Focussed on Food

With the rain setting in this weekend it seems a perfect time to be focussing in on food. It is certainly the topic de jour at present.

The documentary Food Inc is screening in cinemas across the country and here in Canberra Slow Food Australia is holding its first National Congress. Unfortunately we won???t be going to either as we have our own food matters to attend to.

We are off to the Northside Farmers Market to pick up our 1/8th of a Dexter cow. Locally grown, slaughtered and butchered. This is the first time we???ve bought beef like this, although there are a number of producers who now offer this service at both Southside and Northside Farmer???s Markets. Buying the beef has also tipped us over the line of getting a new freezer as our current upside down fridge just can???t cope with all the frozen produce from the garden and cow segments as well. That is the energy downside as we increase our power demands to store food. Hopefully we are offsetting that energy increase by sourcing our food locally and reducing the energy costs of buying in ???long distance??? food. I???m not sure that there is a simple way of calculating this out and my maths phobic brain isn???t likely to work it out any time soon.

If you are interested in following up on the food issues raised in Food Inc you have quite a few options. ABC Radio National, bless its woollen socks, has run quite a few stories around this topic recently. Bush Telegraph had an interesting panel discussion on where Australian food manufacturing stands in relation to the practices shown in Food Inc.

Not to miss the boat Life Matters has an interview with Joel Salatin, who was one of the farmers featured in Food Inc and earlier in Michael Pollan???s book The Omnivores Dilemma (I think I???ll be catching up on that story while I???m pedalling away at the gym this weekend). Salatin is currently in Australia visiting beef farmers in Victoria.

While you are over visiting Aunty you may want to listen to another story about the people of Moruya who have an ambitious goal of returning to producing all their food locally. It???s more than just grow your own and is also linked to the Slow Food movement. You can also read about this group in the current May/June issue of Organic gardener magazine (page 8).

If you prefer your media in a more traditional format you could even read the two books that were the basis of the Food Inc documentary. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Both books are in the Chez Fork collection and were a part of what has made us change our approach to the food we eat. Both books are available through the ACT Public Library.

To round off the day we will be heading out on our own Italian food safari. We are off to our Italian friend???s Mums place for dinner! I???m looking forward to that.

Why the name?

The name I’ve chosen for this blog comes from a concept used by author Michael Pollan (In Defence of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilema etc), and no doubt by many other people, heard on a podcast http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/11282008/watch.html. Pollan advocates ‘voting with our forks’, demonstrating what type of food we want to eat by choosing for ourselves, buying local, buying organic, buying from farmers market, growing your own or all or any of the above. This, of course, in the face of the industrialisation of our food production to the detriment of our health and well being. Pollan also commented in the same podcast that we should “shop strategically and be prepared to cook …!”

Of course this is where we come in. We’ve always gardened and cooked (and the Beloved can really cook), but several years ago we started to take this rather more seriously. Pollan we’d been reading since his fist books came out, A Place of My Own and Second Nature. Then I got into Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver et al; Living the Good Life: How one family changed their world from their own backyard by Linda Cockburn – for an Australian perspective; and the 100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon. (For Canberra locals the first two can be found in the public library but they don’t seem to have a copy of the third – but I’ll suggest they get it.) I found the ideas to be very exciting then and still do and all are entertaining reads to boot. Having read what they had to say it was a bit of a no-brainer to get a lot more serious about producing our own food.

We are not trying for complete self sufficiency but what we have done is provide a fair slab of our vegetables – converted into a major portion of our main meals each week. While we still shop at the supermarket for things we don’t produce and other household items and we shop at the farmers market we now find that we have made a significant change in our buying patterns and eating habits. But that’s a tale for another post.