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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

There is a sign currently on display at Costa coffee shops saying that 7 out of 10 Coffee Lovers Prefer Costa.        Well, not me.   I am one of the 3 in 10 who go out of my way to avoid it, because I just don’t like their coffee.    I can live with that.

But there are situations when the only shop available is a Costa, and the choice is either to put up with it, or go without.   So, looking for a quick coffee and pain aux raisin in Edinburgh Airport to fill a gap before my flight was called, Costa was the nearest to the gate, and as time was short, breakfast was bought here.    The coffee was, as expected,  not great, but the pain aux raisin would have won prizes for its sheer nastiness.    Crispy it was not – bendy and  very rubbery it most certainly was.      Just a flabby disc of sheer foulness.

Why does it have to be like this?    It was 8.00 am – breakfast time for many people (except the group of Scots already hungrily downing pints of beer at the bar, who were clearly running to their own timetable) so there should have been a quick turnover of fresh breakfast items.    I was sold yesterday’s produce.

So 0/10 for Costa.    

I prefer Cafe Nero any day.

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Picking Brambles

Peter Rabbit famously bunked off family bramble picking to visit the delights of Mr MacGregor’s garden, and ended up being put to bed with camomile tea while everyone else ate fresh blackberries for their supper.

Ever since I can remember, I have picked brambles every autumn.    There is something wonderful about the big black shiny fruits which are so packed with flavour, and something challenging about struggling through jaggy thickets to reach the biggest juiciest berries.

We do cheat a bit these days, because we have trained a bramble along a wall in our garden, and get most of what we need from there.    But I do try and get along a hedgerow or two as well.    For old time’s sake.

But only this month of course, as anyone knows who has tried to eat brambles next month:   the devil spits on them in October.

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So, Waitrose want to sell milk in bags.     What goes around, comes around.

I remember that in the 1970s, milk came in bags.   You were given a special plastic jug to stick your milk bag in, cut off the corner with a pair of scissors, and simply poured.     As long as you were nifty with the scissors the pouring was drip free.    Too small a hole, and it took aeons to fill a glass;   too big and the whole lot came out in a tidal wave totally flooding out your breakfast cereal.     Milk speedily moved on to tetrapak and we now have the hard plastic bottles.

Interestingly, Canada stuck with milk bags, and now sells 60% of its milk that way.     We could save 100,000 tonnes of waste plastic bottles if all the UK milk came in bags.

I think this time round though, you are supposed to empty the whole bag into the jug.

Waitrose Milk Bags

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Scottish Food

Interesting that the SNP are looking at a policy which will promote Scottish food.    Scottish Food means less food miles of course, and will help our own farming industry.

But there will always be issues of seasonality, quality and price to get around.   Sometimes Scottish food can actually be more expensive than food which has travelled miles to get here.    

The policy in our house is to buy Scottish if possible, then British if possible, and only then, imported.    But this decision is quality driven too.

Food is actually too cheap:   the retail price index has risen 22% in the last 10 years, but the price of food has only risen 8.5% in that time.  

But food ethics are complicated:   if we buy more Scottish food, where does that leave our overseas suppliers, some of which may be poor countries who frankly need the cash.     

The solution to the food debates is really in the hands of people buying food on a week in, week out basis:   if Scottish stuff is snapped up, creating demand, then the industry will eventually adapt to fill that demand.    Similarly, if we all bought more free range chicken and eggs, then supply and demand would be addressed by the industry.   Consumers really are king.

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Poultry on TV

It has been an interesting week on Channel 4  Chicken TV.

Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall tried to contact the poultry industry to let him film the intensive production, but not a single poultry producer would let him in.    As a farmer, I find that quite appalling, as we have to be answerable to our final consumers.    So HFW created his own intensive chicken house and matched it with a chicken house with free range.   At the same time he persuaded local people from an estate in Axminster to run their own completely free range system.     

It made reasonably good TV – if a little sensationalist, but it was saluatory to be able to show the different systems of chicken production.

HFW tried to speak to the supermarkets, and for the most part, they were not playing ball.    Again, they should have been big enough to stand up and justify what they are doing.

I expect that we will be eating more free range birds as a nation, which I agree with completely.    But the reality is that cheap chicken will always be popular simply because it is cheap.   

Interestingly, a poultry organsation has complained that HFW’s intensive shed did not meet the ‘Red Tractor Symbol’  standard.   Well guys, if you refused to discuss what you do as an industry, you have no absolutely right to complain.    The program made it very clear that HFW had gone to a lot of time and trouble to create true commercial conditions.

 And Jamie Oliver had another go at eggs and chicken  on Friday – I think I rather prefer his style, and he was more successful at getting some of the stakeholders to take part.  

Interesting issues raised.   I only wish that they would occasionally show outdoor poultry in the rain and wind.   There is nothing so miserable as a cold drenched hen, yet my dozen egg free-rangers choose to be outdoors unless the weather is particularly nasty.

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I was at a meeting over at Erskine during the big storm on Tuesday.   

The hotel was 3 star, and was struggling a bit to keep its standards up.    The ladies loos would not flush;   there was no hot water in the gents loos – in fact, if you turned on the cold tap of one basin, cold water came out of the hot tap at the basin next door.     Our meeting room was boiling, and the only way of sorting it was to open a window – not a great idea with a wind strong enough to close the Erskine Bridge battering away outside.

Thankfully the lunch and coffees and teas etc. were all fine.

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Tea or Coffee?

I was at a farmers meeting in Perth today.   

Initial cup of tea went well.    Cup of tea at breaktime was certainly neither tea nor coffee – it looked and tasted like a mixture.    The flasky thing said “tea”.    It was totally ghastly.

I was not brave enough to stay for lunch.

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