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Chew on this

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008


Chew on this

Chew on this
In these days of carbon counting, our focus is often guided toward what we believe to be the higher impact aspects of life – heating the house, flights and car journeys mostly. But what about the food 
we eat? The term ‘food miles’ is often banded around, but do we really know the entire story? 

The truth is our shopping baskets are spewing out more greenhouse gases than we first thought. In fact, scientists now know that our love for food accounts for up to twice as many emissions as our love for driving. So, is the simple answer to shop local? When you look at the supermarket shelves and see grapes from New Zealand, tomatoes from Spain and apples from Africa, locally-grown produce sounds like a logical answer, doesn’t it? 

Well, it does until you learn that the term ‘food miles’ is solely focused on the products’ CO2 emissions. But, when you throw other harmful gases like methane and nitrous oxide into the equation, then the food production process becomes a whole lot dirtier. Those two gases alone are known to be way more harmful to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Research shows that farm to fork transportation accounts for only 11% of food’s total carbon footprint, with up to 83% of the emissions coming from the food production process itself. The remaining 6% going into wholesale and retail, refrigeration and lighting.

The most emission-intensive foods are red meat and dairy. That’s down to the amount of fertiliser and food that farmers use to rear cows and the amount of CO2 and methane they expel (the cows, not the farmers). You might be surprised to know that the carbon footprint of a tasty steak is the equivalent to that of a 19-mile journey in a 4x4 and that a simple bowl of cereal creates the equivalent stink of driving 4.5 miles (the main culprit in your bowl being the milk rather than the cereal itself).

So, one way of reducing your carbon food-print could be to give meat the chop entirely. Switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet could cut your annual carbon footprint by the equivalent of 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per person. That might be a bit too much of a leap for some meatlovers, so perhaps another way could be to simply reduce the amount of red meat we eat. Maybe replacing it with a nice free-range chicken. Chickens eat less grain and fart out less methane, so, in turn, cause a lot less damage to our atmosphere.

I guess there’s no simple answer and we all have to make our own choices in the end.

Just some food for thought.

Fertilisers and manure release nitrous oxide, which is 296 times as good as CO2 at trapping heat and remains in the atmosphere for 114 years on average.

By 2050 meat consumption is expected to reach 465 million tonnes per annum.

The Foraging Calendar

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008


The Foraging Calendar

The Foraging Calendar
January - Hairy Bittercress

February - Sorrel

March - Nettles

April - Wild Garlic

May - Sea Beet

June - Wild rose

July - Elderflower

August - Rowan Berries

September - Blackberries

October - Rose hip

November - Gorse Flowers

December - Sea Purslane

Why I Ride

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008

Why I Ride
I ride my bike for selfish reasons.
I ride my bike so that I am not one of the ordinary people.
I ride my bike for the adrenaline, for the confidence it gives me, to feel empowered.
I ride my bike to be different, as a mountain biking woman you are something of an enigma.
I ride my bike to take me away from being a mum, an employee, old age, to being just me again.

I ride because I can.

Belinda Tarling
9 x National Masters XC Champion
2 x World Masters XC Champion

Why we need a real bread campaign

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008


Why we need a real bread campaign

Bread facts
What’s in a loaf of bread? Flour, water, yeast, salt and maybe some seeds or flakes? Wrong. 

Take a look at the label of an ordinary sliced loaf and you’ll find some other ‘ingredients’. You may wonder what ‘flour treatment agent’ is and your tongue may get tied over ‘diacetylated tartaric esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids’. But allow me to let you into a secret: there’s something else in your bread – and it’s not declared on the label.

The big ‘plant’ bakeries together with the instore supermarket bakeries account for about 95% of the bread eaten in the UK. And the vast majority of this is made using undeclared industrial enzymes. Amylase, xylanase, lipoxygenase, protease, hemicellulase and others, singly or in combination, often produced using GM technology, derived from cereal, fungal, bacterial or animal sources and added to bread in forms to which the human digestive system has never before been exposed – these are British bread’s tawdry little secret. Why aren’t they declared on bread labels? Because the law treats enzymes as ‘processing aids’ which, unlike ‘additives’, don’t need to be disclosed.

