22.09.2014 Wholefood

A Farewell Feast

Wholefood cook Jude Blereau says our forebears understood that food needs to nourish soul and body

I came across the most beautiful picture the other day posted on Instagram by Alice Waters who, back in the early '60s, pretty much founded the approach to fresh, local and sustainable food philosophy current today. The picture is of Lulu Peyraud, a 95 year old French woman. Lulu was Alice's mentor, so to speak, showing Alice what real food was all about when Alice was living in France when younger. I would urge you to take a look at this picture @alicelouisewaters on Instagram (phone or computer) because it will tell you all you need to know about wholesome, healthy and nourishing food. Lulu is glowing, a vibrant joy de vivre pouring forth from her beaming smile and eyes as she hands a large platter of what looks like grilled fish through the window of her French home to friends.

Lulu has not needed 'superfoods' in the form of goji or acai berries, exotic mesquite or camu camu powder and has reached this age glowing and healthy without the need for a green smoothie, or indeed greens, every day. She most certainly was not gluten or dairy-free.

When you read about Lulu's kitchen and cooking (the classic Lulu's Provencal Table by Richard Olney) you will see plenty of local and seasonal ingredients - raw milk (cow and goat), raw milk cheeses, chicken, duck and geese, pork and other ruminant animals (their meats, fats, organs, bones, eggs and milk), fish and seafood, grains such as wheat, ancient wheats such as spelt (faro), some barley and oats, butter and olive oils, local and seasonal nuts (no imported brazil or cashew nuts, very few seeds). Vegetables were simple and most certainly seasonal - kale did not grow all year around, neither did zucchini. Winter seasons were lean, with few fresh vegetables, let alone greens for raw salads every day. She preserved the spring and summer bounty using traditional methods (including lacto fermentation) and was not afraid of sweetness including some (but not all) refined white flour and white sugar.

In a sense, I could be describing the diet and foods eaten by my mother (who is 94 and still active and happy) growing up here in West Australia and by virtually most of that generation. The vegetables, nuts, animals and seafood varieties would be different - same but different. This generation worked very hard physically - washing clothes by hand, lifting, digging, walking kilometres to school, cooking, growing food, sewing just about all the clothes that were worn and they lived through enormously stressful and dangerous times, namely war. Even in Australia, husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles did not come home, or came home profoundly damaged. Antibiotics did not exist.

Yet, as a generation they were without doubt happier, healthier and lived (and are living still) longer lives than any younger generation. My guess is they had stronger family units, they lived in touch with nature and the cycles of life, they lived and celebrated the seasons (slowing down and sleeping longer in winter, for example) and because they did not have a dole to go onto they supported each other and worked together for the common good. That is powerful, powerful medicine.

A human can cope with a lot when they have good basics - good food to nourish the genes, and then the life process, and are loved and held by a family and community. I believe both these things are missing today and they are far, far more important that what is the current presented path to health - superfoods, blended vegetables, raw foods, and gluten-free or dairy-free foods.

I've spent many years here inside the NOVA pages. I've had the opportunity to meet and share time with you over many months through these pages and at times met you at a class or seminar. This today is my final article for NOVA and I'd like to mark the occasion with a celebration of sorts.

I am imagining we are sitting down with a cuppa and some delicious snack as we talk, but I am Lulu passing food through that window as you all sit outside in the spring sunshine, at the many tables that have been bought outdoors as we lunch together and share all that is good and meaningful. I know many of you have bought food to our picnic; some are helping in the kitchen.

Our lunch will be simple (but plentiful because it is a celebration) dictated by what organic and biodynamic foods are in season wherever we are. Right now here, in Perth, I am thinking Chicken Liver Pate and Sourdough Bread with Cultured Butter | Lentil and Walnut Pate with a Young Goat Chevre | Lemon, Thyme and Rosemary Roasted Chicken | Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb | Fish in some format and then plenty of veggies. I would Roast Beetroot and serve them with a raspberry vinegar dressing, goat cheese and coriander | lightly cooked baby carrots with a honey dressing | fennel, snow pea and celery heart salad with haloumi and tart lemon dressing | steamed baby potatoes with plenty of butter, coriander and chives | rocket, lettuce and avocado with a dressing |. Something hearty for a vegetarian would include a lovely Rustic Tart of Kale, Silverbeet, Rainbow Chard and Pesto | Roast Pumpkin with a Chickpea Salad and Moroccan Dressing. Dessert would include Cultured Cream | End Season Apples, New Season Strawberries and Rhubarb Crumble | Rhubarb and Strawberry Rustic Tart | Lemon Meringue Pie.

I know that in our cooking and even sitting together eating, some would share their problems and troubles as they work or eat, and a trouble shared is a burden reduced.

Having been fed on all levels, we would be nourished and go forth ready for the challenges of the week ahead, for life is a learning process and not always a bed of roses. I would like to sincerely thank you for reading me, cooking my recipes and bringing me into your home and hearts. It has been a privilege and an honour. Thank you.

Ed: Thank you Jude for all the sound advice you given us so passionately over the years, as well as your superb recipes. We wish you well for the future.

Enjoy this month's recipe for Rustic Tart of Seasonal Fruits

Jude Blereau

Jude Blereau is a wholefood cook and writer based on Perth. www.wholefoodcooking.com.au