Food is an integral part of every human being's life, but the decisions we're making surrounding it are ruining our bodies and ruining our world. We eat too much of it, too much processed food, too much meat, too much imported produce and we waste a huge proportion of it. There's enough food to go round and yet there are huge swathes of people in this world who are starving.I think one of the issues we face every day is this idea that being politically/morally/ethically active is an all-or-nothing approach to life. People don't want to give up meat entirely, so they eat it at the rate they always have done, people don't always have the time to check where their food is from, so they never do. People don't want to subsist on the diet of a small rodent so they eat overly processed 'unhealthy' food all the time. Caring about food is seen as pretentious, cooking is seen as difficult and time consuming compared to eating in hall or ready meals, going to a farmer's market is thought of as expensive, and quite frankly bizarre.
I think we need to change, if only a little, the way we, as a privileged, largely fairly wealthy student body* eat. Not only because we have a duty to live more responsibly (eating meat at every meal is not something any person is entitled to as some kind of right) but also because engaging with food is really enjoyable and fulfilling. Being able to cook even a few simple, fairly healthy dishes is a fairly essential life skil
I know that I'm a pretentious, bourgeois joke; that most people don't say 'I like french meat' as one of their first fully formed sentences and request partybags of barbequed lamb aged four. I recognise that most people didn't look forward to their eighteenth birthday because they couldn't wait to own their own Le Creuset. At the end of the day though, the reason I go to the farmer's market every Saturday is not because I want to fit into some middle-class stereotype, it is because I know that going to the famer's market means a larger selection of better, cheaper food that's travelled shorter distances than its supermarket equivalent, rendering it fresher, and usually tastier. I shop at the farmer's market because I want to give my money to local farmers and not to gigantic capitalist chains. This is not to say I'm a vegetarian socialist, even if deep down I feel that would be a good thing to be. I adore meat, so I just try and eat less of it; I still shop at supermarkets; I just try to support local businesses and farmers where I can. I do these things because I feel I ought to, but also because they make me happy. It's quite nice getting up on a Saturday morning and baby-watching in East Oxford Primary School (where East Oxford Farmer's Market is held) and feeling not just part of a strong student community, but part of a wider Oxford community. Here are my favourite spots to buy food and avoid Tesco's mammoth queues.
about EUR20 s worth of goodies from East Oxford Farmer's Market
East Oxford Farmer's Market
(East Oxford Primary School, behind Tesco's on Cowley Road, Saturdays, 10-1)
This was the first farmer's market I discovered in Oxford, and is potentially still my favourite. It's really thriving and has recently become a co-op. Many of the stalls rotate, but there's always a big selection of fruit and veg. Today I bought: a bulb of garlic (big and juicy), 2 normals onions, 1 red onion beautiful yellow-stalked swiss chard, a Portobello mushroom, a selection of apples, Jerusalem artichokes, 2 large potatoes, 2 red peppers, 2 adorable little aubergines, baby broccoli, spinach and a red cabbage all for EUR13. I couldn't have even bought all this in a supermarket, what I could have would have cost significantly more. Cooper's Pork is there every other weeks and is one of my favourites. I bought a hock there the other week for about a fiver, and four sausages today for EUR2.84. There's a man who sells berries for EUR2.50 a punnet, but it's November so today was his last day. There's a trout man who comes once a month who sells fresh and smoked trout. There's also a big bread stall, several ready-made food stalls (selling sushi, middle eastern food etc) and a co-op which sells various grains and dry foods, and detergents (you bring your own containers. There's a really cute cafwhich is run by different volunteers each week selling tea, coffee, cakes and cooked breakfasts. A full list of stalls can be found online, here
If Saturdays aren't good for you, I've never been to the Wolvercote market in North Oxford, but many of the same stalls are there. It's on a Sunday, 10-1. There is also a South Oxford Farmer's market on a Sunday, so worth checking out if that's closer to you.
Oxford OX2 6LX
North Parade is a beautiful little street in North Oxford, home to a great pub, lovely new coffee shop (which I haven't tried yet) and a great grocery shop, 2 North Parade, which sells a good selection of vegtables, salamis, cheeses etc. It's open every day which is useful if you find yourself needing to pick a few things up mid week. There's a farmer's market on North Parade every 4th Saturday of the month. The first time I went they were sheering sheep in the middle of it; the city girl within me got really excited. The selection of veg on offer there is definitely smaller and more expensive than the Cowley market, but there are some lovely little stalls: last week I picked up some nice ragstone (a Neal's Yard -whatwasitdoinginoxford???- firm goat's cheese) and a delicious venison steak which only cost EUR2.37. More on why venison is the best thing ever later.
HART STREET MARKET
This is starting next Saturday on Hart Street in Jericho, really excited to check it out.
The People's Supermarket
124, Cowley Road, Cowley, Oxford OX4 1JE
This is a rather strange place which feels a bit like being in a shop in a developing country- everything's quite sparse and it's not reallydecorated? Obviously it's pretty cool from an ethical point of view that it's a co op, but I wouldn't say it's a foodie's heaven exactly. Worth stopping off at en route to the supermarket to see if they have what you wanted though, good for things like bananas.
Lung Wah Chong Chinese Supermarket
41-42 Hythe Bridge St, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 2EP
I'm a huge lover of Asian cuisine, and it's really useful having a perfectly decent Chinese supermarket a five minute walk away. EUR5 at the beginning of term on oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil will see you through (and beyond) the term without having to resort to those horrific sachets that most students seem to use while making stir fries and will save money. The supermarket also sells a good selection of staples: rice, noodles, Asian vegetables, the odd wok, instant noodles and frozen dumplings etc. I'll upload a really basic stir-fry recipe soon.
*wealth is obviously all relative. I mean to say that as students most people can afford to spend some money on food(assuming you are living and paying your accommodation with the help of a student loan plus a government/university grant or help from parents or a holiday job)- cooking your own is almost always cheaper than ready meals or hall