Somebody asked me last night whether I’d be better off stacking shelves at Coles than I am running a small farm and food business with my husband and writing on the side. Luckily he was a charming person so I didn’t mind being asked.
I have no idea what you’d make stacking shelves at Coles. But I didn’t need to know that to answer the question.
I’ve had jobs where I’ve sold my soul to the devil. I’ve worked for a major oil company in their head office in London while Greenpeace demonstrated outside and I should have been out there holding a protest banner. I’ve worked in advertising and executive search and given a pound of flesh for outcomes I really didn’t care two hoots about.
Now, I do things that I love. I run a small food business selling beautiful pork products that my husband has made, and when we take our product to Harvest market, we do so with immense pride. Our pigs are farmed ethically, and Oliver is making top notch sausages and bacon with no additives from pork which the Slow Food movement recognises on its Ark of Taste list. We are increasingly networked and working within the tourism movement in Tasmania with our AirBnB farm-stay rooms, at a time when the traveller experience in Tasmania is recognised the world over as not only the most desirable and one which heads most people’s bucket lists, but also the richest and most enjoyable, unique and special.And I get to write about all this – for my blogs, for magazines.
So would I be better off stacking shelves at Coles? The real answer is I couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss because what I have now, the richness of my world and my family’s life, is immeasurable. And when I walk across our bush block on a winter afternoon after rain, and breathe in the scent being released by the peppermint gums, I wouldn’t trade places with anybody.
All this came home to me last night when I went to the Sprout Tasmania dinner at Stillwater in Launceston, where chef Craig Will cooked pork from Langdale Farm, for the entrée in an intimate dinner for twenty.
Our pork belly was the dish of the night for many a diner there – unbelievable texture, fall apart on the plate, melt in the mouth, with a diamante crust of crackling on top. Craig was kind enough to say exceptionally nice things about it, and two of the men around the table told me it was the best pork they’d ever had – and these are serious fine diners. The dinner was a fine example of what Tasmania – and Sprout – do well, a magnificent bringing together of produce and producers, with Campo de Flori’s lavender and saffron and Three Peaks Organics’ blueberries featuring in two dessert dishes and an amuse bouche.
What an incredibly proud moment, and as I tap this out now in the early hours of the following morning, how I’m looking forward to telling Oliver that his pork was the talk of the town for a brief moment, and how proud I was.
Oliver’s a modest man, not shy but a little reserved. He’d rather chew his left arm off than go out and schmooze, meet people he doesn’t know and talk in front of an assembled party. Actually he’s gotten better at it over the years and even enjoys it despite himself with encouragement, but last night he was at home with the kids, while I did the schmoozing.
Even so, for me he was the star of the show, without even being there. Well done Oliver, with your mad passion for sausages and bacon. Well done for your obsession with pigs, for getting their diet right and making sure the fat to meat ratio is right. Well done for all those times I’ve found you standing in the middle of the kitchen, getting in my way, gazing out of the window and thinking about pigs. It was worth it. And so would I rather stack shelves at Coles and have an easy life, or would I rather be beavering away here on the farm, writing, farming and hosting travellers?
The real answer is that it’s not a question I’ve felt any need to ask myself, not for years.
This post appears on Fiona's blog about food and rural life in Tasmania, Apple Island Wife - which you might also like to visit!