In Search of Real FoodThursday 2nd of February 2012
In a new series for the Love Your Larder blog, food anthropologist Nafsika Papacharalampous will explore the meaning of ‘real food’ and how to find it. Along the way she will be meeting independent producers and discussing the importance of what they do. In the first part Nafsika introduces the idea of ‘real food’ and searches to define it.
This is a story about real food. But what is real food you will rightfully ask. Is it organic? Natural? Healthy? Is it authentic? Traditional? Is it environmentally friendly? Ethical? Is it locally sourced? Is it expensive? Is it a niche food? Is it for me?
Let’s start from the very beginning. A recent cooking feast last Sunday made us realize once again how it can really be time consuming to prepare one of our mothers’ timeless classics! Just imagine frying sliced aubergines, courgettes and potatoes, preparing mince meat and béchamel sauce and all that for one dish. This would not be an issue if we were living a few decades ago, when time… well, let’s just say things were moving at a different pace then, and it was not uncommon to spend a few hours in the kitchen to prepare lunch or dinner. There were not many other options anyway.
Today, we spend less and less time in the kitchen. Many things have changed but something has remained unchanged: we all want good, tasty food. Although there will always be the occasion where we will spend hours roasting a turkey or preparing the stuffing (that’s Christmas for you), the daily meals can be easier, and of course delicious, interesting and exciting. What is the solution? We want to eat something that tastes good but how many of us have the time to spend the entire Sunday making the Greek mousakas dish mentioned before? Especially when one can pop to the nearest Supermarket and buy it for £4.50? And do all of us enjoy cooking that much, so as to prepare our very own chutney or marmalade? Not to mention the cost. In London today some readymade meals can actually be cheaper than cooking the same dish from scratch - that indeed keeps surprising us! Yes, the readymade meals are convenient and some of them do taste good; salt, sugar and fat are known to have that effect. But tempting as they may be, there is no such thing as a “free meal” as they say. Hopefully, we have started to be more and more interested in tracing the passage of food from farm to plate. Maybe this road will lead us to “better” food?
That is what we will discover. Join us as we spend the next few months walking around London, visiting artisan producers, farmers’ markets and small shops, searching for and discovering what is today considered, real, good food. Together we will unravel what our larder really loves. We will find answers to all these questions and hopefully come closer to understanding and appreciating what nature (and science) has to offer.
We look forward to receiving your comments, questions and ideas, as well as suggestions on places and people that are worth visiting. So let’s get ready to start this journey with a hot cup of earl gray tea and a piece of buttery shortbread - favorites of the author!
And a final note: We would definitely recommend that you try, just once, to spend the entire day in the kitchen, alone or with company. Pour a glass of red wine or some sparkling water with lemon, put on your favorite music and prepare something delicious for dinner. We can promise you, even at times when the attempts to produce something divine fail and you end up having crisps and fried eggs for dinner, you will enjoy it more than ever!