Regular readers of onlinefocus will know we sometimes link to a local food blog “Big Spud”.
We thought it would be interesting to ask Gary, the author of the blog, to write something for us about food and local shops. Here it is – and it’s worth a read:
“I am passionate about my food. I am the main cook in my household of two adults and two children, preparing the daily meals and pushing the boat out too. I have a shelf groaning with cookbooks, I have drawers of gadgets, racks of spices and a dozen recipes swirling round my head at any one time. I can’t abide mediocre dinners and love to treat family and friends with meals I’ve toiled over.
When it comes to buying food, I’ll pick over the labels. For meat I’ll check for provenance and quality of life for the animal; with vegetables I’ll look for country of origin and freshness. In short I look for the best quality I can afford to feed my family.
Invariably supermarkets will offer the most convenient choice in this regard. I can wander up and down the aisles and leisurely poke the plastic packaging when it suits me. But the final product is never amazing, just OK.
This is why I so badly want to support my local shops, especially the butcher?s and the greengrocer?s. I want to chat to the person who knows the first name of the farmer who raised the pork belly. I want the expert to show me what variety of potato is bang in season today. You can’t beat the expertise of the local shopkeeper whose livelihood depends on your pound in their pocket, so *has* to take an interest in your shopping list. I love the interaction, and I love the quality produce you get too. I may pay a little more for shopping at these places but I’d happily eat a little less to eat a lot better.
But I very rarely shop at these places.
I am part of a modern working family where my wife and I work full-time. The local shops seem to still cater for a world where one member of the household (alright then, the mother) pops down the shops one weekday morning to gather the week’s food. I simply can’t get to the shops during the working week. This leaves us with Saturday. The situation in Rayleigh High Street is this: pay for parking up to 1pm, free thereafter. It *really* rankles me to have to pay for parking, it just feels like a rip-off to have to pay extra just for the luxury of visiting these shops in the morning. So I go in the afternoon – where it seems that by then these shops have half an eye on getting home and have sold out of anything worth having. They certainly haven’t taken any deliveries that day either, so you’re not getting the very best they can offer.
Which leaves me in a stalemate where I want the best but opening times and parking charges convince me that carrying on down the road and using the Sainsbury’s at Rayleigh Weir is the more convenient choice. When Tesco, Sainsbury?s etc. are all open early and late, with ample free parking, it means that despite the less-impressive produce their availability makes them an easy choice.
I really wish it wasn’t the case, but local councils and local shops have to play ball if they want my custom. Either allow free parking all day on Saturday to convince me to use the High Street at its best, or local traders – hopefully in concert – hold one late night a week in order to allow us 9-to-5ers the chance to shop there.
I am well aware that small businesses are under threat. I want to use these services while they still exist, I really do. But they need to meet me halfway.”