Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Friday, 26 September 2008


It's time for my annual post about English Apples. Alas, things seem to be still just as bad as last year. A week or so back I wandered briefly into M&S Simply Food at the railway station, and it made me so angry that I had to leave in a hurry and I was in a bad mood for the rest of the day. For there on the horrible chilly shelves (apart from anything else it's a very uncomfortable experience if you're in summer clothes and sandals) were apples of the following sorts: Coxs from New Zealand, Granny Smiths from Australia, and some kind of soggy red apples from France... I forget what. How fresh were these apples, do you suppose? The southern hemisphere ones were presumably picked under-ripe about five months ago, and the French ones were presumably fresh last October, 11 months ago. So the shop was selling stuff that was best-before some date months earlier.
Meanwhile Cambridge market stalls, not three minutes away, are laden with local apples, crips juicy, picked that morning. The trees in the gardens by the country roads are bending under the weight of lovely September fruits. There is nothing more delicious than a Worcester Pearmain (providing it hasn't got over ripe or been kept too long). So what was this decaying rubbish doing on the shelves of Marks and Spencers, which prides itself on the quality of its food? And how much had it cost the environment in refrigeration and oxygen-free storage to keep such old fruit so that it looked as if it was still fresh, besides the transport from the wrong side of the world? Once again I have vowed never again to go into that shop.
And then there was the British Academy lunch. Nice lunches they do, but two things annoyed me. One was the fruit: there we were in September but was there a single item of British fruit on the fruit platter? I doubt it, though it's conceivable that the strawberries were English. So, there were plums, but they were not the gorgeous victoria plums that we have. There were apples, but they were not the gorgeous September apples that we have, but some of those last-season Granny Smiths from South Africa or Chile whose skins are so caked with wax and chemicals that they taste bitter at every bite. There were Kiwi fruit. There were grapes (conceivably from Europe I suppose, but don't bet on it). There were bananas. There were oranges (from the southern hemisphere I presume). So if, like me, you were trying to eat local you were lucky to get anything: a strawberry was all I could stomach.
And why do they try and serve hot food for a sandwich lunch and fill the room with the fumes of those wretched spirit burners? It was most unappetising.
It's time the caterers who do business lunches started taking notice of what we actually want to eat and why... It isn't as if local food isn't nice: it's nicer than the stuff that's been stored and travelled.

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