Saturday, 17 November 2012

A Food Journey

It must have been just over 3 years ago, on a dark and stormy night. No, just kidding Robert & I were actually standing in Coles having a mini-argument because I didn't want to spend the extra $3 on free range eggs compared to cage eggs, eventually we compromised on barn laid eggs. I remember this quite clearly for a seemingly mundane event. When we got home Robert explained to me how cage hens were treated and possibly even showed me a horrific video of their conditions. Needless to say we never bought cage, or even barn laid eggs again.
Back then we ate meat at almost every meal and rarely had veg/salad/fruit. I also never spared a thought about how the animals that produced our food were treated. Since the original argument over cage eggs, our approach to food has changed drastically. In such a short period of time I/we have had a total mind-shift in the way we look at food. 

Two years ago we bought 2 baby chickens. Agnes & Ripley, are possibly the most loved and spoilt chickens in the whole world.
Here Agnes is deciding which lettuce to sample, instead of shooing her away, I naturally let her sample quite a lot until I was finished taking photos.
We raised them from when they were just 3-4 days old, watched them grow and eventually start providing us with eggs. We've gotten to know our chickens quite well, their personalities, individual likes and dislikes and we can even differentiate between some of the noises they make. Being able to tell the difference between a tantrum and something actually being wrong is incredibly useful. Their personalities are distinct and very different to each other. Seeing and experiencing this reinforced how awful it must be for those cage hens.

Our friends recently rescued battery hens, this was even greater evidence that we are doing the right thing by caring for our own chickens and only buying free range eggs if we run short. These three girls are the saddest looking chickens, but they have improved rapidly with care and attention, their individual personalities have started to come out too. They are so cute and I can't wait to see what they'll be like in another few months to a year. 

Along came the River Cottage Veg episodes, every recipe looked amazing so we promptly bought the recipe book. Reading Hugh's philsophy on how people take meat for granted, eating too much and ignoring vegetables struck a chord with me. That was exactly what Robert & I had been doing for the last few years. We decided to cut back on meat, start making vegetables the star of our night-time meals, the Veg cookbook helped a lot. After a few weeks of mostly vegetarian meals, with the occasional meat meal we no longer noticed that our diet had been flipped upside down. Sadly at some point our lives got busy and we stopped going to the farmers market on Sunday mornings, suddenly meat from Coles crept back into being our primary diet since it was easy. It didn't take long to notice that I felt heavier (not weight-gain heavier) and more sluggish and was starting to miss our vegetable-oriented diet.

It was too easy to stop going to the farmers markets each week, and the produce at Coles is appalling. We hated supporting an organisation that doesn't pay the farmers appropriately, and orders in produce from overseas which is kept in cold storage for months before the consumers can eat it. However, this was our only option if we didn't go to the markets. We needed a better permanent solution.

A friend mentioned Food Connect ( to us. Essentially farmers box up fruit and/or vegetables which then get delivered to a city cousin where the end consumer collects it. We signed up last week, and picked up our first box on Wednesday. We ordered a Mixed Gourmet box for $55. The farmers actually receive most of the money we pay for the box, this was the primary reason we chose to try Food Connect, the fresh produce is a bonus.

I could barely lift the box, but considering how weak I am I didn't think that much of it, and then I opened it. There was so much produce it was overwhelming! This box is designed for two people for one week, I was left wondering how on earth two people are supposed to eat this much food.

This poses a challenge. Not only to my fridge tetris skills, but now each Wednesday night we will need to design the coming weeks menu based on the contents of the box. Some of it will be matched to the bulk super butcher meat that lives in our freezer. I cannot wait to test our skills cooking to the constraints/possibilities of eating local, fresh, seasonal produce!

The lady finger bananas, when unwrapped smell like banana lollies, I had no idea the smell of those lollies was modelled off actual fresh banana scent. That is sad, clearly I had never smelled a fresh banana before.

I have talked about the new found importance we place on eating locally grown food and supporting farmers rather than multimillion dollar corporations. I had never really thought about this as a goal to work towards until Robert sent me a delicious looking recipe on the 30 Pounds of Apples blog ( I found her outlook on her eating habits fascinating and surprisingly familiar. We were already trying to reduce the amount of money we spend at the big supermarkets in favour of supporting local businesses and farmers, and we were already trying to limit our consumption of fast food for healthy eating purposes. I feel she was able to clearly articulate what we were already trying to achieve and as a result I feel more passionate about the ideas we are trying to implement since it now seems like a goal we can work towards.

I feel like we are trying to achieve something worthwhile, not purchasing sub standard produce nor meat that has been kept in truly miserable conditions. Whilst we are only two people, perhaps eventually enough people will become motivated to eat ethically and the systems in place will change positively.