Britain on a plate
It’s never been a better time to back home producers, halt this country’s decline in self-sufficiency and live the good life. Tom Parker Bowles details how to ‘eat British’ for a year, from gulls’ eggs and grouse to the more prosaic delights of our own ca
Back this country’s farmers and producers using Tom Parker Bowles’s guide to eating British for a year
There is no finer seasoning than the seasons themselves. That first bite of asparagus in spring, pert and verdantly sweet; gulls’ eggs, delicately speckled yet lustily rich, a taste of warmer days to come; grouse, young and heatherscented, the very essence of August delight; and native oysters, with their cool, elegant wobble, a sign of summer’s end. All these are British eating at its greatest, seasonal treats that taste finer for their finite time at the table.
however, as thrilling as these beauties are, it’s not all about the edible A-list. hell no. Because, to live truly in thrall to our seasons, we must embrace the less glamorous and more, well, down to earth. Those cauliflowers, cabbages, leeks and parsnips of the bleak winter months; purple sprouting and furred game, as cheap as they are abundant; sprats, beetroot, forced rhubarb and spring greens; sea kale, watercress and razor clams; strawberries and gooseberries, lobster and lamb. Currants, courgettes, sea trout and crabs; peas and beans; laver and lovage; swede and snipe, partridge, apples and pears. Goose, turkey and mutton. The list goes on.
When the fruits of our island are as bountiful as they are beautiful, seasonal eating is hardly a chore.
Which is why we should at least try to buy in the seasonal rhythm —you get ingredients at their very peak and you back British farming, too. Not just in some rosycheeked, hang-out-the-bunting, Rule Britannia sort of way, either, but rather as pragmatic, practical shopping that improves our national self-sufficiency. Because, in the past couple of decades, the ratio of domestic production to consumption has been in steady decline. We are currently about 61% self-sufficient, and slipping fast—official figures predict a parlous 53% by the mid 2040s.
There is much to lose, but the solution is simple. revel in the best of Britain, savour the seasons and support our farmers. Common sense never tasted so good.
It may be bleak out, but this is the time for rib-sticking tucker. The last gasp of feathered game —stewed (pheasant and the odd late partridge) or roasted (snipe, wigeon, teal and mallard. The glorious woodcock, too). There’s a bounty of brassicas: cabbages and greens, plus salsify, leeks, swedes and Jerusalem artichokes. Winter Cornish cauliflower that begs to be blanketed in cheese. And don’t forget the cider—from Somer-