They may be perfectly safe, of course. Trusting folk will, no doubt, be content with assurances to this effect from the regulators – the very same regulators who allowed other additives like potassium bromate to adulterate our bread for decades until they were suspected of causing cancer. The more curious may wonder why, if added enzymes are so safe, the big bakers want to keep the good news that they are in our daily bread from us. Could there be a connection, some may wonder, between the cocktails of enzymes designed to make bread stay squishy for weeks and the growing number of people complaining of ‘bloating’ and other digestive sensitivities?

Research is needed into the effects of eating enzyme-laced bread. But people are unlikely to support calls for such research if they don’t know enzymes are in their bread in the first place. And anyway, isn’t it everyone’s right to know what they are eating?

Making food choices without all the necessary information leaves us confused and manipulated. It’s time to get real about bread. Enough of the additives (hidden or otherwise), the endless ‘healthy eating’ masquerade of charging more for sticking supplements into the same basic dough and the nostalgic marketing suggesting that bread is ‘as good for you now as it’s ever been’ when in fact modern hybrid wheats, bred for intensive farming, are less rich in micronutrients, when white flour is so depleted by milling that it has – by law – to be fortified with chalk, iron and two synthetic B vitamins, and when bread is mixed and baked so fast that there is no time for fermentation to make it more nutritious and digestible.

We’re starting a Real Bread Campaign, to encourage more people to make, buy, share and enjoy proper bread. If it’s going to happen, we need to make everyone aware of the adulteration that’s going on. The labels on most loaves are deceptive and incomplete, so let’s stick one on ‘em!

Real bread activists might arm themselves will little blocks of sticky labels, printed with the missing information about enzymes. On visits to the supermarket, they might spend a few moments peacefully making good the information deficit on those loaves with the hidden additives. And then we all might open our eyes and make a real choice.

Andrew Whitley

Author of Bread Matters (Fourth Estate)

and founder of the Real Bread Campaign.

More info:


Our Farmer

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008


Our Farmer

Our Farmer
Our Farmer, who art in Devon,
Hallowed be thy tractor's name,
Thy supermarket will come,
Their orders will be done,
On time as it is in their quote,
Give them this day our daily milk,
And forgive us our overheads,
as we forgive those who trespass on our land,
And lead us not into bankruptcy,
But deliver us by tanker,
For thine is the dairy,
the Jersey, and the Friesian,
for Tesco and Asda,
Ooh Arrmen.

How to catch your own supper

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008


How to catch your own supper

How to catch your own supper
Between the months of May and September, the coastal waters of the UK are visited by shoals of mackerel – a delight to those who prefer their food direct from source and without clingfilm. For years considered a second-rate eating fish, recently the mackerel has been re-considered by fishermen and cooks alike – and deservedly so. It is plentiful, nutritious (high in Omega oils), and – unfortunately for the fish – extremely easy to catch. The most important thing is that a fresh mackerel fillet, patted with flour, fried and served with a squeeze of lemon juice, a slice of bread and butter and a cold glass of beer – is one of the best suppers ever.

Being fortunate enough to live by the coast, and being part-owner of a second-hand river canoe, it’s possible on most summer evenings to paddle out into the harbour. After a work day, and when the sea is mirror-flat (the only time its safe – our canoe isn’t really designed for the sea) it’s a great pleasure to glide along until we’re about 50 metres out, and then tie up to a buoy. With the sun lowering but still warm, in the calm of the bay we’ll start to fish.

Countless words have been written about the restorative effects of being in, on, or near water – and they are all true. No matter how stressful or draining a day at work has been, within five minutes of being on the sea, there’s a wonderful sense of carelessness, not as strong as after a long run or good surf, but still very special. Especially as there’s hardly any exertion involved in this kind of fishing. The canoe bobs gently and we sit at either end, with handlines over the side – hoping to catch our dinner. Often we’ll fish until the light dies and it is rare to go home empty-handed.

Of course you don’t need a canoe to catch mackerel. Most seaside towns will advertise trips on boats where equipment is provided and you’ll be pretty much guaranteed to catch. But the simplest and least expensive way to have a go is the old-fashioned way. You’ll need a rod and reel (borrowing is cheap), a weight, and a set of feathers – usually six hooks strung together with silver foil lures attached (for around £3 from a good tackle shop). If you’re unsure, ask someone else to set up the line for you.

