We live in a nation of food. A multitude of flavours, textures and colours dominate Malaysian plates. The one constant is our love of fresh produce – indeed, this love affair is universal. After all, fresh is best; we hear this often, and we believe it because it is true. Despite this, how many of us are actually aware of what goes into our food? Given the rise in takeout popularity, how many of us actually know what we’re putting into our mouths? Where does out food come from? How was it cultivated, and how far has it travelled from root to plate? These are all important questions, certainly, but so few of us pause to consider the implications of eating. Hunger overtakes all thought.
For certain, the concept of buying and eating locally has been around for ages. Celebrity chefs the likes of Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Rose Prince, all of whom are considered household names preach the code. Admittedly, what might be considered local to them, and essentially their recipes, are in contrast considered ‘imported goods’ in Malaysia. Yet that is no excuse for a lack of creativity – it is no difficult task to substitute imported ingredients for those locally grown and cultivated. After all, what is cooking, if not a great adventure in the kitchen? While it is understandable that some of our favourite ingredients and produce are not cultivated in the nation, many of us often overlook home-grown produce in favour of those imported from countries across land and sea. Supporters of locally-grown produce naturally blanch at such behaviour – indeed, some strictly uphold the golden 100-mile diet. This rule states that a community should only consume food that comes from as far as a hundred miles (161 kilometres) away. Certainly, such a diet would save costs above all things – transportation, packaging, manpower; the list goes on.
Beyond fuelling your creativity in the kitchen, going local also functions on a grander scale, dishing up a great deal of benefits, both personally, and communally. It’s quite easily demonstrated: the shorter the distance travelled by your food, the fresher it is. This is particularly pertinent where fruit and vegetables are concerned. Naturally, some may argue that the rise of technology has seen to it that produce might be delivered cross-country without losing neither nutrients nor freshness, but the point to note here is simple. With local produce, consumers are able to reap the best of their national produce, essentially getting what they want at fairer prices while supporting the growth of local farmers and growers. The paradigm shift from more local produce as opposed to imported produce is, in addition, sustainable and good for the environment, where less fuel is spent in transporting goods. This essentially helps to cut down pollution, and conserves energy. In a nutshell, it is really a win-win-win sort of situation that leaves no room for complaint.
While it cannot be denied that larger, industrial growers have achieved consistency in the literal fruits of their labour, it must be said that there is something distinctly different about independent local farms. The fruit and vegetables from such places are different, somehow, as if the farmer had intentionally paid special attention to every individual cabbage sprouted forth of the earth. Where they are lacking in state-of-the-art technology with which to standardise the process of growing their produce, local farmers use time-honed methods, and with the aid of the Federal Agriculture and Marketing Authority (FAMA), are nonetheless rewarded with crops that are no less impressive than those cultivated elsewhere. Some will say that there is no better flavour than that of a well-tended fruit or vegetable that has been given ample attention by its grower – many will agree.
So support your local farmers. Find your way to a local pasar tani, if time permits, and allow yourself the experience of shopping amidst your own. Fresh produce abounds, and one is certainly spoilt for choice when buying local produce – you get a taste of localised freshness. A strong sense of community follows, as is natural – after all, supporting local produce essentially equates to the support of your public – your people, bound together by a national pride and a strong sense of togetherness. You are supporting your state, as well as its economy, while at the same time upholding the importance of eating well. In supporting local farmers, buying local products and tasting of local freshness.