There’s an anecdote about mozzarella that says something like this…The best and freshest is eaten right on the farm, in the region of Campania (Italy) where it is made. The mozzarella that is a few days old goes to the next province and to Rome to be enjoyed there. Then the cheese that is a few weeks old goes further afield. The rest gets exported!
On a stroll through Farm Gate market in Hobart the other day, we reflected on the farmers’ markets in our cities in Australia compared with those in our country towns (where all the cities’ produce is actually grown), and the farmers’ markets in our country towns compared with those in France, England or Italy. We couldn’t help but feel perhaps Australia has this food equation the wrong way around. It seems as though the best and freshest of our produce makes it way straight overseas, then the next best goes to the cities, whilst the regions from where all this produce originated are left with the fewest options beyond supermarket chains. I realise there are population economics at play here (which I won’t wade into, it’s the holiday season after all), but we also catch ourselves sending the best looking stuff to market and eating the poorest pickings at home, and I do wonder whether there’s something in the Australian psyche or culture around food that plays into these decisions.
Charles Woolley reflected on this phenomenon in a recent column in the Weekend Mercury, where he made a similar assessment in relation to Tasmania’s elevation of tourist needs above those of locals and the natural environment. He said we are “so humble and grovelling we are prepared to run our state for people who don’t live here rather than for the people who do…By comparison, the Europeans often seem excessively proud and protective of their homelands and culture”. I think there is some truth to this in the politics of food in the Australian countryside too, where other countries and city dwellers seem all the more able to guiltlessly enjoy (nay, pursue) la dolce vita than those who are the closest to the produce and have worked so hard to produce it. Shouldn’t this very enjoyment be part of the incentive and reward of growing?
So, it’s our mission (over the summer at least) to indulge a little more in the ripest of berries, the freshest salads, the best local breads and the award winning ciders and wines that abound in the Huon before they can be packed and sold interstate and overseas. It’s a heavy burden to bear but we all have to do our bit to turn the tide of population economics and cultural guilt, right?