Steam rose from my hot coffee, fumbling a sip between straight patches of country road while another cup of coffee sat precariously between my legs (probably a little too close for comfort). The second coffee was for my boss, Mr Hatton. I’ve been working as his ‘mud boy’. This entails slinging loads of sand and cement into the mixer, and laying sandstone rocks to create beautiful walls. We’ve been constructing a grand farm entrance out in the hills north of Daylesford.
Since I left my previous life, I’ve really enjoyed working on practical everyday projects that reward me with a tangible end product. I’ve found that working towards a visible goal is so much rewarding than my old world of spreadsheets, digital mapping and graphic design. Here I work physically hard, get great exercise, learn a new practical skill and work outside, in the wind, rain, sun and mist. The only downside to this work is that I’ve discovered someone more cynical about the worlds problems than I am. In someways is depressing. Poor Mr Hatton, he doesn’t stand a chance.
He thanks me for the coffee and sets me to work mixing cement and laying stones. The wall is coming along nicely. It started with simple foundations, dug deep into the soil. Then one stone at a time, a wall began to appear. Along the way Mr Hatton taught me how to keep straight lines, maintain the levels, and how to respond with the appropriate amount of cynicism to leftist talk back radio. It’s been a interesting apprenticeship.
Most days working on our wall, I’d cook us a lunch over a quickly prepared fire. The evening before each day of work, I’d make a stew, soup, paella or anything that I’d be able to warm up over hot coals. Mt Hatton commented that he might continue to hire me, not for my stone laying abilities but more so for my cooking skills. I think he liked the idea of a mobile cook at his service. I was pretty happy with the idea too. Although I must remember to feed him less bean meals. I don’t think it was just that we were working on a hill as the reason for the frequent wind.
The wall is now complete. It took us a few weeks of hard yet enjoyable slog. Soon a grand steal gate will be hung, and the project will be complete. I can see all the effort we put into that wall. I can touch it, I can even lean on it. It will be there for many decades, and we built it tough so theres a good chance it will last over a few hundred years. Just the very thought of that wall still standing strong in a few hundred years time. It’s got me thinking about another building that hopefully will be evident in a few hundred years. And thats changing the way we treat food.
I’m happy to admit that I am part of a growing (building) movement of change. There is enough information out there that tells us that processed foods are not good for us, nor is it good for the health of the environment or the long term health of our communities. I feel like a broken record saying the same thing over and over again. I present talks to blank faces, sometimes bewildered looking people that are probably thinking that I’m a crack pot with my crazy ideas about food and lifestyle. And I completely understand their way of thinking. I would have totally dismissed ‘me’ seven years ago. I would have thought I was just another food ‘evangelist’ complaining about processed foods. If I didn’t get sick from eating crappy food all those years ago, then I’d still be a skeptic of ‘me’. So in a way I have processed foods to thank for showing me what type of a consumer I don’t want to be.
This weekend on a stage in Hampton Queensland I presented a talk on my ‘food philosophy’ and used a few examples of processed foods, I held up bottled lemon Juice, a cheese and crackers snack pack and some oven fries. I read out loud the ingredients of the processed foods and stated that if I don’t know what the ingredients are, and I don’t know what that ‘food’ will do to my health, then I won’t eat it. At one point I saw some heads shaking at me, I’m not sure what their internal reaction was to what I was saying, but it’s a message that has to be shared. This crappy message that no one wants to be told, HAS to be told because it’s clearly changed the health of the western world. No food corporation will ever tell you this, it’s not a smart business move to say “our product will make you sick”. And when I talk about corporations, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I’m just sharing a shitty truth.
Walk through the supermarket, pick up any random item of processed food, look over the ingredients and ask the food “what are you made of, what will you do to my body?” I do not know what the ingredients of most of the processed food on the supermarket shelves, but I do know that they made me sick. For years I was eating food labelled ‘low fat’ only to be consuming food with loads of hidden sugar that my body hurriedly converted to fat. I ate food with preservatives, then struggled to breathe for a few hours as a reaction. I got obese, I got hypertension from consuming too much salt and I suffered that most popular of modern diseases, anxiety and depression.
Now I eat real food. Food that I grow, or hunt or source from organic producers. I now know that food that starts from the ingredients that nature provides are ingredients our bodies have evolved to process. Plant matter, meat and diary. Humans have been eating food made from these basic natural ingredients since the get to and that’s what I strive to consume in my home kitchen. As a result I don’t suffer AT ALL from those above mentioned illness’s.
I’m home from Queensland now and feeling invigorated. I feel a ground swell building. There is change coming. It’s a market driven consumer change. People are sick and tired of being sick. We can no longer expect any changes or improvements in processed foods. We need to take back the control of our food, we need to start from basics. I’m prepared to be a facilitator of that change. I’m here to teach what I can and share the skills I’ve picked up of the last however many years I’ve been on my journey. This Saturday I’m running GROW with RO, sharing skills about setting up your winter vegetable garden. On Sunday I’m running a wild edible mushroom workshop. I hope that if I continue to share skills, continue to connect with people face to face and talk about our food then I’ll inadvertently be part of building the movement for change. We need it.
The work hours are flexible, the work conditions are tolerable