Apart from the boiling climate scenario when I think of the Mediterranean it is towards food my mind rests. Tomatoes fragrant from the vine, charcuterie, salty cheeses and olives, fish and more… Isn’t the Mediterranean diet heralded as the answer to many an ill? Is it the food itself or the setting or both? One thing is for certain this dietary culture has a strong heritage and tradition that is passed down from generation to generation. Perhaps this is why there is strong resistance in Italy to the new fangled dietary answers to climate change in the form of bug laden pastas and lab grown meats. The strong gut instinct of a nourished population that finds it important to safeguard the nations heritage and agricultural traditions that have produced great food and wine.
Make no mistake, there is a lot of money invested in alternatives to traditional food production and the traditional agricultural sector. Investors will want return on this “sure thing” for climate change. For our younger generations who are fed on nuggets and goujons the switch to synthetic will hardly be noticed so it is the older folk who have a strong memory of what real food is like that need to be convinced to change. Guilt is a great tool to use and we in Ireland have been reared on it. Undermining and demonizing the traditional sector is one of the many ways to clear the path for these synthetic products masquerading as nourishment. Take note of Italy defending food freedom. We need to defend the Irish farmers here too before its too late.
Choices, choices! One of the things that has bothered me for years is the huge choice of edible substances available to consume in the retail sector. I admit to being semi institutionalized here at The Urban Co-op so that aside I do note the rising tide of members who recognise they are more and more overwhelmed with the choices available to them and how stressful it actually is to shop. People tell us they shop with us because it is less stressful and that they have made the decision to support us because they actually enjoy the experience again. From actually being able to find a product that is actually food on its own too trusting it will actually feed you. Who knew it was all so complicated.
Here at The Urban Co-op we actively try to limit choices of products to minimize this stress and overwhelm. So when you can only get three types of yoghurt know that we have your best interests at heart!
Recent agricultural headlines were rather stark with the news of 200,000 cattle to be culled as part of the strategy to reduce emissions in Ireland. Headlines don’t refuse ink of course and while there is no definitive decision yet at policy level to follow through the topic generated considerable conversation worldwide. Elon Musk even contributed to the conversation with his “killing some cows doesn’t matter for climate change”. Culling herds to meet targets of value does stir up a passion though of sorts and I am pondering it a lot. Reducing our access to real food directly and indirectly is the threat that hangs in the ether. Ah sure can’t we get used to the fake stuff…didn’t we buy in to the margarine story easily… all we need is a 3D printer for the artificial meat version. There are shadows of the “let them eat cake” scenario I fear… and we all know how that turned out.
When we first began to sell organic chicken, it was a task to persuade people that the price was worth paying for the quality and the labour involved. At this moment in time, we cannot provide the supply to meet the demand for the nutrient dense fowl. For many families organic eggs and chicken are a lifeline of nourishment in the maze of food intolerances and sickly children. We hear stories from grateful parents who have found these foods provide the answer for regular nourishment. Freely roaming hens that scratch the ground and feed off the biodiverse insects and bugs to provide complete meals of nutrient rich eggs.
From what I can gather the availability of poultry and eggs will be more curtailed in future as the squeeze is on farmers to change their practices under the guise of animal welfare. Lockdown for humans in recent years was in the guise of public health and we can argue how damaging that was for many other reasons but I digress. What is going on? We know the visionaries want us to eat bugs. It would seem they are reducing the middlemen (hen) so that we can do just that!
We fought to save the right to consume raw milk in Ireland not so long ago. Food is the new bioweapon. Chicken, Eggs, and Beef are in the spotlight. In an era when Ultra Processed Food is recognised for its toxicity, a point is made of demonizing these real foods through regulation and climate shame. Be wary though of those determined mothers who have found how real food has healed their families. Take those foods away at your peril.
There is this thing called quorum sensing. I must admit to being kind of fascinated by the concept after hearing a TED talk by Bonnie Bassler. Simply she talks about bacteria that exert a critical effect when they reach a certain point. I cannot help to draw comparisons between the human and microbiological world and whatever way my brain is wired this takes up rent space!
Do you get the sense that something is shifting and that we are sensing a quorum enough to elicit critical impact responses? We certainly do at The Urban Co-op! If you have been following the commentary each month you may be up to speed with the Dutch farmers protests have resulted in a landslide political movement seeing farmers strongly represented in government.
We describe The Urban Co-op as an environment that inspires action and relate to the rising tide of inspiration coming from The Netherlands for our own farmers here. Last weekend saw a large gathering of farmers and landowners in Athlone at the launch of Farmers Alliance. Farmers no longer feel represented by the official organisations we are familiar with, and the rumblings of discontent are echoing up from the grassroots into concerted action. Naturally the urge to coalesce and seek commonality of purpose is there. Now it is about co-operating for everyone to benefit. The challenge will be to do it equally. Often though the beginning of social movements attracts attention from those who seek just that – the attention. Committing to the long haul is a different sort of ethic and involves hard work. Who will emerge to do this..? What can I say… watch this space!
There is no mistaking the impact of Irish Mammies… behind every great revolution you will find them. When their name is Fitzpatrick, you have to smile! They get around.
