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Rice Pudding in July

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Good morning lovely people

Last week I was interviewed by a lovely post graduate student from Edinburgh University finalising her dissertation on Responsible Tourism for the National Gallery of Scotland.   Serving food creates so many great opportunities to make positive environmental contributions, if you make the right choices.

We came to the conclusion that far too often, large commercial corporations choose to add sound bites to share their values.  McDonalds uses free range eggs.  Is that enough of a good message to get you to buy into their values?

The choices we make, as a family business, are an instinctive part of our DNA.  They are natural, largely they mirror what we do as a family at home.  We do sneak an odd avocado into our occasional supermarket shop, sometimes checking nobody is looking.  If we’re good we’re all allowed a  little guacamole once a month.  For all our other choices of ingredients, it’s easy.   We just don’t compromise and we carefully consider the environmental impact.  It’s one of the reasons our chefs enjoy working as the ingredients we use are so special.

Last week we received 1000 litres of EVOO from my brother in I’Ciacca in Lazio.  On Thursday we got 1000 litres of EVOO from Le Ferre, a producer in Puglia.  Different oils for different flavours and different dishes.  These are real choices based on quality, with provenance and heritage at their heart.  These choices importantly support jobs in rural communities allowing people to work where they live.  A basic Slow Food principle. Instincts we’ve inherited from our parents and grandparents.

We don’t leave water jugs on tables.  Why? because we would have to throw away thousands of litres of water that hasn’t been drank and could be contaminated.  Topping up water is a small but hugely significant result.

Other non food decisions are very difficult as we’re not experts in so many other fields that cross our journey.  Like utilities.  What a pain in the neck, arm, leg and everywhere else.  We’ve seen a 900% increase in one venue last month.  The fall in the wholesale prices have not filtered down to businesses, yet.  It’s summer but definitely not sustainable for the winter.  Something needs to change.

One change we are making is to swap our gas cookers at Cannonball for induction. Gas is cheaper than electric but the efficiencies we hope, will be overall positive.  More importantly, by moving to electric we’ll be creating a cooler environment for the team and a cleaner one. It’s a big investment, but if we have a happier team, we’ll be rolling out across all the kitchens.

The kitchen garden is fully organic, something we forget to share.  It produces food and table decorations for about 9 months of the year.  Victor’s seven hives; with 30,000 bees per hive, adds a very positive contribution to the environment and we’re patiently waiting for this season’s honey.

At The Scottish Cafe we invested in ANTA furniture when we first opened in 2009.  A family business in Tain, nurturing local craftsmen and local materials.  Almost 15 years later, they may have been refurbished four times but they are our most sustainable furniture.

At Cannonball we inherited a 17th century building that had spent the last century as a school.  Rather than stripe the beautiful tiles, picture rails and dado they became part of the interior design.  Celebrating the heritage of the place where we get to share our food.

At George Street we were spoiled with a 19th century building modelled on a Florentine Palazzo.  With such great foundations, we’ve learned to show it off more and more.

We work with many small artisan suppliers that are core to what we cook and their model is also built on sustainable values.   The organic eggs we’ve bought from Griersons for years are a perfect example of real food.  With the warmer weather last month, the hens haven’t been able to lay as many eggs as they would normally. Phantassie, another local organic supplier to the rescue topping up and supporting.

Some decisions take us longer than others.  Last week we removed smoked salmon from our last menu.  We’ve been fazing this over the last few months.   We’ve not sold any fresh salmon for several years due to the environmental challenges associated with the Scottish salmon industry but we felt smoked salmon was an essential heritage ingredient that celebrated so much of the Scottish tradition of smoking and preserving.  Our customers love it, especially visitors and breakfast guests, so we’ve been reluctant to change.  We’re now selling steelhead smoked sea trout. We believe we’ve made the best choice that meets customer demand and provides a more sustainable alternative.  Importantly it’s supporting a heritage skill, it’s allowing us to serve a similar style of product and I can confirm it’s delicious.  Let us know what you think.

We’re very aware of how competitive the market is.  New restaurants are opening and making the decision to dine out is a carefully considered choice. We’re also aware of how many restaurants are closing, current estimates say six a day in the UK.   It’s really sad.  We’re here as the steady, sustainable and reliable option and we so very much appreciate your choice to support us.

It felt a little cooler and Victor and I have had those post holiday sniffles that you get when the chill of home catches up with you.  I had four pints of milk in the fridge, part of our sustainable home delivery routine.  Extra milk means rice pudding, even if it’s July it was a good choice to use up the milk to make a delicious comfort food dessert.  A perfect example that sustainable is the best outcome.

Keep well and thank you as always


PS I’m missing Huw, sad.  He felt like the rice pudding of the BBC.  I really hope he’s ok and anyone affected by the news.

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