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March 02, 2006

'The Good Life' is a bit obvious but I can't immediately think of a better title

When I moved to the country it wasn't through any great need to get back to my roots and immerse my hands in mother soil. It was more a matter of moving to the village that the LOML was born and brought up in so we could be near her family and friends. I am a townie, a smallish-market-townie-in-a-fairly-rural-area, but a townie nonetheless.

When the LOML and I had our first house, in a town, I remember being amazed that she could grow french beans that you could actually eat up some canes by the shed. I mean, I knew that where beans came from was not Sainsbury's, but I imagined growing your own was strictly the preserve of arcane alchemy (if this isn't a tautology) known only to crusty old allotment holders. Passing on the secrets of their grandfathers, no doubt. So a germ of a kernel of a seed of an interest in things green gently sprouted.

I gradually became converted, dug a small veg patch, experimented, learned, prospered. In the current CwhatC garden there are four veg patches and a greenhouse. All organic, natch. I even entered the Village Show, and won some certificates (uh, 'best short carrots', 'best any other vegetable - 3 specimens', 3rd best 'onions - spring sown', yada yada).

The LOML's parents, you see, are 'of the land'. They grow stuff for a living - soft fruit, cut flowers, florists' foliage - on 12 acres on the edge of the village. They met at horticultural college actually.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall became a bit of a guru; except, obviously, as regards haircuts: I think I could teach him a thing or two there. I visit his River Cottage website regularly, and have seriously considered taking a trundly down the M5 to one of his events. I'd love to keep pigs and make my own ham and stuff. It looks a fabulous laugh and hey, I love ham. And bacon. And sausages.

And when you look a bit deeper, it's a bit of a moral journey as well. There was a programme on BBC telly a while back called (I think) 'The Real Food Show'. (Was it called that? Anyway*). It was the one which had a zoo-type format somewhat copied from Top Gear. The premise of the feature in question was that all meat-eaters should be able to kill the animal they were going to eat. Hugh F-W used to have a section on it: a step-by-step guide culminating in actually slaughtering and butchering and cooking and eating an animal yourself. I can't find it now, but his other food essays are very good. I like his meat manifesto particularly.

The presenter from the BBC went out to a farm and selected an animal (a beef bullock, if I recall) and watched it being killed, and butchered. He cried on camera, and I am not mocking him here. I think this is important. But he did it, and he ate the meat, and I reckon was a better person for the experience. It's something we all ought to be prepared to do: if not, you know the answer. Vegetarianism. A simple, moral, code to live by. I can, and have, slaughtered animals. How many of us who buy our meat shrink-wrapped in Tesco can say the same? Not many, not many at all. Most, I suspect, would blanch at the sight, sound and smell of a twitching, newly-dead animal being eviscerated for our ultimate culinary pleasure. And then throw up their 4-grain Cheerios all over their Hush Puppies.

But do not the animals who died so that we may eat deserve our respect? I respect them by buying ethically raised non-intensive meat from my local butcher. They have only lived so that I can eat them, but this in no way means that their lives need not be as contented as possible in the meantime. It makes you think; it damn well ought to make you think.



Did it again.

Started off all light-hearted and ended up screaming and shouting off an oversized soapbox, spittle running down my chin and no doubt into the audience's faces. Sorry. Have a tissue. Comes of being an opinionated sort of chap, you see. I get carried away. And there's no-one here to say "Hey, shush. Calm down a bit" until afterwards, when it's too late, usually.

So, anyway. Right. Um. I guess that the whole point of this is that the reason that Hugh F-W's programmes were so popular is because we all hanker for it, really. That Jimmy's Farm that's on again is in the same mould - actually, it was probably watching that last night that set me thinking about it all again in the first place. We're all hardwired, deep down, into producing our own food. Just some of us are further removed from it than others.

Tell you what, I'll let you know how this year's food production activities are going, occasionally, and then at least you can grow veg and fruit vicariously through me if you want to. I may even kill some animals and eat them and we can all grow as people through the experience - me physically, you morally.

Any requests?

*I've now found it on Sky. It's called Full On Food.


