Sunday, 27 May 2007

In defence of good food

I am reading a book that is changing my life. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by renowned author and botanist Barbara Kingsolver, her husband Steven Hopp, and daughter Camille Kingsolver, is due for release in Australia in June. Hobart Bookshop were good enough to order me in a beautiful hardback, American edition, so I got my copy several weeks early (and I spied, when I was in the bookshop today, a spare copy, so grab it now if you can't wait for the Aust edition!). Anyway, the book tells of the year the Kingsolver/Hopp family spent living sustainably on their farm, ensuring they only ate food whose origin they could guarantee was completely local (with only minor exceptions). The food revolution was inspired by a desire to eat well and to protect the environment, but had so many extra benefits too.

Think about our own food habits. We all know that Tasmanian strawberries in season taste so much better than Californian strawberries shipped across the seas in the middle of winter just to satisfy our whims. In buying the Californian strawberries, we are not only buying an inferior product, we are adding to our fuel dependency, hurting the environment, and only doing it because we cannot wait until strawberries are back in season! So suddenly, Kingsolver and her family are eating out of their own garden and cooking an awful lot of whatever is in season... and by the time the season changes, they are readily awaiting a new bunch of food. But half the joy is in the waiting and expectations. The other half is in the eating, because they are producing food that tastes real, not like cardboard.

Another benefit is in reducing energy consumption. In this age, we are highly dependant upon oil: a scarce resource, and one that has huge geo-political implications. We all know about the Middle-East and oil, but increasingly oil politics is including other states such as Russia and China in its orbit. And much of our oil consumption (read: dependency) is due to our food consumption. Oil is involved in the transportation and refrigeration of the food, as well as the tractors and other farming equipment, and moreover - the synthetic insecticides, herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers put onto your food in the production. As Steven Hopp says in the book, if every American ate one meal a week that they could guarantee came from local sources, US oil consumption would drop by 1.1 million barrels every week. Not gallons, barrels. Every week.

I'm not a raging hippy. I like shoes too much. I enjoy my French cheeses as much as the next person, and that's not going to change. But I am becoming much more aware of where my food has come from, and what has gone into it's production. I don't want to put too much in my body that has been covered in synthetic fertilizers. I want to live a simple life, full of great tasting food that hasn't hurt the earth too much just to satisfy my instant gratification cravings. If I can't survive a winter without raspberries, I will buy them in season and freeze them - easy. My life won't be perfect, but it will be a start. Read the book - it's a gem.

For more info, see the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website.

On another, separate note: I went to Maldini for dinner on Thursday night (and, let's face it, probably didn't eat too sustainably then, but everyone is allowed a night off!). Anyway, it was spectacular. The new winter menu is just so good. I could happily eat almost everything on it. It was a difficult decision, but I ended up having the Osso Bucco done in a tomato, red wine & herb sauce, and served with a potato and Parmesan souffle. It was incredible. I also indulged in a glass of Bream Creek Pinot, and for dessert, a white chocolate, strawberry and vanilla bean baked cheesecake (with raspberry coulis and double cream). I think next time I'll try the rhubarb and raspberry bread & butter pudding, with caramel sauce. And there will be a next time - the menu is just too good not to return. Service was attentive and informative when we asked questions. Only complaint was the noise factor, but it added to a "party atmosphere" and we weren't doing too much talking anyway - there was just too much good food to be eaten!

1 comment:

Food Kitty said...

Oh Soph, I made the mistake of buying some of those strawberries, only reading the box when I got home...all I can say is that they lived up to the Californian Hollywood stereotype - good looking, but no taste.