Sunday, 28 April 2013

Polythene and Purple Tips: South Shropshire Journal (unedited) 26/4/13

It’s been killing me over the last few weeks not mentioning it because it’s such a yawningly obvious subject. Everyone else has been carping on about it literally forever, but being the razor-sharp gastrohack that I am (“Wow!” my half-dozen readers are frequently heard to exclaim, “Mackley’s surprised us again with his off-the-dial outré opinions. Such a maverick”) I’ve been original enough not to have had to scrape the barrel, for want of a less original cliché. 

But hang it. It was St George’s Day on Tuesday, and I’m an Englishman so this week I’m going to kick off with the weather. Not in a whiney way, because if there’s anything that an Englishman is better at doing than talking about the weather, it’s whining. Boring. Pull your pants up, crack on, and cry God for Harry, England and Saint George.

Anyway, the weather hasn’t been altogether the loveliest, which has meant that spring is late. Not just turn up for dinner at 7.30 and arrive at 8.00 late, but send a text the next day to say that Strictly was on and you couldn’t be bothered late. I’m not whining but... For some farmers, horticulturalists and the like spring’s rudeness is potentially livelihood threatening. For gluttons, it’s irksome.

So thank goodness half of bucolic England is wrapped in sturdy polythene! I tell you, this stuff is amazing. Sod the aesthetics: over the last few days I’ve been snarfing properly, slap you in the face stunning tomatoes from Worcestershire; proud purple-tipped asparagus from the Wye Valley (eye-wateringly expensive but a nice alternative to a pack of fags); tinky-winky, nutty little spuds from Jersey. This is British produce at its almost-very-best and it’s worth every penny.

How wonderful that humans have the ingenuity to cheat the weather and to coax tasty edible plants into thinking that it’s nice and hot, when in fact it’s not. We’re just about to emerge from the “hungry gap” (the time of year when pre-imports, winter stores had run dry and ye olde veggie patch was still snoozing), but until the weather perks up a bit, embrace the moist and fertile warmth of the English polytunnel. 

Incidentally, this is the one time of year when I throw caution to my carbon footprint and go potty for foreign imports. Pakistani Alfonso mangos, Sicilian blood oranges etc are so very tasty. Sorry, I momentarily forgot about the polar bears. Oopsie.

Lambs unfortunately cannot be reared under plastic, and the harsh early spring weather tragically killed off thousands of them. Give British mutton and hogget a go instead (you won’t regret it), and if your local butcher or supermarket won’t stock it, keep pestering until they do. If they refuse to, go to someone who will. My dear half-dozen readers, you have much responsibility on  your shoulders. 

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