eating comfort

As I tucked into dinner I couldn’t help but ponder what lay in front of me. It was in effect, more than just a meal. It was a culmination of experiences and tasks. My life’s ambitions displayed inanimate on a plate. Sweet aromas taunting me with familiar flavours. I’m comforted by meals like this. They’re a creation, my creation. Years have gone into that meal.

There was a time when I’d never grown zucchini, never grown squash, never made paella, never killed a home raised chicken. I’ve had to learn so much, and excuse the cliche, but I’ve been on a journey. One that’s been niggling at me for years, as far back as I can remember. A dream to have a little shack hidden away from the madness, deep in the bush. A place where I’d be able to put in place the veg growing example my mother had set, to raise my own stock, and to hunt and fish for tucker. Basically, to live simple is my dream, to appreciate the little and to admire the spectacle of nature.

I’ve had these tendencies since I was a kid. My time on the farm did me in good, real good. I got the bug, the dream was embedded in my soul and I have no hope of shaking it. Instead of having a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, I had a wild man on both. With a face full of beard, a wide brim hat and a checked flannel shirt, this guy has been guiding me for a long time. If you look at photos of me as a kid you can see this man. When I was a kid I embraced him, and I felt like that wild man, wearing my Dads old wide-brim scout masters hat, a flannel shirt, boots and dirty jeans, fishing the small river that bordered our allotment. How then, in my twenties did i get lost in the city? How did I end up in the corporate game, sitting at a desk trying my darndest to outdo the bloke in the cubicle next to me. I was driven to work for wealth, getting lost in that ugly complex game many of us are familiar with. I can answer with what a truth, that I am ashamed by. What was I searching for? Well it was the lure of wanting to feel special. Almost wanting to feel like I was somehow more important than the less affluent, because, well….I’d worked damn hard for it. My twenties were my failing in many ways but also my teaching ground. It’s where I learnt who I didn’t want to be. As I type this, I feel embarrassed to admit such things, the truth does actually hurt. I’m no longer that person, I’ve changed. Thankfully embracing change is an innate trait for us beasts. We’re programmed to adapt.

And this is why I ended up starring at my meal. A meal that represents change. It also represents resourcefulness, a willingness to work with what is around. To be frugal with food, if you will. I don’t understand when people call me a foodie blogger, or categorise me as a ‘foodie’. Sure I like food, but there is slightly more to it then just a combination of flavour, aroma and presentation. There is culture, history, tradition and for some people around the world it’s far more important than these facets of what we consider food to be. For many people, it’s desperation on a plate. It’s literally about survival, eating to live another day. So when I have left overs, I treasure them. A leftover bowl of home raised chicken paella, cooked in the sweet broth of summer vegetables represent high value. More value than any of the thousands of dollars I earned in my previous life. It’s nourishing for life.

When my garden has food in excess, as it does now in early autumn, I become more aware that the food in glut either needs to be eaten now, and if thats not possible, then it needs to be preserved. In this case, my basket was full of delicious overgrown squash that, lately I’ve been roasting with lemon and rosemary (that is after I’ve scooped out the seeds and stored them for next years squash).

My cooking tends to be dictated by what I have at hand. This occasion, my over grown squash and leftover chicken paella had little choice but came together to form dinner. I love this type of food. It’s stuff that really does make you happy. It doesn’t look amazing, but it tastes pretty rad. And it took me years of effort to make. I suppose it’s what makes it taste good.

