Monday, January 18, 2010

on food

Food has always been rather an obsession of mine (no one else I know flies with a 2 kg recipe book) and one of the things I am most looking forward to is learning a whole new set of possible ingredients. One of the reasons I like the whole self-sufficiency bit so much is that freshness and quality make for great food, and it's one of the few ways you can know both and be in control of it. The sheer seasonality of living like that also means that absence makes the heart grow fonder and the ephemeral factor makes the things like fresh asparagus very precious. It seems here, with much of the fresh veg being flown in, and with the abatoir having closed down (so meat is being flown in too - which is insanity when you consider the island's agriculture is principally stock farming) we're going to have to adapt to local conditions and self sufficiency very very fast or go broke. Local knowledge is of course key to this and so far we're managing to be newbies very well -- I've almost never caught less fish -- this is whole new ball-game for us (ping-pong I think). We've seen some enormous rays - two metres across, and some fry, but are obviously not fishing in the right spots yet. We have caught some Calamari with much ink squirting and hilariarity and yesterday in a bitter howling wind we collected clams -- much smaller than my cooking bible says the common species are (pipis and vongole), so probably yet another of the myriad species we have to learn - 2 species - one quite strong tasting and probably ideal for tomato based sauces with lots of garlic or/and chili, the other slightly sweet and delicate - suited to creamy sauces, perhaps with a white wine reduction and touch of fennel. Flinders is famous for its fish -- and I am sure we'll find them. It's just been a case of not really getting where to go on a kelp shore and the weather has not been in our favour.

I've cleared one quarter of a neglected small raised bed area so far, collecting old dung from the field adjacent to the house (and I hope today seaweed) to try and add a bit of water retention and fertility to the sandy soil. It's late to be planting but I feel I have to try. carrots, lettuces and the bassicas should do OK. Not sure about Tatties - at Finnegan's Wake they couldn't be grown in winter - we had frost.

We've seen wild turkeys (twice) wild peacocks (once) and of course Cape Barren geese (all the time) and along with the possibility of keeping a few sheep this all still has to be explored.

In the meanwhile we have rather limited utensils and a stove that only has 2 working plates - one does white hot only and the other is more-or-less normal. The oven door is so warped that you're heating the entire house so... a bit of a challenge there. Our furniture hasn't arrived (and who knows when it will?) so this morning saw B in her cozzie (handwashing in the bath is a wet process) doing the new dance - the windy-flinders freezer - while hanging out washing.

But we'll succeed. Take a few knocks, I am sure, and have to get up again.
And now I must get to work on my day's writing.


  1. Dave, get one of the locals to show you their favourite fishing spots or even ask the kids. Just make sure you've checked what the local fisherie laws are in regard to what you can catch and take from the beaches.

    As for the oven, in the short term, get some aluminium foil in several thicknesses, cover where it's warped with that inside and out and see if that helps keep the heat in.

    As for the writing :) yay more Freer stories please.

  2. I did the aluminium foil thing and it worked reasonably well - roasted our first chicken. Thank you :-). We're going to take the 'get local help' route soon - just feeling our way at the moment. That's not all bad, either.