This weekend 80 food bloggers from around the country will descend on Adelaide for the 3rd Eat.Drink.Blog conference for food blogging. Previously held in Melbourne and Sydney, this is a fantastic get-together of old friends and new acquaintances who spend the day discussing food trends, blogging ideas, technical SEO details and practical skills such as food styling and photography.
It’s become so good and so jam-packed that for the first time, it’s being held over two days, with workshops and food tours to get everyone worked up. Amongst other highlights I am doing a writing workshop with the incomparable Dianne Jacob who writes Will Write For Food, and a conference dinner cooked by none other than The Cook and the Chef’s Simon Bryant. Also, this year, Yours Truly has been invited to be on a panel framed around opportunities that come from blogging, talking about my experiences writing a book. That session is on Sunday afternoon.
The best way to follow the conference is through Twitter under #EDB2012.
I arrived in Adelaide early this morning and found my way to the Central Market. I wanted to wander through it without an escort mainly to get a feel for how it would be for any other person doing their shopping on a busy Friday afternoon. (Fridays are when I go shopping at my local market in Melbourne). I also wanted to see how prices compare as readers are very quick to tell me that regional prices vary considerably from larger cities. It’s a fair comment, so I wanted to see for myself. To be honest I was expecting large price hikes.
There is no better time of year than now to take advantage of the very best of produce this country offers. Wherever you live, fruit and vegetables are cheap and abundant, there is huge variety in meat and fish and the warm weather encourages a range of meal options.
Earlier this week I took a friend to the Queen Vic Markets. In part it was to satisfy her hunter/gatherer instincts with a perfect touristy opportunity, but it was also for my own ulterior motives. With stall holders shouting out friendly banter, the first of autumnal foods making their way to market and the perfectly sweet smells of mango and strawberries filing the air, it was a heady place to be. And the prices. Did I mention the prices?
About this time of the year, every year, a friend of mine has an existential crisis that manifests itself as a monumental dose of man-flu. It always happens at this time of year, just after the footy finals, just before the Spring Racing Carnival. It’s the end of a long hard winter, the work piles up around him, he is ten months past his last holidays and the end of the year still seems a long way off.
So he lies down until the feeling passes. It usually takes a week to ten days.
The thing is, he’s not alone. If it’s any consolation, many people get to this time of the year and wonder if there is any change in sight. Perhaps your recovery could be hastened if you could have come shopping with me this afternoon.
When people think of seasonal food, they often think in terms of fruit and vegetables only. A visit to your local market at this time of year should be enough to remind you that meat also has a season. Specifically, lamb is at the peak of it’s season and now is the time to look for good bargains in this most favorite of the nation’s meats.
Him: Yeah, they came in this morning. Some people like to eat them like this, when they’re small, pods and all.
Me: Really? (Looks at the larger pods critically. Starts thinking about what food they would go with) Well I won’t be doing that. I’ll probably just cook them and mash them with some olive oil and make a pesto and put them on some fried haloumi that I got over there (nods head in direction of deli shops)
Him: (Rolls eyes into back of his head) Oh, that sounds great.
Me: So have you got any baby spinach leaves?
Him: No, no green stuff.
Me: Any asparagus?
Him: No, nothing like that (Nods head in other direction towards neighbouring fruit and veg shop) but they do over there.
This week I moved house for the third time in four months, this time to Melbourne’s northern suburbs and within shooting distance of both market and shopping centre. My choice was a happy one: Supermarket or fruit market? I chose the former this week for price checking, the latter for browsing and menu planning. For the first time since I started this blog, I am completely spoilt for food choices and am incredibly blessed.
Outstanding value for money/Peak of season
New Season, likely to come down in price over the next few weeks
Many of us have been kissed by a brief promise of Spring this week. The blossom is out on plum trees. Birds are nesting. There’s a very faint tinge of green on some trees in the neighbourhood. Blessedly, heaters were turned off and feet were released from socks and slippers. We sat in the sun. We saw mangos and oyster blade steaks in the shops for the first time this year. We even saw bananas finally coming down in price.
It’s the small things you notice first. The woman who parked next to me and proceeded to assemble a two-tiered shopping cart. The smell of bacon and egg rolls. The shouted comments and banter between stall-holders. The carefully marked signage showing the way down the hill towards the building at the end.
I held it together, really I did as I wandered past the fruit and vegetables, carefully separated from the organic produce stalls running parallel to their neighbours. Kept my cool as I saw the vibrancy and range of produce, saw the duck eggs, saw the organic free-range eggs carefully separated according to the colour of their shells. Saw the huge claret stalks of rhubarb, blood oranges, tuscan cabbage, chestnuts and the very first broad beans of the year at prices that were half what I saw in supermarkets.
How beautiful do these displays look? How much do you want to dive right into this produce?
Here’s the thing about Melbourne I love and have recognised from the start. Melbourne has it all going on. It doesn’t wear bling like Sydney. It isn’t try-hard. It knows what it does well and it doesn’t have to brag. It is a very self-assured town and when it comes to food, Melbourne doesn’t have to be boastful – it simply gets on and does it: Market after market after market. Wherever you live in this town, a market is only a short journey away.
What a difference an eleven hour interstate drive makes to prices and seasonal availability. The good news: There is a noticeably different range of fruit and vegetables in the shops in Victoria that would not otherwise appear in NSW for at least another month. The bad news: A punchy reality check on prices.
Being in a one-supermarket town does not auger well for competitive prices wherever you are around the country, as I discovered this week. Thankfully Victoria does farmer’s markets better than just about anywhere else in the country and I can’t wait to head into town over the next few weeks (while I still have wheels to do so) and check out the larger produce markets.