Looking for food you can trust? I have found it in our market halls
With the horse-meat scandal still making headlines, there has never been a better time to think about finding food you can trust. The Derby Telegraph's deputy news editor, Jade Beecroft, is spending this year shopping locally. In the first in a series of regular features, she looks at Derby's market stalls.
BREAD and butter, bags and buttons, biscuits and even Bisto gravy powder – there's very little you can't find in Derby's market stalls.
Once upon a time, before the advent of supermarkets and megastores, our market halls were bustling with shoppers. And now they are enjoying something of a renaissance as more and more of us return to the idea of shopping locally.
As the horse-meat scandal continues to resonate and we shoppers begin to look for foods in which we can put our faith, people are turning to market stalls because they offer the opportunity to meet the producers behind some of the products.
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In Derby city centre, we are luckily enough to have two indoor sites – the Market Hall and Eagle Market – which are both teeming with locally-produced foods and local people selling them.
And they also offer busy shoppers the opportunity to get a wide range of groceries under one roof – making them fantastically convenient.
Sadly, they don't offer shopping trolleys at the entrance so you need a bit of forethought and a canvas bag or two to get by.
Older folks may draw a wry smile with their tartan shopping trollies but, when it comes to stall-hopping, you certainly end up building a strong set of biceps without one.
In my drive to shop locally this year, I've become a regular at both of Derby's indoor markets and have been amazed at the range of things you can buy and the friendliness of the stall holders.
These guys are always ready to share a joke and they display a real camaraderie that bonds small communities of businesses together.
It's one for all and all for one in Derby's markets, and I've often found that, if one stall doesn't sell a particular item, the owner will cheerfully point out a stall further along that may be able to help out instead.
You can pretty much gather all your groceries from the markets. There are a number of butchers who are always happy to tell customers where the animals were raised or give tips on how best to cook a particular cut of meat.
As a vegetarian, I'd always believed that walking into a butchers' shop would be tantamount to a devil-worshipper entering a Catholic church.
But, rather than being struck down by lightning, I've been warmly welcomed by Derby's carnivorous community.
My other half eats meat so I have to buy it for him, and the friendly staff at the Poultry Market – part of the Market Hall – are always happy to point out flavours or marinades that he might like.
And, as I am a vegetarian, it will come as no surprise that I have a number of animals at home – so the two large pet shops within the indoor markets have come in very handy as well.
Both are run by staff who have been really keen to help me root out the most suitable cat litter or best chewy toy to help stop my naughty house rabbit nibbling my new skirting boards.
There are delis and sandwich bars, where busy workers can grab a quick lunch, cheese counters, grocery stalls with tinned goods and breakfast cereals, craft stalls, haberdashers, greetings card stalls, clothes stalls and, in the Eagle Market, there's even a herbalist.
For those with a sweet tooth, there are plenty of cakes and sweets and, in keeping with the location, the Market Hall has a stall selling traditional Derbyshire pyclets, which always has a number of customers propping up the counter.
And for those of us who might need a little convenience break while out shopping, the Eagle Market even has a loo.
They really have thought of everything.
So if you want to find out where your food is coming from then Derby's market halls are a great starting point.
The stall holders work hard against some pretty tough competition to make their livings and tend to be passionate about their produce.
Most welcome questions and will cheerfully tell their customers where a particular cheese was made, which farm produced the meat or where the eggs were laid.
In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of them could give you the names of the chickens as well.
To find out more about Jade's quest to shop locally, follower her online on Twitter @JournoJadeB.