Arund the world in forty years

Posted by in November's Magazine

My mate Tosh – in common with most Scottish Toshes it’s short for MacKintosh – was in at the birth of the Real Foods revolution working for what has since become a venerable Edinburgh institution as, either a delivery driver or hired muscle, in the late 1970s. And now, just like that, it appears they are celebrating their 40th anniversary in health food retailing. Not Tosh, I should point out, unfortunately he’ll likely be nudging sixty (what seas what shores indeed). No, he went off to become ‘something in concrete’ instead.

We bang on about provenance but here in, 1976, it was already in full spate. Tosh would bring home stuff like: Chinese apple rings; Afghan raisins; peanuts from Java; Italian dried pears and, rather controversially, both apricots from Iran and Persian sultanas. Pre 1979, how did that work?
The choice between ‘old crop dates’ and ‘new crop dates’ cannot have occupied him overly: “I’ll have 12 ounces of new crop dates please.” Mind, his penchant for the then exotic cider vinegar was wasted on me, at that time I thought all cider tasted like vinegar


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It was a different world back then, or was it? Real Foods were road testing a new super speedy shopping experience: ‘order by phone and collect 24 hours later”. An advert advised that customers buy in bulk ‘due to a home-grown food drought prices must increase when stocks run out’. And too ‘the market is stressed due to the phenomenal increase in world food prices and the 20% drop in the valuation of the pound”. Sound familiar?

Maybe not so much this rather eccentric quote attributed to The Scotsman (27/10/1976) which proclaims ‘Real Foods slashing profit margins to a precarious level. They do not give details of how their economic anarchy works in practice. “We survive,” they say’.
Nice to see Scotland’s august national broadsheet right there at the dawn of Punk with that ‘anarchy’!

Billy Gould

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