"Have this lettuce", and other things my neighbour says

We've got a new neighbour. He's 63. I know this because we've become friendly since we started sharing a driveway three months ago. I also know he likes legumes, appreciates a slice of cake for breakfast and his birth date is precisely five days before my husband's. Upon discovering this connection, he felt we were to be great neighbours...friends. And indeed we are.

Our neighbour is a generous gifter of homegrown silverbeet. His family makes grappa, which he shares keenly, along with his vegetable soup. I feel I am lagging in the sharing department, though I did make him brownies and brought him homemade stock. And over the Melbourne Cup long-weekend he borrowed our spit roaster to compliment his smaller spit. A truly mean feast was cooked that day, featuring (amongst countless dishes) a whole pig and a delightful, tomatoey, giant bean preparation. In the days following the party he'd knock on our door gifting leftovers to say thank you, from cake to a tub of his sister's tzaziki, none of which lingered in our fridge very long. We now have a large container of his lamb spice mix for future cook-ups, which makes me feel ok about the fact that I just finished the leftover lamb from his New Year party in early January. His roasted meat is beyond delicious... like, it's not even funny.

I feel very grateful we have such an open-hearted neighbour. He has taught me a lot in the few months we've known each other. Sometimes I catch myself wanting to duck into the house undetected, but I am always happy when I get over myself and have a chat by the fence. More often than not he's trying to hand me some lettuce. I've decided that hearing the story of his voyage to Australia when he was 17 is worth the sugar high from that second slice of cake he forces me to eat. I just hope that one day he'll tell me the story of how to make his sister's spinach pie.

A few weekends ago the three of us went out for coffee. Over espressos, our neighbour spoke of his mission to find the best, most fresh, local fish. So later that day, Ben and I introduced him to our way of buying fish, via Peninsula Fresh Seafood, a delivery truck established by Dromana Bay Mussels that parks itself on the Safety Beach foreshore during set times over the weekend, selling (mostly) locally sourced seafood. On Saturdays and Sundays we get a text announcing the catch of the day! And then we scurry to beat other locals and holidaymakers to the truck, each of us dreaming up what we'll cook for dinner while waiting in line.

We love this system, it's incredibly convenient and helps us support local fishermen, plus we find it to be fairly reasonably priced (though some of it is a bit $$$). On this day we arrived hungry for scallops and calamari (mum also receives the texts and my dad had instructed us to purchase the goods for our family dinner). Our neighbour joined us, keen to check this truck business out. He was...dubious, insisting he could get better seafood and for half the price. Indeed recently he gifted us some frozen whiting that was superb...and if his fish sources turn out to be half as life-changing as that spit roasted meat (which he gets from some farm out of Melbourne) I will happily support my neighbour's inherent need to share and connect. But in the mean time, we'll enjoy the convenience of Peninsula Fresh Seafood.

Summer in Australia means seafood - fish and chips, spaghetti alle vongole, garlicky prawns, fish tacos with avocado and tomato salsa, and big bowls of mussels with bread. There's nothing quite like fresh seafood, cooked with garlic, a little chilli and finished with lime juice. That's what Ben and Dad did that Saturday night with these scallops and calamari.

Bread too, of course.

Note: a lot of fish in supermarkets is flown in from overseas, which makes little sense to me when we have such good seafood here. As a dietitian I encourage clients to eat fish for the beneficial nutrients (and general deliciouness), but we need to be careful what we recommend from a sustainability point of view. Our oceans are overfished and we're depleting our resources, and I'm certainly not confident in the farmed fish method from an ethical and nutritional point of view. So my idea is to select seafood that is naturally more sustainable, like mussels, sardines and anchovies. Smaller fish and filter feeders are always a good idea. Plus they are outrageously high in certain good nutrients we tend to lack, from zinc to omega-3 fatty acids. My sources tell me to expect sardines soon! Meanwhile, there are other fish varieties on offer at the seafood truck to play with - from garfish to red mullet. I must say I don't know where to start with these new-to-me beauties, and whether they're a good choice sustainability-wise. Let me know if you have any thoughts or tips! I'm open...

Heidi xo
FoodHeidi Apples13 Comments