We had the biggest dining table of anyone I knew growing up. We certainly didn’t have the biggest house or the biggest rooms, but we definitely had the biggest dining table.
It would be pushed against the wall, and then pulled out to take up most of the available space when it was being used. I grew up at that table; hundreds and hundreds of conversations and meals with people from all walks of life, from all over the world. Anyone was welcome in our house, and sitting down and sharing food was always part of that hospitality.
Now I own that table, and another one besides. The new one, outside on the terrace, is even bigger. We’ve successfully sat twenty-four people around it to eat a meal.
And the hospitality and food and conversations have grown to fit it. We had close to three hundred Wwoofers from every corner of the world pull up a chair from the time our eldest was less than three years old. Our children have learnt there is very little universality, just perspective. Everybody brings to the table their own experience, their own way of eating food even – knife and fork, fork only, chopsticks, hands, soup slurped directly from a bowl.
Our Wwoofers have given us so much more than their time over the years. They've shared skills, ideas, recipes, support during the earthquakes, built our pizza oven and even created our logo!
Every Wwoofer who stays with us has to cook something from their homeland or family. As a result my children have had just about every iteration of pancakes possible; blintz, crêpes, pikelets, okonomiyaki, hotcakes, injera, cachapas, palacinke, nalesniki and kropser. They’ve honed their heat palates through Israel, South-East Asia, India and various American hot sauce bottles. They’ve eaten their way through so many different religious, seasonal and national food celebrations, and it’s through food they’ve learnt that everyone is different. And that is ok. Food is a both a way to tell our different stories and unite us as humans.
Food is a way to show love.
My mother had a significant birthday this weekend, and it was our chance as a family to return some of the hospitality we grew up with, to show our love through food.
It’s a pretty special thing to be able to feed forty or so people with what you’ve grown, and we all had a hand in getting it to the table.
The ham was from our pigs and the salads from our gardens.
Green bean salad with dukkah.
Tomato and basil salad.
Cos hearts from Godfather Michael with fresh herbs. This combination is a favourite given to me by MY godmother, Jenny Speight, originally from Wether Hill Station in Southland -mint, lovage, chives and parsley.
Beetroot and boysenberry salad with fresh goats cheese from our local Little Farm Goat Dairy.
Grilled courgettes and carrots with capers and NZ grown Pinoli pine nuts.
Matilda helped prepare the food and Flynn managed to convince his grandparents he could look after the drinks!
From when I was pretty young it was my job to make the birthday and other celebration cakes for my family. I handed the mantle to Ruby a few years ago, so she made her Grandmother’s four-layered carrot and cream cheese cake with fresh strawberries and dried roses. It was delicious!
The meal was a reflection of the huge amount we’re beginning to harvest on The Food Farm now, and this will continue until May. It’s really easy to underestimate the time it takes to harvest and preserve when you grow your own food, but we’ve learnt some lessons over the years. There are a number of Permaculture principles that apply to this time of year; ‘obtain a yield’, ‘catch and store energy’ and ‘produce no waste’ but it’s the old adage that’s my mantra of the moment- ‘make hay while the sun shines’.
Right, off to pick the courgettes before they double in size overnight….