Border Mail Column Wednesday 2 May 2012
I didn’t grow up on the land; I was the kid who gagged at the smell of the dairy and eagerly volunteered to stay inside and make afternoon tea.
Nevertheless, I’ve always loved the idea of living on a farm and having a connection with the food I consume.
The years spent living in the outer suburbs of Sydney gave me a rural experience and we often visited our grandparents in country New South Wales where my pop grew vegetables and raised chickens.
He sold his ‘odourless’ onions that I now know were red onions, rare in those days but that have become an essential ingredient in almost every sandwich, focaccia and salad you order to the extent that you have to request they be taken out or not included if the food is prepared to order.
I remember very simple fare, although we did crumb and fry chicken Maryland pieces and serve with a ring of Golden Circle pineapple on the top.
(Coincidentally this dish hit our table at about the same time KFC opened in Australia).
We also had curried mince made with Keen’s Curry powder, a staple of every 1960’s pantry, with sultanas and apple served with rice.
It is easy to become nostalgic about food, and perhaps foolhardy to replicate a favourite dish from your childhood only to be disappointed because your taste buds have matured, or the memory of that dish is linked with the experience of sitting down to dinner, (or tea as we called it), with the family.
Food miles were not part of the scenario; we knew the suburban butcher sourced the meat from a nearby farm, our milk came from the dairy down the road and there was little imported food on the supermarket shelves.
In the universe I live in, conversations about food and cooking abound; not because of any snobbery, but mostly because I know that it is better for your health to fuel the body with the good stuff.
I’m not sure if my view has been influenced by the plethora of cooking shows, magazines, beautiful recipe books and slow food and what that represents, because I have always loved to cook, and grew up in an era where takeaway was an occasional treat.
However, I sense there is a parallel universe in a galaxy not that far away, where the messages by the major fast food companies are louder and heeded by an increasing proportion of the population, both in percentage and individual’s body size.
These messages relate not only to the food offerings of these companies, but are communicated in a setting where the food is shared with friends and family as they are in KFC’s latest campaign.
According to the advertising agency that developed the ‘Goodification’ campaign for the company this term reflects the brand’s DNA and “how The Colonel behaved in his stores when he first started, constantly trying to make the KFC product and service better for their customers.”
In an attempt to add to the homeliness of the brand, staff meet the fluffy chickens running around, and then in a startling example of ‘paddock to plate’ we see those same staff on a verandah eating chicken tenders.
Not too many food miles travelled there.
The link between poor diet including over-consumption of fast food and obesity is proven, but there is evidence too that programs that nurture an awareness of the origin of our food for example Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden program, contribute to an improvement in our national health.
If we could just have the universes interconnect.