Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Eco fashion goes front page!

Just a quick one today. And slightly ‘off topic’ from food and drink, but still worth a mention. Spotted some eco fashion on the front page of the Guardian. Front page!! Hurray! And it has some really nice stuff too. Worth a look.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Oh, it turns out I can cook after all

As you may remember from my last entry, I made a sweeping statement about bringing some home made, ethically sourced food product for Renata and her husband to sample. I opted to bring an item for dessert, and as it is strawberry season, I thought I would base it on strawberries. So far, so good.

However, when it came to finding a recipe for a local strawberry dessert, it was not so easy. Many sites that talk about using local produce helpfully had recipes on them. However, they kept referring to certain things that even my limited knowledge tells me are not local. Sugar being the main one. Big Barn is a website which gives details of where you can find produce from within a 50 mile radius and had loads of strawberry recipes. Strawberry sponge, strawberry short cake, strawberry cupcakes. Right, that will be with the sugar from the sugar cane plantations of hackney marshes, will it?

So, strictly local proving tough and wanting more of a challenge than making fruit salad, I broadened the horizon beyond local. The 3 principles of slow food are clean, fair and free. So I decided to use these as the guidelines for my dessert and make strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. So called because of the cream cheese icing, and not because they are a cheesecake. So I bought the following:

  • British strawberries from Cambrideshire – big tick for the local.
  • Free range organic eggs (tick and tick)
  • Cream cheese (cross for not organic, but tick for being from small local shop and not big evil supermarket)
  • Organic milk (tick)
  • Organic butter (tick)
  • I even remembered my own bag, so another tick for no carrier bags!
  • In the interest of reducing food waste, my flatmate let me use her fair trade caster sugar, fair trade icing sugar and organic flour. As well as vanilla, bicarbonate of soda and salt (pinch of only).

And the results were actually okay. I think they could do with a bit of perfecting, but they were tasty, went down well in the office, and more importantly, Renata managed to eat about 5 of them. Which I think means they were a roaring success.

However, some (or a lot) of the success has to go to my flatmate Ela for her hand holding, technical advice and moral support during the baking! And to my other flatmate Ashley, for pointing out that the icing sugar and butter would mix a lot better if I remembered to put the butter in.

Again am drawn to the same conclusion. Only local is too restrictive. Really hard and really limiting. The rest can be done and is not actually too hard. It’s just thinking about things a bit and not mindlessly putting them in your trolley. That said, everyone I mention local to talks about the Stoke Newington Farmers Market, which will be my next stop on Ethically Challenged.

Monday, 21 June 2010

I'm sorry, Leti!

I am the worst friend ever.
Over the years, I have repeatedly done the following: cancelled on friends at the last minute; stood people up; forgotten I was supposed to meet them; turned up very late for dinner; forgotten important dates; given away friends’ present, and much, much more.

Last Saturday was no different. My good and patient – within reason – friend Leticia had taken into account my dreadful record and let me know months in advance of her birthday barbecue. Sadly, my also very good friend Dina, aware of my reputation, agreed several weeks ago to come over mine for lunch. Being the fickle and inconsiderate person that I am, I happily said yes to both dates, until I realised, too late, the double-booking situation.
And so I considered who I would possibly offend more, and only went for Dina because she was the one I had cancelled on the last time. On that occasion I learned in no uncertain terms how difficult it is to find a babysitter on Proms night, and Dina listened to Mozart on her own.

Whilst I had a really lovely lunch with Dina and Kathryn and Mr Schemthical and little Lukas, I did feel terrible for contributing to Leticia’s membership to the over-subscribed I Hate Renata facebook group.
Feeling that my sincere apologies would never be enough, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to find out about a subject that’s been nagging me for a while: ethical flowers. Can I send flowers the sustainable way?

It is difficult to imagine anything less than lovely behind a bunch of daisies. It’s as if the world of underpaid labourers and pesticide overuse could never touch the romance of a bouquet.

