Why you could find Parmigiano Reggiano served on a Kentish huffkin

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Picking up a pack of Parmigiano Reggiano in Ramsgate is almost certainly easier than finding a Kentish huffkin.

Picking up a pack of Parmigiano Reggiano in Ramsgate is almost certainly easier than finding a Kentish huffkin.

These bread rolls are the type of regional recipe that have been largely superseded by sliced white loaves and pain de campagne .

It's not just the distinctive varieties of bread that have disappeared but so much produce that used to be associated with different parts of the country. Our territorial cheeses such as Caerphilly, Cheshire, and Wensleydale, so evocative of the landscape and livestock responsible for them, are under threat from countless continental brands.

Their survival is not helped when there are mass-produced poor-quality cheeses that bear little resemblance to those once made on farms in the dales and valleys. Europeans have been quicker to protect and promote their delicacies from particular areas, such as Parma ham and Roquefort cheese.

But where they are from is not only what matters. Protecting the integrity of the produce is what has given them their cachet and maintained their reputation. Stilton does now have this "protected geographical indicator".

The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association (yes, such a thing does exist, and why not) is engaged in the tortuous process of doing the same for their distinctive pies – made with fresh pork, not cured.

Livestock farmers are increasingly forming themselves into marketing organisations so that we can buy their meat more or less direct and know exactly where it comes from.

This is what Food From Britain, responsible for promoting our culinary specialities, should concentrate on.

If there's a serious move to champion regional food we must start with the raw materials. Bacon from Gloucester, Welsh lamb, cheeses made in the area their name suggests, apples that grow best in the rich soil of Herefordshire. Their connection with the local culture must be reinforced.

New Zealand apples are still being sold in southern supermarkets with orchards of Cox's on their doorstep. Last year, a report by Sustain, the alliance for better farming and food, found that despite the lip service paid by supermarkets to sourcing the food from their area, only 4 per cent came from local suppliers. An alternative food economy has grown up; the growth of farmers' markets and shops has helped to restore power to the farmer.

But still most of us buy most of our food in supermarkets. If their branches cannot stock and promote regional foods what hope is there for shoppers in other parts of the country to be introduced to the best from neighbouring counties?

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