Over the last few weeks I’ve been binge watching River Cottage AU. For those of you who aren’t across the Lifestyle Channel production, it’s an Aussie version of famous UK series of the same name. Local foodie Paul West sets up home in the beautiful Tilba region (five hours south of Sydney just near Bega) with the goal of building a fully self-sustainable, organic life on his very picturesque farm.
From veggies to livestock, foraging to seafood we see him live a seasonal country existence from the highs of fresh milk from his jersey cow to lows of slaughtering his farm pigs for meat. The show is a stark reminder of where our food comes from and the energy, passion and life that is often required to give us the pleasures we typically take for granted.
I’m now coming to the end of season two (there are four in total) and watching Paul’s farm flourish is a guilty pleasure of mine. I dream of creating a similar lifestyle for our little tribe, and hope that one day we’ll be in the position to find our own slice of fertile land.
If I’ve learnt anything from the show it’s not to undervalue what our lifestyles cost us. In particularly, the truth about meat and what’s required to get food on our plates. I’m not vegan or strictly vegetarian but for the last 15 years or so I’ve avoided red meat. The truthful reason behind my choice being a fear of blood (I just can’t handle the stuff). This said, I’ve also been somewhat conscious of the plight of animals and have always actively chosen what I thought were the better choices when consuming meat and animal products (free-range eggs / chicken etc.).
The point of my health journey over the last two years has been to honour my body and give it the fuel it needs (be it spiritual, food or anything else) to flourish.
With this comes a lot of planning and organisation – my Saturday mornings are typically spent meal planning for the week ahead. But, as a young couple with lots going on sometimes the food we’ve so lovingly bought can and does go to waste. I hate that this happens and it shouldn’t be the case, but the truth is my respect for the food and how it reached our pantry hasn’t been up to scratch.
I believe this is the result of a few things but most significantly the disconnect that exists between food and the modern world. When we buy meat, it’s perfectly cut, cleaned and wrapped. There is often no connection whatsoever to the animal that gave its life for us to feast. Of course, this also applies to the sunshine, man hours and care that goes into tendering a nourishing garden full of beautiful produce. Although, I must say since buying veggies direct from the farmer at the markets over the last 12 months my attitude on this front changed quite drastically.
River Cottage reminds me that every piece of food we bring home is the result of care and time. Watching Paul slaughter the animals he raised is hard (particularly for a blood hating semi-vego) but it’s important as we need to know what it takes to get food to our plate.
It also brings home the importance of farm animals raised with care and love. I’ve tried a vegan lifestyle but know that my body works best when animal protein is a regular part of my diet. If we are to eat meat, we must show respect to the animals that have given their lives to feed us by understanding the journey they’ve been through to reach our fridges. It is my opinion that we must choose options that honour the animal from the moment it is born to the day it is slaughtered.
Many argue that the cost of this choice is prohibitive in today’s modern life, but the reality is buying organic, wild caught, grass-fed or even free-range isn’t that difficult if we’re smart about it. It all comes down to priorities.
Using different cuts or buying directly from your markets is often the same cost as the conventional option. If markets aren’t a possibility even our big supermarkets have a bounty of smarter choice produce these days that’s pretty cost effective.
When making choices, think about your food, how it got to you, its seasonality, how it was raised and respect it deserves. When you consider the food journey, you appreciate it a lot more and meal times become even more of a celebration.
Of course, we are incredibly lucky to be able to make these choices and understand that this lifestyle isn’t possible for everyone. If that’s the case, consider what you can do and make conscious choices when you’re in the position to do so. Every time we vote with our wallet we’re affirming or challenging industry practice.
Pic thanks to @rivercottageaus on Instagram