The year drifts in and out of consciousness. Is that the hour – the month? I’ve overslept and January and now February have evaporated.
There have been the dreams of countless dawn-jewelled spider webs and the daze of almond blossom adorned by the dance of white wagtails that flit from branch to branch through the majesty of the groves.
If I get that far. Just outside the back door I have positioned a chair in the lee of the south wall to lose myself in the song of the siskin that perches every morning at the summit of our largest fig tree.
There are chairs everywhere now, including the little blue one moving sedately through the vineyard. It and I are getting to grips with the pruning, and after an hour at the task I leave it there, marking the point where I will resume on the morrow. My habit in all things is to chip away at several tasks at the same time, moving from one to the other in seek of balance – my desk, the woodpile, the vineyard, my desk , the barn, the woodpile and so on.
Perhaps this is a consequence of being a writer who has learned the hard way that after three hours of being engrossed in composition my mind’s wanderings become unprofitable and often ridiculous (!). So I go and do something else, and in that meditation of manual labour I often find the words I was searching for.
Yes, Maggie’s vineyard. I am trying to complete half of it while she takes a short break with her lovely, supportive family in England, resting from the relentless tasks here and from a nasty fall, tripping on an electric fence and being met on the way down by the up-ending wheelbarrow she had been pushing. The clout on the bridge of her nose yielded two black eyes, and she pulled something in her lower back.
In her absence I declare to you my immeasurable appreciation of her. She grafts, tends, supports and ensures. I want her to finish her vineyard without the weight of starting it.
And there is more for her to discover on her return. A few more grey hairs on my head for starters.
I’m pretty sure she’ll spot the new view from the front door. Or rather the old view now reinstated by the removal of Robbie the Range Rover, who came to a halt beside the path to the chickens five years ago.
He had become a fixture, the largest piece of clobber we owned, pressed into service as an animal feed store until the rats moved in, and then left to sink an inch into the earth. I had another reason to keep him, though. I threw a bucket of water over him occasionally and kept the undergrowth from claiming him completely because from the road it always looked as if someone was home.
But enough was enough. Masked, I gave him a shallow clean inside with a dustpan and brush and then called Joe who fetched the tractor and tow cable. The car’s engine had seized in 2008 and there was every chance the rest of him had fossilised too. The half-deflated flat tyres weren’t going to make budging him any easier either.
My plan was simple. Park tractor behind him: Attach tow cable to tractor and Robbie’s towbar: Put capable 12-year-old behind the wheel of the Range Rover, then try nudging the wreck down the 50- metre track to the meadow. If Robbie wouldn’t go of his own free will I would push him all the way. I even remembered to put the ignition key in to ensure the steering didn’t lock.
No sooner had I nudged the old brute out of his resting place than he – and Joe – started to gather momentum. Alarming momentum. The cable jerked in surprise then sprang off the tow bar.
If he didn’t make the hair-bend halfway down he would plough into the holiday cottage. I leapt off the tractor and belted after him, bellowing pointlessly. What I saw as potentially catastrophic the lad lapped up as enormous adventure. He made the bend, just, and finally came to rest five metres from the road, hopping out of the driver’s seat full of the joys of spring. I, meanwhile, had folded in half out of shock and exhaustion and was as white as winter.
Robbie is now parked on the meadow awaiting his final journey, but still looks quite perky and I remembered what a good friend from Darjeeling said – “If we could just get him there my family would rebuild him. Oh yes. Nicely.”
My year was awakened by a flurry of visitors. Brazilian ecologists from Barcelona came to see the land, possibly to run a market garden from here as we continue to explore ways of reducing our workload.
And then there was the day a chauffeur-driven Chrysler pulled in.
In it was Shuaib Al Muwaizri, the former housing minister of Kuwait, with his wife Hanan and two of their six children, daughters Mneerah and Haya. Being an old hack I had done my homework after a very posh Barcelona hotel had called me to say they had a client who was interested in our olive oil, but all the same I didn’t really expect the name they gave me to turn out to be one of the most significant politicians in the oil kingdoms.
As soon as he got out of the car I realised it was him. Shuaib, the first elected member of the Emir’s normally family-controlled cabinet, who resigned last year and has been pushing hard for peaceful, anti-corruption reforms in his country, spent the day with me. We talked about olive oil but to a far greater extent about his life and his hopes for his country.
