You know what I miss? About myself, that is. I miss too much to mention. But, in regard to my own nature, I miss my enthusiasm. Apparently, sometimes at job interviews, the final question is to ask the candidate to describe themselves in three words. When Al was a school governor, one of those candidates for a school headship apparently said “lazy” and, obviously, didn’t get the job. It’s “efficient,” love. But, though I have no idea about answers 2 and 3, my first word would have been enthusiastic. I’ve mislaid my zest and I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back.
All the same, this is an enthusiastic post because, here in the Waveney Valley, we’ve much to celebrate in regard to local food. I apologise for the clunky disguising of names from now on, but I don’t want to waste anyone’s time on a search engine by having them end up here.
I remember when Jonny was scouting around for a name for his new cheese and asked t’internets, though I don’t know who suggested B@ron B1god, but it’s now one of the best cheeses in the world. And it’s still made on the farm and sold at the farm gate (and many other places across the country), as is butter, yoghurt, raw milk and so on. It’s half a mile’s walk from me across the fields, or about 4 miles by road. If you go 4 miles the other way, you’ll find Albuurgh ice cream, made with fresh fruit and milk and a few miles down the road to Norridge, there’s a farm where they also sell raw milk and other dairy produce, but this is from their Jersey herd, where the calves are left with their mothers until they’re old enough to be weaned.
Blue Witch mentioned H0dmed0ds, which is a fabulous little company, not too far into Suffolk. They produce all sorts of beans, seeds and pulses, grown in this country. I have carlin peas, fava beans, smoked quinoa and chickpeas in the cupboard, but I’ve bought other stuff too. And it gets better, because Pete the baker, who’s at the market every Thursday morning, has his bakehouse on the H0dmed0d premises and uses their products wherever possible. He’s a lovely man and his bread is fabulous. I’d love to be able to make wholemeal rye and buckwheat sourdough bread of his quality, but I doubt I ever will.
The Sun-day Charcuterie is based in Oulton Broad, the village (it’s a bit big to be called a village and it’s long been a suburb of Lowestoft) where I grew up. They make truly wonderful salamis and so on and the best terrines and pâtés I’ve tasted since my mother used to make them in the 1960s. Jacqie at M@rsh Pig also has fabulous porky charcuterie and is more established, so I feel okay about giving my custom to the young couple at OB. We are surrounded by farm shops with their home-raised meat and local game.
Vegetables come from Cl1nks C@re F@rm, which is 20 minutes or so drive away. If you’ve ever thought that veggies don’t taste like they used to (assuming you don’t grow your own) then you’re right. And I read an article about how less fibrous and nutritious they are nowadays, too. Hardly surprising, when they’re grown under cover, in compost, heavily watered and fertilised – even strawberries are grown on tables now, so that pickers don’t have to stoop and they’re unaffected by too much or too little sunlight or rain. But Cl1nks is different, or rather it’s how it used to be. A lettuce, even, has taste and texture. They have a farm shop but, luckily, they deliver to my local greengrocer twice a week.
There has been no shortage of anything I’ve wanted to buy there. There are more than one or two reasons for empty shelves, but one of them is that supermarkets won’t pay the cost of production in this country. I have to say, my greengrocery bill has rocketed over the last few years. I spent £38 last week and, a few years ago – not that long, during lockdown – it was more like £22. I didn’t entirely buy seasonally, nor locally, though I did where I could – oh, that reminds me of the wonderful mushroom farm, where they grow ‘wild’ mushrooms – oysters, chanterelles, porcini and so on. They are based near Ipswich and I met the growers at our food market in the autumn. I bought all the mushrooms I’d never heard of. Hedgehog mushrooms, anyone? They’d bought them in from Scotland, apparently. We do have a local mushroom farm, by the way, which has good, standard mushrooms, but nothing specialised.
Anyway, I don’t begrudge money spent on good food from a local shop. I know the work that’s gone into its production and I know that the greengrocer has hopefully bought it in and, if someone doesn’t pick it up and pay the price, it’s a dead loss. So if there has been a frost and the remaining cauliflowers cost more, I just pay. Likewise fish. I think of those brave fishermen, buggered if I’d do that job. It’s just my mouth to feed, I don’t have a family here any more and so I don’t have to worry about the cost of it.
I haven’t mentioned the local vineyard and winemaker in this very village, have I? Though I have praised them in the past, I know. There are plenty of vineyards round here now and, unsurprisingly, very good brewers too.
My enthusiasm is piggybacked onto those wonderful entrepreneurs who’ve put so much work and dedication into providing superb food. I’m just grateful to be here, now, when I can support them a bit.
By the way, I managed to run out of butter. I know. I’d been meaning to cycle up to the farm, but the cat went to sleep on my lap and the weather wasn’t very nice anyway. It’s occurred to me now that it’s not a very good cycling road on a weekday, rather scary traffic and no pavement, so I might have to drive after all. But I decided on cauliflower cheese this evening before realising I had literally no butter, so I used olive oil instead.
Learn from me. Don’t. It was oddly lumpy, I was unable to cook the lumps out. And, despite plenty of cheese, it lacked flavour, although it was the best extra virgin of its sort (I bought that at the street market too, it’s from a family farm in Cyprus) and is delicious. It isn’t butter, however and I’m not making that mistake again.