Accompanied by a vegan friend, I turned up at the organic foods superstore Whole Foods in Kensington for a talk on seasonal food by River Cottage chef Tim Maddams. Tim is impressively passionate about fairtrade, organic and locally sourced food.
He explained how cooking seasonally is different: ‘Every chef’s early training consists of 1) plan menu, 2) buy ingredients, 3) serve it. At River Cottage, whatever is delivered in the morning…I cook in the evening. It forces you to be creative.’
Tim’s early training with Marco Pierre White, Alistair Little and St John’s restaurant led to a gig cooking around Europe for two years for the Formula One circuit.
‘This left a sour taste in my mouth. Going to poor countries in an expensive catering unit and importing food.’ explained Tim. ‘I wanted to connect again with local producers in Britain. It’s not just a moral choice. Seasonal and local food tastes better. Your local butcher and green grocer can never compete with a large firm. If we don’t support local producers and shops, especially in a recession, they won’t be there in a few years time.’
As Tim talked, helpers handed around samples of cheese (Devon Bell, subtly pungent sage) and charcuterie from Wales, Cocoa loco – Sussex-made organic chocolate using coffee beans from Cafe Direct – and Lyme Regis sourdough bread. I felt guilty, as my vegan friend would only be able to try the bread.
The audience immediately began communicating in a chorus of ‘mmms’ and ‘yums’. To my surprise my vegan friend tried a piece of cheese. Emboldened by her, I attempted a tasting of the ‘lomo’ and the venison salami made by Trealy farm in Wales. I haven’t eaten meat in 30 years. The taboo thrill set us giggling, equivalent to a virgin’s visit to an Ann Summers party.
Tim does empahsise ‘eat more veg and less meat’, for the livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide. Lastly I tried the goose, cured by Tim Maddams himself. Overkill. Discreetly I spat it out. I’m afraid I will not be converted back to meat eating anytime soon.
Tastefair runs until Sunday 1 March
Whole Foods Market
63 Kensington High Street