Last week I placed a meat order for the Dark Mofo event I am doing in Tasmania, and something happened that made me stop and take stock of where the food scene is at, and how far it has come.
There are no catering restrictions for this event so I decided to roast three whole animals, which is not only a respectful way to cook meats but also really striking and visually appealing.
My requirements for the size, weight, breed and age of the animals were very specific, and they had to be processed to specific lead times. The farms that they came from needed to be managed using specific practices and the farmers themselves needed to represent their animals and philosophy well. Some may say that is a lot of unnecessary planning, but to me it is crucial to serve the most perfect animal that I could find. I sent my email away ready for a barrage of questions.
Two hours later the phone rang and I was told “we have sourced the animals and they will be ready when you arrive.” I was impressed and a little dubious, but no, everything is in order! That’s when I realised how much our modern food systems have changed in recent years.
I started cooking over 20 years ago (eeek!) and looking back, words like ‘ethical,’ ‘sustainable’ and even ‘seasonality,’ were not generally used. Other than freshness and cost, chefs focused on presentation. But now more restaurants are looking to nourish and sustain their customers using the most remarkable produce available.
The great irony is that, in the past, what was being eaten at home was incredible compared to the food eaten in a lot of households today.
It almost seems that the restaurants of old would smother you in fats and salt, while mum’s roast nourished you – yet today, many eat from packets for convenience and turn to restaurants for something handmade with love and care.
I run restaurants for a living so of course I encourage people to eat out, but I can’t help but wonder: do we really want to replace the life-giving skill of cooking with simply going to a restaurant? I think that would be a great shame. Cooking and feeding a family enriches life and I’d like to see more people cooking delicious healthy meals at home.