Posted on March 26th, 2013
Autumn not only brings the beauty of the deciduous trees to life, it also hails in the busiest time of the year for larder stocking. The kitchen is a hive of activity, the stove often on with large pots bubbling and boiling above the flame. Steam fills the room, as does bowls of discarded fruit peel, and empty bags of sugar and vinegar. A large fowelers pot sits bubbling away, stocked with jars of pears, apples, plums and nectarines all being preserved for winter baking and fruity treats.
Tomatoes are sliced, salted and dried in a warm ventilated oven, then carefully placed in jars filled with chilli and olive oil. Crushed tomatoes are decanted into long thin jars as passata for winter stews and anything that requires that taste of summer to bring it to the fore.
Old variety pears site in wooden crates, finishing off the ripening process before they’re either bottled or sneakily eaten by small marauding children.
Pumpkins sit in odd places for the lack of storage space. Here they’ll store cool and dry, by the time winter comes they’ll become a regular feed. From soup to pizza, risotto to simply roasted, pumpkins are a mainstay of our winter diet. Soon the beans will be stored, they too are a winter staple as they dry well in the pod and store cleanly in large jars waiting to be included in the weekly chilli bean stew. And chilli is dried for cooking or made into a hot salsa picante to dress the mornings bacon and eggs, roast vegetables and anything else that demands the kick of chilli sauce.
The kitchen shelves, the deep freezer and the outside larder fill up with pretty jars of stuff and things, all different colours and shapes, all edible, all delicious, all made by hand. Not made by craftsmen, or people of the food industry, but people like you and me … it’s us folks.
What was once a dream is now not just a reality, it’s a life well lived. Most evenings end the day with a “I’m knackered”….or….”Yeah I’m stuffed too” as we fall into bed spent. Where I used to lie in bed and worry about work politics or money, I now merely drift off, barely able to last a few pages of a book before I concede that tiredness has got the better of me.
When I first read ‘The Unprejudiced Palate’ I smiled with hope at the end of most pages. Now I feel like Angelo and I could be friends sharing our daily stories of cooking and living the good life. It’s a life thats often sort after by many, and often it’s dismissed as something of a romantic notion. But for me it’s something thats within reach for anyone. All thats required is determination to make it happen. Do I have it? Well I’m trying my best and as a result I’m enjoying life like I never imagined.
My larder is full of food that is free of chemicals, factories hands and machines, it’s local, it’s branded with low carbon miles. But best of all, it’s just simply real food. Stuff that’s grown in my yard, in my friends orchard, on trees that surround abandoned settlements, picked wild from the ground or bartered with friends.
If I was asked what I was cooking with, many years ago, I’d have a stag in the headlights moment. I often re-heated factory food in an oven, open store bought sauces and added them to out of season vegetables and badly raised animals. I’d often microwave processed pasta meals and crumbed chicken. I made a decision to leave that behind, head for the hills and life a life like something you’d imagine to see in rural Spain, where food is appreciated for it’s seasonality and cultural importance, it’s also grown in the back paddock.
Anyway, enough talk. It’s late. I’m stuffed. Good night.