Food & Wine visit to McCallum’s

New organic and ‘free-from’ food shop in Princes Risborough

Thirteen members of the Food & Wine Group made an evening visit to McCallum’s Organic Deli, a new shop in our High Street, on Tuesday 9 February. We were welcomed by Alex McCallum, a local resident, who claims his store is the very first organic and ‘free-from’ store in the country, set up to supply a range of organic foods and drinks as well as eco-friendly  body and cleaning products, all at Amazon and Ocado prices.Alex also owns a pub, The Bell at Hardwick just north of Aylesbury, where organic foods are served. He also plans to use the pub’s kitchen as a “production unit” to supply the shop with frozen meals and snack bar products. In the longer term Alex intends to extend his business to include a pub and three shops in counties throughout the UK.

Healthy Oils

Only oils with known health benefits are supplied, so vegetable oil is not stocked. Instead you can buy coconut oil (both extra-virgin and mild), olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocado oil and hemp oil. The last two especially are providers of ‘omega-3’, which is good for the heart, helps to lower cholesterol and prevent degeneration.

Although coconut oil contains around 80% saturated fats, these are of the “good” variety for which many health benefits are claimed, including helping to promote weight loss. They are also thought to have a therapeutic effect on brain disorders such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.

Apple cider vinegar

Several people have found  regular consumption of apple cider vinegar to be very effective at alleviating symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. 2tbsp a day with warm water is recommended.

Healthy Treats

Our first tastings of the evening were creamy dill-flavoured lentil crisps, fried in coconut oil or rapeseed oil and ‘free-from’ brownies. The brownies contain no wheat, dairy or sugar, are sweetened with date purée and were enjoyed by all.

Organic  Wine

Alex stocks a range of organic and vegan wines, some of which are also sulphite-free. Sulphites are thought to be involved in promoting hangovers, so if you are the sort who gets a headache after drinking a small glass of wine, these could be the ones for you.

None of this wines are stocked by the supermarkets as they all come from  independent suppliers so not surprisingly, they aren’t sold at ‘bargain basement’ prices. We tasted two examples of Gavi, an Italian white wine, both from the same producer from the same grape variety and both sugar-free.

Firstly we tasted an example with sulphites added (£7.95 for 37.5cl), followed by sulphite-free (£11.95 for 75cl). Most of us noticed a pronounced difference, commenting that the sulphite-free version tasted “cleaner”. There was however nothing unpleasant about the taste of either, although they were perhaps a little dry for some palates.

Foods to help prevent cancer

This is of particular interest to Alex as cancer is prevalent in his family. He firmly believes that a healthy diet can help to prevent the disease and he stressed the importance of maintaining the body in an alkaline state, as this helps to prevent gene mutation.

Meat and dairy products are ‘acid foods’ and although he isn’t advocating avoiding them all together, he does believe that the diet should include as many vegetables and fruits as possible. 5-a-day is not enough, ideally we should aim for nearer to 10.

A glass of lemon juice is a good way to start the day. A bit counter intuitive this one, as lemon is obviously citric acid. However it does seem to help balance our pH levels. Vegetable juice is also good as is keeping well-hydrated throughout the day by drinking “green water” – water to which apple juice and wheatgrass has been added. Green tea is also excellent.

Lima berries (or golden berries) are also excellent for health and we were all given one to taste. The group’s reaction was varied – Marion said she loved them, but judging by his facial expression, Michael was unimpressed!

Should we buy organic?

To buy or not to buy organic is clearly a personal choice. However Alex believes that for some products this is very important. Coffee, nuts and seeds for example tend to be produced in poor countries where the crop is extremely important for the economy. This means that fertilisers and pesticides are widely used and for that reason alone, it is probably worth buying organic whenever you can.

Geoff Heyes