The soil crumbled between my fingers like crystallised salt, void of moisture that would normally bind the particles together. Autumn has been unseasonably dry, a sign of the times or just another dry year? The indicators point to something abnormal. The wild mushrooms that should be prolific by now are slim pickings, the clouds refusing to release moisture, the parched soil responds in a predictable manner.
It's at this time of the season that I harvest the last round of potatoes that have been secretly growing under the crust of the earth, as they store energy into the bulbs that we in turn harvest and recharge our selves with.
Potatoes seem to soften hard soil, so much so that when you pull tubers out the soil breaks easily. They also draw on what goodness was in the dirt, so it needs to be recharged with a compost and a different crop the following season. Rotating the crop is a well aged tradition, something taught to me and knowledge I will pass onto who ever is interested.
I stacked the potatoes in the wooden tray, my mind a buzz with ideas of what to do with them. Cooking with food I've grown, and ultimately picked from the back garden still gets me excited, I assume it always will. There is something intrinsically fulfilling about providing for yourself and your family.
Growing your own food though and cooking with raw ingredients seems to be a pastime of minority. Not long after I was pulling tubers from the dry soil, was I walking the isle of a small supermarket on an errand to source some baking powder. Not being familiar with the location of said item, I walked most isles, gazing with interest with the 'food' items on offer. From instant risotto to frozen dinners. Isles of canned items, packaged meals, powdered sauces and meal enhancers. Half the food here would be unrecognisable to someone from the pre war era. Most of it seemed unnecessary.
The staples are still there, the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. All available for us to make what we produce ourselves a complementary success. I'm glad I can still get the staples, but I wondered if the shop could be a lot smaller, if it wasn't so full of all the other 'food'. But then again I reminded myself that I'm a bit unnaturally natural. My potatoes grown without chemical assistance, back yard reared, practically zero food miles and full of flavour and texture too boot. The alternative was at the supermarket where the washed variety grown in South Australia, and shipped over here with a high carbon expense.
I guess at some point we've all tired of hearing about the true cost of food. But I wonder what our future generations will think of our affluent lifestyle. The food most of the western population eats these days, and how it effected the environment and the health of the human population. I wonder if the system will change, why it will change and what will be the catalyst for change.
As I tuck into a simple meal of creamy mash topped with chorizo, I can't help but wonder if it will once again be normal to be natural.