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An Unexpected Find

We are still hanging on with our (almost) no supermarkets month. It does post numerous challenges, such as the fact that most non-supermarkets don’t stay open all hours and so we can’t pop out to do our shopping whenever it suits us. Another is the matter of where to go. We could tell you where to find products in the local supermarkets quite easily but what are the best places to visit if we are avoiding those?

Seeking to answer this question, I recently came across the Big Barn website and was surprised to discover a butchers shop (JE Pill and Sons) highlighted in Blackbird Leys. Tucked away on Balfour Road, it wasn’t surprising that I hadn’t chanced upon it before but the website looked promising and we visited the shop this afternoon.

What a delight! The butcher we spoke to was friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Rather than being a run down shop turning out junk food (if you’ve heard of Blackbird Leys but don’t live there, there’s every chance that is what you were expecting – the area has an image problem almost as big as the one suffered by the rats I mentioned yesterday) it turns out that they have found a niche. They provide relatively local products at prices which match or beat the supermarkets. Furthermore, they can provide a diversity of cuts that far exceeds what comes pre-packaged in Tesco. We enjoyed a couple of generous pork chops tonight and tomorrow will find out if “hard chicken” (a cheap older bird that is no good for roasting) works for the slow-cooked method I have been exploring recently.

Alders, on Cowley Road, is also a good butchers but doesn’t seem to provide such variety. Even if we end up going back to the supermarkets for toilet roll and tinned tomatoes, I think the experiment has succeeded in helping us discover a place where we will being buying a good proportion of our meat.

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