Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nice but nubbly

'He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really twirly-whirly eel. All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate..." (How the whale got his throat, Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling)

I'm beginning to think we'd better carefully avoid catching any shipwrecked mariners, because they might interfere with our slowly expanding fishy diet (besides any other considerations like morality or the fact that we are not whales). The garfish were good eating (I can see myself venturing on sea-cucumber which is somewhat related to starfish - but that as close as I'm going to rhyming our diet.) with a flavour like but more delicate than fresh sardine. I can see why they're good bait and I can see why they are listed as medium priced (and flathead is listed as low-medium priced, and flounder high priced BTW). They'd be very good on a charcoal barbeque, and probably brilliant in in the Venetian Sarde in saor (a mild vinegar marianaded pickled fish dish). I was saying to B last night that we now have an increasing range of 'like very much' fish (Silver Trevally, Flounder, flathead, garfish) we catch ourselves, which are all quite unlike each other (as different as pork,lamb, and beef are IMO). There are also the wrasse and Leatherjackets which come under the heading of 'edible if disguised' and pike which is edible if smoked and disguised. We haven't yet been severly affected by seasonality (except we havén't had sea-pike for a while. I can't say that upsets me much) and the spiny lobster season will close soon (and I haven't yet found them in a place I can dive from the shore without tanks/ hookah). Our diet is actually very varied - OK long on certain things like spinach and potatoes, but it is probably 10 days before we eat the same principal protein twice, let alone cooked in the same way. I am trying to see we eat some form of red meat at least every 10 days. It's bound to change with the seasons - I really need to get some crayfish (spiny lobster) before it is too late and also catch more shrimps, some prawns and some crab that isn't just fit for soup. I've also heard there are razor-fish (a kind of shellfish) and we haven't got any octopus or cuttlefish yet. I'm hoping there is a seasonality to these and that's why we haven't. We're gradually moving (except wheat, sugar and vegetable oil products) - on a diet that almost all comes from the island... except milk (and the little cheese we eat) which of course is shipped in! Well, I am not prepared to make life too miserable so wheat, oil, sugar, coffee, tea chocolate and milk and cheese will just have to wait.

I like eating locally and seasonally - but I think I like coffee more. I'm going to stick with pragmatism on this. Pragmatism and coffee. And chocolate. Life without that would be very nubbly :-(.


  1. Sounds awesome. Although I doubt the Vero will ever come visit, for some reason she dislikes seafood in any form. :(

  2. poultry? (there are wild turkey, wild peacocks, Cape barren geese, wild duck, partrige and if I recall correctly quail, and of course real chickens... and of course muttonbirds (although that is sea-food ;-)) By the time you get here we'll probably have sourced these and the wallaby. I believe possum is edible too. And if we end with enought land we'll have sheep and cows too. Pigs I am less certain about.

  3. If you don't get enough land for cows, you can always milk the sheep. I don't know about drinking it, but think Roquefort cheese.

  4. As long as it is not goat I am ok, a like some of their cheese, but a little goes a long way!!

  5. ...I seem to recall Cape Barren Geese are on the endangered and highly protected list!

    Possum is fine, particularly when char-grilled on skewers, with a baste of sweet soy and chili.

    No dairy on the island? Hmm. That one didn't occur to me. There's a lot of dairy farms here in the north-east, but... yeah, I guess getting the product off the island could be challenging. Doesn't seem to have stopped King Island, though.

  6. Dirk - you are quite right about Cape Barren geese (although they have made a good recovery) - Anywhere except Flinders Island, where the species has not only recovered but approaches 'pest' status with graziers (they foul waterholes when they occur in huge numbers, which they do here). They are thus hunted under licence to reduce the numbers. Their conservation status is now listed as 'least concern' IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. BTW We drove to Lady Barron this AM and must have seen between 50-100 of them. There are a flock of about 20 in the field across the road, and about the same number of feral turkeys.
    Barbs and I want to do the keep a cow bit, but we need our future a little more sorted out. Transport, labour and a market (local) for quality product is the issue - The island used to dairy and had a butter factory.

  7. I have to tell an old family story. This dates from the 1920s, when, as I understand it, because of pressure from the dairy industry in the US, margarine came plain white with a packet of coloring to be kneaded in. Perhaps I have that wrong, but at any rate people were used to considering adding coloring to their "table spread."

    My grandparents and mother lived on a somewhat marginal ranch in the rough country near the Red River about 70 miles nw of Dallas, TX. THe remoteness meant that conditions were much more 19th century than 20th, though they did have a Model T. They raised pretty much all they ate and made what they needed around the place (Dave, I bet your mom and mine would have gotten on just FINE.)

    Early oil explorers set up to drill some test wells on the place. THe men had their families with them, and my grandmother sold them butter and eggs. It was spring when everything was greening up, and the butter was just stuffed with golden carotenes. One of those wild-catter's wives - must have been used to poor city groceries - said, "Mrs. Mount, you've put too much coloring in the butter."

    Such a small remark to highlight the difference between understanding the land and thinking food originates in a factory or on grocery store shelves.

    (In the depression, the family left the ranch and moved to Houston. Thirty years later, the oilmen came back with deeper drilling techniques and found oil all over the place. We occasionally thought wistfully of the revenue we might have had. But if she hadn't moved to Houston, my mother would never have met my father, so it's a good thing she did.)

  8. I love the butter story! It really illustrates the different mindsets! Dave and I can try to descibe it, but a lot of people will not be able to visualise our lifestyle, where we catch and forage rather than buy.