An interesting food-related fact for you: "In the Thames Valley area alone, 1,000 tons of fat enters the sewage system every year. Eighty per cent of this is estimated to come from restaurants and takeaways.
"The fat quickly congeals, forming plugs that can cause raw sewage to back up behind the blockages - just like in a domestic sink. This is particularly bad in Soho, in central London, where in the year 2000 a 150ft-long, concrete-hard slug of cooking fat had to be cleared with pick-axes."
This from this article in the Independent this Saturday. The article describes Acorn House, a new restaurant in London's King's Cross describing itself as 'London's first truly eco-friendly training restaurant'. Reading it consolidated in me a feeling of - what was it now? guilt? resignation? disgust? a melange of all these and others? - whatever; it has set off a constant simmering pot in the back burner of my mind over the last couple of days.
This linking food to the environment is nothing new of course. The ethics and consequences of what we put on our plates and in our mouths are everywhere nowadays. From all corners there's evangelists and doomsayers proclaiming the new food sins and absolutions. Books, articles, television programmes.
And of course, as someone with a passion for food - (and the world!) - it's an issue which has often piqued my interest. Though the terms of the arguments can sometimes annoy me - the 'good vs bad', the continual onslaught of what is in and out this week - in general it's a jolly good thing to have this raised awareness and noise about the tremendous and manifold global political, social, economic and environmental effects food and its industries have.
My particular current concern is not one of these big issues you read about though; it's more personal. It's the gap between what I proclaim to believe in and how I actually act. I rail against intensively-farmed meats and then blithely order beef curry with no knowledge of its sourcing. I tut as I read how much food we waste, and then find myself filling the bin up with sad mouldy creatures from the depths of the refridgerator. I wax evangelical on the joys of home cooking and then buy a ready meal from Marks and Spencers...
And I make some excuses for myself - about living in the city and working 9 to 5 and so on and so forth. But really I know they are baloney. To be sure, I don't live in a country idyll with chickens producing fresh eggs outside my kitchen window and a garden full of produce, and I don't have hours on my hands to whip up everything from scratch, BUT every single time I buy food or eat food I have a choice in how I do that. Noone frogmarches me into Wetherspoons for lunch, noone tortures me to make me buy cheap sausages...
I don't want to lessen the enjoyment of my food by getting all puritanical and dogmatic about it. I know I can't live in line with what my absolute ideals would be; but I do want to heighten the enjoyment of my food by knowing that I have made the best decision I can given the circumstances about what it is I choose to buy and eat and cook. And to enjoy knowing that I am putting my mouth where my mouth is, as it were, eating as a means of activising belief and ideals.
So, some soul-searching and researching to be done I think. It's not so long until 2007, a nice blank page, so watch this space for some new-food-year resolutions...