The middle classes have always been the trouble makers. From the very dawn of their existence, when social instability in the industrial revolution mutated into a working class elite, we’ve become more and more bothersome and now we’re systematically destroying eco-systems one smashed avocado brunch at a time.
Whilst the upper classes are keen to preserve the more local eating habits of caviar, pheasants and other people’s money, the middle classes have developed far more exotic tastes: manuka honey, psyllium tusk and chlorella (not to be confused with cholera, unless it is the same thing, I’m not sure). Meanwhile the working classes stonk on as usual and write all the best satire.
I knew myself to be middle class when I had an existential crisis at a check out point upon realising that I was buying a sushi rolling mat. I soon afterwards discovered that you can buy deconstructed coffees in which the coffee, milk and foam are served separately. Why?! It’s only going to be a matter of time until gruel becomes the latest hipster trend, served ironically with a metaphorical jus of chagrin for £80. It’s obscene. Stop it. Stop it, now!
Incidentally, what is this macabre insistence of taking the simple suppers of the poor and serving it to the rich with a jolly sprinkling of extortion? It’s an old practice; both lobsters and oysters were originally the dinners of the workers until these marine shit-sifters and red crab-cats became suddenly attractive to the aristocratic eyeball. Maybe this is why the middle classes now pilfer worldwide, bringing in the goodies to ensure the meritocracy lives on because soon now, very soon, the plebs will no longer be able to order these unpronounceable foods at local cafes. Idiots.
Acai is a fine example of this, proving- if proof was ever needed- that loose collections of vowels are excellent fodder for the bowels. [AH-SAH-EE], you’re welcome, is the fruit of palm trees predominantly found in South America. Western demand for this tiny fruit is currently so high it is seen to warrant deforestation. Worse still, the locals for whom acai was previously a substantial part of their diet, are suffering in some parts from malnutrition because the availability of the fruit for local purchase diminishes as more and more is exported. All because of a demand economy; all because we can now buy the pink drink in Starbucks.
It’s not about starving yourself or going full-Irish and permitting yourself a diet of solely guilt and potatoes. It’s just a question of being careful. Our society makes it far too easy for us to feast on the relative wealths (literal and figurative) of the rest of the world; it was well grounded in the EIC only now the bandits opt less for eye patches and more for business suits and Walmart lanyards.
And now we get to those goddamn delicious smashed avocados. The avocado trade is now so lucrative in Mexico that drug cartels are forcefully taking over and running the farms. I shit you not, look it up. The Mexican avocado trade is outselling the marijuana trade, the seemingly innocent savoury pears now known as ‘oro verde’: green gold. It’s worth spending that extra quid on a fair trade avocado otherwise you may as well just start dusting your cappuccino off with a little cocaine each morning.
There’s more: quinoa, that most innocuous of grains. (Just take a minute to prepare yourself for me to destroy another of your meal-times). Quinoa is mostly farmed in the Bolivian Andes, and has been dubbed, ‘The Miracle Grain’ by the jargon blasters. It is full of iron, it is packed with protein, it is gluten-free (praised be Baby Jesus) and it is now so completely unaffordable in the aforementioned Bolivian Andes, whose populace have relied on it as a main part of their diet for centuries, that they can now no longer eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. The local farm land is farmed so intensively that the fertility is the lowest it’s been. This is a problem, world-wide, of course- intensive farming is the concomitant of demand: the more something is wanted, the easier it is to justify destroying everything around it. This doesn’t just mean habitats, it means lives and cultures and traditions. It’s actually a blessing money doesn’t grow on trees.
Essentially the point is that we have to stop looking so far past our stomachs. There’s a lot of beautiful things at your feet. We moderns treat food as though our stomachs are the centres of the universe. The big black holes of man; sod aliens- if there was a space protein that made your farts smell like marzipan, people would be trying to launch themselves out there off trampolines. Perhaps then, it is time to consider that our own corporeal being is not the most important aspect to our life. And if you do a smelly fart on the tube because you dared to eat a brussel sprout, people probably aren’t going to die.
The problem is that we are so detached from the source of our food. If someone came along ripping up the roses in our gardens and planted the lawn comprehensively with spinach we’d have something to say about it. But it’s someone else’s garden, someone else’s eco-system and you can buy the mud-less sanitised plastic packets from the supermarket so it must be ok. Yeah? This food appeared in a van? Right?
Answers then: buy seasonal and shop local. How many times does your Grandma have to tell you that gooseberries are delicious before you’ll believe her. And, East Londoners particularly, there’s no excuse: you live in a hot-hive of markets from Broadway to Ridley Road. If you fancied journeying that exotic mile more, then maybe trek along to Alexandra Palace Farmer’s Market on a Sunday for local mushrooms, cheeses and a £6 roast dinner on a recycled plastic plate. Or dig up your own lawn and plant spinach. And your neighbour’s whilst you’re at it.
A quick guide to this English season’s splendour:
- We’re coming to the end of the winter cabbage season and now come all the lettuces, the spring greens and, oh yeah, hello NEW POTATOES!
- Next month will start seeing those beautiful asparagus spears and first fruits of the season- blackcurrants and the very first of the strawberries, exciting times!! Another bountifully sprouting thing is rhubarb, best in compotes for porridges, yogurts and anything and everything else.
- And finally, those gooseberries will be ready in September so go and bake your Grandma a gooseberry crumble. Dare you.
Words by Mimi Biggadike