Don’t you mean Veganuary?
Nope. Regenuary challenges people to only eat food that is seasonal, local and farmed sustainably using regenerative agricultural practices in a bid to highlight the destruction that our food choices are wreaking on the planet. Indeed, the initiative is somewhat at odds with the now well-established and hugely commercialised Veganuary because it permits the consumption of meat so long as it meets its sustainability criteria.
Surely many restaurants already strive to use seasonal and local ingredients that have been farmed responsibly?
Yes. But only a handful can say that every single thing they use fits this brief. It’s challenging to create a full menu using this criteria even if the definition of ‘local’ is stretched. It’s a rare restaurant that sources bulk basics such as onions, potatoes, sugar and flour with an eye on regenerative agricultural practices.
Isn’t it odd timing for such an initiative? The British larder is somewhat depleted at this time of year...
That’s a fair point. Most would agree that the UK is unable to provide everything needed for a balanced diet in January. That said, this campaign is important because it highlights the dire state of our current food system. And Regenuary running in the same month as Veganuary is significant too. Many vegan staples - including avocados, almonds and soy-based products - are intensively farmed in far off countries with grim environmental and human consequences. Sadly the situation in the UK isn’t much better, with the overwhelming majority of farming having a detrimental effect on the environment.
Amongst numerous other issues, intensive farming is destroying the health of our soils. Chef-turned-grower Dan Cox recently told us that he considers 99% of UK agriculture to be broken. He is one of a relatively small band of growers trying to nurse our soils back to health (and produce delicious food while doing so). “If you look after the soil and feed it properly it will produce amazing products that are very high in nutrition," he explains. "A lot of people still don’t realise that nutrition and flavour are the same thing." For further information on this subject watch the brilliant but bleak Netflix documentary Kiss The Ground.
Seems like an important cause. But how can restaurants get involved this year?
With restaurants closed for eat-in options are admittedly limited. But it's certainly something that quality indies should be looking at as they reopen. With the pandemic likely caused by the destruction of nature, how and where food is produced is going to be a big issue as normal service (hopefully) resumes later this year.