I’ll warn you up front – if you have an aversion to anything alternative lifestylish, you should back away now. Because I’ve been out on holiday at Waiheke Island for the past week, and I’m looking for the good life.
This is not a new condition. It used to hit in fits and starts when I was unhappy at work. If I was feeling stressed, I’d head to the garden centre and buy some herbs to put in pots, in some inner city single girl attempt to breath life into green things, and demonstrate my misguided connection to nature.
When we moved to London, I attempted to inject some green into our concrete jungle by planting on our roof terrace, hoping the seedlings would embrace the smog and reach up to the thin, sickly rays of almost sunlight that make up an English winter.
Back in New Zealand, I dug garden beds in our larger backyard, planted tomatoes and zucchini in summer, silverbeet and not much else in winter. It centred me, made me feel like I was capable of producing more than spreadsheets and endless numbers. I liked the smell of the garden, the heat of the sun on my back, my arms and legs feeling tired, scratched and sore after a day of digging.
Mostly I love the feeling of growing my own food. Obviously the cooking part is a given, but there’s something even better about having planted a tiny seedling and nurtured it to maturity, which is then turned into something delicious to feed your family.
Our section was generous, so much so, I entertained the idea of expanding my home produce offering with the addition of chickens, then bees. Totally ignoring that I was a full time working mother of two, with a husband and a cat to boot. And a generous garden to maintain. I struggled to look after the garden, let alone chickens and bees. Ultimately we sold and moved to a house without a garden. And I am bereft
Luckily there’s Waiheke. The garden at my in laws house is groaning with figs, feijoas, limes, lemons, parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary and thyme, and that’s not to mention the lettuces, tomatoes and chillies that my mother in law grows in summer. When I come here, I get all the good feelings of self sufficiency combined with fresh, home grown produce. Without the hard graft (at least from me).
There’s the abundance of fresh seafood we are so fortunate to have in New Zealand. A quick dig at low tide yields enough tuatuas (surf clams) to feed our family. In summer my diver husband can gather fresh scallops from a number of highly confidential locations, and if the gods are smiling, a decent sized crayfish or two. Although the fish aren’t as plentiful as they once were, we manage to catch the odd snapper, making for the freshest, sweetest sashimi you’ve ever tasted.
It makes my heart sing. To know where my food comes from. To have produced it myself in some cases, or hunted and gathered it in others. To know that it hasn’t been kept in a chiller for months, washed in a chlorinated solution, or packed with sulphites to preserve it. To know that everything I’m feeding myself and my family is as healthy as it can be.
Then I head back to reality. The reality where I know I should be shopping at farmers markets, but the supermarket is closer. Where I should buy organic, but inorganic is cheaper. Where I should grow my own, but my small courtyard garden is covered in stones too heavy to move. So many excuses. So many barriers. I know I could and can do better.
My new resolutions:
1. Buy organic when I can
2. Buy from small producers as much as possible
3. Get someone to help me move the stones from my garden and start planting
4. (This is a hard one!) Negotiate with the neighbours to plant fruit trees on our grass verge
Wish me luck.
SPAGHETTI VONGOLE WITH FENNEL
Cockles or clams are a fantastic source of omega 3, brilliant for brain health. They also have the added advantage of being a sustainable seafood species.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Zest of a lemon
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves
1.5kg live tuatuas, cockles or clams
Pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large deep frypan with a lid (large enough to fit all the shellfish) over a low heat
- Add the fennel and cook slowly until soft. Do not brown.
- Add garlic, chilli and lemon zest and cook for 1 minute
- Pour over white wine, increase heat and bring to the boil.
- Add shellfish to the pan, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until all shellfish are open, shaking to combine the flavours. This will not take long, so keep an eye on the pan so they don’t overcook. Discard any that don’t open. Stir through the parsley.
- Season the sauce to taste (you shouldn’t need any extra salt), then toss through the cooked spaghetti.
- Serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of extra parsley.