People’s Republic of Southwark The Blog

You are what you eat
January 26, 2009, 7:40 pm
Filed under: food

Growing up in Belgrade in the 70s meant growing up on only fresh home-cooked food. A lot of our extended family members lived either on outskirts of Belgrade or in the mountains of Croatia where they bred livestock (very small scale) and grew crops. Come to think of it now, they were as self-sufficient as you could be in those days, at least when food is concerned.

Food we ate came from the local market and specialised shops (bakery, butcher’s) and was always always fresh. There was no confusion as to where the meat came from as sometimes my mother would buy a whole pig or a whole suckling (dead) then roast it. The diet itself was a nice mixture of meat and veg/fruit, although you had meat or fish at least once a day, it was almost like an unspoken rule. And I never had weight issues, never any food intolerances or allergies, except perhaps to cow milk, never any major health problems.

It’s not like there were no alternatives, there were, we had pizzerias and national cuisine and seafood restaurants and we ate out every now and then, we had supermarkets where you could buy pretty much everything, we even had a version of a burger (made, from what I remember, from mincemeat and onion/garlic and maybe rice) which people easily made at home. We did not have a single fast food place until the late 80s, when the first McDonalds opened in Belgrade.

We never had any pets but the first time we did (a cat), I was in my teens. And not soon after that, I realised I could not go on eating meat, as I could not see how different eating your cat was from eating a cow or a chicken. I do not know how this happened, it just did, none of my friends had problems with meat, it was not anything I was reading either, as at the time, I was mostly reading plays and early 20th century European writers.

Years went past, I moved to the UK and discovered the whole variety of vegetarian everything. And I read and I watched and, at the beginning of this century, became vegan, mostly for the similar ethical reasons that prompted me to become a vegetarian.

Last winter I was growing basil and lettuce on our windowsill, and needless to say, they tasted so much better – even the compost was home made, courtesy of our earth worms working away in the wormery.

Growing your own food seems to what a lot of people are hoping to do these days, yes, even in, or especially in the middle of inner city areas. The prospect is very exciting as I think it’s encouraging people to, in a gentle but informed way, make a shift towards reclaiming the skills, knowledge, and relationship with their environment.


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