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Faraway feasts

June 21, 2013

dinner at 8

I visited a distant relatives’ farm when I was about 11. I have vague memories of most of  the house and property, the mangy cattle dogs and sheep in the back of the ute and people yelling “shut the gate” at regular intervals, probably to me. The kitchen though, oh I do remember that. The scrubbed pine table was definitely the heart of the home. Everything happened on it- breakfasts, lunch, dinner preparation, a cuppa and a slab of cake, cleaning up my brother after a fall into the barbed wire fence and so on, but it was the  pantry that captivated me.  On the shelves, rows and rows of pickled and preserved vegetables, fruits, jams, marmalade, potted meats, huge bags of potatoes and onions hanging to dry. I was gobsmacked, speechless, in awe. I was mesmerized by the colours, the shapes, the order and the impressive quantity of deliciousness on those shelves. It was miles away from what I knew, faraway you might say.

Years later on a farm stay holiday and the memories this childhood holiday came flooding back as I slurped, chomped and generally feasted on fresh eggs, vegetables, slabs of bread, cakes, scones, homemade jam and lamb, cutlets, roast legs, chops all grown, harvested  and cooked by our hosts, again, so far, far away  from my usual eating lifestyle. Today my faraway feasts are as close as the contents of my fridge and pantry and as far away as the inspiration from my latest cookbook. What do I fancy? Will I travel to Morroco, Greece, China, Vietnam, India, Spain or France? I’m transported to local markets, salivating as I wander amongst the fresh produce, spices, breads. I can create luscious delectable, ambrosial feasts. Ghillie Basan, Skye Gyngell,  Jamie Oliver, Kylie Kwong, Christine Manfield, Luke Nguyen, Yottam Ottolenghi, Mourad Lahlou, Greg Malouf, Rick Stein and a miriad of others all tempt me to tables far away. They aren’t all scrubbed pine but they are essentially  the same. Scrumptious, dainty or robust, gourmet or gourmand, hot and spicy, cool, creamy or crunchy.

There really isn’t time or space here to truly describe how delicious it is to lose myself in any of these cookbooks and then create something from them, and that’s just the cookbooks. Lets’ not forget food blogs, dvds, magazines, tips from friends, work colleagues, and the family’s treasured and closely guarded recipes.  I’ve even been given a a set of music cds (play the music, cook the meal – unfortunately I have to supply my own wine) that match a recipe book.

I wander around my local growers market and I am amazed that the smells and  food displays can immediately take back to  my childhood or into another country, time or season. I can pick fruit from the trees in the backyard, pick herbs from the garden (if the bunnies have left me some) and cook away.  I am transported far away for a while, then I realise, the essential ingredient in my far away feast is very close. It’s not a feast without company, so come on in, the table’s set, dinner’s  at eight, don’t be late…

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