Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Wild food and local food

Mushrooming is a common French pastime. Some people are very very protective of the knowledge of good places to hunt during the right seasons, and there are many many good stories to be told. But 'tis not the season, not now, so I'll talk about them another time. It's just that mentioning the mushrooms yesterday reminded me of the resurgence of interest in good local food, which increasingly means organic food.

Some of our closest friends are 'The Rascals', who farm organically nearby. They have about 130 sheep, which they milk twice daily most of the year. And then they convert the milk into several types of cheese and yoghurt, using very labour-intensive processes. Their cheeses are not just organic, but hand-made. They also sell direct to the likes of you and me at markets within about an hour's drive, and indirectly through the numerous organic shops in the area.

It's a fascinating and hard life, but the big thing for me is realising just how much dedication goes into producing hand-made organic food. Sure the price is higher, but just look at what I get for it! I know that the food is top quality, I know that the sheep are happy and well-cared for, I know that the land they work is healthy and clean, I know the healthy, happy life-style their family has; in short, I know exactly where my money goes.

There are more and more small producers of quality food, something France has been bettr than the UK in preserving. But even here many artisans have been under threat or disappeearing due to the economic pressures of large-scale food retailing. The rise of the farmers' markets in the UK, and increasing organic food production there, is also being followed by similar developments in France.

One of the key parts of 'The Project' is to source as much of the food we serve our guests and ourselves from producers like The Rascals. Not only that, but as personal friends of many of them, we will be able to informally take our visitors over to see the places and meet the people who's food and wine they've been enjoying. How's that for getting to know a place.

We believe that our visitors will enjoy the opportunities for a deeper understanding of the land and its social fabric, as well as enjoying the weather, the landscapes and the food. Are we right? What do you think?

And let me know if you're interested, and we'll keep you in touch with developments.

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