Slow food. It’s not what you think. Slow food as a 'movement' is the antidote to fast food, but it’s not just slow cooking. A meal eaten in the car, or at the office desk, is not slow food no matter how it was cooked. A sandwich, made from bread that doesn’t contain preservatives (preferably sourdough), with farmhouse cheese and home pickled onions, eaten on a park bench, is slow food. Coffee in a takeaway cup is fast food, the same coffee drunk in a café is slow food, no matter if it’s an espresso and gulped down in a few seconds.
That said, some slow food is slowly cooked. My business partner, Ross O'Meara, and I were lucky enough to be invited to dish up the dinner for the Slow Food AGM last week. A bit of prep ahead (Ross, as usual, at Ross’s kitchen, while I worked the market) and a big braise up of the meats on Sunday and we had cassoulet. A few Bruny bunnies, and we had rillettes. And a raid on my pantry meant a light, fragrant quince fool for dessert, from the fruit I preserved from the tree outside Puggle Farm’s kitchen window.
The cassoulet had speck; an old, salty, dry prosciutto that needed some rehydration; pure pork snags; some fresh belly; and confit squab (baby pigeon) in it. Oh, and a lot of beans. The veggies were all the wintry brassicas. Red curly kale, cooked with garlic from my neighbour’s place. Cabbage cooked with our own salt and sugar cured speck. Broccoli, just boiled. The cassoulet was salty so the vegetables were mellow to try and balance it out.
At the moment we’re using Ross’s pigs. Berkshires (pronounced 'bark-sherr") an old black, hardy breed. My saddlebacks are still fattening. One gilt (an as-yet unmated sow) has gone to Ross’s place because I think she’s too fine an animal not to try to breed from. One young boar is promised to a mob up north. And the one older sow I have that doesn’t seem to be able to get pregnant, well, I think she’s going to be salami. That’s reality on a farm that is trying to make some money from the stock. These animals aren’t pets, no matter how fond I become of them. They’re here for a purpose.
Some people may have seen the story I was in on the 7.30 Report, that Tassie is the first state to bring in the banning of sow stalls, albeit from 2017. A sow stall is essentially the size of a bathtub, and the banning is well underway in most developed nations. That’s because a sow in one can’t turn around. Not only is she deprived of all social contact with other animals, removed from every form of nature that she would instinctively enjoy, she’s also confined in a space that by law only has to be 1cm wider than her and 1cm longer than her. She can eat, she can lie down. That’s it for weeks on end. For some, it’s for virtually their entire adult life. Using sow stalls, conventional wisdom says, means a producer can intensify the production of cheap pig meat by avoiding the fight for dominance that sows often engage in, particularly during pregnancy. Most producers these days, myself included, believe you can produce good pork meat efficiently without the need to inflict what would be considered cruel if practiced on a domesticated pet.
My pigs are currently turning over a huge amount of the bottom paddock. From the window I sometimes can’t see their heads as they snuffle around looking for roots and grubs to eat. Their end won’t be any different from a factory farmed pig. But I’ll do my best to ensure their life will be.