Jude Blereau imagines a 'back to basics' Christmas full of love and good food.
As we move into the season of celebration, it seems it's a good time to remember all that we have and to give thanks. Even though things are shifting rapidly in this world, we still live in a good and lucky country, and are blessed with an abundance of food and open spaces. I think this Christmas is going to be a little different to many - hopefully the gaze will move from all that glitters, to the simpler things and all that matters. That we have family and friends, that we do live in a democracy, that we have a climate in which we can still grow good food, that we still have good fish to eat and growers who care about the soil and the food they produce. And to think of things that should matter more and the decisions and choices we will need to make to back those. This is what we need to offer our world and homes this Christmas.
I think food, the way we grow it and the food we choose to eat, should matter more. It is one of the great ethical and moral failings of our times that we, as a society, have chosen a food system whose primary goal is profit and power, rather than nourishment. Hospitals should not serve refined, nutrient-shallow and convenience food to the sick. Schools should not serve junk food to children, but provide a nutrient-rich meal to support growth and learning, our elderly should not be served polony as a meal.
Food (and love) is our abiding fundamental security, but it's also a deeply rich and joyful part of a good life, shared with friends and family. It is also a miracle. Thus this Christmas when you choose your seafood, move past that salmon which is farmed and does nothing more than satisfy our current selfish arrogance to have anything we want, whenever we want it, no matter what the cost.
And the cost is not only financial - that salmon is not an Australian fish, and is farmed in an ocean setting, damaging and destroying it with a variety of pollutants - faeces, urine, antibiotics, chemicals, vaccines and uneaten fish food to name a few. And they are not naturally that colour, but rather the colour is chosen by the farmer and added. Approximately four kilograms of wild caught fish is required to generate one kilogram of salmon flesh. There is absolutely nothing in a salmon from Australia that is cause for celebration.
To read more about farming and fishing practices here in Australia, see the Australian Marine Conservation Society: www.amcs.org.au What about choosing a red mullet, bream, whiting or squid instead? They're plentiful, sustainable, taste beautiful and are cheap.
Could you find space in your yard to grow food and maybe a worm farm to recycle your scraps to then feed to the plants you grow? Imagine waking up on Christmas morning to see that Santa has bought you a Can O Worms, or a bag of wriggling, happy, ready to go to it worms. I think that would be fabulous. It's a deeply rewarding experience to grow your own food and even if you can't manage all, even a little makes a huge difference.
You may choose to get someone to plant that garden for you - my helper angel is Tim from an organic nursery, and help he does. It did cost, but that was my choice over a new TV (mine is pretty old) and my car is not new, but still serving me well after many years. Having Tim has enabled me to have a massive range of vegetables living an inner city life on a small block.
So, hopefully on Christmas Eve, there will be carrots to pull and leave for Santa's reindeers. If not, it looks like they'll have to make do with fresh cos lettuce. Mmmm, maybe I should sprout them a few bits and pieces for a lovely little salad - a little organic, real sustenance for the journey.
I've already started making organic strawberry jam for presents and I'm really going to try and keep that theme. Mango Chutney is definitely on the list, but I'd also like to get a little adventurous. A definite on this list will be what has become known as the Ta Da - Chocolate!! Chef Holly Davis has been here doing classes (they were wonderful), and has been making chocolate. I was explaining this to my niece, saying, "And we made... Ta Da..... (drum roll) Chocolate"! Hence it's name. Ridiculously easy, insanely delicious and it's good for you. I ask you, what more could one want?
Our times may be contracting, but really, that's a very good thing. It might make us see all those moments, miracles and gifts that are there, quietly waiting to be noticed, and freely given by nature. Personally, I think the huge mulberry tree next door is doing a much better job of organising real, antioxidant-rich food, than energy bars and tablets produced by a factory at triple the price. The opportunities are all around us at Christmas time to share all that matters - making a meal as a gift for a busy person, offering to babysit while they go out or set up a sheet and show a movie in the backyard with a barbie. I would wish you this and more, and that the beauty in the words "simple" and "thrifty" will reveal themselves to you in all their glory.