In a way our grandparents were the greenest generation of the past 100 or so years. They weren’t so tempted by processed foods and over packaging. The general attitude of thrift passed down to them by their parents and magnified by the shortages of the war led to a buying local and ‘make do and mend’ philosophy.
Sitting within the framework of this general attitude were certain skills. Skills that would now fall into an ‘environmental’ or ‘green’ framework.
Let’s consider food. Arguably, the majority of our grandparents generation knew how to make preserves using seasonal ingredients, how to pickle and how to ferment seasonal produce so that the family would have something to eat over the sparse winter months.
Yes, these skills existed within patriarchal framework - in terms of food it would be extremely unusual to see our grandfathers working away over a hot stove, boiling up produce to make jams; but they were skills nonetheless.
But, how close are we to losing these skills?
A survey by the BBC Good Food Magazine found that, of the 2000 people polled, only 5% could identify when ‘blackberries were plump and juicy’. 4% could accurately say when ‘plums were at their best’ and 1% could identify when gooseberries were at their best.
- 5% of people can identify the best time for blackberries
- 4% can say when plums are at their best
- 1% can say when gooseberries are ripe.
What’s more, asurvey by Love Food Hate Waste and Mumsnet found that 24% of parents were not confident that they could make a meal using leftovers without resorting to a recipe book.
Shocking, especially when you consider the £12.5billion of good food and drink that gets thrown away from UK homes each year. Our grandparents would probably never have considered such a thing - storing left overs and reusing them in meals throughout the week.
£12.5billion of good food and drink is thrown away from UK homes each year.
Undoubtedly, shows such as The Bake Off have boosted the popularity of skills such as baking (with retailers even trying to predict what the ‘hot’ ingredients will be and racing to get them on the shelves). However, this is still not the type of cooking our grandparents would undertake as it still relies on buying more, cooking unseasonal ingredients and not creating foods that can be stored over winter or reused in different meals.
While the recession and, arguably, a general feeling of disillusionment with the current system has led to a rise in the popularity of restaurants that focus on sustainability such asPoco,The Captain’s Galley and many others (River Cottage has, of course, been leading the way for years) these are still restaurants. Restaurants that people go toto eat sustainably, rather than making meals with local, sustainable produce at home.
So, how can we ensure that skills such as seasonal cooking, pickling and preserving, fermenting and re-using leftovers, don’t die out?
How can we ensure these skills don’t die out?
The easy answer of course, is to learn it ourselves. For those of us still lucky enough to have grandparents around to pass on this knowledge - go ask them. For those of us in a less fortunate position - there is that endless resource - the internet.
Here is our selection of some pickling and fermenting recipes to get you going.
Some tips on fermenting, pickling and reusing leftovers.
There are, of course, countless other resources out there that can help you learn the skills our grandparents took for granted. Enjoy learning and let us know how you get on - we would love to hear from you.