Monday, 31 March 2008

Tap water

* based on Giles Coren, who has indeed announced his campaign is over.

Some restaurants are supporting Water Aid, by asking customers to pay a small and optional amount for tap water - I think it's a really good idea.

Tap water

My Eco Self regularly reads the views of an attractive restaurant critic* on bottled water. Attractive restaurant critic is vehemently anti-bottled water, deducting points from his sometimes acerbic reviews for restaurants which don’t offer tap water as the first option. My Eco Self feels respect for a campaign which has been genuinely transformative in changing opinions. My Eco Self has never favoured bottled water, primarily because of the price rather than principle, but is shocked by statistics which show how many plastic bottles are non-recyclable. But if I ever meet attractive journalist I will tell him I have been transformed, utterly, by his lucid and articulate arguments. “I’m giving up bottled water,” I announce to Food Neurotic Friend. “Did you ever buy it in the first place?” he asks. I ignore his question. “I’m willing to be interviewed,” I tell him, “if you happen to bump into that food critic and he wants to profile someone who has made some eco-changes to their restaurant habits?” “I don’t think that will be the case,” he says, showing an article in which attractive restaurant critic announces his campaign is over, mission complete. “I just read that some restaurants are charging for tap water and donating to charity – do you think he knows about that?” “You’re always just that one step behind” says FNF, performing a near impossible physical feat of speaking and rolling his eyes at the same time.

Responsible investing

FNF is still touchy about the demise of the cheese shop. But at least it’s not being ousted in favour of a supermarket Local. My Eco Self doesn’t shop there anyway, with a weekly organic vegetable box delivered, and a well thought out shopping strategy which supports local retailers who really care about the provenance of their food. At least not everyday. Food Neurotic Friend does not know about MES’s stock market investments in said supermarket. But My Eco Self had to invest responsibly, to offset the dire performance during the credit crunch of an also-owned ethically invested and branded green unit trust. Responsible investing for My Eco Self’s money is a blue chip supermarket with global plans for expansion. My Eco Self buys their organic and Fair Trade ranges, and aligns my profit-boosting spending with closely-monitored dips in the share price. My Eco Self receives an invitation to their Annual General Meeting, and considers going to ask some difficult ethical questions in their Q&A session for private investors. I wonder if questions would prologue the agenda, reducing the time to get to the most important issue - have their profits gone up and will they pay me a dividend? I need the dividends to fund the whopping difference between shopping for meat in the supermarket and shopping in the local organic shop. To defray a guilty conscience about my greedy corporate mind, I buy an affordable spelt muffin from the local health food shop, independent and not affiliated to anything conglomerate, and take it round to Food Neurotic Friend. “How come you’re being so nice?” he asks. “It’s my eco selflessness,” I reply.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Non egg-shaped chocolate

Two of my favourites:

Divine Chocolate - Fair Trade chocolate

Montezumas - orange and geranium is very tasty!

Article about Easter Egg packaging

There's been quite a lot of coverage on this issue - this is just one example.

Easter Eggs

Work is running a secret Easter bunny scheme, where you draw a name out of a hat and have to deliver an Easter egg to your recipient’s desk when they aren’t looking. My Eco Self has a dilemma about whether to participate, having read various studies which berate the chocolate companies for the excess packaging used for Easter eggs. The ratio of packaging to egg is high, with little improvement on the previous year, and with some organic brands being the chief offenders. My Eco Self is used to feeling guilt-free in the realm of chocolate, due to supporting a brand which is guaranteed Fair Trade, with a farmer representative at their board meetings. MES decides not to participate in the Easter bunny scheme, despite often feeling a little hungry around Thursday afternoons, in case someone buys me an egg which doesn’t meet my ethical standards. MES suggests to Food Neurotic Friend that we run secret Easter bunny between us, going for Easter eggs in a non-traditional normal chocolate bar shape. “Let’s look out for a new organic chocolate we haven’t tried before” I suggest. FNF readily agrees. My Eco Self loves the rarely glimpsed moments in life where FNF goes along with her brilliant ideas without a snappy retort. MES remembers that FNF has given up chocolate for Lent, promoted to all as a manly exercise in self-discipline. MES suspects that a not particularly spiritual FNF is covering up for the fact that he has developed a less macho awareness of a slight middle age spread due to recent over-consumption of organic and non-organic beer. MES feels slightly hungry when my colleagues on either side of her desk have Easter egg with their afternoon cup of tea. My Eco Self e-mails Food Neurotic Friend. “When will we do our swap?” A reply comes. “Good things come to those who wait.” MES is slightly confused until I see a commercial advertising a well-known beer. FNF’s interest in beer is undiminished despite the calorie count.

Beetroot recipe

This is the beetroot recipe I used - the beetroot risotto with summer greens from the below - very good cold the next day.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Organic vegetable box

My Eco Self has signed up with rapture for an organic box scheme. "It’s worth every penny," is enthused to anyone who will listen. £10 seems a lot for a few vegetables, argue the more financially astute. It’s worth every penny, reiterates My Eco Self firmly, and you get free recipes. You can get free recipes at Tesco, argues an unconvinced friend. My Eco Self has performed a cost-benefit analysis to justify the box. Previous weekends were taken up by treks to the farmer’s market, a two hour round trip via the coffee shop for a refuelling fair trade coffee and the Sunday papers. Cost: Fair Trade coffee, 2 hours of leisure time, and a health risk too, with the risk of an earlier back injury coming back to haunt from lugging bags of root vegetables around. Benefits: Box comes to your door, with special organic recipes. Food neurotic friend comes round on the scrounge. Food neurotic friend, a travel journalist for a national newspaper, is obsessed with local, seasonal food. He scrutinises the box. "Are you sure those plums are local?" he asks, smelling the scent of an overseas asyplum seeker. "The best money I’ve ever spent," insists My Eco Self, offering him and every dinner guest for weeks a lemony beetroot risotto as the only solution to using those damn beetroots, staining everything in sight. Another cost: Food Neurotic Friend slips a few apples into his backpack. “You won’t be able to eat all this, anyway,” he says, on his way out the door.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Cheese shop

An Eco self crisis. Gourmet cheese shop on the local high street is to close, expelled by rising rents on an increasingly yummy mummified street. Food Neurotic Friend is outraged, a founder member of the “Save the Banstead Road” committee. Not a particularly successful campaign, I think to myself, counting on two hands the number of new chain fashion shops which have intruded in the last six months. It was bad enough before, when you could barely walk a step without tripping over a nanny with child, but now you can’t even buy a block of Welsh Caerphilly. But before you couldn’t get anything from Whistles either, a staple of Eco Self’s wardrobe, conveniently moving into the space left by the sadly departed cheese shop, effectively reducing my carbon footprint by reducing my fashion commute. “Perhaps the cheese shop will be more profitable” I tell FNF, “without the overheads. They’ll get a stall at the Farmer’s Market, I’m sure.” Just to check my facts, and cheer up FNF despite his committee’s failed efforts to keep things local, I make my last purchase from the cheese shop, a pungent Stinking Bishop. “Where are you going next?” I ask, optimistic of plans for expansion, but their response is non-committal. “You could try the Farmer’s market,” I suggest helpfully. “That’s only one day a week,” the owner replies, but I am convinced that cheese shopping is more of a weekend pursuit anyway, the one day Cheese Sabbath where all wheat and dairy allergies are ignored, and diets get thrown to the wind. I make a mental note to never meet FNF with a Whistles shopping bag in tow.

Allotment Dating

I’ve had a brilliant idea, I tell Food Neurotic Friend. Allotment dating could be the perfect way to meet a like-minded partner, united by our love of local, sustainable food. They’re interested in sustainability these types, I argue, so they must be interested in sustaining relationships? And if a potential playmate can be locally sourced, all the better, saves on the road miles trekking half way across London for a man who won’t reciprocate. Food Neurotic Friend is first to sign up. Take them out, we decide, get them drunk on some high quality Devon organic cider, and then see if any incriminating evidence appears – a late-night desire for McDonalds or the kebab shop. I’ll advertise for free on the noticeboard in our local organic supermarket. But first I need an allotment. I check out the council website – there’s a two year waiting list. Food Neurotic Friend wonders if an allotment might need a late night license. I wonder if mid-winter is the most appealing time of year to be standing round in the cold making small talk about beetroot and rhubarb. Brilliant idea is on hold, I tell Food Neurotic Friend. He doesn’t even look up.