I’ve often been asked where my love of great food comes from, and the answer is there are many sources. Firstly, mum was a great cook and baker, and growing up everything was made by her from scratch. We lived out in the Lancashire countryside and all around us were fields with sheep, cows, wheat or maze so the food chain was literally on our doorstep. One of the largest and most sustained influences to this day, would start out in the Autumn of 1990 when I was the tender young age of 9 years old. Early yes but let’s just say they were different times, and I don’t think I took any harm from it!
My dad worked 6 days a week and as well as looking after the house, mum also had a part-time job and there was no one home to look after me on a Saturday. 5 years earlier my older brother had started working at Honeywell’s and because Mum and Dad wanted to know I was safe, I would start working there too. It was simple stuff to begin with like keeping the floors clean, emptying scrap buckets and keeping on top of the washing-up. It would later progress into some butchery, receiving the Saturday pig delivery and eventually making it onto the counter, where I think it’s fair to say, my training for standing up in public and putting on a performance really began!
They were great times, and while there may have been times when I wish I could have been outside playing instead of being knocked in the head by lambs hanging up in the coldroom, looking back it was one of the most perfect opportunities to fall in love with locally sourced produce. The farmers who raised the animals that supplied the shop were all local, and one was actually a neighbour of ours. They would call in of a Friday night to have a camp as it used to be called and a brew or something cooler in the warmer months. There was a real sense that this was a community supply chain, and the Gornall family who own Honeywell’s were the conduit that brought these products to the local homeowner.
The community didn’t stop with there. The business was started in the early 1970’s by Doris and Francis Gornall after Fran decided to swap building for butchery to be nearer the family and his wife who was recovering from illness. This decision would shape this family and many others who have come to work in the business, and for the local population who have come to know Honeywell for meat they can trust. We had the same customers in every week and not only did we know everyone by name, we also knew where they lived, their families and many other details of their lives that I’d say are the hallmarks of friendship more than the relationship of shopkeeper and customer.
Back to the Autumn of 1990 and as things drew nearer to December talk began of Christmas and turkey plucking. Being a typical 9 year old who is afraid of being left out of anything that seemed remotely exciting I asked Doris what the talk meant and if I could help. Apparently there was never a doubt that I’d be helping but in that moment I had just allowed myself to be fully snared by the Honeywell Christmas trap! It’s a trap I’ve fallen into many times since and is now one of my most favourite times of year to visit.
Doris and Fran are no longer with us but the Gornall family is very much at the head of this North West enterprise and the business continues to grow. With an ever increasing network of suppliers from local artisans to products of provenance from the Loire and Sicily, the shop is literally a food mecca! The family are my friends, my mentors, my inspiration and my adopted second family! I will always champion what they do simply because it’s one of the ways I can think of paying them back for everything they have done for me.
An extension of this relationship though is that I will always champion the plight of the local producer and supplier who is battling the odds to bring a sustainable and traceable product to the customer, all with honest and friendly service. In an age of supermarket online ordering take the time to find the local things that matter and make a difference. It isn’t just the butcher, but the high street, the local farmer who raised the animals and the green economy that is fully connected to that next Sunday roast or family BBQ.