Mackerel swim in to shore from deep seas to feed on the incoming tide. The best time to try and catch them is half-an-hour before high tide, and at this time in any coastal town worth its salt there will be fishermen ‘jigging’ for mackerel – whether for bait or plate. Cast from a safe place into calm water and then jig the line. This means pulling the line shorewards and then letting it drift out again repetitively and rhythmically. This constant motion will hopefully mimic the small fry the fish are looking for. Shaped like a torpedo, the mackerel is a voracious hunter, and has been clocked travelling 19ft per second after prey. If the conditions are right, then it shouldn’t be long before your line starts thrumming and you’ve made a catch. It’s not unusual to haul up five fish at once, but to take only what you need seems a good rule, and joeys (juvenile fish) should be put back until next year.

Another good rule is ‘an hour from hook to plate’ – mackerel, like most things, is at its most delicious when fresh, and part of its (unfairly) bad reputation comes from the fact that the flesh spoils quite quickly, so eat them as soon as you can. Cleaned whole fish or fillets can of course be frozen – but don’t keep them longer than a month.

The simplest method of cooking as mentioned earlier is by far the best – but being so versatile, there are many mackerel recipes, and many more you could invent yourself.

Happy fishing.


What happens when you wake up one morning and have no oil?

What Happens when you run out of oil?
The USSR collapsed in 1990/91. Cuba’s ability to feed itself collapsed with it. Overnight it had 80% less oil and no money for imports. The next two years were called “Special Period”. They were not that special. Everyone ate less.

They had no choice but to grow their own food and go organic. Oxen replaced the tractors. Old ways replaced chemical fertilizers. Every bit of land that could possibly grow something, did.

These small organic farms and gardens located in urban areas became known as Organiponicos. 

They learnt to be farmers again.

Cuba now leads the world in sustainability in urban locations. Cuba’s infant mortality rate is lower than that of the US, while at 77 years life expectancy is the same. Approximately 90% of its food is organic.

How would we cope without oil?

The total oil imported into the UK per day is 1,084,000 barrels.

Here’s to the slow guy

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2008


Here’s to the slow guy

Here's to the slow guy
The Slow Food international movement officially began when delegates from 15 countries endorsed this manifesto, written by founding member Folco Portinari, on 9 November 1989.

Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model. We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.

To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction. A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.

May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency. Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food. Let us rediscover the flavours and savours of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.

In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer. That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, projects?

Slow Food guarantees a better future.

Slow Food is an idea that needs plenty of qualified supporters who can help turn this (slow) motion into an international movement, with the little snail as its symbol.

Two Best Friends
They have at times been the subject of makeovers and suffered the whimsy of fashionistas that try to re-invent them. They always come back stronger and more focused after such trifling. I can do every thing in my life with them that seems worth doing and what can’t be done with them I couldn’t care less about. We have been on some incredible journeys together and they have been to some of the best gigs of all time with me. 

They have never been perfect in any way at any time but they have been more understanding and forgiving of my ability to go from one reality to another in the flick of an eye, one minute we could be skating a ditch, later in the day we’d be hill climbing and at the end of the day we could be either dancing like dervishes at a party, riding BMX bikes or riding fixies to a gig 25 miles into god knows where, they never back down from a challenge and have never let me down. 

I don’t want to climb Everest in them but if I wanted to they’d come with me, but like me we’d all be out of our depth, no matter though as they’d still do their job and with a few extra mates to fill in the gaps, I’m sure we’d be able to conquer those extremities too, but I’m not interested in being that extreme. I just want to keep it simple and that’s why they are always there for me.

Whether I’m slashing a kerb in a car park, jumping off cliffs into the sea or out on my bike they are ready to take it. They also like a walk to the shops too.

I used to ride 50 miles with them when I was in my mid-teens and that was when we were wearing nylon pants and bell bottoms, always laughing our asses off and having a great time. So I’d just like to use this space to say thanks to my two friends with whom I have spent so many good times with that they too should take some credit for what we’ve all done. 

Mr Jeans and Mr T-shirt your simplicity and adaptability has made my life better. Cheers for helping make a six feet five lanky fella with a love for bikes, boards and mischief find a uniform that lasted longer than any fashion or trend, classics they are not, icons they are.

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