Highlights were catching up with Alex (Paul's second cousin) and meeting Alex’s fiancée Dominica and her family.
We had a great meal at Embers (Dominica and Marissa’s restaurant) with Alex on our first night. Good food and conversation and a lovely warm feeling of connection. I haven't seen Alex since our wedding I think and the conversation took off like it was yesterday. We had a visit to Dominica’s family farm the next afternoon. Alex had cooked up a great feast for us all and while final preparations were happening, Paul Isaac and I went on a tour of the orchard. Sascha and Dom kept playing with Kaylee’s (Nicci's sister) young sons and their toys (including some seriously fun, pedal-powered John Deer tractors). We had a marvellous time collecting snails for the chooks, seeing the new baby Araucanas, playing with the dogs, meeting the horses and sampling delicious fruit from the cool room. It was appalling hearing firsthand how the price for fruit has just plummeted due to cheap imports from China and how meagre the remuneration is for growing great quality, local fruit. The supermarkets just tell farmers how much they will pay now – take it or leave it. Mostly now, Jill and Ray only just break even. Made me even more fired up to keep buying from farmers markets whenever we can.
Jill and Ray also showed us Jill’s lovely little antique shop on the farm where even Isaac was entranced by some of the old trinkets. I could have been seriously in danger if we had any space whatsoever!! Still we managed to find room for a huge styrofoam box of delicious fruit that we have only just completed!
We headed back to Dominica’s sister, Kaylee's place, and had a meal on a long table looking over the orchard at sunset. I felt like I was on some food adventure show! The table groaned with food and the dogs were all trying to sneak a sausage here and there. Only the chill in the air as the sun set made the whole thing real!! We had a teeny bonfire after dinner for the boys and cooked some marshmallows. Everyone had a great time and we felt very sad to leave and sorry to not be helping with the washing up and feeding the horses!! I can see why Alex feels so excited about his new family-in-law and life. We spent the next few days and weeks finding different ways to say no to Dom each time he asked if we could go to Alex’s farm again today!
I serendipitously read on my facebook stream one night that Matthew Evans, from Gourmet Farmer, would be in Fremantle filming for a show on sustainable seafood and doing a sardine cookoff against local celebrity chef Anna Gare. We had been watching Hugh’s Fish Fight online with the boys and it married well with our current homeschool “unit”! Off we went the next day to a surprise for the boys. They were very curious but enjoyed the anticipation and were totally chuffed when at the place we stopped for lunch they amazingly found Matthew Evans… interviewing Tim Winton, especially once they found out who Tim Winton was! We have been a bit remiss in our teaching on Australian authors. I couldn’t say the same thing about Australian and overseas celebrity chefs with a strength in sustainable, local, real food! I was brave enough to have a quick chat and a photo with Tim and a longer chat and some photos with Matthew. The boys got their journals for the year signed and felt pretty pleased about the whole affair. For those interested Anna Gare (who is also lovely) won with harissa sardines on a quinoa tabouleh (which was awesome) over Matthew’s battered and fried sardines with a tomato salsa and saphron aioli, both by popular vote, and in our immediate family!! I could happily eat Anna's meal again… just need to get my hands on that recipe! Isaac found it a bit too “fishy” but I am sure in time he could be brought round to the virtues!!