Why buy mince pies in October?

M&S mince pies

Outrage in The Daily Mail today, as M&S have been ‘exposed’ for selling mince pies that have a best-by date of November.

Now on the face of it, this is a perfectly valid story. If you’re buying an obviously Christmas-themed product, you’d expect it to last till the festive season, wouldn’t you?

But then I stopped to think. I know we’re in credit crunch (god, am I fed up with those two words) time and people like to start buying things early, but why would you buy mince pies now – in October – to use on Christmas Day?

I can understand buying crackers or stocking presents. But mince pies?

When I make a batch of mince pies at home, they’re lucky if they last 2 days before starting to be past their best, not 2 months!

What must manufacturers be putting in these pies that allows them to last so long? And more to the point, what are people thinking that makes them decide to buy mince pies in October and expect them to be OK to eat in December.

Let’s face it, it’s the Daily Mail’s fault!

Blog Action Day: How Jamie Oliver highlights UK poverty

Today is Blog Action Day and thousands of bloggers are uniting to talk about poverty.

Now I know that poverty is rife in the developing world, but sometimes I think people forget the poverty in developed countries.

In the UK, Jamie Oliver is midway through a series called Jamie’s Ministry of Food, where he’s attempting to get an entire town, Rotherham, to learn to cook properly.

I’m impressed by his drive and passion for the project and think it’s immensely honourable, but it’s just highlighted to me the problem many people have in affording ingredients.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good that people are learning how to cook beef stir fry or chicken wrapped in prosciutto, but Jamie is paying for all these ingredients.

Once he leaves, how many people are going to be able to afford to buy these items: beef is expensive, even if you buy it diced and prepackaged. So is salmon, especially if you’re feeding a family.

I’m not denying that takeaways aren’t just as expensive, but food costs are spiralling and for many people, it’s tough to buy much of this food.

A feature in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago pointed out that it’s far cheaper to get calorific intake through ‘value’ high-fat sausages than good quality meat-packed bangers. The same is true for french fries and similar junk food.

This is why people eat takeaways. I’m not denying that people need to be better educated about food, but money talks and for the underclass in the UK it will always be more appealing to live on crap than learn how to cook and spend a little more!

Local food for local people

Porthmeor Beach, St Ives

The above beach is the view 5 metres from my front door while on holiday. Nice, eh?

Anyway, the point about this post is that Cornwall seems to be a law unto itself, when it comes to produce.

One of the advantages of coming somewhere like Cornwall is that the fish in all the restaurants is all local and caught that day.

What’s a bigger surprise is that a lot of the produce in the supermarkets – and I even mean the likes of Tesco – is also Cornish.

They make great play on selling Cornish potatoes, Cornish strawberries, Cornish milk… the list goes on.

Living in London, you’re hard pushed to find anything from within the M25 on the supermarket shelves.

Chef Oliver Rowe managed to open a restaurant, Konstam, based on just such a principle for all his ingredients, but he found it pretty tough.

Now clearly London is an exception, but C’s mum lives near Shrewsbury, a mere spit from the Welsh border, but can she ever find Welsh lamb in the shops? Of course not!

More power to food miles and metres (as one shop in St Ives boasts) – I just wish it applied to places other than Cornwall sometimes.