How many sleeps? Part II

Yes, I am continuing to post on that dreaded date that is looming over all of our heads.

This time I want to talk about Christmas food.

Our day before we had kids would entail dragging our backsides out of bed at around 6:30, hauling over to Heidelberg where my parents live (a 40 minute drive around the city) and trying to be there in time for breakfast at 8 before hauling off to church at 9:30. We tried to keep up with that with the kids but it was hard enough to do without kids so we soon gave it up as a bad idea. In recent years we’ve aimed to arrive around 11ish after having opened gifts from Santa in the morning so we can meet up with my brother and sister-in-law who have a chaotic time fitting in seeing her extended family. We’d lunch to bursting and then after snacking throughout the afternoon on food we neither really wanted nor need and then inevitably stay and eat dinner with my parents before heading home with a car so overloaded with toys and gifts that we can barely see out the rear window and bellies several inches larger than they had been. Gluttony to the max.

They each came home with a bag like this FULL of toys last year

In our societies, we are very blessed to have access to food so readily and Christmas is a time that proves the point in fine style. Christmas dinner is usually enough to make the belt buckles need loosening, the shirt buttons pop and the mouth to salivate at the thought of all the delectables reserved especially for this time of year… And that is just thinking about it! The meal itself often includes greater excess than imagined. Roast turkey, pork and glazed ham or some tiger prawns for the less traditional. Apple sauce, cranberry sauce and gravy or seafood sauce. Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beans, corn, roast potatoes and pumpkin, carrots and parsnip, coleslaw, green salads and of course potato salad. And then there is dessert… Pavlova, trifle (loaded with grog of course), ice-cream plum pudding, plum pudding, brandy butter, brandy cream, custard, cream and ice-cream. Then there are the fruit trays. Being Summer here we have an amazing array of divine fruits. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, oranges, kiwi fruits, mangoes, pineapples, apricots, cherries and I know I have forgotten a heap. Have I forgotten anything else? Oh yes, the nibbles. Pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, chocolates, lollies (sweeties or candy), a ring of prawns as well as cheeses and meats, cocktail onions and other such pickles. *groan* I think I’ve just gained 5kgs simply typing it all out!

But here is something to think about. When are the fruits and vegetables actually in season which means they are then grown locally and not shipped from interstate or international locations.
Apples – in season from February
Nashi pears – in season from January
Nuts – mostly in season from March, if not April
Grapes – in season from January
Figs – in season from February
Kiwi Fruit – in season from March

And the veggies:
Broccoli and cauliflower – in season from July to November
Pumpkin – in season from March
Carrot and Parsnip – in season from April
Onions – in season from February
Celery – in season from January
Mushrooms – in season from March to November

Now, these are just Victorian peak seasons taken from here and I’m sure there is room for variation depending on growing seasons but it goes to show that many of the fruit and veggies we source for our Christmas dinner may well not be fresh or local. And as much as I would prefer to buy something shipped from Queensland rather than overseas, there are still carbon miles that need to be considered.

PicturePrawns were to me growing up, a real delicacy. You had a few baby shrimp or prawns in your Chinese Fried Rice take out and they were divided equally and to be squabbled over. I still remember my first ever taste of king prawns in a strawberry sauce when I was in my early teens – my grandmothers 70th birthday I think (she’s nearly 90 now). It was a special food allowed only for a special occasion. I was also allowed to try some barramundi then too. However, prawns and many other fish are over fished or farmed in a way that is damaging to the environment. Others are very slow-growing which means they take a long time to replace those we catch and eat. Check here, here and best of all here for more information on fishing practices and good seafood choices.

What about the meat we eat. Turkey, ham, pork, chicken, beef or any other meat is, at least in our recent history, usually factory farmed. I cannot recommend enough watching this video about factory farming. Factory farms traditionally raise limited breeds which have been bred selectively for fast growth and may have been pumped with hormones to increase that rate of growth. They’re fed corn and soy instead of their natural foods of grass, insects and other free-range available foods, and both soy and corn can be GMO. They are raised en masse and slaughtered en masse too. And due to their crowded conditions, any diseases or infections will spread en masse too so they’re often routinely fed antibiotics to prevent this. The cycle continues when antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria arise and I know in the USA there have been outbreaks that have caused people to die from eating meat products infected from these antibiotic resistant strains. Kevin’s story is one that is more well-known due to being shared through the movie Food Inc. So, how can we enjoy our Christmas meats but not eat foods that are treated with cruelty and disdain? Well, there are options like not eating meat and having a vegetarian or vegan Christmas but this is not for everyone. Restricting your meat intake can go a long way too. Do we really need 6 different meats on our plates? If you do still want the variety and traditional Christmas meats then buy organic and free-range. Certified organic foods will contain neither hormones nor antibiotics. However, this does not necessarily mean it’s slaughtered in a way that is different to the usual processing plants but from the research I have done I’m not coming up with much good news. If you can source direct from the farm itself where the processing has all happened on site it may be different. The best option I can think of if you do choose to eat meat is to raise and harvest it yourself.