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  • March 9, 2013 - 10:39 am

    Miss Piggy - You’ve become the person you were always meant to be, and always wanted to be. It’s great to hear you being so thankful and humble about your life’s journey and where you’ve ended up. Inspirational and brave too – to abandon that city life most of us feel we’re meant to follow.ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2013 - 10:50 am

    Ami Hillege - I posted a similar story on my blog a few weeks ago. We just love stuffed zucs and squash.
    Apples coming up soon. Looking at interesting ways of preserving and using them.ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2013 - 10:52 am

    Ami Hillege - Snap! I posted a similar story on my blog a few weeks ago.
    Love a stuffed squash!ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2013 - 10:53 am

    Emiko - Can’t help but think how much this recipe is truly in the tradition of la cucina povera, using what you have on hand: yesterday’s leftovers and the garden’s offerings. Love it. Very inspiring post.ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2013 - 11:03 am

    Leanne Kudahl - I concur with Miss Piggy. Rohan I have an acquaintance who is Dutch South African and she told me about a painting that her mother has ; it is roughly divided in half and depicts two scenes of two different roads. The first road is short, straight and flat; and there are a lot of people along that road having a great time; drinking and partying. The second road is hilly, long and winding with not many people along its path. Some of us choose the second road and some of us take the easy way out. You shouldn’t let people judge you that is just their opinion; but in saying that there are a whole lot of people who think you are special; that’s why we read your blog. Hope you enjoyed your button squash/paella dish. Button squash would be one of the very few things I don’t care to indulge in. :) ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2013 - 11:13 am

    Eugene - yours has probably become my favourite blog on the web. i like it how you don’t try to save the world or preach or something, like this personal approach to the food whatver problem. i don’t get those who are all worried about the world and animals and poor children and what not and never see themselves behind it. i read somewhere that you’re only really lucky when you live up to your chilldhood dreams. :) greetings from berlinReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2013 - 12:09 pm

    Kelly @ Msbrulee - I wholeheartedly agree with what you said about food as a necessity and the way we use the term ‘foodie’ can sound excessive when there are people that are just eating to survive. I’m a hypocrite because though because I want to enjoy as much amazing food as I can.
    Stunning photography as always Rohan.ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2013 - 12:38 pm

    Helen - Wow! Reading your blog gave me goose bumps and tears all at once. I’m so happy for you and your family. Congratulations on living life happily!ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    thyme (sarah) - Your blog is a new one for me and I am enjoying it tremendously. I’ve never really been a country girl, but the hard work, natural living, separation from mainstream living is so appealing to me. Thank you for your beautiful work and I’m thrilled to have discovered it.ReplyCancel

    • March 19, 2013 - 10:19 am

      Moumi - It’s funny, I read your blog (Thyme) for a long time, whole larder love too, and now I find you’re also reading it ! The blogosphere is small :-) ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2013 - 7:15 pm

    lynley - culinary anthropologyReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2013 - 8:11 pm

    Kim Houssenloge - What a beautiful post. It’s exactly how I feel. There’s nothing better than this simple, vegie growing life in the country. There’s nothing better than producing the food that sustains us. I’m yet to grow our own meat but it’s definitely in the pipe line dreams.

    I think your stuffed squash look gorgeous. Rustic food is the prettiest food – IMO:)ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2013 - 12:37 am

    Dayla - Great post Rohan, I sent it to my son who is in his 20s and not sure where he wants to be. So thanks, I should like him to do what you are doing, it would be a fine thing!ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2013 - 8:43 am

    Rachel - Hi Rohan,
    Interested in knowing more on your seed saving procedures.ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2013 - 9:05 am

    head in the sun - Ha! Just saw your photo of the dead fox (instagram).
    I stumbled across one this morning too!
    And of course took a photo.
    Their teeth are absolutely incredible, aren’t they?
    I haven’t seen as many this year shot and hung on fences.ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2013 - 6:59 pm

    Kerry Adams - “It doesn’t look amazing, but it tastes pretty rad. ”

    I would have to respectfully disagree. It doe’s look amazing.

    ;) ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2013 - 7:54 pm

    MissAlisonRegrets - I’m a City Girl, living in a noisy apartment block, under the flight path. I have moments where I dream of running away to the country and living a quiet life, but I know myself well enough to know I could never kill my own dinner, nor put in the required manual labour. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Your blog is a daily destination, not because I’ll ever grow pumpkins or pick up a rifle. I come here because your food is not styled to within an inch of it’s life. There are no references to inner city homewares stores where we can buy the “merchandise”. My squeamish heart is also getting used to the bunny photos! The way you choose to live your life reminds me that I want to be conscious with every choice I make, and that something as simple as where I buy milk from, makes a difference. That I might not have acreage, but I do have a balcony. And that, amongst the swirl of noise, aggro, pollution and BS that is city life, what really matters to this rebellious girl, are the men and women who think for themselves and find their own way.

