Post 31 and a Return to the Source.

So on the first day of this blog I challenged myself to do one blog each day for the month of March 2012. In many ways the month has gone by very quickly but when I look at what I have blogged I realise I have done some things in this time.

As luck, chance or fate would have it I have headed back to my home town today to help my parents out with a local event they are involved with. I would like to say that it was planned out and that it was some sort of natural progression to my rambling. Sorry but no it just happened to turn out that way as some things in life do.

I grew up in the flat plains of the central highlands of Victoria. Bitterly cold and wet  in winter, baking hot and dry in summer but heaven when the weather was in between. The earth here is a rich red volcanic variety here. Full of life and the land is farmed heavily. The people I grew up with where the salt of the earth, and as unfashionable as it is to say they are rednecks.

Life revolved around work on the land, family and community and this lead me to many of the ideas and modalities that I live by today. My parents had little but they had their little piece of land and there was always food, good food to be had. Raw milk and cream from Jersey or Friesian cows, lamb from their flock, ducks and chickens. Lots of vegetables, and huge abundance of fruit from their orchard. Sometimes even wild game.

 The house was warmed, water heated and food cooked on a wood stove. This entailed us spending our Saturday or Sunday morning’s cutting wood in the bush and made my daily chore of cutting a barrow load of wood a little more meaningful if you didn’t want cold food, cold house and cold showers.

Many hark back to days like this and many people who read this blog would take the opportunity for this life if they could and at times so do I.

But unlike many who look for this sort of life I know that while it has its joys and was in many ways a great way to grow up it was DAMN hard work at the same time.

Added to that was I was only half redneck. My mother’s family is German. Refuges from the old East Germany.  My grandparents came out to this country with 2 small children and suitcase.  Their courage and hard work, their culture and European way of looking at the world was what built the other half of my mind.

 The mindset and ideas I grew with on both sides of my family have followed me in my travels all around the world. It has shaped the cooking I do and how I look at food.  How I look at my family now I am a father. And it has shaped what I believe is a particularly practical type of environmentalism and cynical if realistic view of things

You will no doubt hear more about my past in other blog postings as it has shaped my mind and as such will shape parts of what I write.

So here I am on day 31 and back in my home town. In many ways not much has changed. My father and the other men of the town primarily drive ute’s (pickups to my American friends). Community is still strong and when we where setting up for the event at the old Mill that is the only thing that makes this old town worth mentioning in the Australian Lonely Planet Guide people just help. My father uses his ute to move things around woma bake cakes. Children like me return from where ever they might be to help out.

My father’s land though a little smaller as he has sold an acre here and there to pay for trips to Europe is still productive. No cows any more but an abundance of vegetables, fruit, chickens and still a small flock of sheep. They cook with gas and use electric for hot water but the house is still heated with wood.  They live well and very gently on the earth.

Community is still strong as emphasised when a neighbour dropped by this evening after I had arrived with a 20 litre bucket of green tomatoes as they had an excess and they know my mother makes awesome chutneys and preserves. Even now nothing much is wasted here.

My daughter loves this place and so do I, we will always come back.

So this is my 31st blog. I am surprised I go this far. I said at my first blog I was not sure how this would go.

 I was not sure if I would have the discipline to write every day or have something to write about. I never intended for there to be many readers to start with but I invited a couple of people whose opinions I really valued and read my posts and said keep going. In time I have attracted a few people who seem to like what I write or at least some of it.

So where to from here? I have finished the goal I originally set myself but I am finding that I enjoy writing this blog. I have found some amazing blogs that I follow and the community here has some amazing people doing some amazing stuff. Basically I still want in!

So yes you will see another post tomorrow. You will probably not see a blog every day but I intend to keep blogging.

To keep myself motivated and to show I am committed have just signed up for www.iamnotanurbanhippie.com

Hopefully I can keep writing something that is meaningful to you all and I look forward to seeing hat you all have to say.

Advertisements

Waste vs Waste Not

So I had a cleanup of the fridge and the fruit bowl today. In general we try to avoid letting food go to waste there is simply too many people who do not get enough food in the world for us to feel comfortable with doing that. Add to that the sheer volume of embodied water and energy in any one item of food and it is simply wasteful.

Unfortunately like most people in the west it does happen. We are lucky we have the chickens and the compost bins and this means that nothing is really wasted but we still end up with a container of food that will go out to them after the clean up.

I come from fairly poor folk but we were lucky we always had food as the 10 acres we had was enough to raise sheep, ducks, chickens and a dairy cow and more vegetables and fruit than you could ever want for. So this was a good upbringing but as my parents had little, little was wasted and I must admit this has come through to me.

