Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Suffolk Foodie Bit! All organic?

When is organic ..... organic?

Traditional Suffolk Clay Pot for traditional food.  When we think of traditional food we think of the pre-green revolution era of organic food.  A big question has been raised by a US study of the health and wealth of organic food.

So the question is what is organic?  Is it healthy or a good marketing handle?  An open set of questions that will need an objective set of answers.  

The Green Revolution is the post 1940 spread of technology that increased yield at far higher rate than previously.  As with most industrial shifts it had been slowly happening before somebody put a name to it 1968 (first recorded use).  However, this is a modern  view of the world of agriculture where fossil fuel intensive  high inputs of chemicals coupled to accelerated breeding with efficient harvesting technology produce high yields.  This coupled with modern transport networks results in the movement of vast amounts of carbon, water, phosphates and nitrogen about the planet.  In order to replace the nitrogen first world fertiliser production is then exported back to areas where traditionally either "natural" fertilisers such as locally produced manure was used or more exotically guano ( and superphosphates by  Fisons as well as pesticides).  In the Stour Valley a similar trade in food and manure operated more locally with London (http://2pointfiveageofman.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/suffolk-food-and-festive-fare.html). 

We had pre-1940 produced food in quantities that did vary seasonally (something we talk about in this country).  We had methods of preserving, freezing, pickling, drying, salting etc. .  Did we have the 30 to 40% of food that is thrown away in households then?  Did we have the food rejected because it did not conform to a supermarket specification (curly cucumbers for instance)?  Are we using rose tinted spectacles on a a very complex problem and believing what we are told rather than exercising our common sense?  A misshapen carrot  can equally be as good as a straight carrot, it might not produce great battens but is still useful in a soup or stew!

So a recipe using misshapen carrots for country cooking.

A Farmhouse Vegetable Soup that can serve 4 people. Basic, everyday vegetables make up this chunky, everyday standby soup.


1 lb (454g) carrots, prepared and coarsely chopped
1 lb (454g) onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 sticks of celery, prepared and chopped
1 leek, prepared and sliced
2 oz (50 g) butter
2 lb (900 g)  potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 pint (approx 500 ml) lamb stock
Bouquet garni
Salt and pepper


Step 1: Melt the butter in a large saucepan
Step 2:  Add the chopped vegetables  ( reserve the potatoes for adding at later step)
and cook for 10 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft.
Step 3: Put the potatoes, stock, bouquet garni and salt and pepper into the pan and add
enough water to cover the vegetables. Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes.
Step 4: Remove the bouquet garni and serve. The potatoes thicken the soup and may
disappear into the liquid.
Serve with bread of your choice.

In more straightened times this may have been a meal with a cheese known as "Suffolk Bang".  Suffolk Bang was a cheese of close texture and very hard.  The cheese was produced by continuous skimming of the milk in order to leave no cream.  A poem by Robert Bloomfield  "A farmers boy" written in the year1800, describes not only this cheese but also the relationship between the area of the Stour Valley and London (reproduced in Clive Paine' collection A Suffolk Bedside Book  ISBN1-904349-06-04).

And finally a little observation on the efficacy Fisons products.

A lorry and a tractor collided opposite Bugg's Stores in Loddon High Street. As a result the tractor crashed into the shop window, completely wrecking at least half the frontage. The tractor was owned by Fisons, the pest control experts.

As soon as the shop front had been boarded up, the following notice was chalked up in bold letters:


(Reproduced  from the Book  of East Anglian  Humour ISBN 0-948134-59-3) 


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