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

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Il­lus­tra­tion by Alan Baker

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.

Jan­uary

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-

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