Sadly, this is an industry capable of some serious environmental damage. In countries like Kenya, for example, the impact of flower farms on the water quality and wildlife around the lake Naivasha Riparian has brought devastating consequences to the local community. Under pressure from European importers and terrible publicity, growers have created a voluntary council to develop more sustainable farming practices. The Kenya Flowers Council uses a code of practice to self regulate the industry’s use of pesticides, workers’ rights and impact on local communities.

This is an area where Western consumers can be particularly influential, considering that massive volumes of cut flowers consumed here are produced in developing countries with weak legislation and too many ways of not complying with them.
In Europe, the Fair Flowers Fair Plants label attests to the sustainable credential of flowers.
I have some reservations with this kind of certification. As with the Organic Soil Association label, it becomes difficult for very small producers to display the coveted logo. Not having the FFP label does not necessarily mean that flowers weren’t grown organically, or that workers were treated unfairly. But the certification process costs money. It demands time and dedicated personnel to work on it. If you’re a small cottage business, you may not be able to afford the extra red tape.

But of course it is a very good start, and if you’re buying from Interflora or large supermarkets, then there’s no excuse. Look for the FFP logo before you send those roses.

My own experience on Friday was this: Interflora had a very limited range of fair trade flowers, but I did find these gorgeous antique pink roses, which unfortunately could not be delivered before Tuesday. Who sends flowers with that much notice?

Arena flowers were highly recommended as a leading ethical florist, but the arrangements didn’t really do it for me.
So I settled for this vase of fair trade roses and lisianthus, from the lovely Forever Flowers along with a crawling, self-humiliating note begging forgiveness.

To finalise the mea culpa, here’s a list of overdue apologies:

  • Leti, you come first: SORRY for not showing up to your barbecue!
  • Julia: I’m sorry for forgetting your birthday practically every year.
  • Sorry Vale, Jason, Kathryn and half the population of London for arranging drinks I never showed up to.
Oh, and I am so very sorry for the lovely lady whose name I forget, but who painstakingly arranged my leaving do a few years ago, to which I didn’t go.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

I can mash potato (I can mash potato)

The long journey to wean myself off convenience food has begun. Last night, instead of being incredibly lazy and buying ready made mashed potato, I made it. (And yes, from potatoes grown with 100 miles of London). A small step for man, a big step for me.

OK, not really a big step as mashed potato is the easiest thing is the world to make and even I should never feel the need to buy it ready made. However, the reliance on convenience food did get me wondering, is there such a thing as ethical convenience food? The short answer is no. And I suspect the long answer is also no – too much energy to produce, too much packaging, not very many organic or local produce used, no fair trade ready meals, 10 tons of salt. I could go on. So I guess if I am going to keep this ethical eating up, I am going to really have to up the cooking!

However, while googling ethical convenience food, I stumbled across the concept of Slow Food. Slow Food is a worldwide movement, that has 3 key principles – it believes food should be the following:


The word good can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For Slow Food, the idea of good means enjoying delicious food created with care from healthy plants and animals. The pleasures of good food can also help to build community and celebrate culture and regional diversity.


When we talk about clean food, we are talking about nutritious food that is as good for the planet as it is for our bodies. It is grown and harvested with methods that have a positive impact on our local ecosystems and promotes biodiversity.


We believe that food is a universal right. Food that is fair should be accessible to all, regardless of income, and produced by people who are treated with dignity and justly compensated for their labour.
Sounds good and exactly the sort of thing that Ethically Challenged should be looking at. But how do we do it? It’s a lot to think about when you’re rushing to the supermarket, after a long day at work, longing for a bit of alone time with the TV.

Also the clean bit – how do we know if something was harvested to have a positive impact on our local ecosystem and promote biodiversity? It’s not exactly the sort of thing that’s splashed on the label. The slow food website, whilst containing lots of helpful and useful information, doesn’t really explain in much detail how to put this into practice.

