Could you eat nothing but Somerset produce for two weeks? We put it to the test...
PUBLISHED: 10:30 20 April 2017
One of the best things about living in Somerset is its food. The county is famous for cheese and cider, and we take for granted how simple it is to buy local produce on our doorstep. But how easy is it to eat and drink exclusively Somerset produce for a fortnight? Reporter Sarah Robinson put it to the test...
‘It will be really easy,’ I thought, as I placed an order for a vegetable box, meat and condiments from Somerset Local Food Direct. The website works in the same way as shopping online at a national supermarket, except you know exactly where your food will come from.
I allowed myself salt (from Cornwall) and pepper (the box did not say where it came from), but everything else I would eat and drink must be produced and made in Somerset, right down to the rapeseed oil from Frome and flour from Wells.
It was only while placing my order that I fully appreciated the challenge ahead. I am used to cooking pasta a few times a week, and use spices and soy sauce most days; I would have to completely change how I cooked.
Pasta was off the cards unless I made it from scratch. And tomatoes were not in season, so I could not even make a tomato sauce.
But I did have flour, eggs and milk, plenty of vegetables, meat and some herbs in my garden.
I started the challenge on a Sunday, and there was no way I was going without a roast. I could not use gravy granules, so I bought some bones from the butcher’s on Big Lamp Corner and made a stock in the slow cooker.
I felt real pride looking at my first meal and knowing I could name exactly where every ingredient came from.
We are lucky we have Puxton Park on our doorstep too, and I stocked up on meat there, where I was told 99 per cent of its meat comes from the farm. I even managed to get some chocolate from The Food Den, in West Street.
Roger White, who set up Somerset Local Food Direct, said the benefits of eating locally include having less packaging and knowing the food has not travelled very far, therefore helping the environment. I certainly had less plastic to throw away than normal.
I admit I faltered a bit towards the end. After a visit to the pub and two pints (Thatchers from Sandford and Butcombe from Wrington) I caved and ordered a curry. I also ran out of milk.
But milk and curry excluded, I managed a fortnight. I made a pizza from scratch for the first time, and ate seasonal vegetables I had never tried before, such as Jerusalem artichokes.
Would I do it again? Mostly. I will always prefer to buy my meat and vegetables from independent shops in Weston’s town centre above a supermarket. I will definitely buy more seasonal vegetable boxes.
But I did struggle to buy fish. And, as it turned out, I really did miss curry.