  • I don't eat meat for the simple fact that I'm pretty darned sure that I couldn't kill an animal and therefore don't feel justified in eating one, or part thereof. I totally agree with you - I think all meat-eaters should do the business. Very envious about your veg patch - I'd love one.

    By Blogger Sherbert, at 7:55 pm  

  • I tried the Good Life thing once

    lived in a English county west of Birmingham for two years, used to swap excesses of vegetables with the neighbours; almost had chickens, but was put off by that thing that happens when the eggs don't come out properly; didn't really have enough space for anything bigger than that but was considering planning my way towards it

    the Good Life might have worked if there'd been two of us working the land

    in the end I missed tarmac and billboards too much and had to return to the smoke

    amazing how much cultural info one absorbs thru billboards; all completely useless of course

    if only I'd realised that at the time

    (am now humming da-da-da, da-da-dee-da and thinking of cut out flower petals and a little buzzing bee) (oh, and Margo's turbans)

    By Blogger don't chase it, at 9:43 pm  

  • oh yeah, sorry - requests:

    really really good carrots please, mine were always weedy, woody or very small; and some lovely strong garlic; some decent peppers; every kind of herb under the sun; lots of different varieties of tomatoes so when it comes to chutney making season we can swap recipes and all have something really interesting at xmas to go with the cheese (you know, green tomato chutney, yellow tomato chutney, orange tomato chutney) (that means onions too then) (and you need some fruit trees as well, apples or damson) (and while we're on fruit, I'll make some jam as well, so some loganberries and strawberries too, please)

    now, maybe a goat or two, for the cheese (or sheep, if you're feeling adventurous)

    sorry, feel I have overstayed my welcome

    (but let me know if you need any more ideas!)

    (oh, how about sloes for gin?) (or quince!! I've never made quince jelly - that'd be nice with the cheese wouldn't it?!)

    *I'm going now*

    By Blogger don't chase it, at 9:50 pm  

  • Sherbert, welcome. You are obviously in the thinking minority. I'm not sure I would be strong enough to give up meat on conscientious grounds (I'd eat it with my fingers in my ears to block out people like me ranting on).

    By Blogger crisiswhatcrisis, at 9:38 am  

  • DCI: you so need to do your own blog. You've enough material in the comments boxes.

    Chickens are ace, never had a problem with stuck eggs. They're not mine, mind. The LOML's mum keeps them.

    Garlic, herbs: can do. Tomatoes: oh yes, my absolute fave. I grow as many as I can possibly fit in, and then put some more in the in-laws' polytunnels. I've still got about 10 jars of last year's green tom chutney. I was still picking toms in October. Do chillies rather than sweet peppers, that ok? I pickle them chopped for use in salads.

    Onions I'm doing. The inlaws have all sorts of berries on a commercial scale, so I don't need to do those.

    Carrots: trying again, but they don't really prosper in my clay.

    Goats, now. There's a thought. I've got a pony already, how much harder can it be to stick a couple of goats in? Mmmm. I'll see what I can do.

    Sloes I can get from the hedgerows. I get elderflowers too. The LOML's brother has a quince and he makes the family jelly.

    Cool! I can do the whole list. I'll let you know how your crops are progressing.

    By Blogger crisiswhatcrisis, at 9:52 am  

  • I've done all that killing to eat thing... I'll buy some lamb off you. Just in the process of buying a house that has veg patch potential (in the town of your birth!). I've alerady marked out the area (in my head) and will be gutted if we don't make it to contract. I'll try NOT to post on house purchase, promise.

    By Blogger the Beep, at 11:18 am  

  • if [insert deity here] didn't want us to eat animals, he wouldn't have made them out of meat.

    been veggie, now a full-on omnivore again. i'd kill an animal, me. i might have to sellotape a picture of james blunt over its face first, mind.

    By Blogger surly girl, at 1:55 pm  

  • don't apologize for your rant. I think its a good point that people should be more aware of how the animals that they eat, live.

    good luck with your gardening and such :-)

    By Blogger Kyahgirl, at 10:42 pm  

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