Monday, 10 October 2011

If you find quantitative easing hard to swallow, try eating fennel

Autumn sweet fennel at its best

According to the Press Association, the Bank of England gave its clearest signal yet this weekend that we are on the verge of a double-dip recession and to stave off further decline, it is going to release £275 billion pounds (£75 billion more than previously thought) of 'new money' into the economy via the banks. Speaking on Sky's Dermot Murnaghan Sunday programme, Dr Matin Weale, a senior member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, said that, "There is quite a lot of scope for further quantitative easing. Before the purchases we announced last week, the amount of Government debt in the system was actually higher than it had been before the earlier bout of quantitative easing."

He went on to say, "There is quite a lot more that could be done but at the same time I think one has to recognise that central banks can't be expected on their own to resolve all the world's problems." 

Well that's true, once you get past the glaring chicken-and-egg problem that the banks and their reckless lending working in cahoots with optimistic borrowers and turn-a-blind-eye Governments have got us all into this mess in the first place. No, once you get past that bile-inducing thought, it seems fair not to expect banks to dig us out, but instead businesses like social enterprises that will employ vulnerable people and make things. Oh dear, that brings us back to banks again, which, despite their "I got £250k to refurbish my pub from my friendly local bank" adverts, are not lending anyone much at all, according to what my members are telling me.

So why, I ask, is it not possible to make the purchasing of Government bonds, which in effect guarantee the capital within banks upon which they base their ability to lend, subject to increased and demonstrated SME lending? And while we are at it, why can't we encourage banks to prioritise lending to those who intend to employ more people? If we don't do something a bit cleverer with what is essentially the people's money, even if it is theoretical cash, it will miss the target of those most affected by this remorseless recession, who are the unemployed, the underemployed and their families.

This weekend's haul from the allotment, a cheering sight 
So if all this is too hard to swallow, then it's time to write to your MP and think about fennel. This magical vegetable has been used since ancient times to relieve indigestion and, even more pertinently, enable the digestion of rich, fatty foods. Fennel is there to help you swallow the unswallowable, which is why Pernod tastes so nice, and why it must be the vegetable of choice to eat with quantitative easing.

I have some stunning Florence fennel, grown from seed that has enjoyed the warm weather and swollen very nicely indeed. I think fennel is about the prettiest and sweetest tasting autumn crop on my allotment, which is groaning this weekend with produce coming at me appropriately from left, right and centre.

Our Sunday's roast will benefit from roasted parsnips, caramelised fennel (Delia's recipe), fresh horseradish sauce (Gary Rhodes's recipe) to go with the beef, calovo nero with nutmeg and garlic, redcurrant jelly in the gravy and followed by the family favourite beetroot brownies and apple and walnut loaf. All homegrown and homemade. It's no wonder I am not skinny and yet carry a cheery smile. I have much to smile about even if the economy sounds each day more like a plot line from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

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