Feature

The long, lazy lunch

G Magazine

In our fast-paced, ethically-driven lives it’s often forgotten that the purest joy in food can be found in its power to slow us down and gather family and friends around a table.

lazy lunch

Credit: iStockphoto

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I fell into the food trap recently. It happens when one forgets that eating is an essential and basic act of being human that entails a lot more than simply voicing one’s opinion about what tastes good and where to get the best food.

When I was growing up an old farmer used to say, “Food is about people. Without people crops rot in the field.” When I was older travelling through Italy I met a chef who said, “Without people to learn how to make the great pasta dishes of Italy, the ingredients would remain just eggs and flour and meat and vegetables!”
When as kids we ate with grandparents on Sundays we put on our best clothes, washed our hands, sat politely at the table and said grace asking “to be truly grateful” for what we were about to receive. My grandparents had been through the depression and they had known the lean years of the 1930s. Their meal always brought us together and after grace the grownups discussed family business over steak and kidney pies.

Living an engaged life we can be so questioning about food choices. Is it green? What is its footprint? Is it ethical? Sometimes it is easy to forget the power of food to simply bring people together.

I worked with Slow Food about a decade ago. It was a brilliant time with some of the best minds in the food and wine industry coming together to create ideas and events that eventually penetrated State Government. Not one discussion was held around an empty table. We teamed up chefs with farmers and winemakers and found the perfect way to politicians’ and bureaucrats’ hearts. Food and wine bound us to the table to talk. The quality of the food and wine bound us back to the land where it was grown. We found a way to convey to the city-locked power brokers how to have a discussion on policy and legislative change that affected the country.

The table is a powerful tool. It is a place where so much hospitality can be given up and so much power swayed. A place where like-minded friends gather to share ideas, finding the ties that bind.

I rediscovered this again recently, and came crawling out of my food trap, when a good friend had slow-cooked a shoulder of pork in his wood-fired oven for 24 hours. He sent over a plate of the meat with his son. When he called to find out what I thought of the pork I told him that it was too dry and that he should have used a rare breed animal as they have more fat and are better at handling long cooking times. I offended him. His gift was not about food. It was not about his skill as a cook. It was a sign of respect and a gift to mark our friendship. A friendship I value, as my friend lives the sustainable urban life to the very core. I apologised over much beer later, feeling quite a fool.