Went to the local farmers' market with Dad on Sunday. It's always amusing to take him as he enjoys looking at the prices, which I think he reads as fascinating works of fiction.
He derives huge comfort from the prices for lamb. He sells organic lamb to some of the tonier joints in the Cotswolds at prices he believes are reasonable but full. After seeing what the good burghers of Islington are paying for meat direct from the producer, he feels like the sheep farming equivalent of Lidl.
A couple of beauties:
First up, a Christmas cake, 6" diameter, covered in nuts and cherries. Price: £44. Yes, you read it correctly (I had to go back and check). Not much bigger than a tea plate and fourty. four. pounds. But don't worry they had a 'credit crunch' version (as it was advertised) for a mere £22.
Secondly, a poultry product called 'boiling fowl'. These are chickens that have stopped laying eggs due to old age. Typically, they go into cat food if industrially farmed or are cooked up and fed to the dogs where free-range eggs are produced in a smaller way - these ones were free-range. They would make a flavoursome broth, without doubt. But this is resorted to not as choice but as necessity; there is no other way to enjoy the bird. Price: between about £14 and £16 each.
I found this offer even more staggering than the cake. At least with the cake you could imagine it had been decorated with gold leaf and was soaked in spectacularly expensive vintage brandy. But this bird? Its main function was the production of eggs. It is now unable to do so. Essentially speaking it is therefore a waste product. I had to admire their chutzpah and was tempted to hang around to see which idiots were taken in. By all means buy a tough old bird to stew up but don't pay £15 to £20 for it.
So why do we go? Veg is cheap, bread pricey but not beyond. Some meat products - sausages and pies for instance - are reasonable value. But as for cuts and joints of meat, even if they were reasonably priced I wouldn't be persuaded to buy them: keeping them for days on end on little blue blocks taken from the freezer can't be enough to keep them fresh, even at this time of year. As for summer, you can actually smell the rankness on some stands. As Robert Fisk - who always seemed to be in its presence - would describe it: 'the stench of death'.
The most compelling argument for going is that it looks nice and it's a good venue for people-watching. You'll never see a greater number of expensively-dressed scruffy people than at ours.