Last weekend I held my Tassievore Eat Local Challenge feast for my family. I invited my mum, Lil Sis and Mr Tall to join us.
It’s the second time I’ve done one of these feasts, and I really enjoyed doing it. As a rule I don’t like to cook, but when it’s on a weekend and it’s something I can devote several hours to doing, rather than a rushed mid-week dinner, I do enjoy it because it becomes a bit of an event that I can totally immerse myself in.
As organisers of the challenge, Sustainable Living Tasmania (SLT) suggested that during the feast we have conversation about eating locally, and they had some specific questions for hosts and guests to answer. Here are my answers:
What did you enjoy most about hosting a feast?
I enjoyed it all, from planning the menu, cooking the dishes and sharing them with my family. I was a bit worried that local produce might be harder to source in early winter than it had been in autumn, last time I did the challenge, but I was able to find everything I needed in the end.
Would you do it again?
Yes I would. I didn’t go a huge way outside my comfort zone, and stuck with dishes I knew I could cook, rather than try something new on unsuspecting guests and have it turn out badly. So I might become more adventurous over the next 12 months and turn out some new dishes next time.
Were there any negatives of the experience?
No. My biggest worry was not being able to find locally grown vegetables that I needed.
Is there anything that could be better or that the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge could do to support your local food journey?
As a meticulous, routinised meal planner (because most of the time I hate making meal plans and grocery lists) I would like to see more resources available around seasonal meal plans using produce that is available each month/season, as well as suggestions for substitutes if you can’t find particular vegetables in season when you need them. For example if you have a recipe that needs three or four types of vegetable and there’s one that you can’t get the local version of, what could you substitute for it?
Overall, how would you rate your experience of hosting your Living Local Feast?
5/5 – fantastic. Good food, good company, good wine.
SLT also suggested some conversation starters, which we didn’t cover in a lot of detail at the feast, but I did follow up with my guests later, and here’s a few of the points we came up with.
Did you learn anything new about what local food is available in Tasmania?
I learned that there is such a thing as Tasmanian goats milk feta. I wasn’t aware that there was an Tasmanian-made feta, so I’m glad to know this.
Do you think you will try to eat more Tasmanian food as a result of this feast?
The people that answered “no” said that they already try to eat as much Tasmanian food as they can.
Do you think about the origin of food when you are shopping and eating?
Most of us said that we did, and one person said that they will ask about whether produce is locally grown before they buy it.
How easy do you think it would be to eat mostly Tasmanian for a day/week/month/year/forever?
One person said that, other than a few exceptions, it’s quite easy to eat mostly Tasmanian most of the time. Others said they already try to do this. I think that if I was well-organised and had a good feel for what was available at what times, and had a good repertoire of dishes that didn’t rely on produce that wasn’t able to be grown locally, it would be fairly easy to have a mostly Tasmanian-grown diet, especially if I grew some things that I use regularly myself.
One area where I’d definitely fall down would be days I want to cook things like curries where I need spices that we can’t grow here (and coconut products, which I use a lot of), and things that I use year-round that don’t store well (or that can be stored but that I run out of before they come back into season – or that I don’t have room to store).
What are the problems with eating locally or supporting local business?
People noted that this can be more expensive and that some things can be difficult to source, either because they have a short season or because they aren’t grown in Tasmania.
One example that comes to mind is olive oil, which I use a lot of. Tasmanian olive oil is fantastic, but it’s very expensive, as I think most of the producers are relatively small scale, boutique producers who focus on quality over quantity.
According to a fact sheet produced by the Department of Primary Industries
“Tasmania’s cooler climate allows for a longer growing season than the mainland, and while this provides better quality fruit, it also typically generates lower yields . . . The majority of the production volume from Tasmania is sourced from smaller scale operations developed around key niche markets. Many of these products carry branding extensions which command premium prices in the market.”
So, if you’re not in a position to pay a premium price for this, it’s unlikely you could commit to eating only Tasmanian olive oil. While I do buy small quantities of it for specific purposes, I don’t buy only Tasmanian olive oil.
What would make it easier for you to shop/eat locally?
I think the key is both in being more organised but also being flexible. If I can base my meal plans around what locally-grown produce is in season and, therefore, most likely to be available, it shouldn’t be too difficult. But then I also need alternatives – which I might not always know I’ll need until I’m at the shop – in case something isn’t available. And this has the potential to upset my plans!
I like the way some stores label their fruit and veg bins so you know whether the product is locally grown, from the mainland or imported. Eumarrah gets a big gold star from me for this, because they go further and often provide the locality the produce is from.
I think the Farm Gate Market in Hobart also provides this information in their weekly newsletter on what’s available at the market each week.
These are my initial thoughts, and it’s an area I certainly want to explore further.
So over to you – what do you think? If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave me a comment or if you have any ideas for the broader Tassievore community I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. You can contact Sustainable Living Tasmania here.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to eat more local produce, the Tassievore website has some great resources for sourcing local food, including the Local Food Store and Market Directory.