This month MARTIN DOREY is thinking about what the height of the season means and how our eating habits can support the coastal towns and villages we visit.
As we race headlong into what the locals here call ‘silly season’, I would like to draw your attention to something that bugs me about August at the coast. Some people get stressed by meeting caravans on narrow lanes or not being able to get a table in a restaurant. Others might moan about feeling that their town isn’t theirs anymore. All are legitimate concerns and can score well on the bug-o-meter, of course, but we do have to accept that peak season is a part of life for a coastal town.
But those kinds of gripes are not for me. I like to grumble about something else: people buying all their groceries from the supermarket before they get here. I find it really disheartening to see visitors unloading a bunch of shopping bags from the boot of their cars – as if there isn’t any food here in Cornwall – when they arrive at their second home, their holiday accommodation or campsite.
Buying food and groceries from local shops, independent traders, farmers’ markets and even from by-the-road stalls is one of the very best ways you can support a community. In spending your money with local people you get to meet them while also ensuring the continuation of their jobs. Profits, as research proves, tend to stay in the local economy longer, making everyone wealthier. Conversely, buying food at a supermarket does absolutely nothing for the locals. Goodness knows where their profits go. The Cayman Islands?
Then there’s the taste. Local food tastes better and is fresher than food that has travelled. And if you are concerned about climate change (and you probably should be) then buying local is a very good weapon to have in your eco-arsenal. With limited food miles, locally grown and seasonal food is far better for the planet than food that is flown half way around the world.
Years ago, when I worked a season in St Ives, I used to buy fresh mackerel from people coming back from fishing trips. Those fish, caught with a rod and line, were fresh and delicious and about as sustainable as it’s possible to get. Putting those mackerel on the barbecue made me realise good food isn’t about fancy spices or complicated cheffery. It’s about good quality, fresh ingredients, cooked simply. I don’t eat much fish these days because of concerns about overfishing but I wouldn’t hesitate to eat a line caught mackerel if it jumped in my bucket right now.
Here in Bude you can sample locally made chorizo, rum and crackers. In the deli you can buy delicious, nettle-wrapped Cornish Yarg. Our local pub sells nothing but Cornish wine, spirits and beer. On Saturdays you can meet the maker at the farmers’ market, get some fresh veg and have a nice chat too. It’s the same all around the coast of the UK. There are amazing people making amazing food that you will adore. All you have to do is make a little effort.
Make the good guys rich. The supermarkets are rich enough already.
To read more from Martin Dorey, check out his article on the effect of disposable BBQs on the beach.