Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Slow Food, Sauncy Chops

The Slow Food movement was born in Italy in 1986, as a response to fast food and ‘fast life’. It now involves over 80,000 people in 104 countries around the world. It celebrates differences in flavours, artisanal food production and sustainable approaches to fishing and farming.

Once a month there is a Slow Food market in Bristol, the first of its kind in the UK. As the sun eventually came out at the start of June it shone down on a vibrant bunch of stallholders and producers. Fresh garlic and tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, artisan bread, great cider and apple juice, herbs, honey and organic meat.

I was delighted to meet Andrew Moore from Th
e Thoroughly Wild Meat Co, Bratton House, Bratton Seymour, Wincanton BA9 8DA (01963 824788). He grazes his lambs on the Somerset salt marshes, one of only a handful of farmers who raise their meat this way. The sheep feed on wild grasses and the natural antibacterial qualities of the salt water dramatically reduce the need to douse the sheep with chemicals. Lambs grazed in the Normandy salt marshes command premium prices, but in England we are only just beginning to catch on. The Welsh too produce salt marsh lamb, some of which made its way to the final of BBC TV’s Great British Menu series.

Andrew is passionate and enthusiastic, and patient with enquiries. He waxed lyrical about his salt marsh mutton chops, so lyrical that I had to try them. They were at least two and a half
inches thick and, having been hung for at least seven days, a mature dark red. As they sat bathing in a little olive oil and strewn with rosemary,
waiting while I put the barbeque together ("this will only take a minute...")
and then for it to come up to temperature, my mother said “What sauncy looking chops!” I think this means attractive, good looking, but I can’t find it in any dictionary, so I guess it’s a Northern
Ireland expression. But fitting I think. Sauncy chops.

And if sauncy can also mean absolutely unforgettably delicious then they are definitely sauncy. If I could eat chops like this every day I would, and as this is probably exactly what the Victorians, and Dr Johnson and co were eating, this is probably why the mutton chop was as popular then as it was. As a rule I’m not crazy about lamb – often it is rather pallid and nasty, but this is like Beethoven after a jingle – a real flavour, with depth and richness, and the robust texture of an animal that has not been intensively reared. Andrew was talking to me about the soil qualities on his land, and I think I will have to visit and investigate a bit further. Mmmmm, and he also farms roe deer for venison…
You can order from him at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am very jealous of this market, and the lamb (I do love lamb, anyway)...mmm.

I was in Bristol for a few days with my cousin, visiting her very nice friends, who kindly put us up in their lovely old house, a couple of years ago. I though it was a really beautiful and interesting city...the water, the bridges,amazing streets and architecture...I was charmed.

Well, i'm just jealous.

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