Scanning through my photos, wondering what to post for this week’s WordPress photo challenge, I found it hard to go past this little cluster of jars, full of freshly pickled eggplant.
Any grouping of objects could remind you of a community, but these jars are the result of a communal effort. In early winter, I got together with two friends for a bottling day. We made the pickle, lime chutney, guava jelly and passionfruit cordial. Paul, whose fabulous kitchen we used, posted the recipes, pics and tips on his foodie blog Buth Kuddeh.
It was such a fun day, and seeing the picture of the jars got me thinking about how food is such an integral part of community. Growing, preparing, cooking and eating food (and cleaning up afterwards too of course) has all over the world been an activity performed communally, probably for all of human history, in most cultures.
Unfortunately in modern, western societies, there are few opportunities to prepare food together, unless you belong to a cultural group that makes a habit of it. I grew up in a strong food culture, but communal cooking was not a major part of it.
I remember my mum, once a year, with other ladies from the RSL Women’s Auxiliary, preparing lunch for the returned servicemen after the Anzac Day march, and occasionally serving scones and tea at local community events — including sales at the sheep and cattle stockyards, of all things! — but that was about it. (The RSL blokes would have a roast, followed by trifle, since you ask …. all the women would bring their cut glass bowls for the trifle and I was very put out that I never got to eat any, it looked so pretty).
These days, I watch TV shows like Gourmet Farmer and Italian Food Safari with considerable envy of their celebration of communities cooking together — everyone putting in the hard yards to turn an entire pig into assorted smallgoods, or cook up a passata. Many hands make light work, as the saying goes.
But the truth is, envy gets you nowhere. I just have to make more opportunities to cook with other people. My pickling friends and I have another bottling or baking day planned for the new year; and this weekend I’m joining forces with a couple of other friends to cook and eat a Christmas dinner together, before we go our separate ways on the actual day. I’ve also invited AM’s brother Abrantie to come and help me cook my annual batch of Christmas ginger nuts and coconut macaroons on Saturday, rather than going it alone as I usually do.
I never make New Year’s resolutions, but perhaps this year I should: 2014 will be the Year of More Cooking Days with Friends! Heaps more fun than watching other people cooking on the telly.