Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Contemplating Free-Range Britain

Illustration from Bee Wilson's New Yorker Article.
Author Bee Wilson, whom I quite admire, has an article in the current New Yorker about the coming changes in the relationship between Britain and Europe: "What Brexit Means for British Food."

Wilson points out that one of the now-nearly-forgotten motives that drove the formation of the European Union was hunger, as experienced especially during and immediately after World War II. The founders, she writes, hoped "to insure a plentiful food supply for entire populations." Their dream was "for Europe to become as self-sufficient as possible in food."

A number of very interesting points are made in the article, which does not buy the theory that the regulatory effect of Brussels has been negative and damaging. One impact she mentions, is the increase in variety and flavors since Britain joined. Wilson writes:
"The E.U. can’t take sole credit for the fact that the British now know pesto from salsa verde. Probably some kind of food revolution would have happened here anyway, just as it did in the States and Australia over the same period. But to contemplate Brexit is to see the extent to which Britain is not a food island. We eat food cooked by French and Italian chefs using European ingredients. More than a quarter of those working in food manufacturing in Britain are immigrants from within the E.U. We could not eat as we do without them. ... Over all, the impact of the E.U. on the British diet has entailed,... 'cultural exchange on a massive scale.'”
All in all, a very interesting article, which I recommend. I learned about it from a roundup of articles about the result of Brexit in Marion Nestle's blog, "Food Politics." Particularly interesting among her sources is an article in the Guardian titled "Britain's meal ticket? Food and drink at heart of referendum debate" (written before last week's referendum took place).

Nestle writes: "It’s obvious from reading all this that the effects of the Brexit decision are largely unknown. not easy to predict, but unlikely to be good."

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

I'm pretty sure I feel heartsick about Brexit (apart from the fact that if the pound keeps diving it might be a very good time for travel) But this article sounds fascinating. Thanks for the links, Mae.

I'm going to try to catch up before I return to the Land of Limited Internet tomorrow. You've been writing a lot!