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Gilly Smith

How to Eat to Save the Planet

Who knew when Leon asked me to make a series about the way we should be eating to reduce our carbon footprint that days after the final episode, we would be closing our doors and facing an indefinite Lockdown?

Or that ‘the answer’ according to the chefs and producers, farmers and campaigners I interviewed would be forced on us as the world skidded to a halt to ‘flatten the curve’ and keep the virus barking at our battened-down hatches.

Localism, the posh term for noticing what’s under our noses, has become the new normal, no longer just a call to arms among the sustainability crowd but an option to queuing around the block for a punnet of tomatoes. The village shop, the newsagent, the ‘social supermarket’ has become the place to catch up with the local news and pick up a veg box stuffed to the brim of local produce. The local farm has found itself selling its wares at the gate while the supermarkets scratch their heads and work out a new system for distribution.

We’ve begun to grow- not just as human beings as we cook for our NHS and check in on vulnerable neighbours – but our greens and legumes too. As Mother Nature smirked at the success of her massive strop, she shone down on our spinach and watered our Webbs in a spring out of a gardener’s fantasy. The skies have cleared and the people of Hastings cheer as they see France across the sea and the people of Delhi cry as the night sky twinkles with stars for the first time in decades. Deer and goats walk through empty towns and birds sing for the sheer joy of being alive. The silence of plane-free skies is deafening.

As death rates rise and brains are rewired to step back from human contact, life may never be the same. But when we finally step blinking out into a post-Lockdown light, let’s hope that localism will survive. Let’s continue to grow, eat and cook together. Let’s keep baking bread and working from home, talking face to face through the tech that we were always too busy to use. Zoom – such a fast word for a slowed down world – you’ve shown us how good it is to talk.

Here’s my prediction. We’ll celebrate together more, bringing back the old ways like the midwinter Wassail (launch episode) that blessed the apple trees and had us singing loud and proud over a bowl of home-made cider. We’ll eat less meat and love it more when we do and after months of hand sanitisers and plastic everything, we’ll understand the power of gut bacteria to make us healthy (Ep 1). Hyper-local will be the only way to eat out (Ep 2) and we’ll remember how creative we were when the chips were down, wasting less and re-using more(Ep 3 and Ep 4). And after months of how many ways with dahl? we’ll buy British pulses like we used to and eat food from the land like the cuisines we’ve coveted for decades (Ep5). And maybe, just maybe, we will have learned how to eat to save the planet.

Leon Presents: How to Eat to Save the Planet.


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