Essentially, I think it’s about buying free range, organic, fair trade and that tough one again – LOCAL. So not massively different from the 100 mile diet then.

However, as we discovered with our World Cup party, it is all about planning and not very helpful if you want to pop to the shops on your way home from work. To keep this up you really need quite big lifestyle changes. Still, the point of doing this blog was to see how easy or difficult ethical living is. So this weekend, as Renata and I sit down to the football, I am challenging myself to bring a home cooked, seasonal, local dish (but don’t worry Renata, I won’t force you to eat it!)

South American Way

Oh, what a joy it was to watch Brazil finally play their first world cup match.
It’s a funny thing, Brazilian football. It inspires passion from the most unexpected corners of the world. I've lost count of the times I met people of all sorts of nationalities who insist on supporting the team of Kaka and Robinho.
Watching the ecstatic crowds celebrate a pretty predictable – but far from easy -victory over the heroic Koreans last night, it made me smile how well loved the boys from Brazil seem to be.

It is an unusual choice of country to shout about in this blog.

Brazil is the worst offender in a recent Australian study ranking countries according to their impact on the environment.
Forget deforestation, carbon emissions and water pollution for a moment and you’re still confronted with 14% of workers earning under the USD 100 monthly minimum wage and child labour a reality for over a million Brazilians under 13 years old.

But there is some happy news too.

As with so many positive aspects of Brazilian life, the real improvements in the terrible ethical track are driven by individuals and voluntary organizations, as independent from government corruption and bureaucracy as possible.

One success story: recycling. Despite legislation being unclear and not progressing any day soon, Brazilian rates of paper and aluminum recycling are comparable to those in notoriously green Germany. The effort is led by poverty, not environmental conscience. The very poor and unemployed rely on cash generated by collected paper, tins, metal and bottles.

The ringpulll bag from the Bottletop project made headlines in Britain when the bag started turning up on famous arms – from Peaches Geldoff to Miriam Clegg. The charity works with local homeless communities in the state of Bahia, teaching them to manufacture the bags with recycled ringpulls. Metal ring collectors are paid around £1 per kilo and each bag produced is bought by the project and re-sold at around £50.00 in Europe. All the proceeds go back into the project, which helps people out of poverty, as well as funding education programmes in Brazil. You can get your ringpull bag from Fenchurch.

Despite the horror stories of acres of rainforest giving way to cattle farms, Brazil has a 70% recycling rate of plastic bottles (against 20% in the US) and is the world's top recycler of aluminium.

And then there’s the Tamar project, which is bound to make you smile. Running since 1980, it has single handedly saved marine turtles in the coast of Brazil from extinction. Organised as a partnership between the Brazilian government and the private sector, the place is a complete joy to visit, as well as an example of how conservation initiatives can be successful. It relies heavily on the work from students and volunteers, as well as the funds generated by visitors. If you plan a visit to Brazil, please make sure you include Tamar in your list. I had to be dragged out of the place kicking and screaming, unwilling to leave the cute baby turtles and Bounty-advert beaches behind.

If that didn’t work for you, I defy you not to melt at the sight of the sloths from the Sloths Rehabilitation Project. Also set in the state of Bahia, it’s been increasingly successful in re-introducing these animals into the wild.

So, get that yelllow shirt on, cheer for Brazil this Sunday and keep faith that all is not lost yet.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Historic edition: world cup nerves, Robert Green shoots to fame and an update on our 100 mile diet

A delightful weekend of football, sweaty polyester-clad managers, foul language and food hunting for the ethical challenged duo.

