This year I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Soil Association as an ambassador for their 2017 BOOMs (Best of Organic Market Awards), helping to spread the word about organic and the fantastic new products that are emerging in this literally – if you’ll excuse the pun – booming sector.
I didn’t really have to think twice about shouting about organic. I grew up eating vegetables that my dad grew himself in the vegetable patch, so in that sense I always had a clear idea about the connection between food and the land. But the more I’ve learned and read about cooking and the food system, the more I’ve realised how important our choices as cooks and eaters are to the planet. One of my favourite writers, Wendell Berry, says that “eating is an agricultural act” in this article (well worth a read) and I completely agree – I think it’s important and empowering to understand how the way we shop, cook and eat effects the world around us, as well as our own health, and being aware of where our ingredients come from, and how they’re produced helps us to make better decisions. I’m lucky at the moment to be in a position where I have a voice in food, and I want to use that voice to encourage people to think, eat and cook as responsibly as possible, and I really believe that organic is a clear and accessible way for people to make better choices.
As a cook, it’s so important for me to know where my ingredients are coming from, and that they’ve been produced in a way that is as natural and kind to the environment as possible. Why do I rate organic food? When you buy or grow organic food, you have a guarantee that the ingredients have been farmed or raised in the most natural way possible – in healthy, fertile soils that promote biodiversity and bee-health rather than chemical-led monocultures. You know that polluting chemical fertilisers have not been used, that animals have been reared with the highest possible welfare standards – without the routine use of antibiotics, with the sun on their back, access to clean water and shade for shelter – rather than standing in a box neck-deep in their own excrement. In other words, you know that the farmers and people producing your food are doing for the right reasons – not purely to turn as much profit as possible as part of a huge, industrialised machine, but to produce nutrient-rich ingredients in a way that has less of a devastating effect on the environment. Organic ingredients are also fully traceable, so if you want to, you can find out exactly where your food has been produced. Those are the reasons why I choose to buy organic ingredients.
As you can tell from the pictures, this year’s BOOMs was a storming success. We held the awards at Borough Market, in Market Hall, and dressed the space with gorgeous flowers from Organic Blooms, with delicious food from Pear Drop Catering (who nailed my organic almond and dried apricot madeleines). I presented an award for the best in confectionary product to Booja Booja for their insanely moreish hazelnut chocolate truffles, and guest judges including Lizzie Rivera of the brilliant ethical blog BicBim and eco-chef Tom Hunt also dishes out some awards to the winners. It was a sweltering night, so people were getting stuck into the organic wine and g&ts, and it was amazing to be in the company of so many food producers who are doing brilliant things.