The Slow Shopper: Preserves and Veg Boxes
I’m pleased to tell you that my attempt to shop completely without supermarkets or other chains is going pretty well so far. I’ve had plenty of enjoyable shopping experiences, which in all honesty have taken up a bit more of my time than supermarket shopping would, but the things I’ve bought as a result have been ten times better. I must confess though, I’m failing on the ethical petrol front, since I’m not sure such a thing exists. Sadly I’m pretty dependant on my car to get to work, and ‘independent’ petrol stations seem very hard to find. Getting my unleaded from Cooperative petrol stations is the best compromise I’ve found.
Why ‘the Slow Shopper’?
The title of my blog is inspired by the Slow Food Movement , which started out in Italy in 1986. Beginning thanks to one Italian food activist’s enthusiasm and drive it’s grown into a global, grassroots movement that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and environment. It’s all about taking the time to celebrate food heritage, and understanding the implications of our food choices for the environment, biodiversity and our health. Ultimately this is what my quest to be a more ethical shopper is all about.
After less than a month of Slow Shopping, I feel like I’m already more connected with my local area and the people and businesses in it. I thought I’d struggle to find an independent pharmacy as the market is so dominated by Boots and Superdrug, but once I took the time to look I discovered Hirst Andrew pharmacy in Elland, a few minutes from Suma’s warehouse. OK so they don’t happen to stock my favourite brand of stripy whitening toothpaste, but it turns out I can live without it (I haven’t given up toothpaste altogether you’ll be relieved to hear, just switched brands). The other week I wanted to buy a picture frame as a wedding gift for a friend, and was a bit stumped about where to go for one. Thank goodness for Google Maps search is all I can say; I found a gem of a place called Direct Frames in Wakefield. When I visited the workshop the owner patiently showed me a range of different frame borders and sizes. After I’d made my selection he proceeded to make my frame from scratch right then and there, in the space of ten minutes, for a very reasonable price. Now that’s what I call a personal service! It’s a world away from buying a frame made on a production line from an anonymous and disinterested shop assistant in a department store. Plus I have the satisfaction of knowing that the profit is going straight to the guy who made the frame.
Veg through the post
Another positive slow shopping experience came thanks to some advice I was given to join a veg box scheme. It’s something I’ve considered before, but I’ve always been scared off by the fact that you can’t really choose what to cook on a whim, as the contents of your box have already made your meal decisions for you. Despite my inhibitions I did a bit of research and decided to try my luck with Farmaround , an organic box scheme based in North Yorkshire. I say ‘box’ scheme, technically it’s a bag scheme as last week my first order of fruit and veg was waiting for me in a big brown sack when I got home. Now I think about it it’s a bit tragic really, but my heart leapt with excitement when I stuck my hand in the bag and pulled out the biggest leek I’ve ever seen! There was loads of stuff in the bag, including things I rarely ever buy like rhubarb. This had quite the opposite effect from making my kitchen repertoire predictable; instead I have to think of new and interesting ways to combine the random selection of produce in my fridge. Tonight was a prime example; stir-fry of courgette, aubergine and pak choi with some Cheatin’ Chicken I picked up at work and a dubious Japanese curry sauce I found lurking in the cupboard. Honestly, it was a taste sensation.Chutney and cheese
In true ‘Good Life’ style, my husband James and I went all self-sufficient and had a heavy session in the kitchen making preserves. James whipped up batch of red onion chutney, while I tried my hand at making goat’s cheese. I flavoured it with some wild garlic I foraged in the local woods before knitting myself a pair of bloomers from some wild hemp (OK, that last bit wasn’t quite true). My cheese has all the flavour of a piece of sponge, but the chutney will no doubt be delicious in a few weeks once the vinegar flavour had time to mellow out. I found the cheese recipe on a blog called Eat Weeds, in case you want to have a go and aren’t put off by my dismal efforts.
Don’t forget, if you want to find out more about any of the things I mention in this blog, have a look at these useful resources.