The Urban Co-op is an interesting place. A microcosm of energy and ideas that keeps everything real and grounded for us. The complexity of conversations and interactions weaving a security blanket of comfort on cold days…
I had an interesting conversation with one customer who spoke about watching children's movies with her children and how farmers are being portrayed as often quite nasty characters. Fantastic Mr. Fox, for example, is hugely entertaining but yes the farmers do come across as being quite fearsome and unsavoury characters. It made me think that if children do not have direct exposure to farms they may never know anything but negative associations.
Meanwhile, Jim Cronin is enjoying his retirement as I type and I am reminded of a conversation he had with us about how he was encouraged to consider supplying the Limerick Community Grocery when the concept started 10 years ago he spoke about a mother explaining why she wanted a place to get food that would not involve saying no to her child all the time when she was shopping. He agreed, and we are grateful he did. I am sure many children in the last decade have met many not so fearsome wonderful farmers as a result.
One of the real joys with working at The Urban Co-op is seeing the progress of customers who learn that food can have healing properties. That slow awakening to the power of nature provides the answer we are looking for. Repeatedly the theme is the same. Food is usually the last chance saloon option after medical answers are pursued. But when there are positive results from food there is a period of disbelief followed by stages of awakening. It reminds me of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance appear to be more subtle and possibly not in the same order. I could suggest it is in the following order Denial / Depression / Bargaining / Acceptance / Anger. It is worth discussing this because there is an energy that builds in this process and harnessing this energy is having an interesting impact!
Bacon and Cabbage is a national dish that is renowned worldwide. Love it or hate it is comfort food at its best. Aside from the nod to Pigtown bacon I do want to draw attention to the humble cabbage.
In season from large to small form, as we enjoy brussel sprouts lately, we can underestimate the impact of this vegetable. From its versatile use in the kitchen – salads, stews, ferments it is a robust vegetable to grow and regrow (let’s face it if I can grow it, it is a sure thing). It represents such good value, travels well, zero packaging.
Therapeutic properties of restorative gut health via sauerkraut or soothing comfort for engorged new breastfeeders... there are many anti-inflammatory benefits as well as improving the digestive process.
In our endless search for the magic pill, we could remind ourselves to look closer to home and recognise the answers that are right in front of us.
The day was going to come and we dreaded it. When it happened though perhaps we were prepared for the inevitable. Sean was retiring as a raw milk farmer. Our source of sustenance stopped. The rich creamy nourishing goodness that has sustained so many of us customers at The Urban Co-op for many years now. It felt like we were just getting into our stride as more people were discovering the wonder of this local real food. The normality of raw milk now is a blessing and every day that goes by we are grateful for this fact. Succession is now the theme as we forge ahead with the sustainability of this food supply. Principles of farming and growing see us prune to achieve stronger growth and this metaphor is key. Sean may have ceased production but he continues to inspire more farmers to go the route of once-a-day organic raw milk. We are eternally grateful for his dedication through the last few years and indeed he is a major part of the story of The Urban Co-op both in the past and into the future. Who knows where this will go!
I used to teach people about food labels and once up a time thought it important enough to impart the “useful” information on. Remember when the book came out about E numbers and drove us all mad checking for MSG disguised as a coded number on the back of packets? Eircodes for chemicals…
Occasionally I will check a food label in a local supermarket (just because) and to be honest I shudder at the contents. Ultimately if you have to read the labels then its probably not food at all, but an ultra processed version of something resembling it. With all the information crammed in there the script has got smaller and smaller. Reading glasses needed for food shopping?! Such effort involved in the journey to acquire food! Shopping has become a forensic science. No wonder it is exhausting and stressful! The reward? A toxic soup of chemical formulations that hardly nourishes.
It is local apple food season and the memories are evoked of childhood foraging from the neighbour’s orchard. Our primal instinct to judge the safety and palatability of food has now been eroded by plastic, barcodes and fine print. It’s like having to crack a code to eat nowadays. One of the positive consequences of exposure to real food is having a multi-sensory experience of smells and aromas to greet us. Real foods (unpackaged) delight the senses in ways we need to remind ourselves of again.
Foraging is becoming popular again. Or at least I would like to think so. It’s blackberry season and on an evening walk we have been taking a few pitstops to reach into the brambles for some succulent treats. I wondered just before I picked the ripe juicy fruits, which were being visited by the insects at the time, was I eating more than I bargained for? Had those insects just come from the field next door and brought with them the traces of bovine excrement. (!) How sterile our diets have become to avoid any hint of micro organisms that may potentially harm us! This food sterility is having the opposite effect and autoimmune conditions are a by product of such careful processing of food.
Obtaining food as close as possible to the source is part of the solution. My appreciation for the foods in their natural environment has grown in recent years. Yes I savoured the sweet succulent taste of the seasonal berries there and then. At this stage of my life I am welcoming the extra diversity of fauna and flora. In a world reminding us to be inclusive this may be a good start.
Recent years have seen us bring in more Irish salt on our shelves. We are an island so the idea of local sea salt being developed and brought to market is a joy to see. From an essential food substance that has been overly processed to reduce its cost and maximise its use in industry, sodium chloride (good old Saxa) is millions of miles away from the complexity of real salt. We have internalized the messages that say (processed) salt is bad for us. We need to separate the demonized food from the elixir that enhances our health. Salt is one of those amazing gifts of nature we have learned to harness and appreciate. We see the rising tide of appreciation growing every day. The shelf space dedicated to it echoes this trend too. Move over MSG. Your time is up!
Who does not love ice cream? In the hot weather there is a draw towards the cooler foods that reminds us of Summer days. I will put it out there…a raw milk ice cream would be divine. I went through a regular phase of making ice cream having been inspired by the Murphys in Kerry and their cookbook a few years ago. Over the years I tweaked the recipe to just be eggs, raw cream and honey.
Whisking eggs and honey until thick and creamy. Adding raw cream and then into the icecream maker with vanilla pod seeds. 20 minutes and voila. To say there is no comparison is an understatement. Being nourished by such decadent goodness is really a revelation. No fussy eaters here!!
But this year I cannot find the attachment needed to make the ice cream and we have resorted to shop bought blocks and wafers when the need arises. How far into the Ultra Processed category has this food gone..my taste buds object as the addictive sweetness seduces..!!
I pledge to rip apart the house to find this attachment before its too late… a slippery slope of complacency is too easy to join. Wish me luck and throw in a prayer to St Anthony for me..
Recipes from Katie Verling & Jacques