It took a month or so but I kicked many of my supermarket shopping habits and assumptions, and the accomplishment felt and tasted good.
It’s the nature of evolution to reach out and hold hands with change as it marches along. Getting ourselves in step, the G.O. and I encountered other assumptions and habits we needed to re-think.
It tasted good way back when… The G.O. had errands to run at the shopping centre. Even though we’d had coffee and sourdough toast with farmers market cheese and sliced pear for Sunday breakfast the waft of food court aroma re-booted our appetites. The G.O. has a historical fondness for Big Macs and Filet o Fish burgers. He indulged, setting him back about $12. Sceptical, I went with the tried and true trio of fresh rice paper rolls – tofu, prawn and pork with Asian salad and dressing for $7.90; my regular lunch saviour in that place. It was fortunate we sat outside on a bench near a bin to dine in style: the G.O.’s investment hit the ground in disgust, then the bin.
I don’t have time… it’s a sorry state of affairs when we don’t have time to feed ourselves. I know we’re all busy but I’m going home to cook dinner should be a perfectly good reason to leave work on time.
I’m encountering new food and cooking in new ways. Slow cooking enables me to do other things while multiple dinners make themselves. For the first time ever, I turned 2 kgs tomatoes into crockpot tomato sauce with basil, garlic and onions over the course of half a day.
Another first, I cooked duck. My first attempt was pan-cooked duck marylands following the suggestions of the lovely Thirlmere Poultry stall holder. The cooking experience was harrowing but dinner was delicious. The next time, I slow cooked duck marylands with homemade tomato crockpot sauce, to make duck ragu. It was good enough to do again.
An unexpected bonus of our increased DIY food efforts is spending time next to each other at the kitchen bench. These days the G.O. is more involved in food prep; taking the time to cook good food has mined skills and knowledge not evident previously.
Convenience food vs. convenient food… I habitually overlooked a reasonably well stocked pantry, fridge and a substantial freezer stash for ad hoc purchases from the supermarket, local shops or takeaway. Once I circumscribed our food sources to what was on hand and the farmers markets, things got interesting, in a good way.
I found a jar of artichoke tapenade & tins of sardines at the back of the cupboard, and a packet of white anchovies at the bottom of the fridge. The anchovies and its matching packet of panko breadcrumbs I keep on hand to make Chgo John’s Spaghetti with White Anchovies and Capers.
A standby packet of gnocchi became baked gnocchi, served with beef cheeks from Linga Longa Farm, Wingham slow cooked with red wine, beef stock, dried onions and homemade crockpot tomato sauce. Another first attempt that will not be the last as they were excellent.
From the pantry sardines, anchovies, olives, sundried tomatoes, capers and artichokes make great homemade Friday pizza toppings. Panko breadcrumbs crowned the baked gnocchi.
Despite stuffing tubs and bags of leftovers into our spatially challenged freezer it took a conscious effort to liberate them so we could enjoy all over again pumpkin soup, and sausage & ricotta filled pasta shells.
I don’t eat that… The G.O. is a fussy vegetable eater if he eats them at all, but I’ve been baking different varieties of heirloom carrots. The G.O. who wouldn’t eat cooked carrot, does now. I doubt, however, there’ll be the same uptake for the dread cauliflower, broccoli or choko.
The G.O. also is renowned for his dislike of salad. Yet, as he forked an extra mound of green stuff onto his plate I heard him articulate I like these weeds. The weeds were a generous clump of deliciously peppery rocket I buy with roots intact whenever available at the markets and have been tossing through our meals, in this case rocket, cherry tomatoes and chopped organic dates drizzled with Maggie Beer Fig Vino Cotto. Circumventing the G.O.’s dislike of lettuce and traditional tossed salad done with a little tweaking.
Not everything we sample from the farmers markets is to our taste. We’ve enjoyed roast or slow cooked goat in the past but we thought the goat sausages I bought when there were no duck sausages on offer from Booma Boer Goats, Dorrigo were underwhelming. We’ll give them another go and try something else.
Oops, I forgot… to check that label for ingredients, use by date. The G.O. enjoys a few slices of salami for lunch or on homemade pizza. We usually shop for salami on Sundays at the markets attached to The Grounds of Alexandria but recently they had none so we slipped into neighbouring Salts Meats Cheese where the G.O. selected a fennel and pork salami from the cold-room. That night as he sliced it for lunch I nibbled a sliver, it was delicious, and as I’m a dedicated label reader I turned the wrapper over and was dismayed to see 621, 627 listed: flavour enhancers. We’d assumed its integrity being locally made salami from a good store.
The same goes for use-by dates. I’ve been caught up in the wonder of farmers markets and unintentionally bought food with a 24 hour life span.
“The fresh food people”… is the slogan of a big supermarket chain. It’s interesting to encounter other people’s assumptions. I was waiting to buy my favourite small avocados at the Eveleigh Farmers Market. The woman in front of me was questioning, at length, the stallholder about how long avocados keep. The final response from the stallholder was I’m sorry, I wouldn’t know about store-bought avocados. Both the question and the response were fair enough. Supermarket avocados are often brown and nasty inside thanks to cold storage. My usual farmers market purchase is a bag of 7. These fresh picked avocados keep for at least a week: 2 days in the fruit bow plus 5 in the crisper which has been stretched to 7. But I’ve usually eaten them, solo, within the week.
Supermarket produce is not the benchmark.
It costs a fortune… to shop at farmers markets. It does, if you shop at the farmers market and supermarket and local shops and go out for dinner and breakfast and buy lunches and order home delivery pizza and takeaway food and leave food in the fridge until it resembles a science experiment then throw it out.
If you buy food at the farmers market, cook and eat it, it costs the same as other food.
Down on the farm… This weekend we’re escaping to the country-coast for an extra long weekend at our house at TA*. I, of course, have food plans: a visit to the seafood co-op in Nambucca Heads to see what’s fresh and local that I can persuade the G.O. to throw on the barbie. Beyond that it’s hit and miss. There are chain supermarkets, a local co-op supermarket and independent shops which stock local produce as well as produce delivered by semi-trailers transporting it along the highway from central distribution centres.
Farmers markets generally are smaller than our local weekly Eveleigh Farmers Market in Sydney, don’t occur weekly, distances vary but inevitably we have to drive. It’s an opportunity the Nambucca Valley and surrounds are yet make the best of – still developing, sometimes two steps forward one step back as markets start up, fluctuate and dwindle.
Neighbours, friends, family and individual enterprises can be a source of local country produce but it’s a chance affair. It seems incongruous, but we’ll do as best we can.
Do The Evolution, Pearl Jam
*And so, will unlikely be online this weekend to any great extent, if at all, as internet access at TA is also a chance affair.