An excess of feasting

Well Christmas is over for another year. For us it has been a good but busy … holiday period. We spent a lot of time with family, travelled a lot and hopefully had slightly greener Christmas for the sake of the kids.

We feasted as royalty could not have 200 years ago. Pork product after pork product after pork product. One of the things about being of German decent on one side and redneck on the other is I have always been exposed to a urbane European background on one side and a very old school country up bringing on the other side.

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For me Christmas has always been about the feasts. On Christmas eve we would gather at my Oma’s house and eat a tradition German meal, soup, good frankfurts, herring salad and of course my oma’s potato salad which still has no equal in my eyes. At that time things like the specialty chocolates would be sent from Germany and there would be counting of them. We would gather eat, open our presents and enjoy each other’s company.

Christmas day was for the other side of the family. Mum slaving over wood fired stove in 40 degree Celsius weather and the far simpler evening meal at my Australian grandparents farm but surrounded by dozens of my cousins creating chaos as only kids can.

In all of this the act of getting together has been the main aim. In times past the act of a feast and a gathering to celebrate was a major thing. To roast a whole leg of something or a large bird. What an luxurious thing. It helped people to bond and was something people could look forward to.

Now with obesity at record levels and the fact we can get anything (including those specialty chocolates) at any time of the year the feast could easily be looked at as just another party.  But the chance to spend time with family is as important as it ever was. Perhaps more so now that I have children and want them to grow up with those same strong bonds I have had with family.

Over time our family has moved away from conspicuous consumption. When I was a kid items like bikes where the gifts we received we then went through the same phase everyone did of lots and lots and lots of presents and now the children get lots of gifts but we keep it toned down for the rest of the family. Books, food items, even plants and seeds are given away. This year a number of us gave Oxfam cards including a well I purchased for my whole family. While we valued and appreciated the gifts given to us by the family as my wife said the best gift we received was a couple of goats that would go to someone who really needs them somewhere.

For us in our conspicuous society it has perhaps come time to realise that less is more, and the act of giving and spending time with family is more import to us that the gifts.

One of the good things about my family is most of them are great cooks, my grandmothers potato salad, my mothers pavlova with berries from her garden, homemade fish pate with fresh dill, salads, trifles, baked meats and more. For me the this year apart from providing the sliced ham from our artisan smoker for Christmas eve I was to bake a leg of ham of ham for the Christmas day lunch.

Now where practical and possible we have purchased heritage pig smoked by artisan for ham however as I had to bake this for a large gathering and at $30 per KG of smoked goodness I couldn’t bring myself to use it for the baked ham. I went for a good leg of Australian ham (which cost me about the same for 4kg as for 1 kg of my artisan ham) and after skinning it and putting together an orange marmalade, Australian Banksia honey, spices and bourbon glaze and baking it in the oven for over an hour I must admit that the taste of the artisan ham would have been wasted on this dish.

It is difficult thing I find. I know that the cost for the better ham would have been small in comparison to my wage and I should get the ethical ham but I suppose I can salve my conscience a bit by looking at the cost difference being most of the well I bought.

Again at the lunch gifts where small and well thought out. Light on the world as much as is possible and in a season of hope I must admit to being quietly optimistic seeing pre war, baby boomers, gen x, y and w all not worried about the material side of the holiday season and just enjoying each others company. It bodes better for my kids future. There will still be a lot to look at raise for them but at least perhaps this message is starting to come across.

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Value the time, family and life you have. Drink blackberry whisky with your father, let the kids play with their grandparents and family as in the end it is all that really matters.

Baked Ham.

Take a good leg of ham  3- 4 kg and skin making sure you leave as much fat as you can. Slice into the fat in a diamond pattern of about a cm or so.

Stud the upper side with a good number of whole cloves (I do one about ever ½ a cm). While doing the cloves in saucepan mix the other ingredients and let them reduce just a bit.

Coat the top of the ham with about 2/3 of the mix and put in a pre warmed oven at 170 degree Celsius  and baste with the remaining glaze every 20 minutes or so. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half.

Leave to stand for about 10 minutes (or longer) then slice and serve.

Ingredients

  • Ham 3-4kg leg.
  • Whole cloves to stud the leg

Glaze

  • ¾ of a cup of orange juice
  • Jar of marmalade (around 1 cup)
  • 1 cup of honey (I used banksia honey for a bit of an Australian twist.
  • 4 table spoons of Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons (or more) of fresh chilli.

Of Cherries and Tarragon – why we do this again

We often drift into things.

I have always been interested in living as sustainably as possible but up until 5 years ago it had been 20 years since I had, had a garden to work with. Travel throughout the world and an interest in martial arts and climbing had kept me more than busy over that period of time.

