Photography by Alan Benson
We hosted the most enjoyable Book Lunch for Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evans on our shop verandah. Our 45 guests came together to hear about Matthew's book 'The Commons, A Year of Growing, Cooking and Eating on Fat Pig Farm.' This was really special for our family because we have been cooking Matthew's recipes for nearly two decades and still have a couple of recipes torn from The Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend, the earliest from 2001.
Jenkins Street Guesthouse catered for our wonderful event, devising a menu mainly from 'The Commons' including Strawberry and Mint Shrub, Pumpkin, Goats Curd and Thyme Tart, Pappardelle with Broad Beans and Lamb Ragu, Dutch Carrot and Burghul Salad, Chinese Cabbage Slaw with Fennel, Pecorino and Walnut Oil, and Roasted Yellow Nectarines with Orange-Blossom Water and Ginger Crumbs served warm with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. It was divine and we are grateful to Brett Gorman and Pip Brett for their talent in cooking such delicious food, and generosity in accommodating Matthew and mate photographer Alan Benson, who has photographed Matthew's dozen books. Paul and Jan McManus from Collins Booksellers Tamworth came along to sell Matthew's best selling titles at the event and singer songwriter Rachel Webster played for our gathering.
We've all witnessed Matthew's evolution from Sydney food critic to Tasmanian farmer through books, television and paddock-to-plate restaurant Fat Pig Farm, building awareness of our food sources and encouraging us to grow some of our food or get to know a farmer. Matthew explained the origin of 'The Commons' title, "This book is about the commons. What we share in common, what we feel in common, what we do in common." Matthew talked about the building of communities around food, whether it is a team like Fat Pig Farm's or bringing people together around a table. He also reflected on the need to support each other, often through food, in times of drought, bushfire, flood, and now Coronavirus. When bushfire left his elderly mother and her friends anxious from having to evacuate their homes on the NSW South Coast, Matthew did what he knew best, cooked for them, the only stipulation being they didn't talk about bushfire. While Matthew was in Nundle the impact of Coronavirus on our way of life was unfolding. The Prime Minister had announced that a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people was coming into effect the next day. A week later there was a ban on cafes, restaurants and bars, with more restrictions to be rolled out. Matthew wrote a Fat Pig Farm newsletter about the difficult decision to close their restaurant for the time being, in line with restrictions. Despite this devastating disappointment he encouraged people to support local businesses and to stay connected. "Humans can and should interact, but for a short period, relatively, that might need to be across the farm fence or over the internet, not within each other’s reach. We will be able to sit at our tables once more with strangers, to break bread and build community through shared meals. That time isn’t right now. But it will be again."