SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Friday, October 05, 2012

Food for free

I love the first Saturday of every month because that's when we have our local food swap.  In the park adjacent to the Fitzroy pool, regulars join 'debutantes' to share the surpluses, however small, that are grown in the gardens or even on the window sills of our inner-city homes. 
The swap is great because you get to socialise with the neighbours, while immersing yourself in all things food. You get to sample it, share recipes, discuss it at length with the growers and of course take it home. And whatever the weather we'll be there. On gorgeous days, like last summer's swap:-

Glenda, me and Anne

Or even on days like today, when we shivered in unison, chomping on the delicious tangelos and gelatin-free jelly, made with honey, green tea, mint and a mystery fruit provided by a swapper of Asian background. (I hope I've got those ingredients right):- 

Brave, rugged-up swappers this morning

When I first came across swapping, I couldn't get my head around the idea. I was plagued with questions, like: 'With no money involved, how do you figure out if what you are taking home in exchange for what you bring, is fair?' But it didn't take long to realise that those sorts of questions are irrelevant. People are delighted when you take their produce, especially if you ask them how best to prepare it. No one wants a glut of parsley or lemons, so it can be a thrill to see them carried off by an apartment dweller who has no way of growing them. And next swap that apartment dweller might well return with jars of lemon butter or recipes for 101 things to do with parsley. In the end it all works out, and we learn heaps along the way.  
I never knew before, for example, that you can grow macadamia nuts or avocadoes or keep quails for eggs or bee hives for honey, all in inner-city Melbourne. 
And I've had to totally revise what I think of as 'weeds' after listening to new arrivals to Australia who prize some of our wild greens. This reminds me of our brief time in Santiago, Chile in May when I was blown away by the variety of 'weeds' used for cooking, like the ones displayed by the street seller below:-

'Weeds' for eating in Santiago, Chile

I have written a lot about food swapping over the last few years, especially because it is a phenomenon that was initiated here in Australia. Check out new matilda for my overview of this home-grown movement. It's great to know that food swaps are mushrooming all over the country, providing the opportunity for people to eat top food minus top $s. In many ways it's just a contemporary spin on something that good neighbours have always done - shared their bounty with those around them.
No wonder I always look forward to food swap day.


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