The other day I was passing the time voyeuristically viewing my facebook home page and I came across this picture. The photo was taken outside a restaurant in Albany, Western Australia and rather than your typical menu and price list, it lists the food products used in their meals and the distance travelled to get the food from the gate of the producer to the plate in their restaurant.
Now firstly, I’ve gotta say, I love it. It’s fantastic marketing to start with. I would eat there in a minute! I would feel so smug knowing the produce is both fresh and local, and hasn’t been sitting in a distribution centre in BFI for weeks before being shipped across the country or the world before it finally gets served up in the restaurant.
I also like the idea of supporting the local community. In a region as abundant as the south west of WA it is both a viable and marketable business proposition.
I think it is cool this restaurant (I don't even know it's name, it might be prudent for them to insert restaurant name on top of produce list) doesn't promote the prices of their dishes. Who cares if you are paying a few bucks more to salve your environmental conscience? (This maybe delusional given you probably don’t live in Albany and had to drive/fly there in the first place). But having eaten at this restaurant (which I just know in my intuitive heart of hearts is delicious), you could walk out satiated and feeling proud of yourself, imagining you are leaving behind only a light foot print on the planet.
This photo has got me thinking... I’ve been banging on to my Dutch partner ever since I landed in the Netherlands (in a not so environmental jumbo jet), about where the fruit and veggies that we now buy come from.
I have learned there are still products coming out of Zimbabwe, (I thought the land had been divided up into unviable small land holdings). I have bought snow peas, sugar snaps and beans, labelled as Zimbabwe, Egypt and Madagascar, (they all come in the same packaging, does a distributor buy bulk and package up or is it BS?). A quick and possibly dodgy calculation shows the distance between the Netherlands and Zimbabwe as 5500km, now that’s a hell of a long way for my snow peas to get from the gate to my plate.
It has been exciting (small things) to learn Kiwi fruit manage to make it across the oceans from the land of the long white cloud to the land of cheese and clogs. Well you see they are Zespri Kiwis and my friend works there in Tauranga in New Zealand.
I was blown away that the bananas come from Brazil, now that seems like a long way away (it’s a shame all I learnt in Geography was about cumulonimbus clouds). A quick consult of google maps it is another 5500km (is that a coicidence or did I not clear my earlier caclulation) from the gate in Brazil to my daughter's banana eating hand in the Netherlands (personally haven't been a fan of bananas since eating too many as a child and spewing on mum and dad's bedroom floor - sorry, too much info I know).
The oranges come from Spain, god love em, they are delicious! At least they aren’t from California (I have an inherited prejudice of Californian oranges which are imported to Oz even though there are also grown in Mildura).
What has surprised me most is it is just not the supermarkets importing 'fresh' food. At my friendly Saturday morning market in Delft (which is clearly more commerical than farmer's market), the ‘fresh’ fruit and veg also includes food that is imported.
So anyway, I suppose you are wondering what my point is about all of this? No, well I sure am, let me think…
Well, if it was up to the Dutch to consume Dutch produce that was only grown in their local region, they would end up only eating potatoes and boerenkool (kale – farmers cabbage), which I must say is a delicious dish to have, but could easily be limited to consumption once every three months.