While cycling to the earlier tour at Balfron Tower, I got a little lost and stumbled upon a couple of other estates in the neighbourhood – Robin Hood Gardens, as well as the nearby Carradale House and Glenkerry House. One good turn deserves another, and London city planners loaded up these council flats in the unluckiest bits of London, especially the East End and South London.
One of the things that’s fascinated me about London is the council housing (aka, housing projects / social housing). After WWII much of the UK’s housing stock was either rotten or bombed out. Rather than replacing rows of terrace housing with more of the same, they built massive concrete housing estates in low-, mid-, and hi-rise form. The idea was to eliminate overcrowding, and bring modern touches (indoor plumbing, flow-through ventilation) to the masses. The heyday of the council house was from the late 1950s through to the late 1970s. Though Toronto has some social housing projects like Regent Park, the UK went much further. It’s hard to believe, but by the late 1970s one in three Britons lived in council housing. 14% of all UK residents live in social housing today. The number in Toronto is 5%.
One of the most famous pieces of council housing is Balfron Tower, designed by the famous architect Erno Goldfinger. The tower is due to be completely refurbished and sold off as private flats (essentially, condos) rather than being rented out as social housing. This building is fantastic, and awful, and fantastically awful.
While Mr. 416expat and I were exploring a food festival we came across Field and Flower. Started by a couple of guys straight out of agriculture college, they offer a selection of locally raised and butchered meats delivered once a month. Each month you log into their website, select your order and presto, it arrives the last week of the month. We signed up for their introductory box offer and waiting the 3 long weeks for our box to be delivered.
The box contained bacon rashers, minced beef, minced lamb, stewing beef, a roaster chicken, 6 sausages, a massive pork chop (could feed 3 people), a flank steak, and two boneless skinless chicken breasts. It’s a serious amount of meat for our small freezer but after some preparation (aka eating everything else in the freezer) we managed to fit it all in. Over the last week we have had some delicious meals. I made a turkish inspired lamb kebab with tomatoes and pita, toad in the hole (thanks mum!) and had bacon rashers for breakfast on the weekend. Today’s goal is to get that chicken roasted so that I can make stock overnight.
There is one fairly substantial barrier to me signing up for Field and Flower full time (getting a monthly box). Currently they deliver their meat via courier in styrofoam coolers with gel style ice packs (ensuring same day delivery and that your meat stays cold but not so environmentally friendly). If there was some way these coolers and packs could be reused I would sign up on the spot. Unfortunately styrofoam and I are not good friends and the idea of regularly receiving a styrofoam cooler which (1) can’t be recycled and (2) we can’t store and reuse ourselves, is not appealing. Until Field and Flower sort out a more sustainable delivery system, I’m not sure I can regularly support them.
In Toronto we supported Plan B Organics, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that delivered a box of vegetables to a local depot each week. Within the CSA structure, you buy a “share” of the summer’s produce, and if it’s a dicey summer for tomatoes, you won’t likely see tomatoes. It’s a way of supporting smaller farms and of avoiding some of the less desirable traits of mega farms. Plus, the vegetables were delicious! I’ll admit, there were some weeks when I thought to myself, “seriously? more lettuce?” But overall I was quite pleased with the product and the service.
Growing up on a dairy and sheep farm we had a pretty ready supply of meat. I was probably the only undergrad student whose freezer was regularly stocked with steak. Once we settled in Toronto (with a chest freezer) we bought lamb from my dad and chicken from my aunt. I would have loved to go in with another family to get a beef cow, but we moved to the UK before plan came to fruition.
Check out what’s available in your area – it might be a 100 mile market, a CSA, or a meat share program. It’s an amazing way to support small farms and growers!