By Gill Maccabe
At 8pm on Sunday 29 March, as the Chief Minister intoned his ‘stay at home’ warning, many Islanders’ thoughts turned to food – and how to get enough to feed their families during the daily two-hour window of freedom.
From surreptitiously scouring the internet (unsuccessfully) for toilet rolls and face-masks to using up all the random items in your pantry and making best friends with anyone with a vegetable garden, the pandemic has re-shaped our domestic shopping habits.
We have since became an island of hunter-gatherers and foragers with a ‘Knead your Own’ and ‘Dig for Victory’ mentality, where, just like our grandparents, we know instinctively that to ‘Waste Not is to Want Not’ and if you don’t have the correct ingredients for a recipe you improvise, rather than popping out to the shops.
We have become a little island nation of shopkeepers – definitely not in the old pejorative sense. Some are anxious about queuing up at a big store and have discovered that buying local is best – and sometimes you don’t even have to leave your parish.
Every green lane seems to host an honesty box, selling everything from home made cakes to second hand books and plant cuttings, as well as the more traditional fruit and veg.
You can even make your own version of the National Loaf from locally milled La Tacheron flour, which you will find in an honesty box at La Verte Rue in Trinity.
While once you had to scrabble around for spare change, now, someone has even introduced a contactless payment system called Revolut which seems to have caught on in some quarters.
The tax department may well have to introduce a new sub heading on tax forms.
Social media sites ensure that subscribers are in the know, and there’s a certain smugness attached to sourcing the best fruit, veg and cakes. ‘Pantry envy’ has become a thing as Instagram lovers everywhere try to ensure their smartly labelled Kilner jars full of fresh and dried local produce are sending out the right message.
As Restaurants and hotels closed to all but takeaway dining, wholesale retailers adjusted their business models to include free delivery of restaurant quality ingredients formerly available only to wholesale clients.
After a brief hiatus when they couldn’t keep up with the new demand and delivery slots were in some cases 14 days after ordering, more delivery drivers were taken on, the technology improved and now you can have anything delivered the next day: from Jersey mussels and oysters from Grouville to the most obscure ingredient needed for an Ottolenghi recipe. You can even have your vitamin D delivered from a health shop in Conway Street.
Some restaurants and private catering companies were a lifesaver to those who can’t, don’t or won’t cook, offering weekly menu choices for a reasonable cost.
As we got used to the Island’s recycling facilities being closed, we slowly started buying items with little or no packaging and re-using recyclable waste ourselves, as we had always intended to.
Consequently many households now have a stash of old jars, wooden crates, brown paper bags, Tupperware boxes and egg boxes ready for the next shopping trip or to drop off at their local honesty box or farm shop.
As some people say they will never again queue up at a supermarket, many retailers are happy to continue delivering as long as there is a demand.
Lucas Brothers, for example, have decided that they will happily continue with their website deliveries of fresh fruit, veg, dairy produce, fish and meats. They have taken on more drivers and added a couple of extra refrigerated vans and are shortly to expand their online shopping range. Said spokesperson Chris Almond: ‘Now that we’ve opened the shop again to the public we are able to make both groups of customers happy.”’
One of the most surprising, and some say beneficial additions to the local food market was the online Alternative Fish Market where local fishermen frustrated by their inability to offload their catch at the French markets took matters into their own hands and set up pop up shops all over the island wherever the boats came in. And so orderly socially distanced queues started forming on beaches and piers as word got out via social media exactly what was available and at what time. You could even text the fishermen before he came in to ask him what he had caught that day.
Jez Strickland, who acts as administrator for the Facebook page, said in June that the fishermen have been ‘ knocked out’ by the local support and many have gone on to buy refrigerated vans for future deliveries which signifies their future plans.
The Alternative Fish Market will continue to function to connect those local suppliers to the local market and in effect creating a circular economy that benefits many.
As for the future it pays to keep an eye on political events. Should the UK leave the EU with a zero-tariff deal then all is well for our fishermen”, he said
The alternative is a different discussion which we look forward to having in Rural in a future issue.
Suggested Facebook pages for local foodies:
The Jersey Honesty Box Page
Jersey Alternative Fish Market
Scoop The sustainable Cooperative
Other Local Food Shopping Sites