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Is integrity the missing ingredient?

I was reading the following editorial over breakfast this morning and felt that the editor had it just right! Bob Farrand, Publisher of the Fine Food Digest, the official journal of The Guild of Fine Food ( wrote this editorial in the January edition:

Guild Image

When the entire family came for lunch over the holiday, we ordered five ribs of beef from the butcher in Wincanton High Street. The meat was from a local farm where most of the animals are sold to a supermarket, but the farmer holds a few back that are slaughtered locally before the meat is dry hung on the carcass for 28 days. It was the best bit of beef I’ve ever tasted.

The animals sold to the supermarket are transported several hundred miles for slaughter at the company’s approved abattoir and the meat is wet conditioned in barrier bags before the joints are disbursed to stores all around the country. My local branch proudly boasts it sells locally 21 day hung beef.

Now we’ve just had Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall getting emotional about battery chickens. About time too. TV Chefs generally refuse to slag off supermarket food, as do many food writers and journalists, something to do with big advertising budgets, I think. Hugh is a real food hero, as is Rick Stein, but you can’t help feeling Jamie’s’ message would sit more easily on the ear without the millions he’s pocketed from Sainsbury.

Reading the supplements this weekend, I discovered the usual collection of ‘taste tests.’ Most were results from anonymous testers exclusively tasting supermarket own label foods. Journalists get sent free food from large retail groups with big PR budgets, which means small producers rarely get a look in.

In the same supplements, recipes from Ramsey, Novelli, Locatelli et al encouraged us to get back into a kitchen we’ve hardly left since Christmas to prepare dishes of breast of chicken, salmon steak and rib of beef. Added ingredients included wine vinegar, horseradish, balsamic glaze and fromage frais.

Not one offered any guidance on selection. Would the dish taste better if the chicken had lived for 92 days scratching around in the open air rather than 41 days in a cage the size of an A4 page? Would an own label horseradish do the job as well as one made in small batches using wild roots and fresh cream?

We don’t know because they never tell us about regionality and provenance when listing ingredients for their recipes and rarely include local branded foods in their taste tests either.

If all these media luvvies are happy reaping the rich rewards of their privileged roles, they should accept the responsibilities that go with it. They should preach what they practise. If they use quality ingredients in their restaurants and at home, they should tell us so and they should stop providing succour to supermarkets. If on the other hand their weekend shopping trolley overflows with own label, they might as well admit the truth and make way for those with more integrity.

2008 should be the year when chefs and foodie writers finally come out of the closet and get proper food between their teeth. They might also expose some of the so-called ‘local’ stuff in supermarkets for what it really is.

Bob Farrand, Publisher

[tags] Guild of Fine Food, Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall[/tags]

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