We managed to follow Kathryn’s suggestion on how to irritate your fellow fotball fans, even adding a few helpful tips by:
8. singing vindaloo out of tune every time 10 to 12 minutes;
9. shouting furiously: “even I could have scored that one!”;
10. luring your companion into a false sense of security by remaining quiet and pensive for 10 minutes, then suddenly blaring out : “I’m sorry, but the offside rule is stupid.”;
11. (bonus points for this one; bank £10.00 and advance to “GO”) pre-fixing all your football observations with: “if I were the referee/manager/goalkeeper/FIFA president…”;
12. "what do you think Cheryl Cole is doing right now?"

I can confirm that, with good timing and used in moderation, these proved very effective in irritating Mr Schmethical just enough to be entertaining without ruining the tournament.

We also had an enthusiastic go at the 100 mile diet.
A nice stroll to the allotment bagged us plenty of nettles for the ultimate ethical dish: the free one!

As the afternoon wound down to a less then comforting breeze, we warmed ourselves up to the England match with very delicious cake of Sussex strawberries (score), washed down by… wait for it… a blend of English grapes in a glass! Double score, with grapes from Essex, Kent and Sussex, and perfectly crisp wine too.

Then Robert Green went and made us choke on our British-but-exact-origin-unknown lamb chops, from the nearby Turkish shop. The chops were marinated in mint and oregano from my very window box, so in average, reasonably within the 100 mile.

The nettle was chopped and added to fried rice cakes, a complete winner, all the 2 million of them.

For an extra away point, a final touch was the bouquet from the backyard.

As with a lot of ethical buying, we found that too much is still out of bounds if you’re away from home during the very short opening hours of small independent shops.
The local strawberries, eggs and wine all came from Waitrose - thank you, Kathryn.
Yes, I could have found them in my local farmer's market, but that would have taken a week's planning, as it is only open on Sunday mornings. I'd also have to freeze the lamb for a week.
For next weekend and matches, I will consult our lessons learnt wall and pre-order a few 100 mile ingredients. That, and the re-appearance of the waste conscious frozen rice cakes, should improve our score on the diet.

Talking of scores, note to Robert Green: eye on the ball and we'll be thinking happy thoughts for you from now to Friday.

Friday, 11 June 2010

World Cup, 100 mile diet and being annoying

The World Cup makes everyone happy. Even people who hate the World Cup seem to enjoy hating it - talking about which match they did not watch, which team they won’t be supporting, which work sweepstake they haven’t joined in. So really, it makes them happy too.

Despite not being a massive football fan, I love the World Cup and am very excited by it.

Being English, I will of course be cheering on England. I have South Africa in the sweepstake so they will get a little shout from me too. And for Renata’s sake I will discover some Brazilian heritage. However if you have no alliance to a team in the World Cup and want one to support, then World Development Movement have helpfully come up with a guide so you can support the most ethical team:

Now as it says ‘It is intended to be a fun and interesting way to think about serious issues. Please

take it in that spirit.’ So please do take it that way. Am not suggesting you throw out your England flag, wipe off your Spanish face paint or put down your South African Vuvuzella so the whole world can get behind Ghana. But it is worth having a read of. Oh and fans of the ABE craze please take note, England may be 27th but the USA is 31st..............! J

So teams decided, what to eat. This Saturday, as we watch the World Cup, Renata and I will be attempting to stick to the 100 mile diet. This means we will be eating food sourced within a 100 miles of London. It's not going to be easy. And the first few thoughts that pop into my head are ‘tea/coffee, chocolate, and wine (by which I mean nice wine. That you want to drink)’

For now though, we are having fun compiling a list of ‘questions to ask that will annoy the person you are watching the football with’

So far we have:

  1. What side do we have to kick the ball to?
  2. Am sorry, I still don’t get it, could you explain the offside rule for a 5th time?
  3. (Group stage only) So is Team X out if they lose this match?
  4. Oh we’re going to watch all of it? But I think E4 is live streaming from the Big Brother house with no sound?
  5. Doesn’t the goal keeper have nice legs?
  6. But surely, if he takes the penalty from there he will be offside?

Contributions welcome!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Are you going to eat that?

