Can’t Cook/Rubbish at Gardening

Sometimes I feel quite inadequate. I am no foodie. I can burn toast and microwave something but I simply cannot cook. No interest. Don’t care. Likewise I cannot garden. I cannot grow vegatables. Our family home as a nice big vegetable patch. We are luckier than most but it is my wife who is the gardener. It is a teamwork thing. I dig, she plants. But it isn’t my “thing”. I can intellectualise its importance but I cannot pretend that it interests me. And I say that having grown up in a farming family. My Dad had an enormous vegetable patch!

Why don’t I care? Who knows? But this isn’t about me. This is a tribute to those people in our community who DO care. I take my hat of to you. How do you manage it? However I think my perspective is useful in the sense that I do empathise with the general public who often feel as I do. Hence the Transition to a post-carbon economy is going to involve teamwork. LOTS of teamwork. It will need people of all kinds of abilities and interests. My “thing” (if you had not of noticed) is energy efficiency, warm homes, biomass boilers and solar panels. For this reason I do actually expect people to ignore me when I enthuse about these things. Not everyone will be interested. It was a principle argument I used at the foundation of Transition Town High Wycombe four years ago; see yourself as others see you.

So I start my tribute with my lovely wife. I am so lucky. Obviously none of my Dad’s interest or expertise in vegetable growing rubbed off on me. Likewise his interest in birds (of the feathered variety) had no effect on me. [I wasn’t a total failure though. He took us kids to airshows every year and I DID grow up with an interest in aviation. This, one way or another, lead me to my current career in manufacturing industry. But I digress.] I was very lucky to meet my wife and it has become clear over the years that our skills are complementary. She cooks wonderfully and knows one end of an artichoke from the other. I, on the other hand, know how to insulate a home, fit an energy saving lightbulb and can choose appropriate technologies to make our home a warm and comfortable place. You could say that this is a Transition marriage (complete with her “CraftyPlotter” blog). She takes no part in Transition initiatives but she has strong empathy for its aims. Like me, she would say it isn’t her “thing”. There is nothing wrong with that.

We must learn to see the world as others see it. Teamwork is key – not ideology.

Next I pay tribute to the Transition Town High Wycombe Local Food Group (special mentions deserved for Mike & Celia). They are a warm, generous, kind and intelligent bunch. It was a proud day for me when in 2010 the then Leader of the Council offered us the initial funding tranche to start work on the Local Food Guide (“Food On Our Doorstep”). I then helped layout and apply my technical skills to the print-copy prior to its delivery to the printers. But it is the Food Group who deserve the accolades for sending their team out all over the district to find local food suppliers. To this day they are continually delivering a steady stream of updates and new vendors for the guide which is online now at

Third on the list may well be Vidya – the owner and manager of Local Roots, the local food store on Crendon Street. She came along and helped man the Local Food Transition stall at Hughenden Manor one hot weekend in October 2011 during the National Trust’s “Apple Day”. Our chat that day made me realise that there were good people out there in our Business community who shared our passions. (Like me Vidya may have not had a traditional eco-background, indeed, I recall that she recommended I read a Business Management book she had. I had to decline as my world began and ended with Dilbert cartoons…) Vidya is also a blogger (the “New Greengrocer”) and she explained her ambition to open a local food shop. Just five months later her dream came true with a little help financially from the local Transition community. We were proud to help and proud that the Local Food group gave her the initial boost she needed to start trading. Without TTHW this might never have happened, but we can’t claim the glory.

Of course Vidya is not alone. There are great people out there, all part of the team. I can briefly name Mark and James at Solasave for giving up their weekends to help us in our public outreach work. Wonderful people. People who care. None of them even needed to read a Rob Hopkins book to do this.

Next I tip my hat at all the gardeners out there in High Wycombe land. And all the cooks who can turn local produce into something edible. This is my greatest weakness too. Maybe the reason I didn’t like vegetables and cooking as a kid was because Dad liked his vegetables boiled. Boiled a lot. I survived childhood on potatoes and peas. I disliked almost everything else. My favourite food is probably still pizza. I am a lost cause.

But local food from your own garden can taste good. I grew up with the impression that the only way to make a vegetable taste good was to smother it in something else. Almost anything else would do. Gravy, ketchup, Branston pickle, salad cream, you name it. Of late I have watched TV shows like “River Cottage” and I am now more aware that it is possible to do interesting things with food that don’t involve smothering them with cheese and tomato ketchup. But to this day I groan whenever I see some over-enthusiastic Transitioner utter something like “Kale, yum!” I beg to differ. There is nothing “yum” about Kale. I don’t even know what Kale is and I don’t want to know. Yup, I am a philistine. Not proud of it. It isn’t a strong point. But the point is this: most people will sympathise with my position in some respect. So we simply cannot go out into the world and assume everyone likes spinach. They don’t. Teamwork is the key.

Food does touch people’s lives in a way that technology does not. I have seen how a few jars of local honey can attract a large crowd of willing buyers whilst nobody wants to talk about FREE home insulation. (Funny that!?) Such matters as domestic renewable energy win support from the Council and Fuel Poverty charities but it isn’t exciting. Not like Food. This is why local food and local energy are such complementary issues that require teamwork. Could you imagine me opening a Local Energy shop in High Wycombe and getting the number of customers through the doors that Local Roots gets? Food touches our hearts and souls. A+ rated boilers only touch us in the wallet. Gadget freaks might like the boys-toys but food is something different entirely. You might note that our Council has no real food initiatives whilst their efforts on energy abound. Energy is a top-down issue that comes from our brains. Food is a grassroots issue that comes from our souls.

So, if Transition is anything it is that marriage between our hearts and brains. It needs a mix of skills. A mix of abilities and a mix of interests. We can’t all be interested in everything. So let us toast our differences. Here’s to teamwork!

You will be able to see the work of our Local Food Group and our many suppliers within the Local Food Guide at the “Wycombe Harvest 2012”. This is a local Harvest Festival being held in the Town Centre on the Bank Holiday Monday August 27th. We’ll be delighted to welcome you to it. Vidya Crawley’s Blog can be read at whilst the CraftyPlotter can be found at

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.


Can’t Cook/Rubbish at Gardening — 2 Comments

  1. Great post, Mark! Well thought out and written from the heart. As you say, Transition is about the meeting of the heart and the mind, and we couldn’t succeed with just one without the other. We need people like you to keep reminding us!

    I have always been torn between the technical and business side of things (having an engineering and business background) and the community and people side of things (having worked in the voluntary sector and sustainability initiatives, not to mention, a lifelong passion for food!) and it’s only very recently that I’ve found a way to bring it all together – and being part of Transition locally has played a role in that!

    PS I beg to differ on one thing: kale is delicious and healthy – just steam or sautee with some rapeseed oil – yum!

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