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Autumn 2018 food trends our ancestors would be proud of!

Sources suggest that the fermentation/pickling process, buying hyper-local produce to minimise environmental impact, healthy fast food and snacks, and booze-free food and drink are all popular trends during 2018. The trends of fermentation/pickling and buying from the most localised sources indicate a fashionable step into Britain’s agricultural past. What can we, in 2018, learn from the dedication of our agricultural ancestors five to six hundred years ago? In a capitalist society that has made blind consumption the easiest – and often cheapest – option in our busy lives, what can the patience, long term planning, and seasonal diet of Medieval English farmers teach us about the changes we can make in our spending habits to provide for and protect Britain’s spiraling modern farming business? And finally, how can the consumption habits of our ancestors help our current no-waste revolution?

According to Food Aware, a community organisation for spreading nationwide awareness about food waste, Britain wastes a dizzying eighteen million tonnes of food every single year. All this food is destined to meet its doom in landfill, leaving Britain £23 billion out of pocket annually. Globally, there is a growing movement towards solving this colossal problem. In France, supermarkets are banned from wasting or destroying unsold produce. Italy followed suit by demanding supermarkets donate leftover food to charity, and even in England, phone apps like OLIO encourage communities to pull together and offer food that people no longer want or need for free or at a small price. These parts of the no-waste revolution sweeping across Europe are reminiscent of the self-sustaining agricultural economy of Medieval Britain. During this era, whole families would work together to raise livestock, grow their own seasonal vegetables, and grow crops on larger tracts of land that would go towards feeding their rural community and the growing urban population. Capitalism has made it far too easy to buy meat, fruit and veg that carry hefty air miles, with a lot of these foods leaving an even heftier imprint on the foreign communities that grow them for us. For example, global demand for avocados has left Mexico highly vulnerable to illegal deforestation, while over in Peru and Bolivia, the demand for quinoa has driven prices up so much that this once nutritious staple is an impossible luxury for their poorest citizens. The devastating effects of Western Capitalism on the Mexican, Peruvian, and Bolivian communities and environments are just three out of hundreds of examples of why we should become more conscientious about our consumer habits. But what can we do to help?

Just like our Medieval ancestors, you can find out ways to preserve spring/summer produce for consumption during the winter. Along with salting foods such as meat and fish, Medieval people used pickling or brining, the process of preserving foods in salt water, and oil to preserve foods otherwise unavailable after the autumn harvest. There are many online resources detailing the vastly diverse fruit and vegetables available through the British seasons – for the purpose of this article, I used Melissa Snell’s ‘Medieval Food Preservation’ article with Thought Co. to find several intriguing methods of preserving foods for months or even years and Love British Food’s article of in-season produce.

The agricultural community in Britain is currently facing a lot of pressure due to Brexit – a huge threat to Britain’s foreign labour force who often take these low-paying jobs when first settling in Britain – and inexpensive imported produce from big businesses such as Lidl and Aldi. Through buying our seasonal fruit and veg and other produce directly from our local farmers, we’ll be leading the revolution towards supporting our post-Brexit agricultural economy; keeping our farms and our bodies working well!

Finally, as a student body, we should work out how to make use of the food waste we can’t eat – like egg shells, banana skins or the bones from meat and fish. We can work together to create compost for the countless community gardens across Manchester, or even encourage our university to create a community garden of their own, where we can donate our compost to, and conduct workshops for growing our own produce. By dedicating just a few seconds of our time to scraping our scraps into a separate dustbin to the rest of our waste, the bright, successful minds of the future whom Manchester’s student body represents will be setting a good example for the people currently leading our city, our country, and our world!

Tags: 2018, Environment, Fermented food, food, Food history, Food journalism, Food trends, food waste, foodie, history, Medieval, Medieval Britain, Medieval history, No waste, Pickled food

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