Another weekend, another pile of tupperware stuffed with leftovers, bidding their time in the fridge before their final rest in the bin.
With the world cup starting Friday, we’re set for a new gargantuan barbecue season.
This being the British summer, I am covering all bases by planning a range of actual barbecue food, as well as plan B indoors lunches.
In other words, I am setting myself up again for a fridgefull of leftovers.

As I considered the merits of my own potato salad versus WholeFoods' hummus this morning, I asked myself: how ethical can I really be if half of all that local, organic, fair trade, seasonal food is ending up in a landfill?
Does my own home food waste matter much, when measured against the tons of rubbish churned out by big food chains, restaurants and supermarkets?

Let’s see. If you enjoy illustrative examples to help you understand statistics, here are a few*:
- On average, each person in the UK throws away their own body weight in rubbish every seven weeks;
- More than a quarter of food thrown away in the UK is still in its package;
- The amount of fit-for-consumption food we throw away each year in the UK could fill 4,700 Olympic sized pools;
- Most of the world's waste is produced by the developed world, which accounts for about 5% of the world's population;
-the amount of food thrown away in Europe and America could feed the world three times over.

Not terribly ethical, is it?                                                                           *sources:
                                                                                                                                                      Food Ethics Council
So, what can we do to?

Waste reduction advisers WRAP offer plenty of practical tips and recipes to use up your leftovers.
One of my favourites is the same one sang by women’s magazines for centuries: never visit the supermarket on an empty stomach. You are more likely to buy on impulse and go for the fattening stuff.

Talking of supermarkets, they could try a bit harder too. Yes, most of them are cutting down on plastic bags – although they’re still happy to charge for them. But I don’t understand why we still buy fruit and veg in plastic wrappers and cardboard boxes that resemble armoured vehicles.

A nice initiative by Tesco (why do I keep talking about them? The place drives me mad! But they do know how to grab a headline.) last year seems to have mysteriously disappeared. A few branches of Tesco decided to ask customers to leave all their food plastic wrapping behind, to be recycled by the store. Sadly, it was a temporary measure and they decided not to continue or expand it.

And we’re told over and over again of the 3 golden Rs: to reduce, re-use, recycle.
But I feel that some of these ideas are very much out of place for too many people.
Take London, for example. How many Londoners live on their own, in minute flats with not even a picture of a garden? How are they expected to compost? And why do they have to enjoy cooking?

But switch the telly on and you will find someone insisting on taking us back to a time when life was simpler and persuading us to brew our own beer.

Now, I happen to like planting my own beans, but you can’t guilt trip people into that sort of lifestyle. That is why they chose to live in the city! To earn money in their long hours jobs; to eat convenience food and never learn to bake; to spend their free time in theatres and expensive restaurants, not down the allotment.

If you crave the feeling of living in a village, why not go live in a village? London is a very busy city of 11 million people; it is not a village.
We would not create the amount of money that we do here if the entire population were to spend their afternoons feeding their tomatoes.

Which is why it is so unrealistic to leave it up for people to re-educate themselves in order to reduce their food waste.

People will do what they can. If local authorities start collecting our food waste, a lot more of us will be happy to separate them into composting bins. And yet so many councils still fail to do so. And if I like to eat ready meals, why can’t supermarkets offer them in biodegradable packaging? Why not increase the choice of individual portions?

Sure, the waste we produce should shame us all, and will get anybody thinking.
Yes, it is shocking that people go hungry while we chuck whole packets of food away.
But would all that food be so cheap if the gigantic European and American subsidies on farming were to be removed? Would we not be fairer on the developing world by allowing them to compete in a real market with their products, rather than worrying we waste too much? Surely that would help those countries to help themselves.

Well, we write this blog from a striving ethical consumer's point of view, so I will try to stick to the consumer bits on this one.
But I can’t be less than cynical in thinking this is not a problem to be tackled by individuals alone.

