I first heard of the Fife Diet several years ago, when it was reported with incredulity in the local media that a group of friends had challenged themselves to eat food only from Fife for one year. As is often the case, the facts were slightly different to those reported and the group were actually attempting to eat as much local food as possible and to stop using air-freighted goods from supermarkets. They were also being realistic and allowing themselves some things from outside Fife – a diet without salt and pepper would not appeal to many people!
The Fife Diet has since evolved into a much larger consumer network of people passionate about local food and is now the largest local food project in Europe. It is free to join and their key aim is to help people move towards a healthier, tastier and more sustainable food system. This creation of a more localised food system has become a focus for much more than just food, also now encompassing environment, health, community and boosting the local economy.
Being part of the Fife Diet doesn’t mean you must commit to 100% reliance on Fife foods but is more about each individual finding a balance that works for them. The aim is to eat 80% or more of our food from local sources and up to 20% from elsewhere. This is something we can strive towards no matter where in the world we live. The simplest way to demonstrate this is using two recipes from Fife Diet’s own website. The first recipe is:
Langoustines in Wild Garlic Butter
For me personally, langoustines are the most luxurious shellfish and I’ll take them over lobster any day. Not that I can afford to eat them any day but, as an occasional luxury, they are really very special. Langoustines are fished mostly by trawling, which can cause enormous damage and disturbance to the seafloor and the habitats that can be found there. However langoustine in Fife is caught sustainably, often using the creel method, so is not only better for the environment but also tastes better. Much of the catch is exported to Europe, where Scottish langoustine is a much sought-after delicacy. So, how lucky are we to have them right on our doorstep?
They are such a delicate shellfish that they are best cooked quickly and served simply. The most humane method of cooking is freezing, so they go to sleep, and immediately plunging into boiling water – for details see the Fife Diet website here. Langoustine are in season April to November so, at the start of the season when wild garlic is also out, I like to go foraging for wild garlic and serve the langoustines with wild garlic butter. Again the Fife Diet website provides a lovely simple recipe here – simply mix chopped wild garlic with butter. So, what could be more luxurious – langoustines in wild garlic butter – and all 100% sourced within Fife!
The next recipe also showcases locally-caught fish but demonstrates that sometimes it can be helpful to source some ingredients from elsewhere. As they say at Fife Diet “we are not the diet police!”. The aim is to source from elsewhere only those ingredients that it is simply just not possible to source locally, for example exotic spices.
Mackerel has courted some controversy this year, firstly being downgraded by the Marine Conservation Society, with consumers being told it was too rare to eat regularly. Then in May it was upgraded again but with the caveat that it must come from sustainable shoals and that Icelandic and Faroe mackerel was still to be avoided. Once again in Fife, we are lucky to have a fishing fleet which strives to use sustainable fishing methods to fish sustainable sources of fish. So mackerel is well and truly back on the local menu.
Escabeche is traditionally a Mediterranean dish and this lovely recipe by Fife Diet also has some Asian influences. The mackerel (or sardine) are dusted with a powdered spice mix, fried gently and then pickled in a hot spicy wine vinegar mix. They are delicious served at room temperature with flat breads. This recipe demonstrates the 80/20% Fife Diet ethos very well – the main ingredients are still sourced locally and it is only the additional flavourings of the more exotic spices, which cannot be found locally, which are sourced elsewhere.
One of the joys of this way of eating is the need to explore a bit more to find your food. This can range from taking lovely walks in pretty and green areas to forage some of your own food, to seeking out new suppliers from farm shops to farmers markets to roadside stalls. It can be an exciting adventure and the sensational tastes you will discover from eating local, seasonal food will reward your efforts time and again.
For a Fife foodie adventure this weekend, come along to the Crail Food Festival (15th and 16th June), where you will be able to taste a wide variety of food from all over Fife. The Sunday will be a harbour special where you can taste for yourself the spectacular seafood I have been drooling over. A great group of people from the Fife Diet will be on hand to tell you more about themselves and they will even have their infamous smoothie bike. Do you have the pedal power to blitz your own smoothie?
And remember, wherever you are, try to aim for the Fife Diet ethos – eat 80% or more of your food from local sources and up to 20% from elsewhere