Early autumn is the perfect time to celebrate something that is always on our minds – food. Traditionally the period of the harvest festival, rather like Christmas it has morphed into a secular celebration of the great culinary delights of the United Kingdom. From home-grown native foods to the great tradition of embracing the exotic, let’s celebrate everything that our country has to offer our palates.
It is about raising awareness of our national and local food and drink, and each year focuses on something different. This is the 15th year of British Food Fortnight and the celebration has gone from strength to strength, attracting people to events and teaching both basic and advanced cookery skills while showing the great variety on offer.
Yet the event was born out of food crisis. Some 16 years ago, the Foot & Mouth Crisis hit the UK. Around 15 years before that, we had the Salmonella Crisis in our eggs. Confidence in British food was at an all-time low. That is why organisations such as Love British Food came together to promote the best of home-grown and locally produced food and drink, but to promote British farming too.
What BFF Has Already Achieved
British Food Fortnight is not merely an exercise in flag waving; it has a practical purpose in promoting the very best of British food and ingredients. Particularly, it has encouraged confidence for the consumer and promoting the benefits of reducing the distance from farm to fork. Transport is a major contributor to both cost and greenhouse gas emissions. Buying local is better for the environment and your pocket.
- Over 70 big organisations take part, raising awareness at seasonal food festivals
- Over 1,000 small shops have special promotions and use the material to raise awareness of the British food they sell
- “Putting the Ooo Back in Food” is a successful programme teaching children about the importance of food quality, food standards and buying local
- Their various initiatives have the support of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, the Department of Health and the Department of Education
- They have worked with education authorities to promote cooking standards in schools. Their guide on cooking in the national curriculum is the first of its kind to have been sent to every school in the United Kingdom
- They also work with hospital catering, care homes and university catering to promote British food
- They are partnered with YHA and the National Trust
As you can see, they have already achieved a great deal for promoting British food in the wake of two major shocks to confidence in the last 20-30 years. There are now more micro-producers than ever before, particularly in the area of beer and cider (tax laws on microbreweries were relaxed during Gordon Brown’s period as Prime Minister). It’s interesting to think about what the next 20 years may achieve, especially in the juxtaposition of globalisation and a desire to eat more local produce.
September British Seasonal Produce
The best way that you can support British Food Fortnight is the buy local and seasonal produce. Not only will you be supporting local farmers and helping the environment, you will be exposing your pallet to a greater variety of culinary options.
- Rather than beef, lamb, pork or chicken why not try some seasonal game for your Sunday roast? September and October are the perfect time to buy venison, wild boar, duck and pheasant
- The adventurous seafood lover may not realise that September is the best time of year for fresh oysters. Even if you don’t like eating them whole, they make a great sauce
- For the fish lover, grey mullet, sea bass and scallop are ideal for those Friday fish suppers
- As far as fruit is concerned, this is the best time of year for local apples, for damson plums, blackberries and raspberries
- It may be a mainstay of your summer salad, but home-grown and local beetroot is at its best in September and early October