Hi Free Rangers,
I’m watching Rage as I write this. Both Willy and I are shedding tears over the big music losses that trigger memories of our misspent youth. He has just wiped the dust off the non-opened Bowie album and vowed never to open it. 2016 seemed to be the death of not only many much-loved people, but a time where life was simpler, the music more meaningful and creative and fame was earned through talent and hard work, not sledging and self-promoting nastiness. If you’re waiting for this blog to tie in with vegies, wait for it…I’ll get there.
These big losses made me reflect particularly this year how happy I was to still have my family all alive and in good health on Christmas day. I know y’all are feeling that way too, if you escaped 2016 unscathed. We have lunch every year at Mum’s with our own food and traditions, like every family. Nothing unique. This year though, I felt our Christmas day had shifted back to a day about being able to eat “once a year”, great food. I didn’t’ feel that angst and annoyance about the present opening – twas no longer a huge wasteful, affair! It used to be, and in years past, I felt pressure to give my kids all this crap they didn’t need or want (which as a single mother at the time, was extremely stressful). I remember one year giving my son a remote control helicopter (one of the dodgy ones that were for sale in a little pop up shop in the centre of Bankstown Square right before Christmas) we used it once, it flew about 20 m straight up in the air and crashed into the pool. My brother felt bad and bought him a new one and the second one did the same thing, went straight up in the air into the powerlines and crashed. I think that toy was around $30. It was probably constructed using cheap plastic materials by someone overseas for slave wages. Let’s say it cost $5 AUD to make. We used say 4 AA batteries that let’s say conservatively cost $1 each, that’s $4.00. Then $30 x 2 on the helicopters. So it cost $5 to make and we spent around $64…for it all to end up in landfill, not to break down for hundreds of years. Who wins out of this excess and waste? Not our children’s children. That generation will for sure be charged with figuring out how to clean up a total of ten minutes worth of “fun”. All Max remembers is the memory of how it went in the pool – which was pretty funny!
So this blog is really about waste and trying to live more simply, starting with food. 30 meals, 30 days! This is not a new year’s resolution, a weight loss challenge, a vego conversion or a test of my will power. It is an experiment. I’m going to make 30 meals for 30 days from food grown at Panania, Bankstown and Glenfield farms. This will be interesting because I’m going to be forced to be creative with the food (and I’m not much of a cook). Some of what I cook and will make myself eat, will be horrible, I’m sure. I’m already dreading the silverbeet (fordhook giant) meal. I realise now, that I was lucky to be raised with the values of “eat it because there are kids out there that have nothing to eat”. So we had to sit until our plate was empty and I soon discovered that warm silverbeet, mixed in with mashed potato was slightly more appetising than cold, soggy silverbeet. Good times! My brother recently re-enacted the same scenario with his 7 year old son and made him sit and eat fish that went cold because it was caught and delivered to them by a family friend. The fish had value attached to it for my brother because it was caught and given by a friend, rather than being sold to him. This gorgeous kid refused with all his will to eat the fish. I’m sure there will be many objections to this kind of enforcement of food values, however, I know one thing for sure, that our family can and will survive any kind of food shortage, should it ever occur. I said to this kid, which I truly believe, that you might like it later as an adult. I never liked fish until I tried Broadbill and then later salmon and smoked salmon (which is now off my menu for ethical reasons). By giving up and allowing kids to refuse certain foods and by not persisting with these foods for health and cultural reasons, surely we are limiting a generation of kids to packaged, mass produced food which is crap, preserved, GMO’d, grown hydroponically in a greenhouse and is not only bad for your health but has no connection to family traditions/values.
30 Days, 30 meals purpose is centred around the theme of food waste. As a grower, I’m still composting more food than I should be. Sustainable food systems can and must be local. Composted food and green waste makes the bulk of my soil. Only meat leaves the property as food waste. I hardly ever use my green bin. There is emerging research on the viability of a city growing its own food and if you think this sounds ludicrous, just give it a quick google. You should also check out Urban Food Street, in Buderim Queensland (which is several streets of front yard farms). Of course you can see that a city growing its own food is EXTREMELY POLITICAL. Take for example our suburb of Panania where large suburban blocks capable of feeding two families (like ours does) is being carved up for concrete subdivisions removing chances and choices of growing your own. Urban Food Street has also come under the radar of the local council, no doubt looking for a cut of the action where people are self-sustaining without government regulation or intervention.
