Beans from Italy in times of crisis

On January 11 2011,  with the word out that the worst floods since 1974 were about to hit Brisbane,  panic buying ensued.  I left my workplace in the CBD around 9.30am as my suburb was on the list of 30 suburbs on high flood alert. The train was packed.  My husband left work shortly after. At home we did a quick stock take of our emergency supplies:- water, torches, gas and food then headed straight to the supermarket to get what we were missing. Already all the water, bread, milk and meat had sold out. The shelves were looking bare and the queues backed down the aisles.

Our neighbourhood was hit hard by the floods with large parts of Oxley, Sherwood, Graceville and Chelmer going under. It was a nervous few days watching the water level rise. We were lucky as only our basement went under by a foot.

The next morning we lost power for 5 days and ran out of ice.  This radically reduces the options of  food available to you.

I usually try to avoid shopping in supermarkets but with most of the shops in the suburb closed and the rest of Brisbane  inaccessible I went back to the supermarket to get eggs. For all my major supermarket bashing,  in a time of crisis the supermarket ended up being the main source of food supply in our suburb for days. Standing there looking at the mostly empty racks, I had to ditch my usual  ‘food choice’ checklist.  My preference is for free range eggs, from a sustainable farm not too far from Brisbane.  With only a handful of cartons left and time running out (the store was losing generator power) we quickly grabbed a carton with the longest use by date on it.

The floods came so suddenly and changed things in Brisbane.  Now with more time to sit, this has got me thinking. Is the ethos of Small Town Chutney a luxury? I mean when faced with a crisis, I was grabbing food where I could and eating beans from Italy. If you were on a 100 food mile diet during this period you would probably be resorting to eating the herbs growing on your balcony.

There is still so much to be done in the clean up of the floods in Queensland.  Many people can not return to their homes and are still without power. Lives have been lost and possessions destroyed. I had prepared a few posts for Small Town Chutney over the Christmas break that I was excited about but now in the face of all this devastation,  it seems frivolous.

While the floods in Queensland are a major disaster there is people all over the world that are living in dire circumstances and starving.  To an avid cook and blogger I find food fun,  an outlet for my creativity. BUT  food is essential to survival.

My beautiful sister returned from a 5 week holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia to catch the tail end of the floods and start of the major clean up in Brisbane. She was telling me about some of the conditions in Cambodia and the extreme poverty in Tanop (a little rural village they visited in Cambodia).  Their stories were very humbling. Great food can be found all through south-east asia and the depth of culinary skills is incredible. But with a demanding population  and poverty, food no matter how well served  is about survival for millions.

The  floods in Brisbane have been a sobering experience. I have questioned whether what I have to say is important or just a luxurious ideal. Small Town Chutney is never meant to be about the gourmet food of the fortunate but rather a study of food trends and making a deeper connection to something that is so vital to life.

Why do I care where my food comes from? I have food and am not going hungry.

On the plus side, in the aftermath of the floods, a strong community spirit has shone bright. People willing to give a helping hand have poured out in their thousands.

In the coming months it is important for us to support our local farmers and producers. Many of the local markets are still operating in Brisbane. For a list of markets updated with flood information go to Our Brisbane.

I am definitely going to continue my blogging journey and I personally hope to take the lessons of the floods with me and carry on the community caring.


4 thoughts on “Beans from Italy in times of crisis

  1. catlyne says:

    I love your blog Isabella and please keep it going. I think the message – natural food, lovingly grown close to home then lovingly prepared at home – has to be re-learnt by every generation. You present it elegantly and pictorially without pontificating – (which is what I tend to do).
    Yes, people are starving overseas but here in Oz, people are dying because they don’t value their food and don’t understand the connection between the land, the way food is grown and prepared and their health.
    So go for it and I’ll happily keep reading it.

    • Isabella says:

      Hi Catlyne – Thanks for your comment. As this is my debut into public writing it is very encouraging that you enjoy my presentation. I have discovered a new love of photography and appreciation for food. I am learning so much with every post.

  2. JB says:

    Hi Isabella. This post reminded me of one I read recently on a pop culture site I visit regularly, where the host was also questioning the worth of her (very clever and humorous) posts on the shallow world of entertainment in the face of such social upheaval and loss in Qld.

    However, as me and other readers noted, it’s at times like these that people need a respite and a reason to smile, and sites like hers allow an escape from the reality.

    In YOUR case, however, your blog is so much more, as it looks to not only the pleasure of that elusive find or taste, or its aesthetics, but the essential sustenance and sustainability that food represents in our lives, whether in a city or not. I love the premise of your blog, and you are unwavering in your passion and commitment which always makes for great reading.

    I for one will be looking forward to how Brisbane reshapes – and replenishes – itself through the eyes of Small Town Chutney. We need all the perspectives, not just the economic and political 🙂

    Best wishes as you continue your mopping up and getting on with living … and eating … and writing xx

    • Isabella says:

      Hi Jean – thank you for your lovely comment and the encouragement. I do feel focused on the topics I am exploring and since starting this blog I have loved all the people I have met and places I have been able to visit. Having had time to think I am now ready for a very interesting 2011.

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