Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jellied Eels

Guest Post by Bill Measure.

Travel east on the Jubilee Line from Westminster to Canning Town and although they are only a few miles apart each stop on the Underground represents a year of life expectancy lost, that is eight years in less than twenty minutes. So says The Jellied Eel, London’s magazine for ethical eating.

When you alight in Newham you will be surrounded by over 250 hot food takeaways, a third of which are fried chicken sellers. Despite a decade of research into “food deserts” and “food access” London is still home to some of the worst health deprivation in the country, despite being one of the world’s top gastronomic cities, a thriving sustainable food movement and Fairtrade accolades.

Government initiatives like 5-a-day, Change-4Life, and the Food Standard’s Agency’s salt and fat campaigns may have raised public awareness but have not changed the fact that in certain parts of London 9% of men and 6% of women still eat no fruit and veg at all.

So, where to start? The local corner shop is often located at the heart of deprived communities. Local shops can have a huge influence on how people eat but all too often the only fruit and veg on offer can be shrivelled carrots and overripe bananas. Buywell and Eatwell, two strands of the Well London project, have been helping retailers and community members to link together the need for good food with the right suppliers,

One of Buywells’s aims is to connect shops with providers of affordable produce, and encourage them to sell more local, seasonal fruit and vegetables. It has worked with stores all over London, with each retailer receiving personalised business support, fresh produce training, Change4Life marketing materials and a launch event to help them sell more fresh produce. Eatwell has complemented the retail work by introducing cooking clubs and community feast projects to get more people cooking and eating fresh produce.

Editor’s Note: Jellied Eels is a traditional English dish that originated in the 18th century, primarily in London's East End. The dish consists of chopped eels boiled in a spiced stock that is allowed to cool and set, forming a jelly. It can be eaten hot or cold. The eel was a cheap, nutritious and readily available food source for the people of London; European eels were once so common in the Thames that nets were set as far upriver as London itself, and eels became a staple for London's poor. You can sample this dish in Barkingside High Street at Danny's Pie & Mash or Wanstead High Street at Robin's.

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