by David Qualter, UK
The Mower Sustainable, passionately cooked food for today’s eco-conscious gastronome Doing our bit for the planet
A couple of vintage lawnmower frames were suspended from the ceiling. On a pole across the bar hung a selection of rusty scythes and shears – mainly Spear and Jackson but also a nice old Burgon and Ball. Unclaimed stock that he assumed would have been dumped. He moved position in his seat – an uncomfortable metal tractor chair bolted to the floor – and smiled as he noticed his old sign hanging behind the bar: Roy’s gardening equipment: repairs and refurbishment of lawn mowers, garden tools sharpened. He read from the menu chalked onto a large chunk of slate: Under the heading – ‘from the ocean’, one could opt for a ‘line caught’ fish; ‘from the land’ – a choice of free range and outdoor reared sausages, cutlets and steaks. He suppressed a chuckle as he thought of sausages gambolling freely through meadows in the sunshine
He had picked a Wednesday early evening. Unlikely to be anyone here who knew him. The male waiters seemed to sport the same uniform of T-shirts, tattooed bare arms and long beards and he felt not over dressed so much as wrongly dressed. Like he was part of a museum exhibition. He sighed, It was a mistake, never go back, but he was curious. The staff were nice, and the manager even came and introduced himself when the waiter found out who he was. Roy told the waiter that he was impressed with the restaurant and suggested that, as they liked to keep everything local, he could bring some of his produce around from his allotment… just a few tomatoes and cucumbers – got such a glut of them. He would not want anything for them… maybe a glass of wine if he came back with his wife now and again. The manager talked about the complications involved and health and safety… thanks for the offer but… Roy passed it off as a joke.
The first glass from a bottle of Rioja relaxed him. He might plant a tree to compensate for the wine’s journey here from Spain, as a note on the menu suggested, and he wondered what the process was; what kind of tree, where would he plant it? Would someone need to see evidence, a photograph? He now noticed that his neighbour had just walked through the door, a wife, and a gaggle of small children in his wake. Neil’s tribe were ushered into a cubicle that had been made to look like a potting shed. Roy moved the wine list up to cover his face, but it was too late.
‘Small world’, Neil beamed, approached Roy’s tractor-themed table for two, and threw open his arms. ‘Changed a bit. Not as many oily rags around for a start’, he laughed as he looked around the place, ‘Trip down memory lane is it?’.
‘Something like that.’ Roy replied
‘You got out at the right time, just bought a Bosch: rechargeable battery, sealed unit, light as a feather; works a treat.’
‘Oh, you had a nice old Webb machine didn’t you. Did you sell it?’
Neil laughed. ‘Sell it? No. I was going to see if you’d give me something but…!’, he threw his arms open again and looked around the place. ‘Took it to the tip in the end.’ Neil now pointed towards Roy’s menu. ’So, what are you going to have?’
Roy paused, looked down at the slate again, then up to his neighbour, and smiled, ‘Well, I was thinking about a fish caught on a line, but you know what? I like mine caught in a net. Unless of course it’s a really big fish … I mean a tuna or something… then I like it to be harpooned’. He studied Neil’s face, not a crack. ‘Er just joking …’ He added, embarrassed now.
‘Er…OK’. His neighbour answered ‘but… er…Good to know that they’re doing something … you know … to er.. help the planet. You know … doing their bit.’
Roy answered ‘yes. Er, yes of course.’
‘All local produce, it says, you know. Carrots, onions .. all organic… You’ve never tasted anything as fresh, Roy. ’
‘Well, yes… I’m sure. You know I do still have my allot… ?’
Neil had moved closer to Roy’s tractor and, lowering his voice conspiratorially, cut across his comment.. ‘You, err, noticed the new Nissan eco on the drive no doubt?’
‘That’s right, Roy.’
‘The Corsa break down did it?’
‘Nar, nothing wrong with it; got a few quid through the scrappage scheme though. Charge the Nissan up overnight. Never go near a petrol pump.’ Neil paused for a few seconds and when nothing was forth coming from Roy added, ‘You know Just doing my bit, Roy. You know… moving with the times. Only got one planet.’ He now followed Roy’s gaze out through the window and on to the black Range Rover sitting in the car park gleaming in the early evening sun. ‘.. I didn’t bring it tonight obviously… not really practical for the family.’ He added hastily.
Neil returned to his potting shed as Roy’s meal arrived: lamb cutlets with hand chipped potatoes and local seasonal vegetables. The chips were in a tiny wheelbarrow and Roy spent some minutes deciding what to do with them; tip them all out in one go or eat them from their container…
He was sitting on a wall having a smoke when his neighbours came out of the restaurant.
‘Like a lift?’ Neil asked, as his family climbed into the Range Rover. ‘Probably squeeze a small one in.’
‘No Thanks. I’m walking,’ Roy replied. He would go via his allotment. The tomatoes could do with an extra watering with this sunshine. He stubbed his cigarette out on the floor.
‘Just doing my bit,’ he said out loud and smiled wryly as he started to walk the half mile home.