Page last updated at 21:41 GMT, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 22:41 UK

Scots food sparks global debate

A week-long experiment with Scottish food produced responses from many different parts of the world

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

About a week ago I made a hasty decision which I have had seven long days to regret.

My colleague, Angela Soave, challenged me to join her in a bid to live on only food from our respective regions.

She got the Scottish Borders and I got Dumfries and Galloway for our week-long culinary challenge.

I think the biggest surprise for both of us - other than the number of food producers out there - was the worldwide response our efforts generated.

Coffee beans
Does anyone in your area prepare 'coffee' using the roasted root of the chicory plant?
James Voordeckers
From Australia to Qatar, from New Orleans to Italy - it seems the concept of local food is one which stirs the passions around the globe.

Many kindly offered suggestions of where we might purchase the supplies we needed.

Others had broader advice, instructions or queries.

Paul Hamilton knew what we were going through having tried to live on the Fife diet for a week earlier this year.

"We found that a week on a strict interpretation of the Fife diet left us very limited in terms of what we could have," he admitted.

"My key recommendation to you would be to find some way to keep your blood-sugar levels up, even if you have to cheat to do so.

"A week-long sugar crash isn't fun."

Tell me about it, I am only just getting over the headaches now.

The lack of coffee and tea certainly produced a range of suggestions.

Most stimulating

"Does anyone in your area prepare 'coffee' using the roasted root of the chicory plant?" asked James Voordeckers in Massachusetts.

John Mathewson advised: "Personally, I like to drink tea made from dried whortleberry or blaeberry leaves which are easily picked all over the Galloway hills, most stimulating in the morning."

And Minna from Finland wrote: "See if you can find a store that sells locally picked or grown herbs and buy some dried camomile - it makes for an excellent evening tea."

Angela Soave with pasta
Angela Soave gave up her beloved pasta and prosecco for the week
Assistance came flooding in from Barcelona, Abergavenny and the executive chef at the Caledonian Hilton in Edinburgh.

There were also thoughts from closer to home.

"What a challenge you have set for yourself, I wish I could join you it sounds amazing," said Kevin Currie from Denholm in the Borders.

"You must try the pies from the Denholm butcher, he has a great selection - all home made.

"I recommend his individual steak pies, a meal in itself, and his scotch pies are brilliant too - my record is three in one sitting!"

Dennis Young Jr from Syracuse, New York, was equally impressed.

"I have been following the series on the BBC website living on local food and it is a very interesting story that your desk has produced," he said.

Not everyone was so pleased with our experiment.

'Important subject'

"This must be a joke, you are completely spoiled for choice for locally produced food in Dumfries and Galloway," said Lusia and Kevin McAnna from Barnard Castle.

"We always shop locally when we stay at our Crocketford holiday home and manage to eat and drink extremely well - although you probably will have to make your own pasta."

Steve Cassidy was even more disappointed.

"I feel you are making a joke out of food miles and issues related to where our food comes from," he said.

Edmonton in Canada
There's not a lot of good tea or coffee plantations in northern Canada
Simon MacKintosh
"Our food is an important topic.

"Please do make it fun to eat local, but don't make fun of doing so."

There was no such criticism, however, from Simon MacKintosh in Edmonton, Canada.

He raised a couple of issues with the "eat local" concept.

"The first, as you have mentioned, is that you just can't get some things," he said.

"There's not a lot of good tea or coffee plantations in northern Canada.

"The second issue is that while the local food thing does reduce our carbon footprint, gives us fresher food and has other benefits, it also deprives some very poor people in very poor countries of income they badly need."

But my personal favourite piece of correspondence came from Mary Ewton.

In response to a mention of Scotland's favourite medium-hard, sugar, condensed milk and butter confection, she asked "Please, what is tablet?"

"I am in Louisiana, close to New Orleans, in the USA and I love all things Scottish and I especially like to know about foods which are new to me.

"I just discovered flapjack and I may have to sew my mouth shut."

That seems a bit extreme, but it shows the passion that food provokes.

Maybe a week without some of my favourite foods was worth it after all.

Day seven: living on local foods
17 Sep 08 |  South of Scotland
Day six: living on local foods
15 Sep 08 |  South of Scotland
Day five: living on local foods
15 Sep 08 |  South of Scotland
Day four: living on local foods
14 Sep 08 |  South of Scotland
Day three: living on local foods
13 Sep 08 |  South of Scotland
Day two: living on local foods
12 Sep 08 |  South of Scotland
Day one: living on local foods
10 Sep 08 |  South of Scotland
Just how good is local food?
09 Sep 08 |  South of Scotland

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