Having grown up during the age of boxed, canned, frozen and instant food, it took me a while to appreciate the beauty and wonderment of fresh produce. Once I did, however, it changed my view of food and life itself, providing a very tangible connection to the earth and the cycles of nature.
I now seek out fresh, local and organic whenever possible, and I prefer the same approach when dining out. That would explain why I enjoy reading each post of the LondonEater restaurant blog by Kang Leong. His writing is diverse and comes from the view of the consumer, while the vivid photographs he takes highlight the experience and the venues he reviews are always well-chosen. In this guest post Kang talks about the influence of local produce on the UK restaurant scene.
Appreciating Local Produce
I’m an old fashion sort of guy because I love specials on a menu. My heart gets especially fluttery when they use the word ‘local produce’ because for the end customer (me) it gives the impression that I’m eating something which is unique to the region, and it’s also great knowing that the local economy is supporting itself in this way.
The synergistic nature of the restaurant and the independent farmer/producer is an important one as both businesses tend to go hand in hand. As great ingredients will invariably lead to great meals, successful chefs are the ones who adapt their menus to seasonal produce.
Building Food Based Relationships
The relationship between the restaurant business and the local/independent producer is a win-win. Let’s start with the independent farmer – he’s small scale and probably uses farming methods passed down from prior generations, which (hopefully) means it’s well cared for and organic.
In today’s world of massive farms, global grocers, and over-packaged food, the homogenization of fresh produce has resulted in a dilution of product choice, and if you think about it, you’re chewing on pesticides while paying for the packaging and transportation rather than just a bunch of fresh leaves. In fact, ‘gourmet’ food exists because consumers are demanding more authenticity and diversity in the food they eat.
If you cast your mind back to the days when it was considered cool and convenient to simply grab a Subway or bucket of KFC, it’s inspiring to see that the fast food franchise has gone out of fashion a little bit. These days, people are more health conscious and often opt for organic and gourmet food stores instead of just popping down to the local Sainsbury’s.
What’s the best thing about gourmet food markets then? Why it’s the diversity in choice, the buzz of conversation and the super fresh produce which is the result of honest hard work. If there’s a local food market close by do drop in – mine is Borough Market in London. It’s really a great feeling to be in the center of a bustling market where one bears witness to the real economy – working at it’s most basic levels.
The British Menu Steps Up
So let’s get back to that specials menu. I live in the UK, and despite a pretty dour food reputation there has been a big push for healthy British food using the best fresh local produce. Take Angus beef for example. The imposing cattle with shiny black fur hail from Aberdeen and Scottish farmers still adhere to the traditional rearing methods to deliver quality beef.
If you head into a steakhouse in Scotland, they proudly endorse the local beef on their menus. Same thing when I was eating in a little port town called MIlford Haven in Wales. They are known for their fresh fish (try the grilled monkfish, awesome) and similarly most of the restaurants by the seaside will feature fresh fish caught by the local fishermen.
For the restaurant, this eliminates the middle man and ensures their ingredients are affordable, top notch stuff; for the local producer/farmer/fishermen, it’s a steady stream of income. And as for me, it means a great meal, reasonable prices and something truly authentic and unique.
It’s amazing to see how the stakeholders involved in this great network come together to… well, eat.
From the viewpont of Global Patriot, the world’s health and economy benefits greatly when people choose to eat food products from close to home and as natural as possible. Next time you dine out, follow the advice of LondonEater and look for a place that thrives on being fresh and local.