Cookery Quote
Never eat anything bigger than your head
Whenever you see crossed chives you are in trouble
We should all be eating less meat and better meat

Whatever Next

On the 1st of January 2010 the first ever Virtual Farmer’s Market website went live.
The press release proclaimed that you could ‘stroll around’ a 3D farmer’s market world where you can ‘meet’ the people that produce your food and drink via video streams.
There is something somewhat suspicious about Farmers’ Markets (I presume that each market is home to more than one farmer and place the apostrophe accordingly, the VFM people take a different view). Upon taking my elderly aunt into Daylesford farm shop HQ in the Cotswolds she eyed the carrots – and magnificent muddy carrots they were - on hearing the price, however, she walked out of the shop and asked that we move on. My aunt lived through the Second World War and although no one could call her anything but generous she understands the value of money. Carrots left dirty and priced as if they were an exotic import get short shrift.
But the Disney Dust attached to the concept of Farmers’ Market is powerful stuff, when the bakers at St John take a vanful of their excellent bread up the road to the Islington Farmers’ Market they can add a pound to the price of each loaf in the happy knowledge that they usually sell out in a couple of hours. Theirs is a cheerful grin as the same bread could have been bought at a discount by any of the Islingtonites with the nous to walk the few hundred yards from the Farmers’ Market to St John the restaurant.
Is shopping a lost art? Are we so unskilled that we presume that carrots with mud on them will taste better? Could it be that a Virtual Farmer’s Market is what we crave, wandering around an artificial world where we can see a video of the producers but cannot pick up, smell, or taste the food and drink? I have nothing against the suppliers who are signed up to this initiative - Gower Brownies, William Chase vodka, Paxton and Whitfield cheeses, Dave’s Chilli Oil, Jack O’Shea the Butcher, Burnt Sugar fudge, unusual teas from Choi Time and Teapigs, plus bacon and much more from Peter Gott of Sillfield Farm – a host of good things to eat that have done consistently well in the Great Taste Awards… but that was in the real world. Maybe I am a dull old Luddite? Maybe the Virtual Farmer’s Market is merely the equivalent to a mail order catalogue for the 2010s? But how does such a site chime with the aspects of food shopping that I hold dear – fresh food, local food, natural food, sustainable food, wholesome food…? According to Mintel Research the online grocery market was worth £4.4bn in 2009 and this figure is expected to grow by 57% and reach £6.9bn by 2014. Perhaps we need a campaign to support the joys of real shopping before it all moves onto the web.

Charles Campion

www.vfmuk.com

St. John Bar and Restaurant, 26 St John Street, London, EC1 www.stjohnrestaurant.co.uk

Charles Campion - Monday 29th March 2010

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