Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Big C

We've mentioned a few times on this blog that our ultimate food goal is to grow our own or source all of our food directly from the person who grows it. I'd say maybe half our meals adhere to this, and I feel like we're getting closer all the time. But there are a few things holding us back: chocolate, pasta, rice, some nuts, and beer.... That's basically it. The problem is that these things are staples in our diet, and it's hard to let go. It's also easy to slip up when what you're aiming for is just a vague set of ideas rather than an actual commitment, with rules.
100% community food meal - this is what we're aiming for
Recently, we received a kick up the butt which has prompted us to take the plunge into committing to what we're calling the Community Food Challenge: I've been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't believe that a local wholefoods diet is going to cure my cancer, but I do believe that eating as well as I possibly can, not giving in to my ridiculous sugar addiction, and cutting out alcohol is going to help me as I wade through months of treatment and recovery. I'm going to be having a mastectomy, and some combination of radiation therapy, and/or chemo. It's going to be crap, and it's going to be massive for our family. But one of the good things that's going to come of all this, is that we now have a pretty bloody good reason to cut the tempting and delicious crap from our diets.

So here are the rules for our Community Food Challenge:
All food in our diet is now going to be sourced directly from people in our community who are growing or value adding food products. Fruit and veg (that we don't grow ourselves), olive oil, and wine will be bought directly from the farmer who is growing and processing the product. Likewise for meat, though we currently have a freezer full of home-kill lamb and pork, and a paddock full of chickens and ducks, so we'll probably be fairly un-challenged on that front.

Value-added products, like bread, are also allowed, when we purchase them from the person making them. In our case, for bread, we're lucky to have a direct relationship with the lovely folk of Wheatley Lane Bread, so that's delicious sourdough taken care of.

We will also be supporting our local food co-op, Candelo Bulk Wholefoods by purchasing Australian bulk wholefoods from them. We realise that this might be seen as a kind of cop out, and that a lot of what we'll be buying from them won't be truly locavore in a purist sense. But we feel it's important to support them as an institution, because of the service they provide to our community, and to local growers (like us!) whose products are stocked in the shop.

So far, I'm feeling pretty good about the rules, because a lot of what we eat already falls into these categories. The things that don't fall into these categories - chocolate, beer, refined sugar, white rice etc etc - are things we don't need anyway, and things that certainly aren't going to help me to be as strong as I can through the crazy system onslaught that's heading my way.

So as far as I see it, the Community Food Challenge is a win win: we get healthier, and we move closer to our eating goals. The Big C (as in, cancer) prompts a deeper commitment to the other Big C (as in community). As much as I wish it wasn't cancer that made me do it, I am happy it's happening.

We're going to be doing a bit of documenting of this food journey as well, making note of the challenges and the pleasant surprises, so stay tuned for recipes and other musings!

99.9% community food breakfast. I used sumac in the sauce, but I know this is going to be just as delicious without the sumac. Recipe can be found here

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


A little while ago, we went to the Candelo Show. It's our favourite show of the season, and we all had a lovely day watching the woodchop, the dog high jump, eating watermelon slices, putting out fires with the RFS, watching shearing demos,  learning about snakes from the snake man, and jumping on the jumping castle. But perhaps the feature of the day (for me, at least) was finding the most incredibly laden, fragrant peach tree on the side of the road on the way home. Yay for foraged stone fruits! 
As I mentioned in my last post, stone-fruit-and-berry-season is my absolute favourite. Free stone fruits and berries, from side-of-the-road trees and bushes, somehow taste even better than anything you'd ever be able to find in a shop. And you'll usually find more than you can safely eat in one sitting, so in addition to the fresh deliciousness, you also get preserved deliciousness into the coming months. What's not to love, right?
Maybe it's their wildness, maybe it's their freeness, maybe it's just that picking fruit on the side of the road, in a beautiful setting, while happily gorging yourself on the fruit you're picking is just about a billion times funner than going into a shop and filling up a bag. Maybe it's the thought of the abundance, and the preserves that are going to be happing in order to capture that abundance. Who knows? All I know is that I bloody love it, and this peach tree was one of the highlights of my summer. Seriously. 

We couldn't believe that with all that sunset-hued fuzzy deliciousness just sitting there on the side of the road, we were the only ones who appeared to be picking from this tree. Not even the birds had touched it! We filled our bags, and our bellies, and trotted off home, thinking of jam and peaches in syrup, which is a big time treat in our house. I have no words to describe the deliciousness of the syrup that comes out of those jars. I know it probably sounds like I'm a peach-crazy-raving-lunatic, but if you're feeling suspicious about the happiness and yumminess that can come from a mass of delicious foraged peaches, you're just going to have to get out there and find some for yourself. 
And then you can preserve some. What you'll need to do is this:
1. Collect yourself some foraged peaches. I swear they taste better. You can use this exact same method for blackberries, as in the picture above, and probably any other fruit you can find on the side of the road.
2. Pack your fruit into clean vacola jars, or some other (clean) jars you may have lying around. If you want to enter them in the show, pack them in real pretty-like.
3. Pour in your sugar syrup. Mine was a 'light' syrup (if you have super-delicious fruit you don't need a ton of sugar), which is basically a 1:2 ratio of sugar to water, simmered til the sugar is dissolved.
4. Seal your jars, then process them in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes or so.

When they're cooled, they're going to look beautiful, so arrange them decoratively in your house, and enjoy the look of them for as long as you can stand not cracking a jar to taste.
We eat ours usually just served with cream and/or ice cream and/or yoghurt. The fruit is carefully spooned out, so that the precious precious juices remain for drinking.