Can you believe that we’re almost halfway through the year? If it weren’t for the chilly winter air, I’d still be easily convinced that it’s February, maybe March at a push. But no, it’s already June and the days keep marching on. These days it’s so easy to get swept up the whirlwind of day-to-day life that we forget to stop and take a breath before moving on to the next thing.
I feel like if I don’t pause and take a moment to take a breath I’ll blink and it will be Christmas again! That’s why I’ve decided to take the time to appreciate the food and drinks I use to fuel my body. We’ve written about mindful eating before, which has helped to guide me in this decision.
We can begin to appreciate our food more by taking the time to pause and reflect on why we’re eating, what we’re eating and where our food comes from. I feel that in order to truly appreciate the food on your plate, you need to know where your food comes from. And no, I don’t mean where you bought it, or what restaurant you’re dining at, but rather the journey the food in front of you has taken to eventually end up on your plate.
Farm to fork, sometimes called farm to table, is a movement focusing on local food and the journey it has undertaken to get from the farm to get to you, and this movement has become huge over the last few years. To sum up this movement, we as consumers want to know where our food comes from and how our community has been impacted or has benefited from the production of this food. When you shop at your local butchery or farmer’s market, you can really get to know the story behind your food as well as the story of the people who made it happen — and you know where it came from! The last time I shopped at a farmer’s market, I splurged on artisanal breads and cheese from a small stall, and the owner told me in detail about her cow, Bessie, who produced the milk that went into the cheese I was buying. I don’t know about you, but I definitely appreciated that cheese more knowing where it came from!
So, it’s easy to appreciate your food at home and when you’re shopping locally, but how can you do the same when eating out? Luckily, many top South African chefs have taken a farm-to-fork approach in their kitchens. These days it’s rare to find a good restaurant in the Winelands that doesn’t have their own herb or vegetable garden on the property. Some restaurants on wine farms, such as Spier, focus a lot on ethical farming and produce many of the ingredients in their restaurants themselves. When you know where your ingredients come from, the food just tastes better!
And the same goes for the wine in your glass. As consumers, we don’t always realise how much effort goes into the wine we buy, but it’s more than just harvesting grapes — that’s for sure! Tasha and Marié recently attended Backsberg’s harvest celebration, where they were reminded of how much time and effort goes into each bottle of wine. Everything, from the soil, to the time of year the grapes are harvested and how long the wine ferments, plays a role in the final product. Their experience reminded me of how much work goes into producing a bottle of wine, which in turn has lead to me savouring my wine more.
If first year student Carmen could see me now, she’d probably wonder what the hell I’m on about! But it’s simple really — I can finally appreciate good wine and its history, and I can afford more than a R25 box of Robertson Rosé from Aandklas, so why not treat myself and enjoy the experience while I’m at it? Appreciating your wine doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be pretentious about it, though. It’s more about appreciating the hard work that has gone into the wine in your glass, as well as savouring the experience of drinking it. I do try to make a point of buying local wines though — which might be a bit easier for me, since I live in the Winelands — and I try new and smaller boutique wines whenever possible.
So when you’re enjoying your next meal or glass of wine, pause and reflect on where it came from and the hard work that went into creating the products in front of you. Engage your senses and really take in the sights, smells and sounds. And when you’re cooking, or just before you take that first bite of food, stop for a second to appreciate the journey it took to get in front of you — who knows, it might even change your entire relationship with food!