We have stayed in regular touch, and as I write a small consignment of olive oil has just landed in Kuwait. Goodness knows what will happen next.
Meanwhile amazing Ella and Joe, fresh from the Encamisada horse parade, are going to climb La Mola mountain at the end of our valley (Snowdonia proportions) and will sleep up there to raise money for Red Nose Day. More grey hair. They are going to have to pick their moment carefully. As I look out of my office window La Mola has a snowy crown.
Want to help them raise funds to help children in Africa? Click here.
Maggie is on another mission, posting more recipes on our website, simple good fare – and timely, what with the unpalatable food truths now being put in front of the public. Delia’s new online cookery classes are coming at just the right time.
Society is fast losing touch with goodness and core values and has been schooled to expect a neatly-packaged, nicely chilled simplicity that is neither real nor sane. Giving blind trust on something as fundamental as sustenance is, when you think about it, loaded with guilt. We all know it would never be appetising to get close to the production line, to know exactly what it took to feed us so cheaply and for corporations to still make a fat profit.
In this age of fingertip knowledge we don’t want to know even if common sense tells us it cannot possibly add up.
Gross financial and time pressures on the typical family mean there appears to be no choice but to buy the marketing pitch, to make choices based on price and to reach for convenience. Not true. All power to Delia’s elbow as she opens her kitchen to show us. Making and sharing food is an essential, wonderful aspect of life, family and health.
And as for how we have reached this point, the economy-worshipping governments of all creeds, grossly irresponsible to date, need to prosecute the fictions and spell out the truths – for every label to say in legible print what exactly one is buying: For the imperative to be the definitive sources, age (not just best before) and all the ingredients in understandable language – and why not an online link to a webcam of the production line? Difficult? Hogwash.
Buy local produce when possible and build your trust and loyalty on the foundations of sustainability, provenance, nutrition and freshness. On the question of cost, we need to remind ourselves what is real and what matters most. We cannot afford not to.
I believe this is just the beginning of a food revolution, when the nutritionists will unravel the puzzle of the omegas and suchlike and we will listen attentively, hungry for health and a long life. We need to gather around the table again, to talk, share, resolve, laugh and rediscover that goodness.
Chew the cud on that and tell me what you think.
And if you didn’t see it here’s a link to new medical research on why fresh olive oil and the Mediterranean diet is vital.
I have to share this. Maggie Whitman’s Mother’s Garden feasts deserve no less. Yesterday she sent my tastebuds into orbit again, this time with her hake and prawns, almonds and parsley dish. And for what it’s worth, it is loaded with omega-3 and omega-9 goodness.
Maggie says it is a simple dish, with easily accessible ingredients. It is bursting with lovely flavours.
4 hake or other white fish fillets (sustainably sourced).
2 tbsp (30ml) of ground almonds for dusting (our alternative to flour)
4 tbsp (60ml) of Mother’s Garden fresh olive oil
1 tbsp (15ml) lemon juice
4 cloves of garlic, crushed (less or none depending on taste)
Quarter of a pint (150ml) of fish stock
Quarter of a pint (150ml) of white wine
6tbsp (90ml) fresh parsley, finely chopped
Two thirds of a cup (75g) frozen peas
Cup full of small prawns
Freshly ground black pepper and salt
You will need a good-sized, open ovenproof dish and a sauté pan. (Be sure to give everyone a spoon to polish off the juices on their plates!)
While your oven is reaching 180 centigrade season the fish fillets and dust with the ground almonds.
Sauté them in half of the olive oil for about a minute each side then put them in the ovenproof dish and pour over the lemon juice.
Wipe the pan clean.
Now sauté the onion and garlic in the remaining oil until soft before adding the stock and wine, peas and 80 per cent of the parsley. Season.
This sauce can now be poured over the fish and the dish can be put in the hot oven for about 15 minutes (Cooking time always depends on the thickness/size of the fish, so adjust oven time accordingly). Add the prawns and then cook for another 4 minutes.
Sprinkle with the rest of the parsley and serve with steamed vegetables (although our children also like some mashed potato to soak up the juices).
NEW SHIPMENT LEAVING SOON – ORDER NOW
A new shipment of fresh Mother’s Garden olive oil will leave next week for deliveries in early February so if you would like some please get in touch as soon as you can.
And if you need some tips CLICK HERE to read cook Stuart Buck’s latest blog all about our olive oil.
