In a time where we are, generally, sufficiently broke that we can barely afford to pay compliments, let alone creditors, simple, universal pleasures have never been more important.
Food is my obsession of choice and – fortunate as I am – career too. Birmingham has enjoyed in recent months a flurry of attention and excitement over its foodie offerings – we are, apparently, now a city of taste and distinction. It’s true, the city’s several Michelin-starred offerings are formidable, and we have a new wave of independent restaurants forging their own path. But does that constitute a food revolution?
I suspect not. The real battlefields for real food are to be fought on the streets – our market traders (under threat from land-hungry developers), food in our schools and local neighbourhoods and the experience of Joe Public. I desperately resisted the urge to write Joe Peacock, but for those who might appreciate the reference, note how difficult it was to behave myself.
Joe Public does not need tasting menus, and Birmingham does not need more chains or, for that matter, supermarkets with a ‘stringent’ ethical policy – however much my privileged middle class upbringing means that I will always harbour a guilty affection for M&S’s food hall and their biscuits. Birmingham needs a food revolution starting from our soil.
Urban Harvest – a social enterprise – began with harvesting urban apples and pears and pressing a Brummie apple juice. Chris at BFoE grew potatoes on Digbeth High St – memorably risking life and limb to take photos of said tubers in situ. I am in the process of launching new grow sites at railway stations across the Midlands, and – with a little luck – turning the disused viaduct at Bordesley into a new aerial garden and community allotments.
I am – fundamentally – just awfully hungry and swoon at the prospect of more ways to satiate my appetite. But also I believe in local food because maybe, just maybe, when we start to re-establish a giving relationship with the planet around us, and take pride and pleasure in her offerings, we can begin to take pride and pleasure in other things.
I imagine a Birmingham where people are proud of their city, from the soil upwards, and we’ve crafted a Edible Brum – literally – and do you know what, that really would be delicious.