Sunday, January 07, 2007

Boxing Clever

It must be a sign of the times that all manner of goods can now be delivered to your door following some furtive ferretting about at a website or three, but surely the most rewarding must be opening your front door once a week to find a box of organic produce sitting on your doorstep.

I know that organic food is now officially a lifestyle choice, according to a quote by Environment Secretary David Miliband, but is a choice that an increasing number of people are beginning to take. That box of vegetables positively communes you with nature, as you extract the contents, which you feel have been plucked from the ground, merely shaken free of excess soil and placed lovingly in the cardboard receptacle.

This is food that hasn't been mucked around with before it reaches you. It is raw produce in a raw state, not some pristine, blemish free, washed, screened, sanitised vegetable that graces the supermarket shelves. That's not to mention the variety. Before we started receiving the weekly dose of goodness, I wouldn't have recognised a Swiss Chard or a Jerusalem Artichoke if my life were to depend on it. Of course, there is the weekly 'and what's this?" question, as another knobbly item pops out of the container, followed by a swift perusal of the contents list, but helpfully there are quite often recipe ideas included, and we usually end up with some tasty dish as a result.

So Mr Miliband, even if you are correct in your assertion that organic produce is no better than the factory farmed varieties, then at least I feel ten times healthier as a result of a more varied diet, with more green leafed anti-oxidising recipe ingredients than you could shake a tractor at. This new diet has taken some trial and error though. At first we opted for produce delivered by the milkman, which appealed to me as being the greenest way to receive your greens, but the variety just wasn't there. Week after week we would open the box to find that it was deathly similar to the week before, and there are only so many dishes you can make with a chard before you get 'green fatigue'. The second supplier was Riverford Organics, although this didn't seem very good value - admittedly we only tried one delivery.

Finally we opted for Able and Cole, which scores very highly on the quality and variety front, and seems to be the best value. We get the 'Family Organic Box' which serves our complete greengrocery needs for the week, as it contains both fruits and vegetables. The healthier diet has expanded along two axes. In fact, almost our entire Christmas menu last year was supplied by them, and consequently our waistlines have expanded along the same lines.

New for 2007 in the Rod K household, is the arrival of another ice-packed, insulated container full of organic meat, from the nearby Sheepdrove Farm. This carnivores behemoth will probably keep us in butchery products for a month. We have taken the plunge to see if we can enlarge our repertoire of culinary ideas and to see if we can cut out visits to the supermarket except for non-fresh items. It is early days so watch this space. All we need now is to find fish and eggs - not for the same meal - although there's always kedgeree - and we will be laughing.

It does help that the smaller members of the family have been raised not to be as fussy as I am ashamed to say I was when I was a child. They are reasonably up for trying new dishes and ingredients. The incentive tends to be that 'nothing' is the alternative, so that usually does the trick.

As I said at the beginning - it may be a lifestyle choice, but that's the lifestyle for me.

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