Buying (and cooking) Local Food

The Sheffield Cookbook I love cookbooks and have a fairly deep collection.  Some I have cooked with extensively, some I have yet to cook from.  I have read every one–cover to cover.  Reading cookbooks is a sensory experience for me.  I enjoy the feeling of the pages and the anticipation of what will appear next as one moves through the volume.  I love to imagine the tastes within the recipe, to anticipate combining new foods and to consider the mouthfeel–whether soft and creamy or crunchy–of the first bite or to imagine the smell that will fill the house as the food cooks.  It is a happy place for me.  I bought a new cookbook today that promises to provide these sensory experiences, but also a bit more, a bit extra. 

The cook book is a compendium of recipes celebrating Sheffield food culture that includes food from restaurants, retailers, and food producers all of whom embrace the notion of local in some way or another. Not surprisingly there are a number of recipes from what has become known as gastro pub cuisine. The Milestone, for example, offers a pudding recipe of rhubarb and apple and yogurt, which celebrates the region’s long history as the place to go for early forced rhubarb.  Also, for some reason Sheffield has an abundance of Italian inspired restaurants and so of course Nonna’s and La Terrazza respectively list tagliatella and ravioli recipes.  The book features some more adventurous (for Sheffield) cuisines as well. Cubana is represented via recipes for salsa and hake in cream and Ashoka offers a recipe for pakora and there is even Texas Bar-B-Que and cornbread via Swanky Frank’s and Smoke Barbecue. Alongside the restaurants the book provides information about how to source good food locally.

I now have a food provisioning day planned that will take me to Sheffield Moor Market to buy Hong Kong inspired green tea ice cream from Yee Kwan and coffee from Cafeology, to J.H.Mann to buy fresh fish (on Sharrow Road) and to John Crawshaw’s Butchers in Hillsborough for beef, to Moss Valley Fine Meats to buy pork, and to La Bon Vin on Brightside Lane to buy wine or perhaps Mitchell’s Wine Merchants on Meadowhead for wine or whisky…and that is just getting started. There are 50 recipes and about as many businesses represented in the book.  All the food looks good and all beckon a taste.

The book also offers food with a story.  Through the book we get to know about each contributor. We learn about how Bryan Unkles, founder of Cafeology, came to be concerned about sourcing and selling coffee that is as ethical as possible and how Simon Ellis, a former lorry driver, came to start making and selling jams, chutneys and vinegars based around hedgerow findings. We are introduced to Eddie Andrew who moved back to his parent’s dairy to help them to diversify their business and survive the milk crisis via what was to become Our Cow Molly and to Jez Daughtry, who started Sheffield Honey with a network of hives all over the region after being made redundant from an IT company in 2009.

Some time ago now I wrote a paper for a geography journal called Buying Local Food: Shopping Practices, Place, and Consumption Networks in Defining Food as Local.  In the paper I argued that the idea of local is defined situationally. In the paper I also pointed out that the idea of local can be used to obfuscate a real back story that is not at all local while at the same time seeks to mobilise consumer anxiety about the food system and can reinforce racial and class divisions.  What is refreshing about this cookbook and the way in which it presents the cooks and the recipes, is the way that the idea of local food is not entirely one that is corrupted.  It advocates sourcing from the local context when possible, but it does not assert a call for exclusively local or a defensive local.  The cookbook has inspired me to go and forage through this city and to be grateful for what is available to me in this place by exploring what is available from these represented businesses but also from the myriad of others that are not represented, but which also contribute to the local food landscape of Sheffield. GeoFoodieI have written about a local food event concerning food focused community support efforts in Sheffield, which was attended by a number of those involved with the cookbook. If I were consulted I would also have included the following businesses in the cookbook:

  • New Roots, a small not-for-profit shop that gives its proceeds to help support refugees in Sheffield.
  • Ozman Market, an international market with low prices, a wonderful fruit and veg selection and extensive stocks of sauces and dry goods from other parts of the world.  The goods are not particularly sourced locally, but they serve a very local, international community residing in Sheffield whose foodways are not being served by the large supermarkets.
  • China Red, billed as Sheffield’s best Chinese restaurant, I would have to agree.  They even serve my favorite aubergine dish.

This post was part of the Daily Post Weekly photo challenge. The theme was Extra, Extra. We were challenged to introduce a photo with something that adds a little extra. I think this cookbook offers a little extra and in doing so shows that Sheffield has a bit extra as well.

2 thoughts on “Buying (and cooking) Local Food

  1. Sounds like an interesting book. And thank you for linking to your paper, I have bookmarked that for a proper read soon. I have recently been thinking more and more about the pros and cons of local food and it’s great to see other people’s views and opinions on this topic.

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