So after the clean out I went through and worked out the meals for next week from what we have and I will be making some vegetable soup which is always a good way to use up those extra vegetable.

I also noticed that we had large number of lemons and limes that where getting a bit sketchy so I simply juiced them by hand and froze them in ice cube trays.

I use these often in cooking and they thaw in a few seconds in the microwave. It also allows me to keep them in preparation for when the price of both goes through the roof.

Even simple choices like this can improve your budget and your life. You could buy the juice in a little plastic bottle but it is so easy to just juice it then you know what is in it. It is cheaper for you if you have an excess of citrus and much better for the environment.

So while try to waste as little as you can and save as much as you can.

The Veg Box

So we have started to get our Ceres organic fruit and veg box. A. and I decided that it would be a good idea as they were doing it hard due to an article in The Age (another post regarding this will come along shortly). We went for the 2 person box as we only need to supplement our own fruit and vegetables from the garden. In time we may not even be able to justify this but for the moment $35 is not the end of the world.

The boxes are good and a 2 person one is more than enough for us to be honest the mix is interesting so far we have had broad range of fruit and veg all of it excellent quality.

I will go into these boxes again in another post (I need to get some sleep sorry)

One major advantage in the boxes has been to force us to be creative and productive and use this really nice food while it is at its best.

Tonight while I went did a little job collecting wood near the grove A. cooked gnocchi with smoked chicken and selection of mushrooms, onion, beans and tomato all from the box. Some of our organic garlic and some parmesan was all she added.

Kids loved i loved it. Took no time.

I noticed a really nice bunch of silverbeat so I decided to make up frittata with it while it was at its best. This is something I used to do a lot so it was good to make again.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Silverbeat and Feta Frittata

  • Chop a large bunch of silverbeat or spinach
  • 2 small onions finely chopped
  • As much garlic as you like. Minced
  • 400 grams of feet in ½ cm cubes
  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Grated parmesan
  • A little ground nutmeg
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 8 eggs whisked
  • One sheet of puff pre made puff pastry
  • A little milk
  • Sesame seeds

Combine the onion, silverbeat/spinach and garlic in non stick pan with a little olive oil. Sauté until soft but the onion is not browned.

Put into a large bowl to cool

Once cool. Add all 3 cheeses, nutmeg, pepper and eggs mix thoroughly and turn into a baking tray. Top with pastry. Paint on milk and cover with sesame seeds.

Bake in an oven at 200 degrees Celsius until cooked through pastry is golden. It can be eaten now but  I will reheat this quickly tomorrow in the oven and it will be even better and a quick meal. Serve with a nice green salad. And yes the salad is from the Ceres box two a lovely oak lettuce.

 Leftovers makes a great cold lunch the next day.

Trying new stuff.

So I tend to have a look around the green grocer section of supermarkets when I am forced to go to them. On the last trip I noticed a couple of odd fruit which where new.

Now I tend to try anything and this in my years of travel has lead me to some interesting if not always good outcomes (Google Icelandic Hákarl at some point). I live by the philosophy if you haven’t tried it don’t rubbish it.

So purchased a couple of each item. Both where quite good. Not sure if I would buy them again but interesting and nice for desert with lunch.

So why do i buy the odd and interesting in regards to fruit and vegetables and food in general? Several reasons really.

One. Curiosity. I like new stuff. I travelled for both new places and new food. I started growing stuff because I read about a particular food item I just couldn’t source. So I grew it. I like to cook new stuff. I even admit I like to show off with new stuff.

Two to teach my kids there is more to food than 3 type of apple, the more they try the more they will try and then they can make their own choices but I as parent have to lead.

Three you find really nice items that make really nice food and can become a regular part of your diet and enable quick easy meals in our busy lives.

Four is health. The greater the diversity of your food the better for you. More fruit and veg in your diet the better for you. The greater the diversity the more likely you are to eat it over simple carbohydrates and processed food. And the more types of food the more micro and macro nutrients you get into your system and healthier you will be. And hopefully the longer you will stay healthy.

Five is my own personal driver. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 variates of food grown in the world today. And yet 90% plus of the food grown in the world as measured in quantity comes from around 20 species. I believe personally and there is some evidence that this makes us less healthy by reducing the variety of micro nutrients and even macro nutrients we get. Our pre farming ancestors ate hundreds if not thousands of foods in a year. Even 100 years ago there were thousands more varieties of plant seeds available in catalogues than today. Being dependant on such a small group of species makes us very vulnerable in food security sense. The more the variety the less one failure has on us. If you want to see what happens to monoculture farming communities when they go bad you only have to look at the great potato famine in Ireland.

