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Lang May Yer Lum Reek!

This year has had its moments – it would be tricky not to be affected by all the political shenanigans going on and if, like us, you have family living on mainland Europe there is naturally an additional layer of consciousness as we watch situations unfold. Personally, Brexit has been cited for one significant cancellation that I know of where Ireland was selected over Scotland due to concerns over strength of dollar versus sterling.

But enough of this! Scotland has much to offer so heads high and shout from the rooftops. We have a strong culture that is the envy of many: our music, history, tartan, island knits, nature and language. Our food is rising to the fore – and not before time. Those deep fried bars and a certain orange drink have done us no favours!

Through our support of Slow Food we meet many fascinating and dedicated folk and our Slow Food Experiences help spread the word over the airwaves along with enthusiastic SF Cooks Alliance Members who also fly the flag. Pre Christmas we delivered dozens of Original Fresh Blood Black Puddings from Lawsons (an Ark product) to CA Members and in spring we shall offer another product to their door. It’s a fun way to collaborate with kindred spirits. This autumn we invited CA Members to our complimentary course on Ark of Taste Produce.

Ten of us had a great day together tasting rare breeds, grains, Scotland’s new Presidium North Ronaldsay Sheep... even guga! The next harvest on North Ronaldsay will be in the New Year and there are other fabulous breeds to support and enjoy all year round. Click for an up to date list. My next Ark course will be held on Sat 1stFeb. Do get in touch if you wish to book your place – generous discounts for SFG Members.

This year we hosted Hawaiians, Koreans (my thanks to the wonderful drone images you sent including this one featured) , Germans, Californians and Swedes (pictured right) at our studio, many of whom travelled onwards to experience SFG Members. Some seek advice and tips, others plan it all themselves. Many keep in touch, posting photos of their travels as they explore Scotland and it is fantastic to read their positive reviews. It is an absolute pleasure to welcome such diverse and fascinating folk – sharing and comparing food culture and traditions, making friends and supporting biodiversity.

I notice ethical eaters are on the increase and Scottish produce can fit that bill perfectly. Indeed a few of our visitors who pre-ordered vegetarian opted for the meat dish when they saw the menu - I always state the breed and farm as I am a strong believer in provenance. We see this frequently when out and about and

understand their dilemma: not wishing to offend their host yet trying to navigate a world of increasing threats from global food industry; taking a stand against industrialised meat production with its implications of grain fed and deforestation. Chicken and pork are particularly challenging to source ethically – doable from some super suppliers featured on Scottish Food Guide, but unlikely to be on sufficient scale to reach mass catering such as school meals. Take a look at any supermarket shelf or an average school menu and the number of dishes reliant on cheap chicken or processed meat is horrific. Their nutritional value is highly questionable and there is nothing sustainable about their production. Thankfully we have Soil Association's Food For Life scheme making inroads to bring about change and East Ayrshire leading the way in school meal service.

With ‘veganuary’ around the corner we brace ourselves for controversial press and rising blood pressure! I have great respect for those who consume vegetarian and vegan meals using unprocessed and, as far as possible, local produce, and indeed such dishes form part of our own omnivorous ethical diet. My issue is with highly processed ‘fake foods’ with ‘fake names’ that are produced on industrial scale many food miles away using unsustainable ingredients and substances no grandmother would recognise, so removed are they from natural produce.

​​January vegetables in Northern Europe generally means roots, tubers and brassicas alongside fermented, dried and otherwise preserved ingredients from nature’s local bounty in milder, more productive months. By all means be creative with these aforementioned foods combined with sustainable pulses and grains but the damage done to our planet producing monocultures of almond, soy and avocadoes to name but three is creating havoc with biodiversity, water tables and pollinators. Out of season berries flown in from the tropics or tasteless vegetables cultivated in Dutch glasshouses are truly not doing Mother Earth any favours! Smaller mixed farm units using animals as part of nature’s cycle is the only way for a healthy planet – lose the animals and we have a broken food system. And that’s before you get me started on the plastic packaging…for another day!

Personally in 2020, as in every other year, we shall be supporting family farms and producers, eating local sustainably grown produce as much as we possibly can. That will include high-welfare pasture fed animals, free range eggs, dairy produce from Scottish Cheese Trail, seasonal vegetables and sustainably harvested fish…along with other goodies, preserved when in surplus. Scotland’s grains and potatoes are also ideal for an infinite variety of dishes.

So I urge you, whatever your dietary inclination come January, make wise choices for your local food systems, for your planet and for your health.

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