Harriet Freeman, Bsc Economics
In our world today it’s becoming increasingly easy and common to isolate human input from economic activity. While commerce has been digesting the leaps and bounds we have made digitally since the late 1970s, consumer service has, in many cases, morphed into arms-length automated assistance.
Our current wave of globalisation has been advancing since the mid-1980s, partially ignited by, as well as a contributor to, progress in electronic communications and transport. As a result of this increased mobility of people, money and information around the world, we have seen a growth in standardisation which corporate monopolies spread. Similar to automation, the uniformity of goods and services throughout large multinationals barricades human warmth, thought and care from the company.
On the shop floor of Sainsbury’s we, as the consumer, face automated till assistants while being showered with an array of bland fruits and vegetables, simply bred for high yield – not for taste. The most interaction we get with our food producers here is via a photograph of the happy farmer in Wales amidst his cattle.
On the shop floor of Starbucks we, as the consumer, face mountains of mass-manufactured pastries, cakes and sandwiches constituted from low-quality, cheap, and most likely internationally imported ingredients.
One may get the feeling that we are indeed receiving the adequate business service which the Neoclassical Homo Economicus (Economic Man) deserves, as defined by his distinct similarity in taste for products to his neighbour. Time and cost efficiency in his consumption is sure to satisfy the Economic Man to a far greater extent than having a good chat with the local butcher over how to cook this week’s selection of fresh meat.
So, fellow SOAS student, I welcome you to join my Fight for the Faces Behind Food movement, to rejoice in person-to-person interaction, to feast on quality, nutritious fresh produce, to preserve the environment and support the local, dedicated producer-seller economy.
We are lucky enough to be situated in an area that bears two impressive farmer’s markets. The first can be found at Brunswick Shopping Centre, Saturdays 10:30-17:30, and the second in Bloomsbury, Torrington Square on Thursdays 9:00-14:00. At both markets, wonderfully lively bunches of stall-holders gather to sell fresh farm produce, value-for-money hot dishes (many Asian and Indian), steaming burgers and enticing home-made treats made with an undeniable quality-consciousness.
To “eat seasonably” is an idea implicit at these stalls; their produce is sourced or grown locally, thus only produce in season will be offered allowing for better taste and nutritional content, better value and better environmental treatment. Our tailored expectation that ingredients should be offered 365 days a year on the supermarket shelf is not beneficial for our health, purses, nor world preservation.
Further afield in Camden Lock Market, one can also find an assortment of local folk on food stands everyday selling a delicious assortment of street-food to appease any cultural palate.
The Moreish Café, Marchmont Street, is a hearty, Spanish-influenced place where you cannot fail to appreciate their keen mission for ingredient quality. Here, they place emphasis on home food creation, personable and informed communication, an awareness of independent farmers, and give generous portions at reasonable prices (on top of a 10% student discount), while catering to a plethora of dietary requirements. Jenny, co-owner and manager of the Café, underlined her unfailing passion when she described how she wakes up at 04:30 every morning to begin baking, cooking and curing – adding that she even churns her own Moreish butter. Breakfasts of warming porridge, yogurts and banana bread are served from 0700, weekdays, and the lunch and dinner menus are full of flavoursome and substantial salads, fish, meatballs, pasta, and exotic Spanish hams. They also offer plenty of choice for vegans -the seed-enriched rice salad is a refreshment of raw goodness.
So, come and embrace the engagement that we can have with our food and our local community who proudly feed us honest produce.