Paulette Whitney sells food plants and produce at the Farm Gate market in Hobart. She supplies leading restaurants including Garagistes, The Stackings at Peppermint Bay and Ethos Eat Drink. She has helped Hugh Whitehouse from Saffire source plants and seeds for his garden, has organised seaweed identification and foraging days and shared the story of Sea Celery with Peter Gilmore.
Describe your dish
My dish is one I cooked with my girls. They helped at every step, gathering the salad, herbs and eggs, grating cheese, mixing, coating bread, timing the eggs and decorating them.
The bread is a Pigeon Hole sourdough, made by the chef from our favourite cafe, from local, organic, wind-milled flour from Callington Mill. It was left over from yesterday’s picnic. The cheese we used in our egg mix was the rind of a Bruny Island Cheese ‘Tom’. With food wastage is such a big issue, using food that might otherwise be thrown away is important.
The herbs and greens are from our garden, for me they represent variety. So many of us are used to using a few ingredients, missing out on the nutritional benefits of diverse consumption.
How does your dish portray your relationship with food?
Growing, cooking and eating as a family has a multitude of benefits, but the one I’m most keen on is creating a habit of togetherness. When we ate this, the girls, their Dad—Matt Deakin, chef at Mures Upper Deck—and I talked about the different flavours and textures of the leaves and flowers. They swapped sorrel and chervil with each other, and gave me all of their rocket. They made posies of edible flowers, drew on eggs, dipped their soldiers and had a great time. Their minds, eyes and hands were stimulated along with their mouths and tummies.
If I haven’t grown it myself, I like to buy produce from people I know or know about. I look for minimal packaging, optimal animal welfare, and sensitivity to the environment.
As a horticulturalist with passions for both natural areas and for minimal input food production, I can be fussy. That is why it rocks to live in Tassie now. We can easily source Tasmanian, organic, windmill ground flour from a local co-op, milk from cows grazed on diverse pasture that packaged in glass bottles that we can return for refilling, and we feast on honey from an apiarist who uses unpainted timber for his hives to prevent potential contamination of the honey.
We have a community of friends and we share as much as we can; tools, seeds, produce, recipes, chooks, labour, care of children and knowledge – all with the aim of treading lightly and giving our kids a sense of security that comes with being among people who share and work together.
What inspired your food behaviour?
I grew up in a frugal, food worshipping household, where foraging, gardening, fishing, diving, hunting, preserving and eating together were central. I’ve always had an interest in native foods, as a child I pored over bush foods books from the library, cooked fish I’d caught with all manner of fragrant native plants, and some how survived the process!
I gradually came to realise that the less machinery my food had passed through, the better it was for me and for the planet. I worked for a long time at a nursery specialising in growing the spectacular plants native to Tasmania. Here I learnt about botany and edible wild plants, and my appreciation for the subtleties, diversity, fragility and usefulness of wilderness grew. What we consume has a direct effect on the natural environment.
When Matt and I merged bookshelves I read his Larousse cover to cover and wanted to taste every food. We bought 5 acres near Mount Wellington in Southern Tasmania and went crazy trying to cultivate every unusual edible that suited our climate. Possums, poor soil, lack of time and no irrigation meant much of our effort was wasted, then two little girls joined us.
Having a baby in my belly made me think hard about what I ate. I ate a wide variety of natural, unprocessed, organic foods that I thought would be best for my bump and for the quality of the breast milk that my children depended on to develop. When the babies were ate their first solid foods, purity and variety were a priority. They thrived on organic millet, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, brown rice and freshly prepared fruit and veg. Now, 6 and 4, they weed, catch slugs, plant and harvest. The garden and kitchen teach them so much, literacy, numeracy, independence, but mostly respect for food and where it comes from. They have raised birds and seen them prepared for the table.
What do you wish for the future of food?
I hope for less food in little plastic bags full of mysterious additives.
I want more people to come to my stall at the farmer’s market open to produce they’ve never seen before.
I also hope for more localised agriculture/horticulture. For market gardens to employ more people and less machinery/chemicals. For people to have the power to give themselves food security and for those who can, to be willing to pay a fair price for well grown food. For places under food stress globally to be enabled to undertake diverse local food production.
Mostly I hope for people to engage in thoughtful consumption.
If you’d like to tell your food story, hit me up @flavourcrusader or email me at info AT flavourcrusader DOT com