"There Is No Sincerer Love, Than The Love of Food" - George Bernard Shaw
My first memory of falling in love with food was as a young child on my first trip to Italy. Good tasting food has always surrounded me, and was a given, as I was brought up in a classic Italian home. My mother’s kitchen was her universe, cooking was her way of expressing herself and showering love on me and my sister.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, food was more than just a basic human need for me, it was a direct cultural connection, which defined me. As good as the food was at home, I was still just your average kid, and playing outside with friends always trumped getting stuck into a delicious plate of pasta that was waiting for me at home.
This all changed in 1974, when I was around the age of 12, I began to notice food and discovered how magical sharing and eating food around the dining table was. Food was the conduit through which I got to know my Italian family, the culture and the area they lived in, which was Gaeta, and surrounding towns of the Lazio region.
44 years on, and I still have such vivid and sensory memories of this time. One seared into my memory was that of my Uncle’s daily breakfast routine. Each morning after having done a few hours work he would return home with a warm “pagnotta di pane” (loaf of bread) in hand from the bakery underneath his apartment.
He would hold one end of the crusty round pagnotta with one hand, resting the other end against his chest for leverage. While his spare hand was used to slice the pagnotta by dragging a large knife through the large roll, towards his chest. This action would scare the bejesus out of me, but each slice was perfect and I never saw him draw blood. He would then assemble a very basic bruschetta (using the fresh bread) by smearing the top of each slice with fresh, ripe tomatoes so that the tomato seeds and pulp covered the bread. He then lavishly drizzled some local olive oil over it, adding some basil and salt. Simple! You may think, and indeed they are very simple ingredients, but this was the first time I’m aware of, that all five of my senses were excited by food at the same time.
I remember the touch of the flour-dusted outer crust, juxtaposing to the warm soft centre of the bread and the aromatics of the freshly baked loaf. When I finally got to bite into it, the hard, audible crunch of the crust gave way to the soft bread and mouth-watering feast of intense flavours.
And so was born my hedonic love of fresh and simple foods.
Back home in Sydney, as hard as I tried over the years, I was never quite able to replicate the intense flavours and aromas of this simple bruschetta. Now I know that senses can play tricks on your memory, especially when food, emotion and nostalgia are involved. But, was I being fooled by my senses or was there more to it than that?
Some years later my Aunt Maria, who is an incredible cook, visited me here in Sydney. Although she loved the city, she was less than impressed by the quality and flavour of the produce here. Why?
Fast forward 12 years and I was back in Gaeta by myself, eager to rediscover the sensory food experience of my last visit and sure enough, it didn’t disappoint. For some strange reason, the food was indeed more flavoursome than back home. But why?
Fresh & Local = Superior Flavours
The more I travelled, the more obvious the answer to this question became. Although there is some variation in the physical environment (soil, water and air) between Gaeta’s and Sydney’s food bowl, the key to quality and flavour in produce, is overwhelmingly related to farming practices and proximity to the farm gate.
Gaeta’s population is just over 20,000, and much of the produce is local. Most of its residents know exactly where the produce came from, when it was harvested and who produced it. Unfortunately, this type of relationship between producer and consumer is very difficult in Sydney and all large cities. Almost all of our food is not local. It is sourced from all over Australia and abroad usually from large farms using mass-production techniques. It is transported and cold stored in distribution centres and eventually delivered to your supermarket where again, it's stored on shelves. The time it takes to get produce from the farm gate to your supermarket varies from days to weeks and in some cases months. Out of season apples are known to hibernate in the supply chain for almost a year.
So how realistic is it for people living in large urban cities like Sydney to have any sort of connection with their food producers? In a word, it’s difficult. Most large cities are endlessly growing, their urban sprawl is a constant threat to the food bowls that once fed its residents. Sydney is no different.
According to the Sydney Food Futures project, Sydney’s Food Bowl produces only 20% of the city's needs, this includes 55% of the supply of meat, 40% of eggs, 38% of dairy products and just a meagre 10% of vegetables and 2% of fruit.
The reality is most of our produce is transported in from the rest of Australia and abroad.
The WHO, WHEN, WHERE and HOW of food production
As difficult as it is to have a relationship with your farmers similar to the residents of Gaeta, there are ways to ensure the benefits of such a relationship is available, even if you live in a large city like Sydney.
The key is knowing, WHO, WHEN, WHERE and HOW your food was produced.
This would be the information that the residents of Gaeta or any small town would be asking as they purchase their produce, and there should be no reason why residents of Sydney can’t ask the same questions.
Knowing HOW the produce is farmed, WHEN it has left the farmgate, WHERE and WHO the farmer is important information which Foodlum plans to make available to it customers.
Foodlum’s War = getting flavour and nutrients back in your food
Sourcing and delivering produce that is flavoursome and nutritious is a central cornerstone of our business, we plan to do this by:
- Sourcing fresh produce from organic farmers is the only way we believe to get reliable “HOW, WHEN, WHERE and WHO” information
- Get fresh produce from the farmgate or market to the plate as quickly as possible. Our aim is within 24 hrs. The freshest produce in Sydney.
Thanks for reading! Enjoy your holidays.
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