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.