They’re on their own, too, after I spied wedge-tailed eagles flying over the farm. Chooks, even if I did get the geese to keep watch over them, are likely to lose their young or even themselves to an eagle. So Laverne and Shirley (I know, they’re ganders, but I can’t help myself) are now ensconced on Fat Pig Farm as close buddies, decked out in brilliant white feathers and going nowhere near the shelter I brought in specially. They have no chooks to boss around and nothing but themselves to keep an eye out for, and they’re loving their new home.
I had to leave home recently, to attend a writer’s festival in Perth. And the most common question, as is often asked, is, do I miss being a restaurant critic. One morning, I ate in a café where the 'fresh" juice was, I guess, fresh from a bottle, and the whole exercise a cynical money grab from a place that once enjoyed a fine reputation. One night, I ate a steak that had about half the flavour of one I last had from my farm, and the riverside bistro that forgot my coffee and served the blandest toast and a croque madame minus any mustard or béchamel was just plain ordinary. I’m glad I don’t have to eat in places like that for a living. To find one good one, I used to eat in five bad ones. Luckily, I did discover Greenhouse and ate brekky there every day, including a second breakfast on the day I was dudded elsewhere. And the best meal of the trip was at my friend Jan’s house.
It’s always a relief to come home to my place, our garden and the family. A place where two shoots of purple sprouting broccoli can be turned into a good plate of pasta. A place where the corner of the pig paddock yields marble-sized kipflers and dutch creams, with the texture of fudge and the taste of butter. And the first roast pork in nearly a year, with its flavour of the sweet grain and grass the porker was finished on; a triumph of what good meat can and should be, but often isn’t.
Speaking of meat, the latest casualty of my conscious decision to eat flesh is Wilbur, the friesian/jersey cross born last May. I wanted to take him off to the cutting shop while he was still suckling, so the meat is richer, the fat denser than he would otherwise have had. I also wanted to dry age the sides in a chiller for a few weeks. It’s only the second time I’ve done it and last time it gave us beef for a year and plenty more besides. The flavour was incomparable. Grim as it may seem, I’m still more comfortable taking an animal off to the abattoir that I’ve help to raise than buy anonymous meat on a plastic tray in a supermarket. I hope I never take it for granted that I have the responsibility and the luxury of rearing livestock for the pot, and strangely feel better having looked dinner in the face.