As for the England v US match on Saturday, I will be watching it with non-committal cheers, so as not to offend sensitivities of any of my nomadic family members. And my friends will be eating my specially devised, ultimate waste-not-want-not world cup menu.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Know your locavore’s from your 100 mile diet? Then do this quiz!

It’s a busy Monday for us at Ethically Challenged Towers (by which I mean the seperate offices we both work in) So just time for a quick quiz. We got 80%. Which I think shows we are learning and growing. That, and the fact that it’s pretty easy. But good fun so give it a go!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Novice ethicalist seeks man for fair trade coffee and vegan cake?

Dating is a funny one with this challenge. Unlike Renata, who is happily married, I am busy trying to lure some man on the Guardian dating website to take me out for a drink. Being the Guardian, I had foreseen no problems in meeting someone who would be cool with me asking the waiter the origin of the meat, or being invited back to mine for a fair trade coffee. I had thought this blog might actually be a selling point that I could use to impress any would be suitors. However, the other day I stumbled across a profile that said the following:
'…if you're a born-again vegan CND fairtrade horse-whisper, it probably isn't going to work.'
Eek! Clearly not someone I could entertain for hours with my tales of a search for a fair trade bikini. Whilst there are plenty of others on the Gaurdian who would put my efforts on the ethical living front to shame, it got me thinking. How will I do an ethical date?
First up, if I was to be really ethical, then should I start with an ethical dating site? Shockingly, there are hundreds of them. You, however, won’t be surprised to hear that most of them are based in America. Here are a few that stuck out:
Ethical Singles"this is a global online dating service for people interested in human rights animal rights and environmental issues." Really? I won’t talk about human rights till a third date.
Ethical Vegan Dating – "a website for all like minded people to finally have a place to meet and network, and form new beautiful and naturally far more healthy relationships." Yes, I imagine it's hard to find love over curried soy bean soup.
Natural-Friends - "is the best online dating service for environmentally-sensitive, country-loving, health-conscious single non-smokers aspiring to tread lightly on the earth." I won’t lie – I like the non smoking bit.
I even found an ‘ethical dating’ quiz. However, it was more to do with would you sleep with your best friend's boyfriend or make a pass at your doctor. Not really the kind of ethics we were meaning when we started this.
For now I think I will stick with The Gaurdian. My chances of finding someone not based in California seem higher that way. That, and I have already paid for 6 months.
However, we now move on to 2 other problems:
Firstly, what to wear for the date that is a) fair trade and b) makes me look vaguely attrative sexy, nice.
Secondly, what to do on the date that is a) ethical and b) funny, interesting, quirky but NOT weird. Never weird.
That will have to be solved another day as, ethically speaking, I feel I have already used up enough work time googling dating sites.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Foie Gras or Foie GROSS??

OK ethical food. I think this is going to be both easier and harder than clothes to blog about. Easier because I don’t really buy clothes that much (and not in a saintly I don’t need material belongings way but in cash flow kind of way) so I don’t have much chance to get practical experience. Harder because, well it's food and drink. And the reason I have no money for clothes is because I spend loads on food. And unlike Renata I am not a great cook and am quite prone to anything that makes the cooking process easier. Including the dreaded ready meals. Yes I know....

So the other night I am out for my friend’s birthday. We are in a lovely French restaurant and as I browse the menu I notice it has foie gras on it. I skip over it, thinking to myself how misguided the restaurant is for having such unethical meat on their menu. Bless the French. They don’t know that us right on Londoners would not eat that.