The last few weeks have seen a major change to Dutch parliament as the BBB Farmer- Citizen Movement have gained the vote of the people to represent their voices. #Nofarmersnofood has translated into a political voice as farmers have joined forces to protest at the political decisions to reduce the nitrogen emissions directives from the EU. The forced shut down of 3000 farms labelled peak polluters has raised the ire of the masses and they have come out to support the farmers at the ballot box. This party was set up in 2019. In 4 short years they have a strong voice that will no doubt influence policy there and here. Caroline Van Der Plas leads the BBB. Nuala Fitzpatrick is her Irish Mammy. Don’t mess with them…!
A recent radio talk show explored the depths of a problem that faces a growing number of parents here and quite frankly I was glued to it. With more than a passing interest it is a topic of conversation we often have here at The Urban Co-op. Fussy Eating…There are a few newish names to now add to the pile to describe the phenomenon. ARFIDs (avoidant resistant food intake disorder) being I believe, the latest. Five words makes it quite a mouthful but seems to be the trend to describe something not working right these days. Food Neophobia was the case before that. Picky eating etc. I was that child too and apparently caused worry when I was younger. Growing up on a farm though we were surrounded by food in one form or another. Obviously, I survived it!
A common theme we do see now though is that of distressed parents who resort to their child eating one or two “products” because it is all they eat, and fear of the child starving means they will resort to any length to secure these favoured products. Highly processed of course and ultimately minimally nourishing. Eggs and milk are rarely the last resort foods in this situation. The advice apparently is to keep feeding these products for fear they will drop off to nothing and effectively they will grow out of it. When parents use a platform of a national radio show to compare notes on the similarities of their situations it somehow helps them cope, not feel so alone and helps them to carry on with an acceptance of the situation. This theme is a common one in society today. We share a problem so that makes it tolerable. At a critical growing time for children there is a chronic price to pay for such acceptance. We must challenge this mindset of accepting a problem because it is common. Something is wrong with the system when a large number of people share the same symptoms. Getting to the root cause is where we start to find solutions. Time to grab this problem by the scruff and take action folks.
I’m not going to preach here; my own offspring present their challenges with fussy eating and continue to every day. In this toxic sea of ultra-processed “food” products, it is not easy to navigate through the suffocating messages. The fall out is stressful and chronically debilitating for so many in ways we will never fully understand. Guilt shovelled onto parents is crippling enough to prevent progress of any kind when every mealtime becomes a battleground. Our relationship with food and nourishment has been thwarted for decades and there are many complications and difficulties.
There are workable solutions though and our mindset at The Urban Co-op is to find what works in a collaborative supportive way. We can offer some help and techniques to get you started. It’s a topic that deserves to be exposed for the solutions possible to give that light to all struggling every day to face mealtimes. Like many aspects of co-operation, we have realised that together we can find solutions to the problems we have in our communities. Rather than a battleground food can be a joy again. Watch out for the Fussy Eating talk at The Urban Co-op on 29th March 8pm.
There comes a point where you must take action. I am thinking about key points in life where a decision is made that results in a life-or-death situation. You may recognise those moments. Not to be too dramatic about it but maybe you have experienced those acute near miss events that may have shaped your life dramatically one way or another. Such adventures can form an exciting narrative for the future to tell the grandchildren etc.
Then there are the chronic long-term decisions that are made with which we may not feel the impact for a long time but when we do they are significant. Our policy makers are charged with the trust from us to make the best decisions for our long-term interest. We trust they take all the best evidence from all sides and make a measured decision that is in the best interest of the majority. Or so the narrative is sold to us. Trust us, they remind us relentlessly… For the most part we do.
But trust is truth and transparency. Selective truth and obscure transparency are as good as it gets with policy makers for the most part. We are reminded time and time again that agendas are often profit driven in the end. We the people are left with the guilt consequence that somehow the problems are all our fault. Fear and guilt are useful tools to encourage us to behave in certain ways. I will leave one word here to illustrate this point, but I am sure you have others…butter.
An interesting thing is happening though. I am the meerkat watching the horizon and have noticed the narrative changing. Have we reached a tipping point where we have finally begun to accept that the blatant ignorance of the power of food as a healer is no longer a runner? For ever the sceptic I reserve the right to be convinced this is a true direction forward. The date on the report looking at what was learned from Covid 19 in terms of the US food systems raises a question for me. There has always been too much profit to be had in the Big Food & Pharma models. But hey, maybe there is a realisation that no matter how high tech we go we still need people to work. People who are well physically and mentally. Caring for those who are not has become unsustainable. Trolley crisis’s and protests fill our newsfeeds. We have reached breaking point. Someone, somewhere has decided maybe we need to look at food as our medicine again. This topic is appearing in policy reports. Not so long ago we were snake oil peddlars… (thankfully we have changed the policy of witch burning in recent centuries for using food as medicine).
As always, I find it interesting and curious. I will be watching this space. Meanwhile let’s keep sharing our own knowledge and wisdom on the power of food to heal us and ensure we have the continuity of supply to sustain us.
Recipes from Katie Verling & Jacques