One of the things I loved most about my week in Tasmania (and maybe it was just something unique to the people I was seeing, although it didn’t feel like it) was the amount of food that got to us in ways other than being bought in a shop. There was so much wonderful fresh local produce around, you couldn’t go far without tripping over it. There were two real stand-outs though: a home made apple cider that even I enjoyed immensely, and a big feed of fresh mussels and oysters collected minutes before they were eaten by yours truly and friends.
The apple cider was absolutely delicious. I am not usually one for alcoholic beverages. I didn’t really start drinking until my first year of Uni, and I’m still pretty cautious about it, though I’m getting a little more adventurous. Moreover, I just don’t really like the taste of alcohol. So I turned down the first glass that was offered to me (and I think words had been had behind the scenes because no one pushed it). Then, as time passed I got a little curious, so I took a sip out of J’s glass. Then I got my own glass. It was tangy, appley, and smooth. I also have a feeling it was quite alcoholic, though you couldn’t much taste it.
It was the first batch this person had made, and he was a little disappointed that he didn’t get a good fizz in it, but everyone agreed it was delicious. I’m only disappointed I didn’t have my wits about me enough to slip a bottle in my handbag when no one was looking.
We also stayed in a place where you could walk out onto a rock shelf at low tide and collect mussels and oysters. I’ve written before about my love of night-time shellfish collection, and as the sun set and we waited for low tide, I could feel a good time coming. Armed with one torch and one flat head screwdriver between four people, we set off into the night. There was lots of stumbling and fumbling, a few cuts and sore muscles, miraculously no falls into the ocean, loads of fun, just over half a dozen oysters and around a kilo of mussels.
After a lot of fiddly wiggling of butter knives and not-so-fiddly frustrated stabbing of screwdrivers, we managed to open the oysters and ate them up with some pepper and lemon.
Next, J cooked up the mussels. With such fresh, delicious food you don’t want to go overboard, so he kept it very simple (plus it was midnight and we had all been up since seven that morning). He cooked off some garlic in olive oil in a pot while the mussels were given a little bit of a brush and a rinse, then plonked them in with some beer to steam, plus a bit of cungee I’d grabbed for flavour.
After they were done we put them all in bowls and realised that he and I were the only ones who would eat them (one friend being vegetarian and the other tried one and decided he didn’t like it). So we had a midnight feast and I went to bed a very happy girl.
There’s something very unique about food that fresh and close at hand. You know who made it or caught it or grew it. You know exactly what’s gone into it. You’ve earnt that food. It hasn’t been transported in big trucks or ships. It hasn’t been treated with this that or the other to look better. It isn’t just a way for someone in an office somewhere to make money. It’s been made especially for you, because someone thinks that you’re worth their effort.
And most likely you are.