Festival’s food guru reads the way to ethical eating

Changing the way we eat can help to save the planet, but shopping and eating sustainably is not always easy, says the expert behind the Festival of Thrift’s mouth-watering food programme.

Simon Preston, the resident food guru of the UK’s annual celebration of sustainability at Kirkleatham, near Redcar, has confessed that, until recently, even he was not a fully-fledged, eco-friendly foodie.

“I’d probably always have scored myself a decent seven out of ten as an ethical food consumer. But if I’m honest, I haven’t always acted on the good advice of the hundreds of chefs, producers and food experts I’ve worked with over the years,” he confesses.

Simon, who presents BBC Radio Scotland food programmes Street Feast and Kitchen Café and works in the fields of broadcasting, talks, festivals, writing and consultancy, is well-known throughout the UK food industry for his innovative food projects.


These have included co-founding the trail-blazing EAT! NewcastleGateshead Festival and memorable food-focused highlights at the Festival of Thrift, such as the much-loved ‘The Town is the Menu community meal with a menu inspired by a local town, last year’s ‘The Whole Hog’ challenge to festival-goers to eat every morsel of a specially-reared organic pig and ‘Jamallot’, an on-site preserve factory using surplus fruit and vegetables donated by visitors.

In an article published on the Festival of Thrift’s website he reveals that his conversion to green eating came about in a way that was a revelation to not only him.

“Powerful films like Food, Inc. and Super Size Me? had a big impact on me, but nothing seismic and I just can’t stand food TV so watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste or Jamie’s Big Fish Fight? did nothing for me.

“Nope it was books that got me in the end. At this point, my friends are falling about laughing – they like to mock me for being a painfully slow reader, seriously we’re talking glacial. And actually it took me by surprise too.

“Over the past couple of years, three books in particular fell into my hands and changed me. I didn’t buy any of them. Perhaps fate sent them my way.”

Literary journey

The books that powered Simon’s literary journey to fully embracing ethical food habits were The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat by Louise Gray, Maryn McKenna’s Plucked! The Truth about Chicken and Vegetables, Soil & Hope by Guy Singh-Watson.

In his heartfelt article he explains the multiple reasons that “these three books have had a profound and lasting impact on me. I’ve cut my meat consumption by half, I’m now forensically curious about the origins of my food, much wiser in the choices I make.

“What unites those authors is that they spent years researching their subjects and still more time writing their books. It’s the passion and commitment they have shown to their subject, their drive to find answers, explore arguments, dig deeper and to tell the whole story.

“They took me with them on their odyssey, spent weeks with me as I read, immersed me in their subject, helped me get my head around complex issues and finally, led me to make choices, lasting choices, about my future consumption.”

Healthily and sustainable

Fired up with renewed zeal to help others to choose to consume more healthily and sustainably, Simon is now busy finalising the plans for the food offering for the seventh Festival of Thrift, which takes place on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September at Kirkleatham, near Redcar on the north east coast.

With a timely focus on clean air, it’s the ideal outdoor location to explore, through talks, performances, exhibitions and demonstrations, how to begin to follow in Simon’s footsteps.

More information

To read the full article by Simon, visit: Festival of Thrift

Anyone who is inspired to read the three titles that Simon champions can find their local bookseller online.

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