Friday, February 15, 2013

Indignation At Breakfast Time




Every morning while chaos erupts around me, and the new day rings to the dulcet tones of my daughters trying to leave the house ('I feel sick, I can't go today' 'There's nothing for breakfast' 'Where are my school socks' 'Don't be mean to the cat, Muuuuum, she's being mean to the cat'), I go to my happy place, gaze out of the window, drink my tea, and read the local paper. It's generally full of gripping news about large fish being caught, a seal in the river, and how the locals are surviving the heatwave (30C for three days straight!) When I can't stand any more excitement, I turn to the real estate guide so I can unleash my inner sub editor.

My family are very tired of hearing me complain about the illiteracy of real estate agents, and have stopped listening, but occasionally there are real gems from agents who clearly have a closer relationship with a spell checker than with a dictionary. There was a cracker from a few weeks ago regarding a house built on a hill top, the headline being, 'Where Eagles Sore' which made me rather sorry for the eagle. Yesterday's ad for an apartment really took the biscuit though - it was advertised as being 'spacious, light, trendy and sheik'. That made me happy all day..

What caught my attention this morning though, and made me do some table thumping of my own amidst all the morning cacophany, was a full page ad from Coles, voted Supermarket Most Likely to Take Over a Suburb Near You by Blueday's crack research team.

Five years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find fresh fruit or veg that had been grown outside Australia. Even our tropical fruit came from Queensland, which is, admittedly, a very long way from Tasmania, but Australian right? And came on truck or rail, which is slightly better than by air. Then came cherries from the west coast of the US. In winter. Then oranges. In summer. Grapes in spring. I have been venting my spleen about this for some time now. Fresh food flown here by plane? Such a stupid use of a precious resource. And today, for the first time, I have seen the net widening. Today, as well as citrus from the US, there were offers of asparagus from Mexico and kiwifruit from Italy. And, this is really galling, apricots from New Zealand. Tasmania is drowning in apricots, and you can buy local ones from every greengrocer for less than they are selling for at Coles.

Now this may be old news for many people around the world, especially the UK, which is so tiny, and struggles to feed itself, but last time I looked, Australia was a net exporter of food, and there certainly isn't any lack of local product on the shelves. Even out of season you can usually buy Australian fruit and veg that has been stored, all the staples, potatoes and onions, apples and oranges. It used to be that cherries and raspberries were a Christmas treat, to spread lavishly over the pavlova, to eat in the backyard on a summer afternoon, spitting cherry pips into the garden. Now you can pop them in the lunchbox in midwinter. When we should be eating oranges from the Riverland, or apples from down the road.

As you may already have guessed, I don't buy into all this, whining children notwithstanding. I am the person standing in front of the frozen food cabinet, scanning the backs of the frozen pea packs to find some grown in Australia. I am the person never shopping for fruit and veg in Coles, but at the local greengrocers where they still have some sense.

There are two telling statements in the Coles ad, one right next to the Australian grapes - '100% of our in season grapes are Australian grown'. Clearly we are expected to applaud them for that, and maybe not notice that their 'in season' apricots are grown across the ocean. Second, their trademarked jingle, 'There's no freshness like Coles freshness!'

There are two ways you can read that statement. And imagining what state that Mexican asparagus is in by the time it gets to your kitchen, I would have to say, 'Yes, no freshness at all....'





8 comments:

lucindasans said...

You are a woman after my own heart! I love, love, love the real estate errors. The apartment might be a bit crowded if it comes with its own sheik? And I read the small print on the frozen vegies to get Australian grown. Coles and Woolies are just scrouging farmers. Then when the overseas cheap foodstuff have killed the Australian growers, producers and manufacturers, well, then what?

Kill the competition and jack up prices. And keep selling the cheap overseas grown produce; grown perhaps with poor labour, environmental and health
laws!

OK, rant over. Off for a virtuous walk and then less virtuous, but more gorgeous glass of bubbles with friends.

Heather said...

Only recently there was a law passed in California (or the whole U.S.?) that fruit and vegetables had to be labelled with its country of origin. It amazes me how far all this produce travels. It's no wonder it all tastes lifeless compared to what is grown in our own backyards. I'd rather eat the seasonal produce from the local farmer's markets or home grown. Variety is not always the spice of life.

Frantic's Antics said...

Even in the UK I get really fed up of imported apples being sold in the middle of the British apple season for much less than the cost of our lovely British apples! Don't get me started on conference pears from Italy. Although I am frugal, I am not cheap and I do realise there is more than saving a few quid at the check out when you have to think of our world, and our homegrown farmers! The recent scare here on horse meat contamination just shows the problem of having a long food chain! GRRRRR!!!!

Jo said...

Yes, yes, yes, ladies, I am clearly preaching to the chorus! I like your comment Mrs Frantic, that you are frugal but not cheap. That is my aim too. I see no need for waste, but I am never going to be buying the cheapest of anything unless it is cheap AND good, and then I will go for it.

Lucinda, I love your rants, and I'm glad you relish real estate bloopers with me, so good to find a kindred spirit. Heather, I can't believe the US has only recently got its labelling laws together. The govt and big corporations think they can treat citizens and consumers like complete idiots. Even with our quite stringent labelling laws, companies like to hide product origin in obscure places so that it sometimes takes quite some time to work out where a product is from. So yes, that is exactly why I grow veg in my own backyard and go to the greengrocers, where there are actual people to answer my questions...
I'll stop now... :)

Hattie said...

Our local estate agent once described a property thus: 'near the village with its array of restaurants and Dehlis...'

e / dig in said...

love your rant Jo about real estate - i love it when they show pictures of the view. mum and i say, oh look, mount wellington's for sale here...
also totally agree with your thoughts - and your readers' thoughts - on fruit and veg at the supermarkets. everyone has said it so eloquently. it is craziness.

Jo said...

So glad you all enjoy the real estate ads with me. I can say to my family now, 'See, see? It's not just me!'

Hattie, lovely to see you here. I am loving your blog, such a great project, and reminding me of those (thankfully far away..) toddler days..

Judy said...

There are 500 native varieties of apples in the UK and the only one that makes it to my local supermarket are cox's, which actually the kids don't like because they are so hard. So when we have run out of foraged or gifted apples it has to be Jonagold from Holland or France as the closest, even though the kids want the rosy red ones from the USA or the sweet Royal Gala from New Zealand or somtimes China! I have been buying fruit from the local market, but that still doesn't mean it is local. Last summer I was checking out the early strawberries in the supermarket, and they said Shropshire (or some similar British place name) and I was almost fooled into buying them, until I realised that that was the name of the type of strawberry NOT the place of origin, which was Peru or somewhere equally far away! Angus beef is another area where we are conned into thinking it comes from Scotland, whereas it is a breed of cattle that is used all over the World.

Our local farm lets you come and see the lambing, so you know where the meat has come from. It tastes so delicious, and knocks the socks off the supermarket equivalent. But the supermarket is cheap and convenient.......

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