There was sun yesterday and now it’s gone again. My hopes for spring were raised, and have to be postponed for the next while.
Despite loving being here in Austria and knowing that there will soon be spring, then summer and both with a garden to dig in, this interview with Stephanie Alexander on The Design Files has me longing for Australia.
We have a copy of Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion which has turned out to be completely true to its title. Faced with a new ingredient, a wish for a certain dish or just looking for inspiration we ask each other “what would Stephanie do?” As best I can I source Australian-style ingredients and return to the realisation that Australian food is different, not only because of the climate, but because of the people who have grown food there over the last centuries.
Back in Adelaide there’s a particular patch of soil that I used to grow food in. Angelo, Dad’s Greek gardener planted and grafted olive trees so that we’ll be able to make our own olive oil. “Koroneiki,” he said, “they give the best oil”.
Slowly, the lemon and lime trees that I planted must be growing taller and as my Dad’s not much of a cook, any fruit is hanging there, waiting for a visitor to pick them. Maybe it would have made more sense to plant the citrus along the fence line where it would overhang onto the street, letting lemontreeless dog walkers take their pick.
Lemon trees overhanging into the street? It seems like a dream now! While I can pick wild bärlauch and find berries without problem, lemons are something you only find in stores here. Yet, after early years spent cooking in Australia I need to have lemons in my kitchen, the Mediterranean ingredients grown in Australia and now transplanted to Linz.
It’s always at this time of year that life in northern Europe continues to remind me of how very different my climatic upbringing was and how very diverse this world is. As an Australian I struggle amongst English labelled, European concepts to find the right words to describe the seasons and weather of my childhood. Now, despite helping out on some other gardens, I’m finally in charge of my own 16m2 plot and having struggles transplanting and translating my Antipodean Mediterranean/Tandanya bioregion gardening experience to Upper Austria.
Will sweet potatoes grow here? What about mulching, do I need to do that to reduce evaporation and can I get pea straw easily? Could I plant broad beans this early and where on earth would I get the seeds? Will mulching with pea straw protect against frost? And should I be able to buy Cavalo Nero seeds, will they be producing through to November?
It is a reminder that I am a migrant here, that not only do I struggle with language and the existing culture around me, but that I leave my traces on the people and land around me. Just as waves of settlement to Australia have brought wheat, cabbages, brocolli, olives, broad beans to Australia, my own culture and homesickness prompts me to import the food and plants of my upbringing. It might just be that sweet potato will grow here.