And then one of our party ordered it. And as I gasped in horror, someone else said ‘oh good call, I nearly ordered that’ 2 Foie gras eaters at our table? Surely not! No not at all. Several members of the party are foie gras eaters. When asked why I was so shocked, I mumbled something about not really ‘eating that kind of thing of ethical grounds’ and then tucked into my veggie gnocchi (v nice by the way)

Now the area of ethical meat is something I do have a bit of an interest in. I was a vegetarian for 14 years. When I gave up, I gave up on the grounds that I would only eat free range, organic meat. To my shame this has slipped quite a lot. And whilst I actually don’t eat much meat, I don’t stick to the free range organic rule. So I am not one to preach about what people should and shouldn’t eat.
But the foie gras thing through me. I had thought it was common knowledge that this was unpc meat. Is this just a misconception? When pushed about what the ‘ethical grounds’ I don’t eat it are, I said about the force feeding being kind of cruel but actually couldn’t really argue anything very strongly as I don’t really know enough. Time to do some research:

Foie gras – the case against:

Is pretty strong. To create the foie gras, geese and ducks are force fed by tubes, being made to eat more than they would in the wild and much more than they would normally eat domestically. Animal rights groups say that this force feeding in itself is very cruel. But if that’s not enough to convince you then there are a whole host of problems it causes which are inhumane. These include livers swollen to many times their normal size, impaired liver function as they become diseased, death if the force feeding is continued, and scarring or tearing of the esophagus. They put on weight so rapidly that they find it hard to stand, walk or even breathe. The birds are usually reared in cages to make the force feeding easier, meaning even if they can walk they have no room too. Think this is the over sensitivity of an ex veggie? Well not really. An European Union report concluded that ‘force feeding, as currently practiced, is detrimental to the welfare of the birds’ Its illegal to produce it in many European countries including here in the UK as well as Israel, Argentina and parts of America (California, obviously).

Also there is an alternative. Farms both here (sold in the ever ethical Waitrose) and in Spain have produced an ethical version that doesn’t require any forced feeding and the animals can be raised in a free range environment. However consumers and chefs (including Gordon Ramsey) claim the taste is not the same and still insists on using the actual Foie Gras. I would do a taste comparison but it’s not the sort of thing us ex veggies tuck into so I have never actually had real Foie Gras – any comments on this welcome.
Oh and Kate Winslet, Roger Moore and the Pope think it’s bad.

The case for:

Mostly seems to be based around the fact that it tastes nice (ok that’s biased. Start again) Farmers claim geese and ducks naturally ingest large amounts of whole food and gain weight before migration. They also contend that Geese and ducks don’t have a gag reflex so do not find it as uncomfortable as we may assume. And that in the wild the birds keep food such as fish in their esophagus for a long time anyway. If geese and ducks are stressed they won’t eat or digest the food well and therefore won’t produce good Foie Gras, so it’s in the farmers interests to have happy digesting birds. The pro foie gras camp also argues that using the term diseased liver is inaccurate and misleading.

There is also the argument that it has become the slight cause de jour among animal welfare groups and that the attention it receives is out of proportion with the level of cruelty (see above for celeb band wagon)

Well maybe it’s the ex veggie in me or the guilt of a new meat eater but I don’t think I will be eating it any time soon. It’s, of course not my place to tell people what they can and can’t eat so I won’t be lecturing my friends too loudly about it. However, having made this decision, what do I do with it? Is it enough not to eat it? Do I know need to not go to restaurants that sell it? Shops that sell it? Advice please??

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

dogs, sleeping late, Carrie and The Ladywell Tavern

The beauty of bank holidays is this: if it’s sunny, you can enjoy a glorious day out. If it’s miserable and rainy and grey – and guess which one we had yesterday? – you have the perfect excuse to stare at the telly/a book/Heat magazine/the wall all day.

I used my day off wisely: slept late, spent an inordinate amount of time at breakfast, gave it a good couple of hours start at Shutter Island (scary!), and then dived into an ambitious task: to empty my entire wardrobe on the floor, handbags and all, and re-organise the lot.

Sadly, a bit too over-ambitious, as it turned out.

By 6 in the afternoon, I had declared break time and we headed to The Ladywell Tavern, with the excuse task of investigating organic dishes on offer at our local pubs.

