Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Origin Oman's 150 Kilometre Meal Initiative

“When the average Oman based citizen sits down to eat, each ingredient has typically travelled at least 1,500 kilometres” says Ibtisam Al Faruji of PEIE and the woman spearheading the recently-launched Origin Oman campaign ( “Our local products are excellent and we want to get people putting them on their plates on a more regular basis. Our goal is simple, we want to raise public awareness of locally produced food as well as highlight the environmental impact of transporting food long distances. It just makes sense,” she adds.

To get this idea into practice and show exactly how good local produce is, on the evening of 25 and 26 May, the Oman Tourism College in partnership with the Origin Oman campaign will host the ‘150 Kilometre Meal’. “The goal is to stick to ingredients grown or made within 150 kilometres of the College,” says Dietrich Repolusk (pictured), lecturer in Nutrition and International Cuisine at the college and the man responsible for planning the dinner menu along with his Omani students. ”We fully expect a sell out crowd of 60 diners each night who will feast on a meal featuring locally sourced ingredients,” says confident Repolusk.

Repolusk, an Austrian national who has been in the food and travel business for over 30 years and is an accomplished chef said: “I’m passionate about locally grown food. Eating closer to home is both safer and healthier. Food is a living, breathing entity and the fresher the food, the better it is for you. If people made the effort to make even 10% of their diet local, it would have a huge impact on the environment, the domestic economy and our communities," says Repolusk.

“Eating local isn't just about health,” he continues. “It’s also about quality. I recently had the greatest local tomatoes. They were so unbelievably sweet and delicious. Better still they didn't sit on a truck for three weeks, frozen. And as for Omani honey and the fruit from Jebel Akhdar, well, they’re exceptional.”

Origin Oman’s Ibtisam agrees. “Speaking of honey, I always like to use the honey analogy when I talk about the taste of local food," she says. “The bees visit the local flora. We smell the air and our senses and our taste buds are attuned, so when we buy local honey, it tastes better because we’re smelling and tasting something familiar. They also say eating honey from where you live helps combat allergies.”

But isn’t eating locally sourced produce more expensive? Repolusk thinks not. “Most of us pay a premium for out-of-season foods like cherries in winter or prepared foods like spaghetti sauce, usually with a long list of ingredients we might prefer not to have in our bodies. Eating locally, you can buy fresh ingredients in season direct from the market or the farmer – and to save money you can buy in bulk. Freeze the food you don’t need straight away. In my opinion, most people eating a typical diet could save money by eating locally.” Ibtisam agrees, “There are places where it's easier and places where it's harder, but with a little planning, local eating is never impossible. And if you’re looking to save money don’t forget that a lot of products made in Oman are the same quality as imported stuff and often cheaper. It’s worth reconsidering the brands you buy.”

The ‘150 Kilometre Meal’ is one of the many initiatives that make up this year’s Origin Oman campaign. Look out also for: the Origin Oman Exhibition 25 - 29 May at Lulu Hypermarket and check out the Origin Oman website for more information on the campaign and its initiatives.

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