Stories Food Growers tell


In wintery April weather, we chatted over a prolonged afternoon tea. As well as asking each other’s advice, like Chris wondering about planting chokos, we also shared surplus produce and stories.

Some were proper food-growing tales, like Jenny J’s disaster when two heifers got out of the paddock and into the veggies. Apparently, they walked delicately down the paths, causing minimal damage to the infrastructure, despite their half ton weights, yet in their hunger devastated the veggies all the same. Our White Face who loved to jump never got close to the veggie patch, though several times she visited the neighbour’s steers after achieving a clear round, not even nicking the top bar of the gate.

Talking of clear rounds, the other Jenny is an accomplished equestrian, but it seems riding camels is not the same as riding horses. She took an early tumble on her first camel experience. She hastily remounted, so her host would not see her indignity. How does one hastily mount a camel? They seem such unfriendly creatures, and I thought camel rides required the handler to make the beast sit before inexperienced riders attempted mounting. I guess that’s the difference between a real farmer and an ex-townie, real farmers can make even camels obey!

The White Face heifer I mentioned earlier, Freckles, was not at all obedient the day we tried to load her on the truck. Although our little yards are over 5 feet high, she managed to get her forequarters out in her bid for freedom. We had to stand guard, “persuading” her back, or I am sure she’d somehow have escaped and eaten our veggies.

The prize for the oddest job recounted that afternoon goes to Tim and Joanna, deconstructing their orchid houses. Often harder work than building them in the first place. Their little orchard already produced so many surplus Beurre Bosc pears that after the group took what they wanted there were still more for me to share more widely.

Guilt free baking :)

There are even recipes with pictures for beginners :)
There are even recipes with pictures for beginners 🙂

OK, I’m sorry, this post is not about how to eat loads of fat and sugar yet not lose your youthful slenderness (or indeed any other “first-world problems”) it’s about baking with reduced oppression.

Most trade allows the rich and powerful to oppress the poor and weak. Trade ensures that the rich get richer, and (being impersonal) does not care if the poor get poorer. It is quite clear if you track almost any product grown in the Majority World that the price paid to the producer is peanuts compared to the profit paid to the sales and distribution entrepreneurs (i.e. “middle men/women”), it’s even peanuts compared to the wages paid to factory workers in richer places that convert the product into goods we buy.

FairTrade (and other schemes but they are the best known) seek to redress this balance by ensuring a decent price gets paid to producers.

Now to the “guilt free baking” part 🙂 The Big Fair Bake is a competition that is promoting Fair Trade.  Here’s what to do:

  • If you are a baker – enter.
  • If you eat and enjoy other people’s baking – get them to enter.
  • If you have a blog, website, use Facebook, Google+ etc. – make a link so your ‘friends’ can see.
  • If not – email a few people…

Rice and curry

Rice and curry, Sri Lanka’s maximum taste, minimum animal products staple.(Wikipedia apparently photographed by “Me”)

While I’ve been here in Sri Lanka by a crude meal count I have not managed to be a “Repentant Carnivore”. In fact even including breakfasts I have only eaten one Vegan meal – breakfast on Sunday I made for myself, Marmite in hot water and some bananas 😉

Every other meal included meat, fish or eggs. Even today, a Buddhist holiday when Sri Lankans eat no meat, meals included fish or eggs.

And yet… Rice and curry (perhaps the Sri Lankan staple) is mainly rice, with some veges and a curry sauce with a small piece of fish or chicken or an egg. Biriyani similarly managed loads of flavour from rice with spices veges and fruit with a small piece of meat. Modern Western meals are stuffed with meat, cheese, eggs, fish… and see the carbs and veges as secondary, Fish and Chips rather than Rice and Curry.

We need to rethink how we cook. Work out ways to do more with less (at least less of those high demand animal protein rich products). Our ancestors did it, a “real” Cornish Pasty had half the meat a modern one does, and was just as filling and probably better for us…

A tale of two mushrooms: Eating local?

Mushroom photo by orchidgalore (I forgot to take a shot of mine 🙁

It is better to eat local. That’s a no brainer. Forget about foodmiles, carbon footprints and the like, just remember the tale of two mushrooms. The first was actually several small buttons, used by the cafe to garnish my lamb’s fry (liver) and bacon. They were anonymous and almost tasteless, the sort every supermarket sells. Who knows where they came from, and apart from presentation 1 My chef son will remind me here that presentation is nine tenths of the flavour, but that’s not quite true. they added nothing to the dish. The second mushroom was a fat giant, bought from the mushroom man at the Tauranga Farmers’ Market. We hadn’t been kind to it, kept it several days sitting in its paper bag in the bottom of the fridge forgotten, till I grilled it for lunch. Fat, juicy and bursting with mushroom flavour, despite the delay and despite cooking it merely by shoving it under the grill with a slosh of olive oil while my bacon toasted.

The local mushroom beat the supermarket thing hands down (I do wonder why some cafes seek to save cents by serving tasteless mushrooms, but that’s another story).

Much of the produce from the Farmers’ Market is organic or spray free for much the same price as the mass market produce. Almost all of it tastes better, usually fresher, often with a story 2 The tale of the people who produced it, or at least the look of them if the stall was too busy for a chat. and sometimes just like in a Kongo market with a “matabiche”. 3 The same idea as a baker’s dozen, a little extra to keep a customer returning to your stall by thanking them for their custom. Like the packet of bacon Frank, of Frank’s Sausages, gave us on Saturday.

You may think that eating local is a luxury for country folk, not so, there are markets all over NZ. So, as the guy on the TV advert says “Eat fresh!”

Notes   [ + ]

1. My chef son will remind me here that presentation is nine tenths of the flavour, but that’s not quite true.
2. The tale of the people who produced it, or at least the look of them if the stall was too busy for a chat.
3. The same idea as a baker’s dozen, a little extra to keep a customer returning to your stall by thanking them for their custom. Like the packet of bacon Frank, of Frank’s Sausages, gave us on Saturday.

A repentant carnivore looks forward to a visit from the home-kill guy

...and you must admit they are looking good 🙂

I’ve been busy this evening taking photos of the steers and gleefully posting them to Facebook. All this because Barbara wanted photos before the home-kill butcher visits on Tuesday. Because after hisd visit there will be three steers not four.

All of which, at least when I read some of my comments and replies on Facebook raises questions like: What’s a repentant carnivore doing slavering over the thought of juicy roasts and tender pastramis? Does this meat frenzy fit at all?

I think so, let’s conside where the meat will go:

  • The lion’s share (pun intended?) will go into our freezers to be enjoyed over coming months. It will have avoided the journey’s to the slaughter house and from there to the retail butcher or supermarket. Loads of carbon that won’t become dioxide.
  • Quite a bit will go to our children and friends. The same carbon dioxide savings (nearly).
  • Some will go to the church foodbank, and/or other places that will allow people on tighter budgets than us enjoy some prime beef.
  • Some will be roast or BBQed for parties.

Basically in all these cases the “food miles” will be way less than an equivalent commercial “product”. But what about the land? It could have produced veges instead of feeding beef… Well, yes and no, it can produce veges, we plan to increase the vege patch every year for a while. But before our house was built it didn’t it produced lambs, which made expensive trips to the slaughter house and then to the cities of NZ and the world… and no one would try to produce veges here commercially at 450m we are too high, too dry and too cold.

QED as part of a balanced diet home-kill beef is suitable for even a repentant carnivore.

Only, I now have to try harder to ensure that I am eating less meaty meals than I have over the last few months. Cooking to eat with others, who seem less repentant (or at least resistant to the delights of the bean), makes real repenting difficult.