By Dave Stewart
‘Locally sourced wherever possible’ is starting to sound like a bit of a cliché these days, isn’t it? It’s popping up everywhere from gastro-pubs to chain restaurants – even fast food giants such as McDonalds have started pedalling the message.
Of course, natural cynicism, particularly when the food giants get involved is natural. But the indisputable fact remains that it has never – for economic reasons as well as environmental - been more important to help sustain our local suppliers. They need us, and we need them. They are everything to our economy and the gathering momentum of our own British food revolution. Buying local is not -and must never be labelled- the fanciful preserve of rich, middle-class people. This is something we can all do, every single one of us - even if it’s just ensuring the food we buy at the supermarket is sourced from Britain.
Every little helps, and it sends a strong message to the buyers at the supermarkets that this is what the public want. In turn, they will encourage more British production and these demands for subsidies and protected farmland will eventually reach government. The landscape of Britain changed a lot after the Second World War, when we sensibly sought to ‘grow’ our way out of economic hardship and rationing. It worked once, and though the country is a different place now, the economic benefits of being self-sustaining are as relevant today as they were back then.
On that note, there’s a free event on this month showcasing of some of the best local supplies around, and it’d be well worth a visit. Oxford Castle’s ‘Keeping It Local’ weekend, which takes place on Saturday September 15 and Sunday September 16, is going to feature an abundance of stalls from local suppliers and producers – from fresh baked breads to full-flavoured, farmhouse cheese to the best in British seasonal vegetables, meats and preserved products. If you want to make a stunning meal, or just taste something a little extraordinary, pop along and learn to fall in love with British food all over again, happy in the knowledge that you’re helping out local businesses as you do so.
As well as the many stalls, there’ll also be workshops, demonstrations, and performers – all with a local connection and, on Saturday night, a unique gig programmed by the folks at The Oxford Mail. Entitled ‘Live and Unlocked’, it will be taking place within the atmospherically charged walls of the excellent Oxford Castle – Unlocked visitor attraction. If you can find a more unique gig venue than a converted former prison, we’d love to hear from you! In fact, music will be playing quite an important part throughout the weekend, ‘Keeping It Local’ being a result of the merger between last year’s summer concerts, the Flower & Gardening festival and the Food & Wine festival.
Fingers crossed it’ll give a huge boost to our local producers. Our economy (not to mention your taste buds!) will thank you for it, so get down there and discover something new, something unique, and above all - something British.