Daughters And Sons Of The Soil, Awake!
With property prices falling and import prices up, perhaps it’s time for careers in food once more.Â This week I visited three farmers’ markets in central London (Chapel Street, Marylebone and King’s Cross) and bought most of what we needed for the week, although it’s still hard to find fresh fish in a country entirely surrounded by sea.
A bigger problem is encapsulated by the conversation I had with a local butcher a while back.
He’s quite elderly and finally retired, citing several reasons. People no longer cared about what they were eating, he said. They didn’t know there were different cuts depending on what they were cooking, and had no time or interest to learn. Furthermore, he could not pass the shop (which was daily filled with fresh produce from Smithfield) to his son, because the son thought butchery was beneath him and ‘wants to be a singer on X-Factor’. Good luck with that, I thought.
The butcher retired, but Islington Council would not permit a change of use for the shop. So it was bought by some kind of internet start-up, who faked the front window display, making it look like a butchers’ shop, and for one hour a week hired a girl to sell hot-dogs outside, thus conforming to the lease. Incredibly the council fell for it. Your tax pounds at work.
Farmers’ markets have proved that there are profits to be made from the land. Their prices are higher than supermarkets but you need less to make more. For example, a fresh loaf can last for two weeks instead of going off after two days. And suddenly there’s a more varied diet; this week we made salads from many types of potato (I favour Ratte) with samphire (grows in marshes and tastes of the sea, perfect with fish) and sorrel (looks like lettuce, tastes of lemons) Six days after it was purchased it’s still fresh.
But who wants to sell such things? It’s not sexy, is it? Better to work as some low-rung PR intern in a marketing company with a vague and distant connection to fashion or music, just so you can hold your head up high on Facebook.
Meanwhile, another local has the right idea and the right qualifications (ie. owns a van). Marky Market will go to Billingsgate Fish Market for you and bring back whole fish. Marky says; ‘I’m there at 4 in the morning with the best suppliers in town, and I know what’s good.’ Everyone in our neighbourhood thinks he’s super-cool. And he got there without spending his days emailing press releases to style magazines.