She’s a PhD candidate, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and would-be cultural commentator with a penchant for food and community.
She’s now a farmer. Meet Tammi Jonas.
Describe your dish
This is a chicken tortellini en brodo served with tomato, cucumber and bread salad—for starters we had a loaf of sourdough that I made that morning and some of Stuart’s olives, which he picked from around the neighborhood and cured over winter. The salad was sourced from our garden, and the chicken (meat and stock) was one we slaughtered that day. The kids helped me pluck the chicken and make the tortellini.
How does your dish portray your relationship with food?
I like to cook with whole ingredients whose provenance I know, and this meal epitomised that. It’s really important to us that our children are raised with a deep knowledge of where their food comes from and how to prepare it in nourishing and delicious ways.
Food is central to everything—the environment, culture, community, health, and of course, pleasure. By creating a dish that involved the whole family, from the care of the chickens to their slaughter, the planting of the tomatoes to their harvest, and the shaping of the tortellini as we did our nightly family dance in the kitchen, we connected ourselves to each other and the land in ways you simply cannot do with processed foods or takeaway. This particular meal found the five of us all beaming at each other around the table as we savoured every bite. We try to create that experience daily around here, and succeed much of the time, even though we certainly don’t grow all (or even most) of our own food (yet).
I try to buy fresh produce from local growers, especially meats. In fact, we take local, ethical meat production so seriously we’ve just become free-range pig farmers ourselves!
And of course we have a closed system—any waste becomes chook food or compost, though in truth there is little waste around here! Now that we have pigs I even have an excellent use for the whey leftover from cheesemaking.
What inspired your food behaviour?
I was raised on industrial foods, and like to say that ‘liking real food was my rebellion’ (though admittedly there were more obvious ones…). My revelation(s) came from housemates during my undergraduate years in San Diego—Kathleen introduced me to fresh coriander and Nicole to butter rather than margarine. Suddenly I was like, ‘wait, I thought all these vegies and stuff were gross, but they’re actually good?!’
I became a vegetarian during third year at uni, which had a huge impact on my knowledge of the diversity of whole foods and their nutritional qualities. I was vegetarian for nearly 8 years in total, and never returned to eating factory-farmed animals, plus still cook vegetarian meals about a third of the time—I’d like to get that up to about half again in the interest of reducing our impact on the environment and ensuring a food secure future for the whole world, not just the Global North.
Travel has undoubtedly affected the very diverse cultures I draw on in my cooking, as has the significant population of Italian and Vietnamese Australians in Melbourne, without whom we wouldn’t have access to many once-exotic ingredients, let alone the bounty of multicultural culinary inspiration in our vibrant dining scene.
What do you wish for the future of food?
I’d like to see more small-scale, ethical farming embedded in communities, and more people committed to reduced meat consumption. I’d like farmers to be able to make a decent living, and for people to appreciate where their food comes from and those producing it. I’d like fresh, local, affordable produce available in all Australian communities—an end to so-called food deserts. And I’d really like to see every household, no matter its composition, engaging daily in the homely practices of cooking and eating together, and where possible, growing some of their own food. I would love it if cooking was generally considered a pleasurable activity and clothes (etc) shopping as a chore. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of hearing ‘I don’t have time to cook’, we heard ‘I don’t have time to watch tv’?
If you’d like to tell your food story, hit me up @flavourcrusader or email me at info AT flavourcrusader DOT com