Earlier in March I was a guest at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival's Theatre of Ideas. Hosted by chef-journalist Jill Dupleix, the Theatre of Ideas featured three farmer-chefs talking about their passion for sustainable food, small scale production, mindful eating and powering the body and brain with wholefoods. In summary, they discussed the journey from earth to table, highlighting the change we need to make to our producing, sourcing and eating habits.
Michael Stadtlander talked at length about his farm, restaurant and bakery (read a great article about him here). Michael owns and operates Eigensinn Farm and Hasai Bakery. The Theatre of Ideas showcased Michael's restaurant sculpture projects. As well as raising and growing the produce on his farm, he creates thematic sculptural gardens and kitchen areas for dining and food preparation. He and his team created hand potted plates, a treehouse and a giant wine dispenser made of recycled wine bottles. His ideas are lavish, a little outlandish, but very interesting. He believes heaven is on earth and demonstrates this through his food practices.
Next up was Matthew Evans, former food critic turned Gourmet Farmer, based in Tasmania. He hopes there is a shift in conscience in how we source food, and encourages the average person to "have a crack" at growing their own produce. He moved from Sydney to Tasmania, on a 12 hectare farm with a garden, pigs, a house cow and sheep. He now also has Fat Pig Farm - an industrial farm with 40 pigs, 16 cows and 12 sheep, plus a mobile food caravan which he takes to food events. He believes farming is an art, and said it is important to showcase Indigenous people, the older generation and real farmers on TV because they understand the complexities of the earth and food producing. It was interesting to hear him speak about his passion for fresh produce and flavours - he said "if you can source good produce, cooking is really easy."
Both Michael and Matthew spoke about death being the hardest thing about farming. "I had no idea how many animals die for us to have commercially grown food", Matthew said. "Death is grim. It makes me feel like a failure when baby animals die", he said, noting that he is against hunting as a blood sport. Jill Dupleix assured him that being sad about death on a farm is healthy for a mindful farmer to feel.
Swedish Chef Magnus Nilson spoke last - he spoke about the unsustainability of meat production. I had to leave part way through his talk for the Rickshaw Run.
I met Matthew over a glass of champagne in the media room - I spoke to him briefly about my love for fresh produce and learning about the food journey.
Bern Morley, Heidi Apples and Gourmet Girlfriend (you have to check out her bread challenge on her blog and Instagram (follow the hashtag #ggbreadrevolution - it warms my heart that she's encouraging people to make their own bread!).
I came away from Theatre of Ideas feeling inspired to eat fresher, more mindfully and to go to more food lectures.
I thank the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival for sending me along to this event.
Over the past two weeks I've been making smoothies for breakfast - green (or orange) and fruit/dairy ones. Some of the great combinations have been spinach, pineapple, celery, grapes, lemon juice and mint, and an awesome pumpkin pie smoothie, inspired by this recipe. I cooked some pumpkin and a carrot in the microwave, chilled it overnight, and added cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, maple syrup, a couple of dates, nut butter, chia seeds, a frozen banana and rice milk. It was so delicious!
The Storyteller - engrossing, heartbreaking and beautifully written), napping and cooking and eating. We went to the farmer's market - smells of bacon and egg rolls and hot coffee and children's laughter filled the air, and we bumped into old friends. I bought some brioche (beautiful toasted with butter and eaten for breakfast with a berry and peach smoothie) and boutique cordial made my former paediatrician's wife, and a hand-potted bowl from the adjacent art gallery.
In the afternoon, my parents and I made sausages. So much fun! Mum and Dad recently went to a sausage making class, and although they had previously made sausages in their old Breville mixer, they learnt some tricks of the trade such as ensuring the air pressure is ok and professionally twisting and looping the sausages. Dad's really big on buying things on eBay, and he bought a sausage making machine last week. It's a simple contraption - a heavy metal body, barrel to hold the mince, a handle to feed the barrel across the body, and a number of nozzles for different sized sausages. (Photos courtesy of my Dad.)
My completed sausage was around 1.5 metres, almost as tall as me! Mum showed me how to twist the sausages in alternate directions so they'll hold when cut.Camille's sister Rachael for the herbs.
Honey, I baked! The tart had sweetness and zing, and I served a piece of it with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.
For me, cooking is a way of life. I feel better for knowing what's in my food. I ate a burger from McDonalds on the bus trip back to Melbourne. It tasted strange - artificial - and I regretted it. Eating whole foods feels so much better.