributing to Northern Ireland's food revolution deciding to cook, savour and celebrate the food on their doorsteps.
2. What's in it for me?
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Shopping and cooking local undoubtedly takes a bit more thought and planning. Here are some of the reasons why it might be worth the additional effort.
3. Know your seasons?
In Northern Ireland lush pastures, a temperate climate and plentiful rainfall contribute to what can be produced at certain times of the year.
However, because of the year-round availability of most foods on our shelves we could be forgiven for confusing or forgetting about the seasons entirely. A recent BBC Good Food study found that only 5% of those polled could correctly pinpoint when blackberries are ready for picking. And this despite over 86% professing to believe in the importance of seasonality. When making the decision to eat local honing in on what’s actually in season is probably the first step.
Challenged to eat only locally for a week, families involved in my Doorstep Challenge quickly became very aware of the role that the seasons play in their fruit consumption. Although lamenting their lack of family staples such as bananas they acknowledged that buying seasonable produce made them think and cook much more creatively and opened their eyes to the taste of fresh local ingredients.
5. Good food culture
Can producing and eating local food help the wider community?