We all have staples. We also have the things we simply cannot live without (or, at least, we think we can’t live without). So when you embark on a project where places like supermarkets become a supplier of only a few ingredients, you quickly develop a network of suppliers and people that provide you with what you need. And then it hits you – some things just aren’t produced here, and you realise that you are going to have to go back to basics on some things, a bit Amish on others, and sometimes just do without.
“The Map” – it is often getting used to see if things are in range.
At the moment, almost all of my food is sourced straight from the producers at the Armidale Farmers Markets which are held on the first and third Sundays of each month. I go to help my folks sell vegetables they grow on their property just outside of Uralla. By helping pick on the days before and selling during the markets I barter time for vegetables and eggs. Apart from that, there are producers with all sorts of great things for sale – goats cheese, fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, honey, mushrooms, olive oil, even alcohol! Those Sundays the fridge is pushed almost to capacity as it is filled with all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Hell, I have three types of cabbage in there as I type this.
From the last market day – this time of year is the best of both worlds.
What I don’t get from the markets is usually sourced from a few stores in town. Milk (and cream – vital as butter isn’t made in the region so I make it myself) is produced in Dungowan and available from the fruit market and butchers. Local fruit pops up from time to time at the fruit market, as well as an almost constant stream of tomatoes and mushrooms from Guyra. Flour milled in Gunnedah is available from the health food store. Local beer can either be purchased directly from the brewery in Uralla, or from a lot of the pubs. A lot of butchers are stocking meat from the region too, which is amazing to see (and tastes brilliant). And there’s a coffee plantation just within the range allowed.
On top of all this is the ‘wild’ source – fish and yabbies caught from dams and rivers, wild fruit and herbs, a sporadic supply of venison and rabbit as they are hunted or bartered, mushrooms when conditions are right. These foods are often a case of taking advantage when they pop up, because they’re tasty and free.
Saffron Milk Caps foraged from the pine forest near Armidale last winter
As the year progresses, so too does the amount of regional knowledge. Gleaning bits of information here and there from people on the street, finding new suppliers through social media, happening upong great sources of food purely by accident. This information is vital to any sort of project like this. As it comes in, it gets added to a Google map – a living visual compendium of what’s been sourced so far. You are more than welcome to use this information – it’s available here, and is intended to be used and shared as much as possible.
Even with all this, there are still things that I just can’t source or make and aren’t allowed to be purchased from the supermarket. Tea, chocolate, cheddar cheese – these are just a couple that haven’t been able to be found here (yet). The funny thing is that I’m not actually craving them. You run into the ‘ungatherables’ from time to time (Rule 4 tends to get used semi-regularly around here) but when you can’t source them they stop being such a pivotal part of your diet, and that in turn affects how you cook. There’s more experimenting in the kitchen these days, a lot more trying new things and a heck of a lot of learning.