Food had always interested me and I had always tried to eat as local as I could. Be it caribou in Greenland or salmon in Scotland to dhal baat in Nepal the food and cooking it always doubly interested me and it was actually the idea of cooking that pushed me more and more towards my garden when I finally had a place to set up one.

One of the first things I had tried to locate was Tuscan kale. This was long before it became popular on master chef as I had recipes and simply couldn’t find it. So the answer was simply find some seed and grow it. Which I did and still do.

One of the recipes that also caught my eye was recipe for pickled cherries with French tarragon. After decent old search I found the French tarragon and have been growing it for four years now adding it to the French dishes that I seem to lean towards as a style of cooking, but never quiet getting around to making the dish that pushed me to find it in the first place and explore this style of cooking.

 

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Well it is cherry season and I have tarragon in the garden so I have decided to make this recipe tonight. I made up two batches as I ran out of white vinegar and used some red wine vinegar we had in the cupboard.

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Let’s see in six or so weeks if it turns out. It might be completely inedible or not to my taste but nothing is lost. I will still use the tarragon, I will continue to enhance my garden, and I will still head off into new area’s and plans.

 In the end all I loose is a few cherries and time which I enjoyed anyway.

A more sustainable me.

So in many of the blogs that I read and follow and also this one we look at the issue of a sustainable life, city, world, society and our species.

The issue is that too much is used by too few for too little gain (from our point of view). Most people reading this know this and adhere to the philosophy or at least pay it lip service.

But if you look at the core of the statement above the missing item is a more sustainable me. I don’t mean running away to the hills to live on mung beans and in a house of wattle and daub, although for many that is the answer and damn good one.

I mean being sustainable to yourself by ensuring that you have the time and the space to do what you need to do,  to last in the long term.  I thought about this on the way in after hearing about  ‘Go home on time day’ by beyond blue and composed a blog post in my head. I am apt to do this often but instead of it being eaten up by  the constant meeting requests and work on my arrival I decided to type it up as I should be doing each day when I get these idea’s.

Don’t get me wrong the reason for there not being many posts has been the fact that I have been living a more sustainable me by getting the extra sleep and time to do the things I need to do.

I have a philosophy that I look at each dollar that I spend as spending a little part of me. It is time I have put in and as time is a one way stream for me it is a part I will never get back.

So is that over time for the $2000 TV more or less important than the week or more I could have spent with my children or sleeping, reading a book, exercising or just sitting there and staring at my garden with a beer in my hand. It is a question I ask pretty often. It is why I drive such an old car and make the time to learn new skills, constantly look at what I can things without waste or spending vast sums of myself in cash.

Today I sorted out some martial arts equipment for a friend to pickup from my place. This is from a trip to Japan I did earlier in the year. The gear is second hand but good quality and you could probably get the equivalent for less than $1000 new. Again that is time people need to put in to buy this parts of themselves excluding the negating effect of the drain on the world that reusing this will make this should allow people to have time and to train or do other things sit with their friends and have chat and meal walk along the beach and so many more enjoyable things.

I personally think if we live with a bit of this philosophy then we can reduce some of the need to consume to feel as though we are alive and the amount of strain we put on ourselves and in turn the planet can be reduced.

It will take time but the benefits are there to be had and many people are doing this already but there is and will be a price to the other things we have come to expect. The age has a nice article on the siesta great idea but perhaps we have t come to the realisation that we are going to have to work less hours make less money and enjoy life more if the choice is 25% unemployment or everyone earning 25% less pay and working the 75% then it becomes a pretty logical choice for us as a society. Every has enough but less people have too much.

It will mean we need to pay a real price for things. No more decking out the home in cheap furniture that is meant to last 5 years and go out of fashion in 2. It means waiting and saving and buying something that your kids can use in 50 years time.

So we have to come to the logic that a level of infinite growth or work in a finite planet or a finite you is not achievable. This will take time and a lot of people will never get there but life is to be lived and each moment that is wasted is a moment you don’t get back. On their death beds some many people say they wish they had not worked so much and lived their life. So from the urban hippie go home on time and enjoy that life that life of yours.

Buzz….

A.’s bees arrived today.

Honey you have honey for the familly.

Fresh Batch made with a different yeast

Well another late night bottling up a batch of elderflower brew. This one made with ale yeast.

Not bad on first taste perhaps a bit dry and I am not sure if I left it a day or two to long brewing or if it is the yeast type. Might make up another smaller batch and keep the brewing down to about 4 days.

Having said that still very drinkable 🙂 and off course had to clean up a glass… wouldn’t want a part bottle now would we 🙂

This will be my last full batch for a while I have 30 liters of the stuff. Will freeze and dry some elderflowers instead and leave the rest of the flowers to become elderberries for elderberry port and tincture. After the bugs of this year going to stock up on anything to help the old immune systems over next winter.

Have a great week all and remember wishing for the weekend is wishing away a week of your life go out and live the week. 🙂