    Love and light to you & yoursReplyCancel

    • March 13, 2013 - 9:21 am

      rohan - Thanks Alison. Thats beautiful feedback. Sorry about the bunny photos ;-) ReplyCancel

  • March 11, 2013 - 9:19 am

    Clare - “the truth will set you free but first it will piss you off!” A saying I have learnt from my mother in law who is a brilliant life coach / counselor and who, like you, practices a life of simplicity and integrity. She, like you, doesn’t claim a life of perfection or that she is an expert on life and living. It is these elements which make her great at her job, she is real. It’s great to read about your journey and it makes good reading because it is honest.ReplyCancel

  • March 11, 2013 - 12:04 pm

    Lana Pribic - I ALWAYS think about this when my mom makes one of her classics! And can’t help but wonder how many times, in how many places, she has made the same meal.ReplyCancel

    • March 13, 2013 - 9:22 am

      rohan - Comfort food is a daily menu option here!ReplyCancel

  • March 11, 2013 - 5:17 pm

    tcdent - Can totally relate to your “misdirection” in your early 20′s. Currently working on the early stages of clawing my way back out, hoping to be on my way before I hit 30.ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2013 - 10:54 am

    Toni Fish - I too spent my 20′s moving in the wrong direction, frantically swimming as fast as I could just to stay still. Then I went seeking change and took a job in Tasmania and slowly began to re-discover myself. Now I think I’m someone 12 year old me might be a little bit proud of.

    I think you’re doing brilliant, critical things and I’m so glad you’re documenting the journey. I’m still urban here, but the wilderness keeps calling and watching how you’re finding your way has me inspired.

    Trade you some of those good looking squash for my glut of beans and potatoes?ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2013 - 8:58 pm

    Moumi - This look delicious and this meal and it shows your succeed in your choice of life. I’m in my twenties and I hope I never never never work in a big company, sitting in front a desk… I really wish to have your way of life, grow my own food, make the work I like, at least not too booring and not confined inside.
    I love to read your blog, it confirm I want to live this life !ReplyCancel

    • March 13, 2013 - 9:24 am

      rohan - It’s all about choice we make. I’ve made quite a few bad choices. I hope I’m making the right ones now.ReplyCancel

  • March 13, 2013 - 6:13 am

    Ali-K - Loving your blog Rohan, but I do wonder? How long did it take, how much trial & error before you had enough to eat from your garden? I’m doing a terrible job with my 1 year old vege garden – although I have to confess dedication is probably the issue here. Giving up seems very tempting at times.ReplyCancel

    • March 13, 2013 - 9:26 am

      rohan - Persevere. Please.

      It’s a culmination of years of trial and error. The last four years have been really good in regards to veg growing and supplementing most of my fresh primary produce. But there is always room for improvement!ReplyCancel

  • March 13, 2013 - 1:58 pm

    Vanessa - Doesn’t look amazing? I would have to say that all of your food always looks delicious. It’s never a bad thing to have to eat your way through your summer veg to keep it from going bad, yum!ReplyCancel

  • March 14, 2013 - 12:40 pm

    Zelda - Exquisite photography , wise words and comforting food. I love your blog, Rohan!ReplyCancel

  • March 23, 2013 - 4:48 am

    anna - Thank you for sharing. Really enjoy your blog. Looks delicious.ReplyCancel

  • March 25, 2013 - 1:03 am

    Tim - Why o why didn’t I do this!? I’ve been staring at my piles of tomatoes lost and confused like a chump. Thankyou Rowan for the plan! Next year, if you look east and see a red glow to on the horizon, it’ll be coming from the hills of Warburton. I don’t have your crushing machine though, maybe I could use a a paint stirer and power drill :) ReplyCancel

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