If you’re new to Essex Road Recipes, welcome. And goodbye.
The idea was born out of the wonderful collection of independent, specialist food stores around the corner from my flat in Islington, North London. There’s Steve Hatt for your fish, James Elliott for your meat and cheese, Raab’s the baker. And then there used to be The Market Garden for your fruit and vegetables and The New Rose pub for meeting your friends and neighbours. All quality. All with minimal plastic packaging. All staffed by people who know their stuff, who know their customers. People who have supported me through some tough times with banter, genuine concern, hugs and sharing.
This is the last Essex Road Recipes blog. You can say that you were there in March 2019 when I finally admitted that the project had failed. When my recipes on essexroadrecipes and my ranting on kayscorah collided, and I realised that my well-meaning, small scale social activism was pointless.
5 years ago, I started to improvise recipes around what looked good in these shops. 2 years ago I published a set of 50 improvised recipes. My love of food and cooking grew and grew…
…as did my love for these people, my sense of belonging and being at home after 20 years living away. The North London banter in Raab’s, James Elliot and Steve Hatt is still guaranteed to cheer me up on the darkest of days, but I miss the Market Garden Family. I miss the New Rose Family. The owners of the land on which the Emery family ran the Market Garden for 20 years decided to terminate the lease in January. Apparently they were going to develop the site; luxury flats and 2 retail units, or so we were told when we petitioned the council to keep the shop open. Our petition failed.
Even now, 2 months after the shop closed, no planning permission has been applied for, and an estate agent’s sign is advertising the site to let as a popup retail opportunity. Meanwhile, homeless people sleep under the shelter of the abandoned shop.
The New Rose went out of business and now sits empty, boarded up with an intruder alarm constantly sounding. The group of locals who used to hang out there, listen to one another and take care of the older ones, are scattered. In what used to be the beer garden there is a tent where homeless people live.
What now? Now that the extremes of greed and poverty that seem to characterise my country these days stare me in the face a few yards from my door? Now that I am politically orphaned; neither represented in parliament nor by my local council? Now that I feel powerless to effect even the smallest change? Now that I feel unseen and unheard? Should I succumb gratefully to a mind-numbing diet of reality TV and supermarket shopping? Or start a revolution?
Essex Road Recipes is no more. Watch this space for Essex Road Revolution.