Monday, 1 March 2010

Is Life Ever Fair?

Week 9

Finally, it's stopped raining and the world is a beautiful place.

Or is it? We're now in the middle of Fairtrade fortnight (22 Feb - 7 March) - a topic that is so important yet so often misunderstood.

Fairtrade has become the generic word for produce that 'gives back' to the producer. Or should that just be 'fairly traded'? Other certifications include Rainforest Alliance which is perceived to be about saving the rainforest (take another look at what they do!) and organic apparently means no chemicals added. So what's biodynamic? What's Soil Association? What's Red Tractor? What's Freedom Food vs Free Range?

We've all come to look at different seals as 'safe' badges without really understanding what they mean. Are they all good for the producer? Maybe. Are they all sustainable? No. Is one better than the other? Depends.

Is it better to have a Fairtrade biscuit made in Malawi than a flapjack from a small producer in Kent?
Is it better to pay a fixed premium for a product that is in little demand or to encourage farmers to diversify?
Are organic green beans from Kenya better than non-organic green beans from the farm down the road?

Ultimately, it's about knowing where your food comes from and understanding what all these certifications really mean - and no one is making it particularly easy. Exploitation isn't the answer. Neither is shipping products thousands of miles when you can get better from round the corner. And ultimately, if it's not commercially sustainable, then there's no point at all. Food for thought...

So, on a slightly different note this week's Food of the Week is...

It's taken me a lifetime to work it out but finally I've realised that
a) good meat usually comes from a [good] butcher
b) it's better to buy hunks of meat rather than specific cuts because it's much cheaper and less likely to have been interfered with.

Ginger Pig is my favourite butcher of the moment. It's not just about pork (although that's where it all started) and you will find all meats from traditional breeds as well as charcuterie products in their shop. It's always busy so there's a big turnover of meat which assures me of its freshness (vs other butchers who have little on show and get things out the freezer). Ginger Pig's meat is tender and full of flavour and everyone notices the difference when they eat it.

So what's the difference?
Ginger Pig refuses to feed their livestock bought in artificial foods containing unnecessary proteins. Instead they grow their own barley, wheat, oats etc which is fed to the animals. Because everything is natural, the animals grow slower and are slaughtered between one and three months later than those reared on industrial farms.

Overall, Ginger Pig oversees every element of the rearing process from planting the seeds for the fodder, through to breeding, feeding, slaughtering and butchering right through to selling the product in their shops, and apparently no one else does that in the UK.

Best Way to Serve

Depends on what you're eating! Their butterfly lamb chops are beautiful, as is their beef fillet (great for a carpaccio) and their ham (pinker than any other ham I've seen!)

Where can I buy them and what's it going to do to my bank balance?

Price: tbc according to what you purchase

Ginger Pig has shops at Marylebone, Hackney, Waterloo (at Greensmiths), Borough Market and Pickering in North Yorkshire

Restaurant of the Week

Sacred Cafe

This week's choice is Sacred Cafe, with branches on Ganton Street and Kingly Court (near Carnaby Street), Westfield and Torrington Street.

It's actually more of a bar than a restaurant but the reasons for including it are as follows:
Why is it good?
It's possibly the best place for a decent cup of tea in London that won't cost the earth! Apparently it's Antipodean style.

As well as fresh brewed ice teas and the usual chai lattes, Sacred Cafe has a range of long leaf loose teas as this is a teabag free zone. All served in a 'so chintzy it's cool' teapot!

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