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.