Thursday, 28 January 2010

Today I burned the marmalade

Today I burned the marmalade. I don't want to give the impression that I was actually making marmalade - the picture shows Angie doing that. My role was strictly the King Alfred one. But there's a bit of a backstory.

Have you ever started to become aware that there's an area of your life where there's a gap between how you know you ought to be living, and how you actually are living? I've felt that way about food for a while. I've worked on sustainable food issues for years now, and I've been aware for some of that time that our food system is fragile, and a big cause of climate change. And I've had a pretty clear list in my head for at least a year of the things we most need to change, starting with eating less meat and dairy, then supporting organic agriculture and reducing food miles and processing. I've also been uncomfortable - which of us isn't? - with our supermarket shopping habits. And my family and I have taken some big steps in those directions - we eat relatively little meat, for example, and Angie's always been good at cooking vegan food - but we've got a bit of a Tesco habit, and we bought a lot of dairy produce, and relatively little organic stuff because, we reasoned, we can't afford it. The carbon (or rather greenhouse gas) footprint of our food was probably already under a tonne a year per person, but we ought to be able to do much better than that.

A couple of weeks ago the disconnect came into my mind when I was in the Green Grocer, buying some bread. I looked around the shop and thought, this is the kind of food I want to eat. Why aren't we doing this?

But what gave us a big push was the Transition Circle meeting, which we had at our place here a week or two ago. Charlotte had drawn an oversized copy of her and Mark's shopping for the week, and it was all wholefood shops and organic growers. Elena talked with enthusiasm about her enjoyment of cooking. And Angie and I were both feeling how right this all felt.

Since then we've bought no meat, a lot less other dairy produce, and a lot of grains and pulses. Angie's been spending a lot of time on new and very delicious and healthy vegan food. And marmalade. We've broadened our sourcing a bit, although Tesco still figures too large - we're working on that.

I really hope we can get the Community-Supported Agriculture scheme going in Norwich soon. I also hope we can source local flour, oats and beans, and maybe think about a buying group for other wholefoods.


  1. Hi Tully,

    Glad to hear that the Transition circle is doing what it was supposed to do. We concluded in TCW last week that where buying stuff is concerned we're pretty much of a mind and tend to get upset if people give us Christmas presents we didn't need. But could you please explain to someone who doesn't know about King Alfred how you burned the marmalade?

    Thanks for a week of interesting and inspiring entries,

  2. Hi Erik

    The Alfred reference is about a popular legend about Alfred the Great, a king of Wessex. Travelling incognito, he stayed with a peasant woman who asked him to watch some cakes that were cooking on her fire, but he was thinking of other things and the cakes got burned, so the woman scolded him. As for the marmalade, well, Angie went upstairs for a few minutes just as it was nearly ready, leaving me to watch and stir it, but I obviously didn't realise how much stirring it needed...

    I very much liked your blog today too. You're obviously a preserving expert. And Angie wonders how you get your pots so clean! T x