And before you ask, I had a great time on Friday, also known as The Big Opening Of Sex And The City 2 Film Day (T.B.O.O.S.A.T.C.2.D.).

Is the film good? Well, the first 10 minutes are exhilaratingly fun, the clothes are out of this world, some of the dialogue is sharp and hilarious, some is forced down the script with a hammer, some characters have no reason at all to be there but to pull in audiences (what was that with The Great Aidan Return??), some bits are frankly a little bit racist, and Samantha is back on her very top form, with laugh out loud one liners, and also looking fantastic. So, all in all, I’d go again next week if you ask me out. But I can see why some critics – I am only reading them now, having stopped reading film reviews beforehand some years ago – had a problem with it.

(glamorous Kay did her own version of Carrie about town in her tutu – only this time the town was London and the double deckers did not splash water on her, because British bus drivers are true gentlemen)

Back in South London, the Ladywell Tavern was a complete delight because:

1. of the adorable dog who befriended us at the door and didn’t leave us until her owner turned up for walkies.

2. the good selection of organic drinks.

3. they have an unexpected art gallery at the back. Now, this wasn’t my own talent scout discovery. I suspect it is one of the reasons the Ladywell Tavern won Best Pub in Lewisham 2010 (isn't it a bit early and shouldn't that read 2009?). We went to have a look and I must admit I was a little taken aback when I saw no nicely framed pictures on immaculately white walls, and also not a canape’or free wine on sight. Instead, we met the artist preparing for her next exhibition.

I’m not sure what it is, but it did make me gasp and despair when I saw all these books torn up and left to hang on walls. Just as I was starting to make outraged noises at how dare they deface books and deprive people from reading them, I spotted some of the raw material she was using for her art:

I know we should never speak ill of the dead, but take this, Dr Atkins! This is for putting yourself between me and carbs.

4. even if the food is no Michelin star grabbing, it is still really tasty and more than right for a relaxed weekend. And as their menu says…

This is when this business of eating ethically starts getting a bit murky. I’m glad to read on their menu that ingredients are all traced back to origin. They also reassure me all vegetables come from the local market, fish from Billingsgate and meat from the local butcher. But, lovely as they are at the Tavern, is there a way to confirm these claims? And is it a good idea to introduce yet another (expensive) certification process to reassure customers they are eating genuinely local food?

Personally, I think the quality and freshness of their food will be reflected in happy (and plenty of) customers, which is worth more than a million certificates. And if I really want to be absolutely sure, a simple solution would be to ask for the name of their butchers. If I’m running a kitchen, I’d have no problem showing the public where I get my ingredients from.

Because we are greedy, we passed on the mains and fooled ourselves that we were being light by sharing as many starters and sides we could manage.

Special mention to the duck liver pâté, served with caramelised onions, green salad and bread. The reason they dispensed with the de rigueur butter to accompany the pate is this: it was served in an individual ramekin, covered in a healthy layer of pure, yellow, shiny duck fat. Just my kind of dish! If you’re going to be ladylike about duck dishes, please don’t bother serving them. It was delicious. With the added bonus that I didn’t have to share its deliciousness with The Vegetarian.
                                                                                       (and goat's cheese tart for the veggies)

We left the pub slightly worse for wear, but still early enough for the walk across Ladywell Park and a catch up of my current favourite on telly: The Pacific. Again, I fail to understand those with the irrational need to maintain they dislike Spielberg.

Not without stopping on the way for a father-of-all-ethicals Ben and Jerry's Monkey Walnut to eat in front of the telly.
(note to self: in future, stick to the golden rule of never mixing ingredients that don’t grow side by side in their natural form. Bananas and walnut? Do not go together.)

All in all, a very enjoyable long weekend, mostly within the principles of ethical living.

I also went a bit crazy on the photographic tour of South London, the fruit of which I shall share with you along the week.

For now, I await invitations for a second screening of S&TC2, this time hopefully more sober and less giddy.

Have a happy short week!