Today's The Irish Times has spurred me into blogging life once more. In it there is an article entitled Can a cheap Christmas dinner pass the test?. Four journalists were asked to try an Aldi €25 "festive feast" and report their findings. There was a starter of smoked salmon, the traditional main of turkey and ham with all the trimmings, a desert of plum pudding, a cheese course and chocolates, which fed the four for €103.
All four journalists were impressed with the quality of the meal. They also were happy to note that, other than the bottle of wine, the whole dinner was produced in Ireland. For me it doesn't matter what the outcome was. We know that Aldi sells food cheaply and that the quality of this value food is always improving. I was not surprised when they reported positively on the taste of the food. What I was surprised by was the lauding, yet again, of a cut price supermarket chain that is decimating our country. I realise that this is an expensive time of year for people and that a five course Christmas dinner for €25 a head is a tempting offer. This is not the answer though. If Aldi are managing to sell a 5.5kg turkey for €30 someone is suffering, and you can be sure it's not Aldi. The margins for the producers of these value Irish foods are so tight that their livelihoods can only be sustained by producing enormous amounts. I would advocate the buying of a free range, preferably organic, turkey that is produced locally and is sold by an independent local butcher. This will cost more but would it not be better to keep our streets alive and ensure our butchers and other food sellers don't go out of business because of the impossible-to-compete-with prices of supermarket chains? Would it also not be better if rural Ireland was full of many small, quality, food producers who keep the local economies going and fill our country with activity rather than a small few large scale food producing monopolies? To afford a quality Christmas meal bought form local sellers people might have to sacrifice one or two of the sides or trimmings that Aldi offers. I know I would prefer to spend more on my turkey and veg and forego the cheese course, for example.
This morning, on my mad dash to work, late, I bumped into my local butcher, I hardly recognised him out of his butcher whites! He stopped me to say that he had over charged me the last time I was in and that he'd give me the money off my next meaty purchase. I hadn't even noticed the small over charge but I thought how lovely to have such friendly relations with my local butcher and how essential it is, for the good of our city centre, to support such small businesses who know us by name and remember our credit.