By Holly Black
As part of the Going Local Going Green research project we’re embarking on a 100-mile diet – or the ‘locavore diet' as I have come to call it. In other words, only eating food that has been grown, processed and sourced within 100 miles of Bristol.
From the moment we start, I will adopt the locavore test to see if what I'm consuming is local or not. When I walk into a café I will conduct the locavore test. When I head to a friends house for a cup of tea – I will ask the inevitable (and occasionally annoying) questions of the locavore test. Before I bake a cake – I'll locavore test the ingredients. It may become a thing. (It also may not become a thing because I fear I’m slowly becoming that person – the difficult one that claims to have a wheat intolerance, or not eat animal products, or who can only eat raw, fallen foods from the trees of Eden and so on.)
How are we doing it?
We’re not crazy – although we may appear to be slipping into some version of mildly odd to the untrained eye. We’re undertaking this project to help us work out what we mean by ‘local’. After all, we are doing a research project that falls under the label of ‘Going Local, Going Green’. When we talk about local, be it the local shops or the local area, what is it that actually makes it local? Is it the fact it’s in walking distance, that it’s familiar to us, or is it more than that? When it comes to food it gets even more complicated. Did I buy it locally? Was it processed locally? Was it grown or bred locally? Were the seeds local/ heritage/ native to the country or region? Where did the soil come from? These are all things we have to think about (maybe not the soil bit for now). Taking inspiration from the Canadian couple Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon in their book ‘Plenty’, and the amazing food hubs emerging throughout the UK with the Open Food Network, we’re slowly developing a feeling of what ‘local food’ means in the contemporary sense of the word.
What have we done so far?
So far we’ve set dates to start the diet. Then changed them. Then set them again, then changed them again. My initial lassaiz faire attitude is starting to back fire on me as the fear and the list of ‘can’t haves’ slowly builds. We’ve been keeping food diaries in order to start thinking about where our food comes from. We’ve been researching certain products, such as flour, oil and tea to try and find UK born and bred versions of these, which we will report back on as we go. We’re going to keep video diaries, blogs and reviews on how we’re doing once the diet is underway. We’re compiling the aforementioned list of ‘can’t haves’, which will hopefully eventually become a list of ‘substitutes to’. And we’re mainly talking about it. A lot. To anyone that will listen. Friends, family, strangers and people who might know things that we need to know – like Graham from Bertha’s Pizza who travelled the west coast of the USA in hope to find the best blend of flour for his pizza, or Jo Elliot from First Great Western on why they’ve decided to source from 15 miles around the train tracks in the South West for the food supplied on the train.
But – why?
There are loads of reasons to experiment with eating locally from supporting the local economy to understanding where food comes from. I know there are important elements like carbon footprints and food miles – but my main concern is that we’re supporting farmers that look after the soil beneath our feet. And that the food we eat is tasty.
1. I want to support local farmers and growers
2. I want to be aware of the rich diversity of food in our local area
3. I want to understand the implications of globalisation on our food system
4. I want to reconnect with my food
What do we think will happen?
Who knows? Maybe it will be easy. Maybe it will be really hard. I’m guessing it will be more of the former due to our location – we’re not based in the Sahara Desert after all. Yet I do still keep getting these waves of fear. What about coffee? What about tea? What if I can’t find any oats for my daily porridge? What about my hangover cure of a Big Mac Meal with a Coca-cola and packet of salt’n’vinegar crisps? WHAT ABOUT BOOZE?
Below you can find a list of rules we will stoically stick by…. and a couple of caveats. There needs to be some exceptions to the rules, right? Follow us on this blog with the locavore diet tag, or on twitter @goinglocalgreen and we’ll let you know how we’re getting on.
- All food and drink must be grown and/or produced within 100 miles of Bristol
- Cornwall is included in the 100 miles (it basically is anyway…)
- All elements of the food or drink product must be from within 100 miles: if it is bread, the flour, water, oil, salt and any other inputs and ingredients must be from within 100 miles.
- The same goes for booze. All ingredients must come from within 100 miles of Bristol.
- If we can’t get the information needed to determine where the whole product is from and we’re buying it from a shop – it’s not allowed.
- If travelling further afield than Bristol, the 100 miles starts with where the individual is located.
- Household ingredients that have already been bought are not allowed to be used for the trial period of month one (then we'll see...)
- When housemates or lovers are cooking for us, the meals are subject to the diet.
- Coffee shops mean consuming strictly only local teas/ coffees/ drinks. Sorry.
- Food at work meetings that cannot be avoided. ie. crew catering at Glastonbury or a work meal provided for you.
- If you are eating out, try to go for the meal and drinks with the most local ingredients. This doesn't mean we get to eat out every night. We promise.
- If we can’t get the information needed to determine where the whole dish is from and we’re buying it from a restaurant, but over 50% of the plate is local – it’s allowed.
- Family gatherings/ friends for dinner - try and discuss before hand and explain the project - forfeit some food if you know it's not local.
- At the pub - only drink locally sourced beers/ wines/ whiskeys etc – don’t forget all of the product’s ingredients are relevant here – some research of ingredients in advance might help. But it might not.
Wish us luck - this might be tougher than we think. You can follow us here, or on twitter: @GoingLocalGreen