Q&A – Cooking with Simon Bryant
- You’re visiting the Adelaide Hills Farmers Market on Saturday, February 7. What are you most looking forward to, and can you give us any hints about what you think you might cook?
I love the hills and its a rare priveledge to live in a city where you can leave the CBD and be in the hills in under an hour…you just don’t find that in many places. Its a productive little region that punches above its weight for hard fruit, olives and oils, artisan cheese, dairy, small scale meat producers and of course fresh vegies ! Im not planning anything in particular, I like to just have a sniff around and cook whatever looks good on the day. Thats the best way to cook.
- What misconceptions do you think people have about buying seasonally and cooking in season, and how would you like to change that?
Some people believe having infinite choice and endless availability is a good thing, and it might be cheap to buy on the shelf but the problem is that comes with all sorts of other costs. Food being shipped half way around the world is simply neither fresh or “responsible” . Its not a viable proposition to use all the energy inputs a global cold chain system uses, it may be economically possible but the true cost is so much higher. You are buying food from people you don’t know, maybe supporting unfair wage systems, burning up fossil fuels for no sound reason. You also lose the anticipation and magic that the seasons bring, if you have to wait all year for something then you will appreciate it, who wants christmas 365 days a year!
The other issue is cookbooks that are not arranged seasonally or cross seasons with key ingredients, its just frustrating for shoppers and puts an unrealistic expectation out there. Even if you have a seasonal recipe in hand there is no guarantee that the ingredients will be available, thats the beauty of food, it runs to its own clock , slightly different each year. Just go to a market, buy what looks good and be inspired by what you can create when you get home. Recipes are just guides so if something isn’t seasonally available there will always be a substitute and this can often create a better dish than you had planned.
- Your food philosophy is based around sourcing the most ethical, local and fresh ingredients, why is this so important to you, and for those that don’t, what are the benefits?
I don’t dispute that some irresponsibly raised produce can taste good, its not something I like saying but it is none the less true. Generally a well raised product will taste better but there is more to it than that. I think they shopping is a massively political act, more so than your pilgrimage to the poling booth. I am a demandist , It doesn’t matter what is out there for sale -if know one buys it it will GO AWAY. I feel it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our hard earned money goes to people/ producers and companys that are trying to leave their patch of land and your health in better shape. This may cost a little more but its the right thing to do. As for animal ethics, we simply do not have the right to make an animals life a living hell before we take its life. There is a certain responsibility that comes with being at the top of the food chain and in my opinion that is to try and educate ourselves and make the best decision we can when we buy any animal product. It simply isn’t acceptable to shun this because we find it uncomfortable, there are some abhorrent practices in factory farming but there are alternatives. Products that are raised responsibly may have higher price tag but its a small price to pay when you consider how much less suffering is involved for a few dollars. You will almost certainly be eating healthier as there is a direct correlation between low density, low chemical , free range et all farming and the final health benefits of the product. High density meat farming almost always has some side effects from antibiotics, the type of feed used to increase yields and it often comes with many less than ideal environmental ( water , air and land) effects.
- We hear you’re a keen veggie gardener yourself, do you have any tips for our producers?
I used to be terrified when growers came to my house that everything wouldn’t look pristine but now I am a proud pirate gardener; a card carrying dirty ( weeds and bugs and all ) gardener ! I have amazingly good soil, it had chooks on it for 50 years and it has never seen a chemical, I am lucky enough to be given biodynamic preparations from some of my favourite growers so everything always grows well. I NEVER plant the same vegies two years running especially tomatoes and brassicas because I find it just attracts pests but I am pretty good at whipping up my own eco oil and I make a fish and seaweed fertiliser from kitchen scraps which seems to give the garden a good kick.
- Finally, if you could cook a meal for anyone, who would it be and what would you cook?
Oh I think just cooking for anyone is nice enough, it doesn’t have to be anything special. Some of the best meals I have ever had were not expensive and not in particularly glamorous company . Ive cooked for a fair few esteemed people but I honestly am glad not to have that sort pressure so much these days, it’s slightly nerve wracking. I will say though , never, absolutely NEVER cook a dish that you are not familiar or comfortable with when you are cooking to impress and the stakes are high , its a recipe for total disaster ( Believe me I know )