I am about to turn a small area of grassland, peppered with some half a dozen spindly, lacklustre fruit trees, into a cornucopia of food growing excellence that will provide family, both near and extended, with a range of ingredients capable of emulating all of the world’s major cuisines.

Well at least that’s what I told them down the pub.

In a moment of rash excitement I decided to reach for an alternative layer in my life. Nothing grand you understand, and not necessarily establishing a positive trajectory, just a practical immersion in some topical matters gathering like a distant storm, that I felt deserved more than just passing commentary.

At risk of endangering the honesty gene in my autobiographical makeup, I have generally seen myself as erring on the cosmopolitan side of life, more urbane than bucolic, effortlessly at home in wine bars and airports rather than garden centres and farmyards. Nice to live and ramble in rural Britain but it puts the social presentation of an expensive linen suit to waste I always felt. My Norfolk wellies have been essential accessories for nearly twenty years now, but never have they competed for the fashionable ‘footwear of choice’ award in my wardrobe.

Yet all things are now in flux.

When I announced my intention to approach self-sufficiency and a new and natural food code, all with a personal commitment rarely observed by the locals, most of the smart money moved swiftly to my inevitable failure. I think the odds reached 100 – 1 against, at one point. A handful of the more entrenched sceptics even suggested that the new Loire valley rosé I happened to be sipping at the time, must have imperceptibly undergone an increased alcohol level without anyone noticing. I fared little better at home. The laughter that greeted the announcement of my new holistic food mission could be heard across East Anglia.

What doesn’t break you makes you, I muttered more in hope than experience.

Not all colleagues were as damning as to my feeble efforts. Brian at the pub offered support with a life-changing introduction to the ethereal world of compact gardening and put me in touch with a welcome catalyst in the form of Gaynor and Saun; my local raised bed gurus.  Jonathan down the road caught me noisily shovelling some of Sue’s horse manure into a wheelbarrow, and as he proceeded to polish his car, pointed out with some foreboding “that the revolution appeared to have begun”. As a former Kibbutz dweller he had already noticed our mutually changed circumstances. Lilie, who lives over the lane was on the other hand noticeably pleased that I had forsaken the Gods of capitalism and was preparing for a mid-life excursion back into hippie-dom. One wonders who may stand corrected here – me is the likely guess.

One of the early television shows from the ‘70’s that captured many city dweller’s imaginations, mine included, was the weekly sight of Tom and Barbara trying to establish a rural idyll in the back garden of middle class Surrey, constantly overlooked by their sophisticated and expensive neighbours, Gerry and Margot. T.V’s The Good Life was a gentle clarion call away from the increasing rat race of the metropolitan centres, towards a spiritual haven of glowing self-sufficiency, rhubarb wine and awkwardly patched dungarees. If the nation had voted for the most contented couple in Britain competition, Tom and Barbara would have sailed to victory leaving their nemesis Gerry and Margot way behind in the nation’s most envied list. They could even have ascended the throne at Westminster Abbey as our future King and Queen, according to some contemporary commentators. These days, people want Simon Cowell and Jeremy Clarkson to run the country.

How dramatically things have changed – or have they?

Why I have chosen this path will inevitably unfurl as the tale moves on. Where I have chosen to undergo such scrutiny of my own as well as other people’s food chain, is easier to explain. Since moving from London nearly twenty years ago I have had the good fortune to live on one of the most attractive and unspoilt estates in north Norfolk, that which surrounds Blickling Hall. The Hall itself is the Jacobean jewel in the National Trust’s East Anglian crown, its surrounding estate displaying some of the most authentic and modestly contemplative landscapes I have experienced. Like many parts of Norfolk, thinking is a lot easier here than in London. One is frequently and magically transported, although thankfully without the aid of a bus or the Docklands light railway.  The farmhouse we presently inhabit, only a few miles from Blickling Hall, stands in glorious isolation with only a defunct RAF airfield to the north and a plethora of sugar beet and potato crops nestling against our boundaries elsewhere. How gloriously ironic that one or more of our closest neighbourhood crops are destined to swell a crisp packet or fill a chip pan somewhere on the planet as I write. Our own formerly unkempt plot consists mainly of recaptured pasture, now pretentiously languishing under the various titles of orchard, paddock or front lawn, all subsequently re-named in the updated family annals. When in social doubt at the party, re-name the living room. Call it the withdrawing room I say, keeps them guessing for hours.

