The Real Deal About Making, Baking and Growing Your Own


Carrots & courgettes from the garden
I've been interested in baking, cooking and growing-my-own for years now.  From the time I earned my BA and started buying plants, I now (some 20 years later!) have a garden where every plant and tree in it is there by my own hand.

I've also recently started baking my own bread, and have a sourdough starter on the go.  In the last three years I've harvested pumpkins, mixed lettuce, corn on the cob, beetroot, carrots, kale, garlic, potatoes, rocket, courgettes, leeks, onions and cabbage from the three large veg boxes I have.  I have two productive apple trees in the back.

From front: kale, mixed lettuce, corn on the cob, rocket, broccoli.  Summer 2015
Every morning I wake up I thank all the gods for the large grocery store that's near me.  

And here's why: It takes ALOT of space to grow all your own food.  I never actually appreciated how privileged it is to walk into a grocery store and buy whatever food you want, no matter the season, until I started putting hard work in the garden. Seriously.

I was recently watching a repeat of Garrai Glas (which I really like) and had to choke back laughter when someone stated that veg grown in your own garden tastes better.  Here's the thing.  Mostly, it doesn't (excepting peas which are divine when garden fresh).  I can tell you truthfully that carrots taste exactly the same as store bought ones.  Also, lettuce tastes the same.  Beetroot? The same.  Tomatoes taste nicer-ish.  Better than the mealy beef tomatoes that we all ate up until the Millennium.  About the same as the vine tomatoes you can get at M&S, Tescos or Lidl. Corn on the cob tastes better but its very hit and miss getting it to grow outside in our climate.  I wouldn't even bother in Seattle but Dublin receives so much more sun I had to give it a go.
So the whole general knowledge thing about growing your own tasting better is pants (with the possible exception that is the awesomeness of having fresh herbs on your doorstep/windowsill).  That doesn't mean I don't support it.  Personally, I love getting my hands dirty and growing various things, edible or not.  But the pretension that goes along with organic & slow food these days is extremely crap.  Its great supporting organic/GYO food because you think its healthier/better for the environment but I think alot of people get involved because it makes them feel superior.  I know people like this.  Its depressing.

The *last* proof
Don't even get me started on bread.  After watching Michael Pollan's Cooked (watch it!), I found myself on a mission to bake my own bread.  The result is that I have never in my life been so thankful for bakeries.  The time and effort that goes into making and keeping a sourdough starter  and getting a really good loaf of bread is unreal.  Even if you don't aspire to the two-day (that's after 7 days of getting your sourdough starter going, so over a week, total. For *one* loaf of bread) Tartine bread, this recipe from Epicurious requires you be home and near/in the kitchen for about 6.5hrs (note: I use my sourdough starter for the 'proto dough' so add an extra 7 days to get that going).   Homemade bread, the loaves that actually turn out, do taste divine.  I might be ruined for store-bought bread for life.  But here's something else they don't tell you.  Homemade bread goes hard fast.  It has no preservatives which is good but that also means it starts to turn to a brick fairly quickly. 

Finally, a decent loaf of bread! April, 2016
Its extremely clear to me that the ability to spend so much time in the garden and kitchen is an absolute privilege.  But one that has made me more appreciative of the comfort and ease in which we live in Western society, with any kind of food stuff we desire available fairly cheaply at a variety of grocery stores near to us. I have gained a massive appreciation for the work it takes to get food to our table and a greater respect for the true wealth that lies in having an always-stocked grocery store close by.

I'm also grateful that the organic & GYO / slow food movements have become so popular that they've forced large food producers to vary their produce (you can even buy organic veg in the larger Tescos) and encouraged us all to think about not just where our food comes from but how its grown.  I just wish these food trends weren't also so associated with elitism.  And by that I mean the people who brag about only using organic produce (see how intelligent and privileged I am!) are pretentious gits in the movement that we can do without.  I also think its funny when people feel very smug about getting their groceries from the organic food producer but buy tomatoes in January.  Tomatoes that come from Italy and burn fossil fuels getting here.  But okay.  Maybe we should just all be a bit more grateful and awestruck we can have tomatoes in January and leave the pretension out of it.

**Notice: while the author likes to cook with organic produce and support organic food producers, she has zero problem buying non-organic produce from Tescos or Lidl (which taste great) and while supporting the true cost of food would like to also see the organic movement opened up to all price brackets. 

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