Often consumed out of necessity rather than desire, fruit and vegetables have long been unfairly derided as healthy yet bland. In Food Safari Earth, however, Australian food empress Maeve O’Meara sets out to prove their capabilities go far beyond the thankless task of keeping ungrateful humans alive. She hoists fruit and vegetables into the spotlight, bestowing nature’s superfoods with the credit they so richly deserve and ensuring they are tagged with the disparaging title of side dish no more!
Packed with vitamins and minerals, fruit and vegetables provide the nutrients and fibre humans require to function properly, as well as medicinal qualities and the convenience of cheap, tasty snacks. Yet they still frequently face the stigma of being considered an unwelcome accompaniment to the parts of a meal people actually want to eat.
Thankfully, as O’Meara’s travels reveal, modern cuisine is shirking this unfair notion and fresh produce is being utilised in inspired methods. Tantalising meals are being created using nothing but the ingredients many of us would have formerly camouflaged under the remnants of mashed potato in an attempt to hide them from our parents.
Food Safari Earth also brings to light the value of staples, which allow societies to survive and prosper thanks to unheralded superstars such as rice and the potato – a food so relied upon that its unavailability caused starvation and mass emigration from Ireland during the famed potato famine of the 1840s. Any human with such influence over millions of people would potentially yield that power with a ruthless iron fist, but not only is the potato readily obtainable and consistently cheap, it is also so accommodating to humankind it literally grows in the dirt!
With fruit and vegetables playing a key role in every global culture, O’Meara talks to a variety of cooks from different culinary backgrounds, learning about the cultural importance of fresh produce in Indian, Asian and Middle-Eastern cuisine among others. She also notes the increasing availability of previously little known food varieties in Australia, helping contribute to the growth and diversity of vegetarian options in cooking locally.
Perhaps in part due to their low cost and abundance, fruit and vegetables have long been taken for granted. But the increasing demand for tasty, nutritious food, as well as the growing global need for sustainable produce in general, emphasises how valuable fruit and vegetables are moving forward.
Herbivores have long known the benefits of a diet rich in plant life. Whether it’s an entire nutritious meal or a tasty snack, fruit and vegetables are the building blocks of global nourishment, providing an endless array of culinary possibilities.
Offering a fine and overdue tribute to these often underappreciated stars of the food world, Food Safari Earth reminds us all of the value of the humble fruit and veg, acknowledging their contribution to society and the undisputed debt of gratitude we all owe these fine servants of humanity. (Even cabbage, which may not be to everyone’s taste but which is an excellent source of vitamin C and an unarguably dominant force in the world of lettuce impressions.)
Watch Food Safari Earth on Thursdays at 8:30pm on SBS. Missed the latest episode? Watch it at SBS On Demand: