We might not rate our locally-produced food terribly highly in West Sussex, but there are plenty of people that do.
As Tangmere-based food writer Rosemary Moon points out, there are supermarkets up and down the country that are always hugely excited to get hold of West Sussex produce. Rosemary’s point is that we need to catch up with them and realise why – precisely the reason behind Rosemary’s latest book, A Feast of West Sussex (Summersdale; HB, £9.99, ISBN: 978-1-84953-4437).
“West Sussex as a food-producing entity is terrific – and probably more important nationally than it is to the people that live here.”
Rosemary believes that’s something that’s got to change: we need to wake up to our riches, celebrate and enjoy them. She’s a passionate advocate for locally-sourced and produced food, and her book sets out why. As she says, from strawberries to salmon, sweetcorn to sausages, West Sussex is a cornucopia of delicious produce. The book offers the best way to appreciate that produce to the full.
Bursting with mouth-watering recipes, information on the best local producers and tips on foraging techniques, A Feast of West Sussex offers an open invitation to explore the diverse flavours and rich food culture of this fruitful county.
Sample recipes include chicken, ham and asparagus pie, slow-roast shoulder of Southdown lamb with honeyed root vegetables, egg mousse with Selsey Crab, broccoli with Molecombe Blue and chillies, Arundel mullet, Sussex succotash, squash hummus, West Sussex pond pudding, wild plum gin, baked redcurrant cheesecake and gooseberry and elderflower ice cream.
Rosemary argues that if we shop locally, we gain resilience: “It gives us the ability to cope when other things are out of our control, when things like commodity trading and energy prices are more volatile. The glasshouse industry has to deal with that, but hopefully it will help us to ensure that everybody that grows our food gets a fairer reward for doing so. You don’t see many wealthy small-scale farmers. Anybody that makes any money out of farming is doing so by going massive scale.”
It falls to us to help the smaller-scale producers thrive: “It is about a change in us and how we shop. I feel every town council has an obligation to provide a market where people can trade. That’s how you get to the stage where it is easy to cut down on food waste.”
Rosemary would also like to see a return to the price of fresh food reflecting its availability – in other words, a return to more seasonal eating: “We should eat more seasonally, and pricing could really help us to do that.
“There is more excitement in eating with the seasons. We are really heading towards a global homogenisation of our food otherwise. I think it is great that we have all sorts of exciting international flavours in our cooking, and there are some lovely examples in my book. I would go out of my mind if we didn’t have chocolate and spices and coffee, but it’s how we apply these things to the produce that we grow locally that is important. That’s what I find the really interesting challenge. On a cold wet day, I don’t want to eat something that is redolent of sunshine!”
Of course, it is difficult to change, but we can bring about the change by supporting our local suppliers and farm shops, Rosemary believes.