Country Life

The great British food revival

FOR a Frenchman, it might sound wrong for me to be extolling the importance of buying local British food. Honestly, when I first came to England, I was frightened. The butchers here weren’t simply butchering the food—they were really murdering it twice. There was no interest whatsoever and we had completely lost our food culture. It had become irrelevant and, as a result, we saw the likes of foot-and-mouth and mad-cow disease: it was all caused by malpractice.

Britain was, for a long time, disconnected in this way because we had embraced an American system based on intensive farming and the heavy use of chemical pesticide. Of course, it was hailed a triumph because you could produce three or six times more volume per acre, but it became our shame when we began to understand the consequences: the erosion of soil, the chemicals going into the rivers and the sea.

Our food was full of these chemicals, because it was all about looks and the marketer understood that. We have been buying all food, all things—a scarf, perhaps—without asking: ‘What colourings have been used? Is it biodegradable?’ We merely looked at the

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