Our Christmas meal plans will be for 1 meat only – home raised duck and it will have free-ranging access either in the chicken run which we plan to be of a goodly size, or indeed truly free ranging around our garden. When we do slaughter it we plan to do so as humanely as possible (yes I understand the oxymoron of ‘humane slaughter’) and we plan to not gorge ourselves to excess either so 1 duck will sufficiently feed the 5, or possibly 7 of us and I suspect we will have leftovers for dinner too. I’m planting carrots this weekend but I’m not sure they will be of a size to harvest, even as baby carrots and the peas will go in too along with the rest of our seedlings. Hopefully we get some perfect weather for an early harvest of just a few items. Whatever we haven’t grown in time will be purchased from the Ballan Farmers Market or possibly the Trentham Farmers Market in the 2 weeks before Christmas. At least then it will be locally sourced, keeping the carbon miles low.

Well, that’s enough from me today. Just some food for thought if you can excuse the terrible pun.

How many sleeps?

I’ve got a bad word I want to say. It’s a really scary word, brings about many mixed feelings and often results in its hearers grasping their wallets, either in glee or horror.

 

CHRISTMAS!

 

It’s only 55 days away!

So what does Christmas mean? For those of religious persuasion, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. For many others it’s a day like any other, except with higher pay rates. For most though, it’s a day where you give and receive many gifts, a day spent with family and friends, overindulging in fine foods and drink. It’s a day, generally celebrated with excess.

But who pays for that excess?

Firstly,  we do! Our credit cards will be groaning and the retailers we have visited will be rubbing their hands in glee at the glut of spending.

But who else pays?

When we purchase that gift to give someone, who is paying the true cost behind the gift? Who bears the brunt of the manufacture costs, production waste and then who performs the labour? What is the real price of the t-shirt you’ve just bought for $20? Well, if you think about a cotton t-shirt, where is the cotton grown? Is it GMO cotton and what impact does that have? Who picks the cotton? Then, where is it transported to for spinning, dyeing and finally weaving into a t-shirt? Who deals with the waste products and dirty water after dyeing? How far does the t-shirt then travel before it reaches the shop where you pick it up, purchase and package it into the shops bag which may well be plastic, before it comes home and is wrapped in paper before resting under the tree.

It’s pretty scary when you stop and look at what it takes to produce a simple t-shirt. Or pair of jeans, shirt, shorts or even the good old fallback jocks and socks. But is it any different from a technology gift? What is the footprint of an iPad, or a new laptop, or for the kids, toys. Plastic toys made from crude oil fossil fuels. Hmmm.

Christmas for us is also complicated by the addition of Allegra’s birthday just a fortnight before and my nephews birthdays in early January and early February. It is always a challenge to find appropriate gifts for them that don’t compromise our values (I try to avoid buying plastic when and wherever possible) and don’t cost the earth, figuratively and literally.

So, what can you do to reduce the impact of Christmas?

1. Make your own gifts. Pinterest is a wonderland of gift ideas that can be made at home, often using ingredients found in your pantry. From homemade body scrubs to cookies in a jar, there is a great idea here for many people. If you can sew, knit or crochet, there are heaps of ideas out there for small or larger gifts that can be made.

2. Buy an online gift. I’m not talking about shopping online for a gift but rather buying a gift that can be downloaded to their phone, computer or kindle such as a book or a film or tv series. These are great gifts for people overseas as the carbon miles are reduced greatly. Yes I know there is still impact, but the environmental cost of a digital book would surely be less than a paper book.

3. Give an experience. You could make up a book of vouchers or simply buy tickets to an outing or event for the person, and you could even buy tickets to make it an outing that you share together. Take the kids for a ride on Puffing Billy (for those in Melbourne), a trip to Luna Park (Sydney or Melbourne) or another theme park or even a trip to a local trout farm, or fishing on the bay. Make it a special day out including vouchers for ice-creams, fish n chips for dinner or other things the kids will enjoy that may be a bit of a treat. Chances are they will remember the experience far more than a gift that may well be obsolete or forgotten in a few weeks. For adults, tickets to a concert, lunch at a flash hotel or restaurant in the city or even a voucher for a spa treatment could be the perfect gift. As a full-time mum, the idea of an hour off for a massage, or even just a haircut is gold! (No, I’m not dropping hints.) Alternatively, give the gift of a short course or class. This may be a little harder when you have to plan dates but what about a cheese making class or a French cooking lesson?

4. Give a growing gift. In these times of rising food costs, buy a nice pot now, plant a variety of tomato seedling you think would be appropriate and remember to water it until Christmas. How lovely it would be to have your Christmas gift ready to start giving you tasty fruit that you could even use for Christmas lunch if you’re lucky. Plant some basil and chives around the bottom, buy a tub of bocconcini or a mozzarella cheese (or make your own if you’re a cheese-maker) and a box of crackers and you have ready-made fresh bruschetta to go!

5. If you do choose to buy a gift, try to buy one that is environmentally sustainable. Toys made from sustainably raised plantation timber, not old growth forests, organic and fair trade items whenever possible or even something that helps reduce energy costs like a bicycle or solar charger. Or support a local business. You could even look for a gift that replaces a disposable item such as a reusable coffee cup.

The impact of Christmas is not just in the gifts we give but also in the day itself. However, I have rambled enough for tonight and it’s time for this little hippy to get some sleep. That will be another post for another night.