“When you get oil as fresh as a daisy it has a spicy, grassy taste that’s really pleasing in winter cooking.”
We advise everyone to follow this foodie blog, particularly if you are in Norfolk where Stuart is based.
Meanwhile let us know what you would like to order from the shipment. There will be the usual selection of 500ml bottles (in cases of 6), 2 litre containers, 5 litre containers and 20 litre bag in boxes (as some food cooperative groups, ie our hubs, are now appreciating).
New labels are being printed but we will not use these until all the current ones have gone – why create waste?.
So we have also decided to delay the 2013 price rise for now too.
All olive oil now being offered is at 2012 prices – £39 for 6x500ml bottles, £17 for 2 litres, £35 for 5 litres and £140 for 20 litre bag in box.
SO HURRY WHILE LABELS LAST!! Click here to order or contact your hub if you are part of one.
More and more people are taking a fresh look at olive oil!With the help of Tina from Priorat Provenance in Yorkshire, and Tamsin and Andy from Offshoot in Cornwall, we built on our top 3 Gold Stars Great Taste Award by linking up with a host of leading delis and chefs from all over the United Kingdom who want bulk fresh olive oil.As the orders come in we will keep you posted on where you can buy our arbequina oil and we will continue to add to our list of top chefs for whom it is an essential ingredient.
Today we can announce our latest customer is Alex Rushmer, runner up in Masterchef 2010. His restaurant is the hugely popular Hole In The Wall at Little Wilbraham between Cambridge and Newmarket – see www.justcookit.co.uk.
Are you a chef or deli looking for something different, something wonderful for your customers? Just drop us a line and we will explain how you can get the very best for as little as £7 a litre.
A huge thank you to all the chefs, deli and farm shop owners and the hundreds of private customers who have supported us. The fresh olive oil message is getting through – the very best olive oil need not cost a fortune, and can be at the heart of a healthy, wonderful daily diet, just as it is for us here in the Mediterranean region.
Latest health benefit report – our thoughts
New shipment of fresh olive oil being bottled now – orders please!
Mother’s Garden at important Cornwall food festival
More Mother’s Garden Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil is being bottled at the mill this week and will be ready for UK distribution in mid July. So get in touch to reserve some. Regular customers – and new customers – just click here to send us a message, or drop us an email.
Also, for all Cornwall-based olive oil lovers – our friends Tamsin and Andy will be talking about and selling fresh Mother’s Garden Olive Oil at the South Kerrier Festival Of Food, Helston Community College, Church Hill, Helston, this Saturday, 3 July, from 10.30am to 4pm.
And here’s something else to digest all of you who have quality (and fresh, we hope) extra virgin olive oil at the heart of your diet.
Beyond the exceptional flavour of fresh olive oil it is a generally appreciated now that the finest olive oil is associated with important health benefits. Composed of monounsaturated fats (80%) and polyunsaturated fats (20%), it is also a healthy substitute for saturated fats such as butter, for example.
Among the many findings, a few years ago scientists here in Spain said they had pinpoined the micro nutrients in olive oil that make it a good heart protector, supporting the accepted wisdom and other evidence that the Mediterranean diet cuts heart attack risk. The researchers said this is partly down to compounds called phenols that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and clot-preventing powers.
Well now it seems it is good not only for the heart, but the mind too.
You may have read of a recent three-city medical study in France that looked at 8000 people over 65 found that those who had plenty of olive oil in their diet had a 41 per cent lower risk of a stroke than those who never used olive oil. Fascinating and welcome new research, and it is easy to accept it as fact. While we firmly believe in the goodness of olive oil – fresh olive oil – we at Mother’s Garden urge everyone to push for more and more research into this ancient, wise and wonderful food, and to research for themselves into all findings to date.
The Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease as well as a reduction in risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol. High olive oil consumption is a fundamental feature of this diet. And with this truth comes the conclusion that higher consumption of olive oil reduces the risk of heart attacks and deaths, and is also linked to lower blood pressure.
Is this because, by definition, if you consume a significant amount of olive oil then you are eating a healthier diet in general? Because of the general high cost of olive oil are all regular consumers participating in studies likely to be able to afford a better diet in general?
If, beyond the wonderful flavour of fresh olive oil, we are going to clearly define the tremendous goodness of simple olive juice then we all need to push for more and more research.
For an important, impartial view of the study into olive oil and reduced incidence of stroke, see the NHS report –