Making the new normal last


WINDOW WONDERS Pots of herbs will be cheaper and tastier if you grow them yourself.

Green Living
McKinley Neal

At this point, we’ve all been exposed to lots of talk about how the world will or will not change as a result of this global pandemic. Now that we’re all trying out new recipes to avoid eating the same four meals on repeat for weeks on end, it’s never been more clear how accustomed we had been to other people looking after us. We let others brew and serve us tea and coffee, bake cakes and cook us dinner in that life before March, when we were still free to go to cafes and restaurants every day of the week and sit back and let the food and drinks be served to us.  
Activities like baking and growing our own fruit and veg are not just fun new hobbies, though; they will continue to be features of our lives for the next year or so as the world economy struggles to come to terms with the unprecedented disruption caused by Covid-19.
I am not being alarmist in saying that more things will be scarce, as supply chains across the world are affected in different ways by increased demand and shortage of workers to plant, tend and harvest crops and then pack, transport and process them, and restaurants that we loved before may have trouble reopening.
So how can we ensure that our food supply is both secure and fair to producers? First, grow whatever you can on your own, in a raised bed, a polytunnel, a community allotment or just a sunny windowsill - even pots of herbs will be cheaper and tastier if you grow them yourself. Choose your favourites and just go for it, as gardening is really best learned by doing. Find some friends who are willing to share, so you can swap seeds, plants and produce in a glut. Next, buy other staples from farmers and butchers directly, in markets or via regular ordering; there are local sources for veg, eggs, dairy, meat, seafood, and many are producing the tastiest food of its kind in the country as its in season.
Beyond Mayo, Irish producers also grow and forage mushrooms, herbs and teas, grains such as oats, wheat and spelt, rapeseed oil, etc, so try as much as possible to buy truly Irish goods. Then, when it’s a food not grown in Ireland, try to get it in the least processed state as possible - opt for the rice that is unflavoured and doesn’t cook in three minutes, because it’s more likely that the growers get more of the margin than a food processing facility or marketing team.
When we are finally able to enjoy meals out prepared by hard-working chefs and served up by friendly staff, we have to remember to treat them well. Many of our most treasured local cafes and restaurants are family businesses supplied by family businesses, and they will need us to show up to be able to resume trading. If you can buy a voucher now for a meal later, please do so.
McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.