Happy New Year

A somewhat belated 'Happy New Year' to everyone.

I suppose I ought to be posting a review of the past year and my predictions for next but, to be honest, I can't be bothered and a) nobody's interested and b) predictions are like Jack Russells – they have tendencies to come back and bite you!

So what shall I write? If you blog you're more or less obliged to write something, at least occasionally – this blog's about local food so I suppose that had better feature somewhere. Therein lies a problem. Like most people, I guess, we've been living on the surfeit of stuff we bought for Christmas so we've not done any local food shopping so here's some bits and bobs that I've seen in the last few days plus some of my general ramblings...

The BBC reports that the French town of Evreux is “Teaching good habits to last a lifetime” and preventing obesity whilst FoodEu reports on the Smoking Ban in France. Given that “French teenagers smoke more than any others in Europe, with over 50% of 15 to 25 year olds indulging” and that people who give up smoking can tend to put on weight – those who smoke in Evreux must be almost anorexic! But, seriously, what a refreshing approach to sensible eating, far removed from the 'Gestapo' approach in this country of people like self-styled Dr Gillian McKeith. If she's that good, how come she looks so ill?

No, the French approach of superb food in moderation is brilliant. How they will take to being told not to smoke in cafes and bars remains to be seen. As does whether anyone will be prepared to enforce the new rules – the French advantage in this area is that the 'powers that be' are fully aware that the last time they went against public opinion the old Gillette came out and a revolution ensued – good for the French I say. Lets not slag them off for getting away with things – let's join 'em and do it their way!

The BBC also reports, “UK and US 'keenest on fast food'”. The accompanying video shows the increase in hospital attendances, in the US, because of this. The answer in the UK must surely be to introduce punitive taxes on fast food to solve this problem; well we've done this with everything else! Perhaps burger eaters should be made to sit outside. Mind you, British Pie Week can't help any obesity problems – but, boy oh boy, I'm looking forward to it. Whilst on the subject of health, I await the first case of smoking related frostbite from sitting outside my local smoking!

Talking Retail reports that “Asda claims typical shopping basket now 22% cheaper than 1997”. Course it is, you idiots, have you not read all the reports over the last year where the supermarkets are paying farmers less than the cost of production for their produce, not only for the food they sell at cut prices but even on organic food which they sell at premium prices.

Stop moaning Phil, you're always flaming moaning. OK then lets look on the bright side. This blog about living off locally produced food in Fife caught my eye. I realise not everybody can do this, but it shows what can be done.

The subject of Veal is one that can cause massive reaction; many do not easily forget the bad conditions in the industry, in the past. The news is that the British Veal industry has genuinely cleaned up its act and British Veal is now produced in the best conditions; to the extent that it wins Soil Association Awards and gets the approval of Compassion in World Farming.

I fully realise that to some, eating meat of any form is abhorrent. What I can't understand is why the many people who eat new season lamb or 'battery' chickens won't eat veal? Buying British Rose Veal is probably one of the best ways you can support British Dairy Farmers – other than buying plenty of their milk that is. I am currently trying to find a supply of local Leicestershire veal. I know there are producers but they don't generally stick their heads above the parapet for fear some loony animal rights bod who has not read that the methods have changed blows them up!

To finish, I was going to have another moan – about the cost of things here as compared to the US. Particularly in the area of smoking and curing. Sodium Nitrite for curing (Prague Powder) is easily obtainable in the US at about £1 per pound - 454gm. Here, it is hard to get at £10 for 500g – nearly ten times the price. I've actually had to buy my remote dual smoker thermometer, for my new smoker, from the US because I can't source one here – I'll write about this, and the Salt Beef I'm curing, shortly.

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