December 9, 2023

Does your food have a story?

The thing that I like about growing my own food, preserving, and foraging, is that a lot of the food that we eat has a story.  Thankfully I am not just using random things that I have picked off a shelf the week before, and have no idea about the history.   Memories remind me of where it came from and I know that it does not have preservatives or fertilisers. It was foraged, planted or made with love, effort and creativity, and not in a machine.

Making a meal brings me so much joy as when I look at the vegetables in my fridge and freezer I can remember when I first sowed the seeds and how I nursed the seedlings on my overcrowded dining room table with Mr S grumbling that he had to sit in the kitchen to eat his meals.  I have muscles from dragging watering cans up the garden to water them, and I remember climbing down steep banks to cut leaves, climbing trees to pick fruit, searching woods for mushrooms, or getting prickled as I reached into barbed bushes.


Every meal that I make brings back memories. That jar of wild garlic pesto that I made garlic bread from last week, was foraged near a river bank.  The pasta sauce was made with tomatoes, onions and peppers I grew in my garden and it fills me with pride every time I open one. I can remember the exact moments I donned the gloves to pick the nettle seeds to put in my the bread that I made today. I also remember the carrier bag that I picked the dock seeds in that I turned into flour to make crackers.

The dried herbs that I have in little jars in my cupboard were dried in the sun in my conservatory.  The berries that I have in my morning porridge and crumbles, I netted in my garden all summer so that the bird could not gobble them all up. The sweetness comes from rosehips I foraged in Aberdeen on a break away. Tomato powder that thickens my stew is made from the tomato skins I dried rather than throwing away when making passata.  The accompanying mash brings back memories of burying my hand deep into the warm soil to see how big the potatoes were before I turned the pots out onto a piece of blue canvas that I keep in a wooden box in my garden.


The quinoa that added beautiful colour to my garden all summer, took ages to winnow and separate in the wind.  There were bits of chaff all over my stone flags. For Christmas I will be cooking the gammon in cider we made from foraged apples over 5 years ago.  It was so dry initially, but it has mellowed and tastes wonderful when mixed with juice from foraged brambles.  Mr S fell out of the tree and hurt his leg as he reached for the apples on the higher boughs. The jars of fridge pickles for the Boxing day table were grown up the arch over the path in my garden, and the Christmas toast with my family will be made with blackberry vodka from fruit picked on various misty,  early morning walks

Even things I have bought have a story, as I have made them from scratch. Peanut butter in the cupboard was made from peanuts that I separated from a bag of mixed nuts bought as a bargain after last Christmas.  I can still remember sitting in front of the woodburning stove listening to music as I separated them between 4 bowls and then threw some in the air to catch with my mouth just as my grandad had done when I was a child . Butter in my fridge was made from reduced cream bought on Easter Monday.  The curried salmon pasties that I baked today were made with grated courgette, onions and garlic grown in my flower beds. salmon flakes from the cooked fish heads of whole filleted salmon bought for half price, and spices bought from a market in Herefordshire when I went to visit my daughter.

Those that can hunt, keep animals, and grow more self sufficient than me, probably find even more joy and pride from the stories of their food than I do, but even living in a suburban semi detached house on the edge of a town means that my food has a narrative to be proud of and enjoyed. Making new recipes with random ingredients also means that my food is unique and personal. This means a lot to me, and this is the story that I want to pass on to my ancestors, so that they will know how to find and eat real food, and not the UPF that fills our supermarkets. Does your food have a story?