Family and Food Traditions
I didn’t realise it until a year or so ago the subtle and almost subliminal effect my family had on me and my attitudes to growing food. Both sides of my family grew their own suburban crops and ate their own food, which isn’t remarkable but for some families, it is. My Dad every year has tomatoes with leftover Christmas ham. It’s a summer staple for him and a way to use all the leftover ham. He often has an egg with it too.
This is my version this morning. Technically it breaks a rule of the challenge by using ham, but at least its ham that won’t end up in the bin. Ingredients: purple onion, water, tomatoes, ham, salt and pepper and yellow zucchini (which is a new crop, I’m loving) he has his on toast but I don’t like bread much, so I ate all of this and it will keep me going till lunchtime (maybe). I love to eat. I admit I overeat and it’s a habit that I find hard to break. You may be horrified to learn that this deliciousness was made from overripe, wrinkled tomatoes and some had fruit-fly in it and I’ve always done this and it hasn’t killed me yet. I’ve always been told to cut out or eat around the bad bits. It’s just how I was raised. The meal still had that strong, sweet taste of summer home grown tomatoes that will always remind me of Dad and my grandfather who made the same thing. Tomatoes, summer, cricket, beach and pool, home grown salads, after lunch naps, rest and regroup after a busy year. After living at home with my kids for a few years, my son, Max now loves this meal. Dad also makes this in bulk and freezes it in Chinese takeaway containers (just tomatoes and onions) and it makes the summer last a little bit longer. I have a load of basil and soon chillies which I will add to this meal.
Tomatoes are a summer fruit but growing them organically is almost impossible (my experience) but this is how I challenge myself. So far, even crops that were netted are still getting pests. At the moment, I am picking them green and putting them in a brown bag in the dark (I’ll try anything). This morning I pulled out a semi ripe one from the bag that had a grub in it. I don’t remember my grandparents having the same trouble with pests that we do in Sydney, but that is probably because they used tomato dust (which I won’t use) so every year I try new varieties and different timing to try and get tomatoes (even if they are just cherries) without fruit fly. Eating with the seasons is rewarding, time consuming and takes a lot of patience and planning and you may still end up with indifferent results. You can see why home grown vegies with all the work it entails, doesn’t fit contemporary Australian society that worships “busyness” and encourages a buy till you die attitude.
So I’m encouraging all our growers out there to experiment with me. You could have the smallest crop of veg and herbs and think that it is impossible to create a meal out of it, but have a go! Go and forage in your garden and find some edible plants, flowers, weeds etc. Or what about creating a tea, using your herbs? Next, I encourage you to sit and eat or drink your creation and maybe you might still be hungry, but perhaps try a large glass of water with your meal. Ask yourself how satisfied do you feel eating or drinking something you grew. Are you confident you could survive eating like this? If you feel nervous…just google the herb or plant, you’ll be surprised how much is actually edible! I’d love to see you post your photos of your “30 Days, 30 meals” challenge. You can post on Instagram with #Panania Free Rangers #30days30meals or post on our Panania Free Rangers facebook page. I’m sure we can find a prize for the best and most creative all home-grown meal. I will be looking for some creative advice and suggestions and maybe donations of locally grown ingredients that I don’t have. I’ll do a video on fruit and veg available at our farms and post to facebook (yuk, I hate doing that) but we need to challenge ourselves, don’t we. As I sign off with tears rolling down my cheeks listening to George on Rage, I’d like to say for 2017 put your too tight “choose life” t-shirt on, dig out your glow sox and live George’s words “if you’re gunna do it, do it right”. Bye beautiful George and annus horribilus 2016 and bring on a healthy, brave 2017!