THERE is an exciting new exhibition opening in Cockenzie House and Gardens this weekend.

Looking back over the last three centuries, it maps the great food production and harvesting of our rich and fertile county. It celebrates the role of farming, fishing and associated industries managed by the enterprising families of the county.

Optimistically, it highlights the opportunities of today and the role we can all play in achieving food security and sustainability.

It celebrates a hardy population. We were no ‘mealy-mouthed’ weaklings and from tough stock: farmers manually tilling the land for wheat, barley, and vegetables.

Horse and carts were the mode of transport – no ‘brand new combine harvesters’ and the like of today.

Using natural ingredients would be a step in the right direction

Using natural ingredients would be a step in the right direction

Fruit and berries were harvested in season; milk herds, pig farms and chickens, together producing milk, cheese, butter, pork products and eggs locally. Our intrepid fishermen took to the seas in simple vessels, landing white fish and herrings. Oysters and mussels were harvested locally. We mined for coal, panned for salt and made pottery for fuel and preserving. We even produced our own beer and whisky.

Women worked to support their menfolk in their jobs. They cooked a seasonal diet, focusing daily on what dietitians today might highlight as a healthy diet.

Until the last century, they did all this with no central heating, electricity or internet!

Lets get back to basics and cook

Let's get back to basics and cook

Let’s not look at this through rose-tinted spectacles. Life was harsh. The biggest threat was disease, spread easily through an unvaccinated population. With no contraception, childbirth was a risk to life and infant mortality a regular occurrence. Industrial accidents were a major hazard in the pits, at sea and on the land.

No one wants to return to that way of life, but we can learn lessons. The chemically laden, processed food we are being pedalled by the big conglomerates is causing obesity, ill health and is shortening our lives.

The high-quality food we continue to grow and harvest in our county is wholesome, delicious and sustainable. In our challenge to achieve better health and net zero, let’s get back to our own basics and cook the dinner!