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  • Christina Pickard

A Taste of Reality

  1. Why did the chicken cross the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre? (To get to the fresh oysters and crab)

  2. What do you get when you mix tomatoes, lettuce, buns, and buffalo? (A tasty burger)

Petal the Buffalo

You’ll have to excuse me. I’ve got livestock on the brain. After four full days of working at the Real Food Festival in Earl’s Court, I still have braying sheep and mooing cows creeping into my dreams at night. Strange considering I live in the middle of a big city.

I was privileged enough to work at this wonderful festival on the Discover the Origin stand, running masterclasses all day (and one big one on the main stage—aah!). Discover the Origin is an EU funded campaign to promote PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) products, namely wines from Burgundy and the Douro Valley, and cheese and ham from Parma, Italy. A bit of a random selection I know, but they’re products that are embedded into the culture of the land they come from and most have been made the same way for centuries (in Parmigiano Reggiano’s case since before the 13th century!). The buzz word for these products, and indeed for nearly all of the products on offer at the Real Food Fest is traceability. Or knowing where what you eat and drink comes from and what goes into it. Maybe it’s a backlash from decades of overloading on foods with a longer list of preservatives than can fit on a tin, but this concept of eating simple, fresh, local, sustainable foods is becoming more and more popular. And thank goodness.

Our ‘Discover the Origin’ stand

As a child of the ‘80s in America, I shudder to think of the kind of chemicals and preservatives I ingested on a daily basis. Even with fairly healthy, aware parents who never fed us white bread and bologna like all my friends ate, I still remember most of our lunch meats being processed, sugary cereals being eaten for dessert, and florescent orange ‘cheese’ being eaten on a regular basis. My parents are not to be blamed however. This was what was on offer at the supermarket; what everyone was eating. They genuinely didn’t know just how poisonous this ‘food’ was for all of us.

So it’s great to see that things are changing. There is much more awareness today of the hazards of eating processed food, and the benefits of ‘keeping it real’. The popularity of Real Food Fest is just another example of this.

OK, the products are expensive. Some two or three times more than you’d pay for their supermarket equivalents. If you’re one of the lucky few where money is not an issue in life, then you have no excuse not to buy local, high quality, organic products all the time. Unfortunately for the rest of us, over doubling our weekly grocery bill is just not an option. This is a fact I find frustrating and partly blame on the supermarkets for giving us the option to buy for example, a whole chicken for a few quid. While I don’t buy the cheapest of the cheap, I find it hard to justify spending £12 on a few chicken breasts when I can get them for £3. However, guilt racks me every time I go for the cheaper option because I know that were I to investigate the welfare of these animals who died to end up on my plate, I would most likely be horrified. (I’m speaking like a budding vegetarian now. Have I thought about becoming one? Yes, many times. Could I actually become one? No. I love food too much, and meat is too huge a part of that. )

I spent a fortune at the Real Food Festival, buying incredibly tasty meats, spreads, and pastas. I couldn’t do it all the time, but I can get my priorities in line. First of all, I can eat less meat. We now know that the world consumes far too much meat and the environmental repercussions that’s having on our earth, so why can’t we cut down? We don’t need to eat meat every day.

Second of all, the meat I do buy can be organic, free range, and local. And if I’m buying smaller amounts of a higher quality, in theory my grocery bill shouldn’t significantly rise. And I’ll be rewarded with tastier, high quality meat that’s healthier for me and the environment. I can’t lose! If we all cut down on our meat consumption and refused to buy unethical, cheap meat, we’d have healthier animals, a healthier environment, and healthier humans!

On the fruit and veg side of things, I can stop expecting to have every kind of fruit available to me all year round and try and avoid the berries that have been shipped in from Guatamala, and the tomatoes from Africa, and try and grow a few veg of my own and to eat seasonly.

So I’m sorry to write another ranting, preachy post about going natural but being surrounded by squealing pigs, braying sheep, Petal the buffalo, and a whole heap of delicious real food for four days has really got me thinking twice before heading to my local supermarket…I’m afraid it’ll all just taste so fake.

Click here to watch a slightly rambling me being interviewed at the Real Food Festival (I’m about halfway down with the blue necklace on!): Christina at the Real Food Festival

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