So go out and check out any new foods you see. Grab something you have never eaten before in this weeks shop and try it. You might even find something you lik

The pain and the pleasure.

Well the pain part is easy. I did a session of crossfit today and oh boy was it a doozy. For those don’t know crossfit is a high intensity short burst work out. A couple of these sessions a week will keep you sore and fit. It is a good exercise for those like me time poor but wanting to stay in shape.

The pleasure part is food and my problem is I love both my food and I love my kids. The food makes me put on weight but realising that I will be 60 the same year my daughter is 21 reminds me that I need to look after myself and keep the weight off. It is dilemma that we in the west are lucky enough to have.

When I climbed in Nepal it used to amaze the locals that the westerners would go for a run before breakfast to burn off calories. For the poor in that country the idea of burning of perfectly good food that could feed your kids was ludicrous. It also leads to a large amount of the issues we see in the world today both from a poverty and environmental point of view.

I do try. I eat vegetarian when I can but the call of the home cured bacon is sometimes TO STRONG…

So what to do. We I try to compromise a thing again me in the west are not really good at. I eat what I can locally eat the best I can and then yes I burn off the extra that is really just deliciousness rather than subsistence.

At the end of the day it is all you can do. Which reminds me that tonight’s dinner was tomato soup with fried croutons of A. sourdough bread in extra virgin olive oil (makes the best croutons ever) and some bacon… ok so I need to book another session of crossfit this week but man it was worth it.

Now I am going to limp off and have a bath so I can walk tomorrow.

A quick salad.

So Monday night is training night for me which means that A. has a standard meal of rice, tuna/salmon and salad for her and the kids (and me latter on).

Of late we have been lucky that we can use the garden for most of our salad items.

A quick five minute run around netted the salad below. A little extra virgin olive oil from a work mate who’s brother presses his own olives. Some vinegar and you have a nice meal.

So what did we have?

  • Baby Cos leaves
  • Nasturtium leaves
  • Nasturtium flowers
  • Celery leaves
  • Some strange Italian lettuce
  • A little bit of rocket
  • Spinach leaves
  • Heritage tomato’s

As I said not bad for 5 minutes work and pretty damn tasty. You do not need a huge garden to get this kind of harvest. A few pots to grow your herbs and salad vegetables. If you get nothing more than fresh herbs and salad a couple of times a week from this that will make a huge difference to your health, budget and the one of the billion tiny acts that will help the world. 

And of all these things which is my favourite? The nasturtium flowers of course. Colour, taste, health and beauty what more can you ask for in food.

Making Stuff.

So we visited a friend for her birthday today. They are a Swiss couple living here in Melbourne and have very different view of the world. Life is about life not about the bs that so many people in this country or the west in general.

Eat drink and be merry and where possible make that eat and drink yourself.

So we had a great time the kids ran around and made new friends we drank, we ate their great little tapas with tuna and capers on them and they had made a corn relish with the small pastries with ham and cheese and feta and spinach, there were nibbles it was all very low key.

The woman whose birthday it was did not want anything for a presents but something small and handmade goes down a treat with these kind of people.

I had some blackberry whisky I had made. This is a relatively simple liqueur made with fresh blackberries straight out of my garden, castor sugar and cheap whisky mixed together. This batch needs another 9 months plus but will still be good at any time.

So why would a small item like this be better than a bought present under these circumstances. Well in certain cultures i have been in like Japan have already worked out that huge houses are not viable and then with a small house no space for fancy presents. But food especially handmade local food is a great item and much appreciated.

I believe that as peak oil and the sheer cost of items becomes more and more an issue, as travel becomes less and less affordable simple meals and good company will be the best time had by all.

And life’s little handmade items will again be of value. At present they are for a small minority but in time we will see.

At the moment we have all we could wish for and more… so … you can make the choice. Try it. Make something homemade and give to someone, you may be pleasantly surprised by the response.

The recipe below I originally got from an article in the UK Guardian by John Write. It is great. You can drink it and then use the blackberries as an amazing topping for good vanilla ice-cream for a very adult desert.

  • Take sterilised jars
  • Fill to the top with fresh blackberries being careful to remove any stalks or berries that are marked or not whole
  • Pour in castor sugar until jar is about 1/3 full.
  • Top with whisky till jar is full
  • Seal jar and shake every day for a week or two until sugar is dissolved.
  • Leave for 12 months or more and open and enjoy.