I chose to hide in the orchard. It was here that life, art and culinary excellence were to conflate, to be as one, chaotically orchestrated under my naive gaze and untutored spade. This was the space where a field would become an allotment, and an allotment would become a portal to my epicurean senses. All this and I hadn’t even ordered my first Alan Titchmarsh book from Amazon yet. Lest you worry that this forthcoming diary concentrates solely on the trials and tribulations of an amateur gardener, fear not. This is a story of eating rather than gardening and I hope dining rather than simply consuming.

My quest appeared straightforward on day one, grow a range of the world’s vegetables as well as a little fruit in my own back yard, establish the planting around some of the world’s most notable cuisines and seek to dine daily from the prepared or cooked produce. I had no intention of ignoring the region’s fish or meat, crab and mussels were to be included as were new spring lamb or local venison. This was not the start of a casual route to vegetarian eating, yet it was the first time I had seriously considered a less than meat-centric diet. Eating meat when we needed it, not because it was there, became an early and relatively simple undertaking.

Very quickly a number of unforeseen aspects began to surface. One unsurprising feature I discovered was that I was not the best material from which to mould a kitchen gardener.  I also took an intelligent view, and decided early on in my endeavours, that my chosen task was not to fill a freezer with runner beans by Autumn, nor was it to win a few Highly Commended rosettes at the local horticultural show, although in the latter instance I feel that the gardening fraternity will have little to fear from my labours.

No, I felt instinctively that I could discover a great deal more about the food story by buying a spade than I could by reading labels in a supermarket. I was also aware that in my lifetime the food chain made available to us, has become increasingly complex and in some cases strategically dishonest. A great deal of smoke and mirrors have been brought into play to mask food sources as well as true nutritional content, especially in the tightly controlled, cash driven, processed food industries. To discover that the so-called Western Civilized Diet contains more than 50% of corn or soya  by-product, was in itself alarming. To be assured that this percentage continues to rise inexorably, is potentially life threatening. In America six of the top ten most frequent causes of death are now diet related.

Clearly when it comes to food provision, wealth has not provided well-being.

What is inescapable, is that what happens in the USA eventually sails across the pond to land on our shores. MacDonalds and KFC have been here for some time, WalMart came in via the back door and Kraft have recently arrived. Just imagine the percentage of product control already being exercised by a single dominant philosophy of food supply, and ask why so many of the problems of the civilized food chain increasingly stem solely from its length and complexity.

Wine, on the other hand, has been an intimate part of my professional life. I have travelled to most wine producing countries in the world and I am fortunate to count dozens of winemakers as my friends. I have been to their houses and their wineries. I have walked with them through open vineyards discussing the season’s glorious successes and frequent failures. They talk openly about good or bad vintages, the quality of the fruit or the skills of the winemaker and the mysteries of viticulture in their particular region. I taste the new wine in their company a dozen times a year often straight from the barrel and I have watched the deep purple liquid fill hundreds of new bottles on the bottling line. In short I, like many wine merchants the world over, have had transparent and easy access to every process in a wine’s natural history. How could such ease of observation be mirrored in my own food sources, in order to reduce the circumference of the food circle on a domestic level and simplify my own food chain over time.

Well, growing and preparing a lot of the stuff appeared to be one certain way forward.

So with a view to not letting my past become my future and with commercial serendipity allowing me that unusual and thoroughly modern gift normally imparted to my own children in recent years, I awarded myself a gap year to undertake just such a project.

With barely time to snatch breath, the orchard has been marked out, raised beds are to be installed, a seed merchant has been consulted and the tool shed has been re-organised. I have researched six principal global cuisines, consulted a raft of recent vegetable cook books, from Sophie Grigson to Nigel Slater, studied countless tomes on worldwide food attitudes from chemists to philosophers, studied wine and vegetable cuisine pairing, called upon local chefs to contribute to the project throughout, selected scores of separate vegetables to grow and nurture and most importantly warned my family and friends to go back to their homes and prepare for a plethora of self-sufficient crops.

Next time; the establishment of the garden, the arrival of a seed merchant, my first inevitable mistakes and, in preparation for self-sufficiency, the closer relationship that has occurred with my bank manager and my chiropractor