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Independently audited certified average circulation per issue of THE TABLET for issues distri buted between 1 January and

30 June 2010 is 22,000. Volume 264 No. 8864 ISSN: 0039 8837


Real price paid for cheap food ROSE PRINCE

WHEN I WASa child, a dropped lollipop would be dusted off and handed back to me. We played in the garden next to a farm, then ate our tea without washing our hands first. Our parents believed a bit of filth boosted our immune sys- tems and I wondered, hearing of the recent increase of superbugs on farms, whether it is still acceptable to adopt this approach. Last week, government scientists admitted that a deadly, antibiotic resistant E.coli bug is spreading through Britain’s dairy farms. Its prevalence has been linked to the use of anti - biotics in animal feed. There is also evidence that a drug-resistant strain of salmonella is spreading through pig farms all over Europe, and in poultry farms in the Netherlands. A decade ago, a similarly damning report was published, yet farmers continued to add antibiotics to feed, albeit under different guidelines. They may only do this if there is an infected animal in the herd but when you have several thousand chickens crowded in one shed, infection blossoms. Loose housed or free-range chickens or pigs and dairy cat- tle that are put out to grass tend to be healthy and disease free. Antibiotics enable intensive farming, but there is a terrible gamble. With the superbugs now widespread, an outbreak of E.coli/salmonella is likely. Remove the antibiotics, and livestock will have to be reared extensively – so no more crowd- ing – and the price of meat will rise. It would become the luxury it once was, doubtless amid huge protest. But the reduction in livestock would reduce the pressure to produce more soya and maize for feed (often grown on reclaimed rain- forest) and on the water supply, as well as create less methane, a major contributor to global warming. Human immunity will be robust once again – we can rinse off dropped lollies, and eat sandwiches with muddy hands …

It will take a very brave government to tackle the looming problem of superbugs. A rise in meat prices is a vote loser and, unless the ban is global, British farmers will stand idle while cheap imports pour in. This has always been a no-go area in policy and I fear only a catas- trophe will change minds. Whatever happens, a vegetarian meal is a healthy option.

Spiced potatoes with cauliflower and gram A filling, creamy curry to eat with rice. Buy Asian ingredients online from

Serves 6

4 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 level tablespoons mild curry powder 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped 2-6 green chillies, deseeded and chopped (optional) 12 fresh curry leaves 2 heaped tablespoons gram (chick pea) flour 1.6 litres/2½ pints water 1 kilo charlotte potatoes, cut in quarters 500g cauliflower, in florets 250g French beans, trimmed 2 teaspoons tamarind paste 8 mint leaves 1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves

Heat the oil and add the curry powder, curry

leaf, ginger and chilli. Fry for 2 minutes then add the gram flour. Cook, stirring until you have a thick smooth paste, then gradually add the water and bring to the boil. Add the pota- toes and cook for 10 minutes, then add the cauliflower and beans and cook for a further 4 minutes or until all the vegetables are cooked. Add the tamarind paste, mint and coriander. Taste and add salt. Serve immediately with rice.

Glimpses of Eden

THERE WERE four of them wrapped snugly in the dead seed head. I paused in my task of dig- ging up the clump of last

year’s musk mallows, and looked closer. Many of the other seed heads I was about to pull up were also filled with ladybird lodgers hoping to overwinter in these desirable digs. Ladybirds are hard to resist. In most cul- tures they have won a special place in people’s hearts. Their name often expresses our affec- tion for them. In Gaelic they are known as boin De, meaning “God’s little cow”, whilst in Yiddish they are known as “Moses’ little cow”. In Britain, the term “ladybird” dedicates this useful little beetle to Jesus’ mother, a link made

44 | THE TABLET | 2 October 2010

in the Middle Ages when the Virgin was depicted in scarlet. In Argentina they belong to St Anthony. More recently, ladybirds were nominated as the emblem insect for no fewer than six American states. In Indonesia too they are often seen as a symbol of good luck. Perhaps it’s their sudden, pleasing flight that has made them the subject of rhymes in many different nations. Usually of the fly-away variety, in Portugal these rhymes have the insects flying to Lisbon, whilst in Turkey they are encour- aged to go and collect slippers and shoes. Knowing all of this how could I evict such wel- come tenants? I lifted up my garden fork and passed over the hibernation corner untouched. Jonathan Tulloch

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