Last week I challenged myself as a newbie to Bristol, to do a food shop using JUST Bristol Pounds. This 'city specific' currency is wholly new to me and I find it fascinating.
What I wanted to know was whether the Bristol Pound (£B) is a thing designed to appeal to tourists or whether real Bristolians are using it for every day purchases. After all, if they are - this is a good thing - because more of the £B goes back into Bristol than the standard pound, thus, its supporting the local economy in a more effective manner.
I headed down to the Visit Bristol shop last week to purchase my pounds - all very easy - it was a straight swap, cash for cash. I asked the lady behind the counter who she's selling them to. She told me that they sell a lot of them to all sorts of people including lots of locals and definitely not just to tourists (despite there being a Japanese couple behind me in the queue who told me they were buying them as a souvenir).
Anyway, with my directory in hand, I headed out to buy some food. It was a small achievable list which was mainly vegetables with a few rogue items (chipotle chilli and tortillas) which I needed for a recipe I'm working on.
I spent a couple of hours walking from town up to and along Gloucester Road and as I went along, I was really impressed to see just how many places accept the £B either in cash or text form with big clear window stickers announcing that they accept the currency. I found that on Gloucester Road alone, there were numerous places - greengrocers, cafes, delis and international shops - where I could shop.
My favourite though, was back towards town. Bear Fruit, a pop up grocers in the Bear Pit and very convenient for home. I spent some time talking to the guy there, explained what I was doing and why. He loved it and told me how great he thinks the £B is. I picked up almost everything I needed that day with just a few items I had to resort to else where for.
My experience was wholly positive - it sparked conversations and made me feel part of the community. I'll definitely use £B again. They help the community and give you a sense of belonging which is greatly appreciated by me, a newbie to this great foodie city!
So thank you to the Bristol Good Food Diaries for welcoming me in and giving me the idea for this challenge! Nailed it!
OK, so I decided to end on a high note! This is a picture of the absolutely delicious meal that I had on Friday at the Folk House, which has the most wonderful locally sourced and reasonably priced food, and where it is as easy as pie to pay with the Bristol Pound. I didn't think I would be able to top that, so I ended my challenge there a bit early. To sum up, it was more difficult to carry out my challenge than I expected. But I am going to carry on next year, and during that time I hope to help get more cafes, more market stalls at food festivals, more butchers, more late night eateries, more independent businesses and more buying groups around the city to discover the benefits of strengthening Bristol's growing local economy. Bring on 2015!
This is not food that I have eaten. This is food that I could have eaten if I had not been trying to pay in Bristol Pounds. Tuesday was the low point of my Bristol Pound challenge in terms of trying to find a place around Whiteladies Road where I could buy lunch in Bristol Pounds. The first cafe we wanted to go to doesn't take them. That was OK, we weren't sure that they did, and we knew of another place a bit further that did take them, and served great food. So we were off...Unfortunately their kitchen was being redone, so no hot food to be had there. OK, to the burger joint that we believed took them from our hazy memory of looking at the directory. No luck there either as people looked at each other in confusion as to what we were talking about. OK, one more place that we know took them before that has good fresh food. Ooops! They had just changed hands and were renegotiating their txt2pay account! By now with stomachs rumbling we went back to the first cafe in defeat. Conclusion? We need more cafes in Clifton and Redland to take the Bristol Pound! Why not go out armed with the Directory you ask? Because even if we had we would have been disappointed by change of owners and closed kitchens! But we are still eating good meals at home powered by Better Food, Wild Oats, Sims Hill Shared Harvest and Stream Farm. Yes, this was my first real failure in terms of my challenge. Let's see what happens tomorrow...
OK here goes. I rather arbitrarily decided to begin my challenge at lunchtime on 1st May, the day that the Bristol Food Connections Festival launched. Due to a somewhat hectic week I wasn't able to sit down to a feast of locally sourced food at one of our lovely independent cafes or take home some lovely organic veg from our local independent Good Food shop, Better Food on Whiteladies Road, to make a great stir fry or salad. Instead I opted for some of the tasty treats that Better Food offers in its well-stocked deli. Problem solved! Today it was one of my favorites, their pea and potato samosa, along with half of one of their very tasty bhajis. Since we went to the launch of the Bristol Food Connections Festival at the Eat Drink Bristol Fashion tipis in the evening, dinner consisted of a few of their delicious canapes. If I had had a few more paper Bristol Pounds, more food could have been consumed! I am stocking up on some paper pounds from the Gallimaufrey on Gloucester Road to widen my food options for the weekend.
I also need to announce that my challenge does not include dumping everything out of our fridge and store cupboard! We already buy most of our food at local independent shops Better Food and Wild Oats, get most of our local seasonal veg from the Sims Hill Shared Harvest Community-Supported Agriculture scheme and we get our local organic meat mainly from Stream Farm (all of whom take the Bristol Pound!). So none of that food will be wasted and will be incorporated into some of the meals this week. But the Bristol Pound will be used to buy all food that will be eaten out and that has yet to be purchased for meals during this time. At least that is the plan!
Having had good intentions for many years to shop locally, the reality has been sporadic at best, and recently I have found it a real struggle. My ability to do this has mostly been affected by where I live in Bristol and by time. I am determined to shop locally during the festival and I hope to ingrain these positive habits into my daily life. I also have an underused Bristol Pound account and I will arrange to make regular payments into this and use it where available.
Working in a community cookery school has its perks - not least delicious lunches from our students. I am very lucky. I should cook from scratch and shop ethically - after all I have the skills and know lots of great local producers and independent retailers. BUT working long days/evenings/weekends means I don't always manage it. During the Bristol Food Connections Festival I pledge to only shop at independent food shops/stalls/markets. Perhaps this is madness, after all its the busiest 11 days of the Square Food Foundations calendar - but then again there will be loads of amazing food available in Knowle West and wider Bristol.... if not now, then when?
As a relative newcomer to Bristol, I am astounded by the range of quality, cheap produce that you can get from independent shops. Living a stone's throw from Gloucester Road, I am really enjoying being able to do my food shopping on foot, buying things from people who have a real connection with and a passion for what they are selling. However, I still fall back quite a lot on buying things like cheese and yoghurt from supermarkets. Being able to dash out and buy milk at 10pm has come in handy more than once. So, for the duration of the Food Connections Festival, I am going to try and buy everything from independent shops on Gloucester Road. I hope this will make me put more forethought and consideration into planning what I'm going to eat, as I can't just nip out to Sainsbury's if I forget something. Inevitably, I find myself throwing quite a lot of food away, so I'm going to be conscious of buying only what I need.
I am planning on buying all of my food in Bristol Pounds during the entire period of the Bristol Food Connections Festival (from 1st to 11th May). This will include all of the food we prepare at home during that time as well as buying whatever lovely food is on offer while I am out and about during the Festival (and that is going to be a lot!) We will see how I fare...