BBC “Kitchen Nightmare” Chef Gordon Ramsay has touched off a fierce debate by proposing a legal ban on all out-of-season food in all British restaurants. Chefs would therefore be forced to offer menus limited to locally grown foods in season.
Europeans are much more concerned about climate change than most Americans. However, even in England, the idea of passing a law to require all restaurants purchase only locally grown food has people up in arms, particularly since Ramsay’s TV show often shows him using ingredients imported from around the world.
The British government has set a target of reducing “food miles” by a fifth by 2012. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service has issued a reporton foodmiles, which measure the distance between where food is raised and where it is consumed. As people begin to realize that part of the reason for rising food prices is the energy required to transport food such long distances.
There is a difference, however, between consuming tomatoes shipped in from other countries when superior locally grown tomatoes are in season and giving up bananas forever. Most people would prefer finding some way to pressure mass food distribution systems everywhere to favor local growers. But an outright ban on all imports could mean never seasoning with saffron again.
But kudos to the volatile Ramsay for challenging all of us to think hard about how we eat.