The new Red Lion Quarter’s declared aim hangs on a sign in the food hall: to showcase the best of Spalding and South Holland.
It’s a noble aim and one we should all support if we want to encourage and support the area’s growers and producers. However, Guatemalan mange tout and South African satsumas do not do anything for this cause. Nor, for that matter, do products from Rochdale, Somerset, Bath and Norfolk.
That kind of food can often be sourced at deli sections in supermarkets, and it’s regarded as a bit of a luxury, the kind of food that frequently commands a higher price.
What I want to see in the Red Lion Quarter – and I know I am not alone – is food grown and produced solely in Lincolnshire, and in particular in Spalding and South Holland.
By that, I don’t mean I want to see the kind of food stuff I can buy elsewhere; it’s important the Quarter does not compete directly with existing small shops in these difficult trading times.
What I want to see are unique products, things that are made here but do not as yet have a big shop window in the district, such as Elaine Ayre’s jams and chutneys. I want to see unusual crops not normally sold in the usual outlets. I would like to see a WI stall, manned on a rotational basis by the many WIs in the south of the county, and filled with the delicious foods associated with that organisation. I might even like to see high-quality craft products made by small makers in our midst.
We have to accept that these kind of products, which are not mass-produced and involved a great deal of individual input, are going to be more expensive than a supermarket jam or apple juice produced in huge quantities, and obviously some people may not be able to afford that kind of luxury. However, those who appreciate the kind of quality associated with food that is locally sourced and made must be prepared to pay a little more for it.
Incidentally, if I want a supermarket experience, I can have that at one of the many supermarkets in the town where food is displayed on shelves. When I go to the innovative, forward-looking Red Lion Quarter – which, let us not forget, is giving young people an exciting opportunity to enter the food industry – I want a completely different experience, perhaps akin to visiting a farmers’ market or a food festival.
I know it is early days, and as the operations manager Steve Kerwood told me, since the Red Lion Quarter opened he has been approached by local people who would like to showcase their products in the food hall. Let’s hope that continues and that soon the food hall will be showcasing the best of Spalding and South Holland.