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  1. Pauline Mackay-Danton December 9, 2023 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    I absolutely love this piece of writing. But it has left me feeling very ashamed that although I grow vegetables I have never seen them as part of a story. I have only ever foraged a couple of times in my life. There is nowhere to forage near where I live that isn’t polluted or contaminated. I am ashamed that I have bothered so little to even think about the story of our food. You write so beautifully and with such a poetic use of your words that I feel humbled – I really could do so much better just by being more mindful, more appreciative, instead of seeing growing food as just another chore, which I am afraid I do. Big lesson for me…. Thank you ❤️

    • ToniG December 12, 2023 at 8:21 am - Reply

      Aww thank you. Please don’t feel ashamed, though. Every little effort that you put into foraging and growing is you writing your story of your food and I have plenty of time with being retired. Thanks for your lovely comments

  2. Angela Carmody December 9, 2023 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    The tomato sauce in a jar in our freezer was made with mostly yellow tomatoes from the greenhouse. The herbs in it and the courgette were grown in the garden. We have some frozen celery that was one of a few plants that needed a lot of care as very tiny seedlings. I like to pick some of the leaves from the plant and dry them so I can use them in stews and casseroles. When I think they are fully grown I dig the plants up. They are tougher than shop or market bought celery so I use the sticks chopped up in casseroles and stew’s and I also freeze some. The pumpkins and squash of which we grew many this summer are used in soups, curries, roasted and we freeze quite a lot of it chopped into cubes.I also often roast the seeds to enjoy as a snack.
    We often make extra when we cook dinner so some can be frozen for another day. As well as freezing courgettes in spirals I make ratatouille using courgettes and tomatoes from the garden. If we have any I use our onions too. I also cook courgettes and onions together and freeze that in containers so later when I just need courgette and onion they are already cooked and just have to be added to dishes.The Bolognese that I have frozen I know exactly what went into it and it has our tomatoes, courgettes, garlic and herbs in it. Mostly it would have my onions in as well but we didn’t do as well this year with them but did with garlics.
    When everything was grown in the garden I also know exactly what they were fed on (comfrey from the garden) and what has gone into our compost bin to produce the lovely compost we grow all our food crops in and that makes me very satisfied that they should be much more healthier than the food in the supermarkets.

    • ToniG December 12, 2023 at 8:19 am - Reply

      Brilliant. So many stories. Thanks for sharing

  3. Laura December 9, 2023 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    Yes, all my food has a story- despite having no growing space. I remember all the bargains, gifts, swops, Olio, To Good to Go and Community Fridge finds. I cook from scratch 6 days a week and have for more than 40 years. That depth means you have your own way of doing things, store of skills strategies and recipes. I truly believe creating food from ingredients with no UPF is an art, I am not a chef-my output is not made to impress, but to nourish every day-it is a joy ,and a sacred trust, we hold the health and happiness of ourselves and our families in our hands.

    • ToniG December 12, 2023 at 8:18 am - Reply

      Brilliant. I agree there is nothing better than the buzz you get from free food or a bargain, and making a meal from what you have. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ulvmor December 11, 2023 at 5:35 am - Reply

    Oh yes, there is a story or two behind my meals. Sometimes it’s about the ants that were trouble when picking bilberries, sometimes a bargain of 0,20€ potatoes (per 5kg!!!) – even if you grow your own potatoes, that’s a bargain you can’t let go.
    But there’s also a story for me about people behind every store bought item. In my work I have visited more than my good share of food industry and farms. It is common here to have the name of the farmer in the box of chicken or in the egg container or ground pork meat (and even in milk is the name of the dairy farm). Many of them I have met, and all of them have been proud of the hard work they do. I remember tiredness in their eyes and words when we were talking about economics of farming, sadness when they talk about their children who might not be able to continue maybe centuries old heritage of farming.
    For me even the cheap bag of rice is not a product of faceless international company, it’s a product of many people who might not be able to eat the same rice I do because it’s too expensive.
    When I pick a bag of frozen mushrooms I have foraged with my children and fry them to be eaten with potatoes I have grown with my parents and sisters I feel not only proud but also very aware of my good fortune. I do all of this because I can, I choose to do so, not because I have to.

    • ToniG December 12, 2023 at 8:16 am - Reply

      Aww that is lovely. Thanks for sharing

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