Keeping the best bits and moving on
In one of our Transition Norwich Low Carbon Cookbook meetings last year we all came up with a list of 6 ingredients from outside the UK that we wouldn't want to live without. It was a really interesting exercise, but it is one that I actually find quite hard to do. Ultimately I could live without anything from outside the UK if I had to, I just wouldn't necessarily want to! Also I think my list largely depends on what I can find decent substitutes for - something that I want from outside the UK today I might have found a brilliant local substitute for by next year. So this is only a tentative list with the caveat that I might change my mind as we all try out more inventive alternatives - cue exciting Transition projects!
I already have a predominantly UK diet so the majority of things I would miss are flavourings, which at least are normally fairly light and long lasting so can be transported slowly over land. I also end up eating some convenience processed food at the moment, because I don't always have the time to make it fresh, but I wouldn't particualrly miss this!
In no particular order:
2. Ginger - mostly for ginger cakes and adding to rhubarb and all of its other yummy uses. I think it might be possible to produce ginger in glasshouses in the UK, but I'm not sure it works very well.
I'm not actually sure which other spices can be grown in the UK, so I'm not 100% sure what else. I would probably miss curry leaves and maybe caraway.
3. Some variety in nuts. I'm not sure which ones, but I think we can only really grow hazelnuts in the UK. I don't think walnuts tend to do that well? So maybe some almonds.
4. Lemons. I haven't yet found a decent UK citrus substitute, although I still haven't got round to checking sea buckthorn out properly.
5. Soy sauce features quite a lot in my cooking at the moment, although I'm sure I could find an alternative if I had to.
And all the rest
While I was thinking about what to put on my list I realised that there are actually more non-food items I would miss, which I would find much harder to find substitutes for as well. These are some of the initial thoughts that I came up with:
1. Rubber - I would sorely miss having rubber bike tyres and elastic bands are considerably easier than string.
2. Cotton is pretty useful. I don't know how practical hemp and bamboo really are as alternatives?
3. Technology, especially microchips - so the minerals needed to make these that are the cause of so much suffering in Africa. Secondhand is all well and good at the moment, but it will only take us so far.
I think our world would be much poorer for losing all of the connections and knowledge sharing that modern technology has allowed (for example you wouldn't get to read the amazing social reporters blog!)
In conclusion, I feel like I have actually asked more questions rather than coming up with a definitive list. Definitely lots to think about and lots of alternatives to try and find! Which Transition project shall I set up next? Maybe an 150 mile wardrobe.
Photos: Peppercorns straight off the tree in Sri Lanka - I had never even considered where they came from before and I was amazed!, a lovely Tamil lady picking tea in central Sri Lanka, my beloved bicycle contains a lot of rubber and steel...