Cotswold voice: T’marrow never comes
- Credit: Archant
Adam Edwards: Friends of mine who consider themselves gourmets admit that the only difference between a good shop lettuce and a home-grown one is the slug that comes with the latter
I am sceptical about the gratuitous bossiness of the Stasi health authorities that demand we eat five fruit or vegetables a day. I know many men who have eschewed greens all their adult life and none have scurvy. In fact I can’t think of a single ailment any have suffered from boycotting the Good Life. I assume this is because they get their five-a-day from ketchup (vitamins A, C, D, E and K), the pickle and onions in a Big Mac (vitamins A, B12, C, D, E and K), and the slice of lemon in a G&T (vitamin C).
My private guess is that the majority of the globe, at any rate those not below the poverty line, live relatively healthy lives without a daily rack of fruit and veg.
Anyway this five-a-day love-in reaches it apogee in the late summer and in particular in this latest of summers. The frost-free spring and the glorious May, June and July has given us a bounteous year. The farmers are smiling, the orchards are groaning and the allotments in particular have propagated a glut of home-grown veggies.
The vegetable patch is a mystery to me. I understand the satisfaction that comes from working in the open, of planting, nurturing and watching something grow, although I personally would loathe all the digging, the mud and the creepy crawlies that are a necessary part and parcel of such cultivation. But it is the culmination of the spadework that I find baffling.
I find it difficult, for example, to tell the difference between a vegetable patch tomato and those from a good greengrocer (there are now two excellent greengrocers in Cirencester). The same applies to peas (frozen ones are better and almost certainly fresher), beetroot, carrots, leeks and rhubarb. I am no epicure and accept that my tastes buds have been damaged by drinking and smoking, but those friends of mine who consider themselves gourmets admit that the only difference between a good shop lettuce and a home-grown one is the slug that comes with the latter.
Furthermore, I find the lack of moderation from the grow-your-own brigade incomprehensible. Why do these hobby smallholders produce so much? Is it, I occasionally wonder, because they are five-a-day zealots who like to spread their belief by palming off excess produce on heathen, carnivores like me?
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The above may seem an unnecessary gripe. It might seem churlish to complain about the arrival of a free basket of apples or moan about the surprise appearance of a complimentary punnet of blackberries. However that is not how it works. The bestowals from the goody-grow fraternity are invariably runner beans (which one then has to peel), Swiss chard and squashes; and it is the latter for which I reserve a particular aversion.
A side dish of sliced courgette – deep fried in batter naturally – is an occasional pleasure but what does any sane flesh-eater do with a bag of the things? I have yet to meet a man who goes into raptures over a courgette bake, a courgette risotto and, in particular, ratatouille.
And then there is the marrow. “Marrow vegetables are low in calories with no fat or cholesterol,” claim the health police. “They provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium and a diet high in these nutrients may help decrease the risk of several serious medical conditions.”
But what the health boss-pots fail to mention is that eating marrow is no more appetizing than guzzling ditchwater. The vegetable is as pointless as Germaine Greer appearing on Pointless Celebrities. Marrow advocates will doubtless claim that the vegetable is delicious when stuffed. My answer to that is that if, as Shirley Conran wittily observed, life is too short to stuff a mushroom, then it is certainly far, far, too short to stuff a marrow.
And so the squashes and the Swiss chard that have been donated to me this year will return to earth as landfill and I shall continue my diet without my obligatory five-a-day.
I will of course be hoist by own petard in the autumn. When the abundance of late summer produce comes to an end it ushers in the season of free game. The wife of every countryman has a freezer choc-a-block with the spoils of her husband’s sporting prowess and I shall be expected to dine exclusively on pot roast Muntjac, pheasant stew, jugged hare, rabbit rillettes, game pie and more haunches of venison than there are roaming Richmond Park.
By the end of the sporting season I might even consider reviewing my opinion on the merits of five-a-day diet, although I suspect I shall get the necessary vitamins and nutrients they provide from a Big Mac and a Bloody Mary.
This article by Adam Edwards is from the October 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.