Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Who eats the cabbages?

click photo to enlarge
In the Monty Python sketch set in a "greasy spoon cafe" every item on offer includes Spam. When reciting the menu the waitress notes the presence of the once ubiquitous industrial meat with a barely disguised relish. However, if you think that establishment's offerings are the depths of culinary monotony, spare a thought for the sheep in this Lincolnshire field: breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper consists of cabbage. And then, by way of a change, the next day they have...cabbage. Still, it's probably better than grass.

I pass this field fairly frequently in my car, and I've watched these sheep eat their way across it in sections that are divided off with a moveable electric fence. The field is quite a large one, and the part that was eaten first (in the background) has already been ploughed. I've discussed elsewhere the Lincolnshire custom of sheep being wintered on fields of vegetables that are either the cropped leafy remains, or those that are unsold. Being brought up in the sheep country of the Yorkshire Dales, I initially found it odd to see the animals on anything other than grass, but I've got used to it by now. However, there is one thing that puzzles me, and seeing these sheep eating what appear to be perfectly good cabbages, set me thinking about it again. The puzzle is this: who eats all the cabbages that I see growing in Lincolnshire? I know that people of my generation eat cabbage (in all its varieties) as a cooked vegetable. I even grow some. But what about younger people? Just about the only cabbage I see them eating comes in the form of cole slaw. A couple of years ago, when speaking to a farmer, I learned that the big, round, football-like cabbages in the field next to us were for that product. I do still see cabbage offered on some restaurant menus, but it has definitely moved from being a staple of the English diet to something of an unwanted relic.  However, the acres of Savoys, pointed varieties and others that I see must be being eaten by someone. But who, and when, and where? It's a puzzle.

When it comes to photography sheep are exceedingly unco-operative creatures. I knew that when I got out of my car with the camera at the ready those nearby would flee, presenting me with a shot of rear ends. So it proved, but then curiosity got the better of them and they stopped and turned to look at me. I wondered what they thought as I snapped away, and I wondered too what the drivers of the passing vehicles thought when they saw me snapping this unpromising subject!

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 168mm
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/160
ISO: 500
Exposure Compensation: -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On