Thursday, November 27, 2014

Report from Emerald City: Part one: finding my organic groove

A few weeks shy of the six-month mark since my move, I thought it was time for an update.

The  food adventures in my new home have been rather eclectic. This is largely due to my own dietary perculiarities combined with the Not Boyfriend now being in his third year of veganism. It has also been a year or so of unexpected hiccoughs, interrupting our cash flow – so we’ve been a tad parsimonious.

Sydney is a noticeably more expensive city to live in. From the price of produce to the inflated real estate market, eating out or at home just costs more. No longer having my tiny but productive 9 square metres of veggie garden doesn’t help either. Though I’ve got my name down on the waiting list at the nearest community garden (but that could take a decade to come to fruition!)

Organic produce

I mourn my mid-week pilgrimage to Vic Markets. Not just the healthy competition between the organic stalls and diversity of conventional produce available but the one-stop shop aspect of the market. There’s nowhere that even remotely replicates the quality and variety of the fresh fruit and vegetables, plus the diversity of the market hall vendors. I yearn for a single market to buy quality fish, great olives, fantastic bread, my weekly staples (oats, nuts and tofu) and graze delectable edibles. 

Pick of the crop

Orange Grove Public School
Cnr Perry Street & Balmain Road, Leichhardt, 2040, Saturday, 7 am to 1 pm. 
This has more organic stalls than all the food markets I’ve shopped at, plus interesting homemade food and a delightful array of plant stalls. It's nice to see plants and foods come together.
Bonus: ample on-street parking.

Marrickville Organic Market 
142 Addison Road, Addison Road Centre, Marrickville, 2204, Sunday, 7.30 am to 3 pm.
It's a little bit hippy with a relaxed atmosphere, the famed chai tent (or sloping lawn) and a wide variety of home cooked food to graze on. There's a dearth of Sunday markets, so that's a bonus.  A couple of beefs with it though. Despite the name, only one stall is 100% organic (but it’s a great one). Parking is a nightmare, necessitating being there by 8am if you need to drive. Not a lot of fun on a day off. But otherwise a charming weekend diversion.
Don't miss the amazing smoked olives available at the smoked salmon stall - at Leichhardt on Saturday and Marrickville on Sunday.

Fresh chamomile at Marrickville

Eveleigh Market at Carriageworks
245 Wilson St, Eveleigh, Saturday 8 am – 1 pm
Well curated and a good place to bring visitors, it’s handy for topping up on a few extras for the fridge and pantry but a bit pricy for a weekly shop. Favourites include the truffle oil, exotic mushrooms, flowers, pho stall (vegan and omni) and watching Kylie Kwong cook. There’s a knife sharpener as well, plus good coffee and pastries. Definitely a foodie outing for both locals and tourists.
Bonus: If you’re lucky you’ll catch Barbara Sweeney AKA The Talking Cookbook – I love what she’s about and if you're a reader of food blogs, you'll also enjoy having a chat with her.

Back to the weekly shop

After many weekends spent exploring produce markets and weekdays trawling through expensive health food stores (don't get me started), we’ve settled on ordering a weekly organic veggie box. After a couple of months buying one elsewhere for more than twice the price, we’ve settled on a Wednesday box from our local food co-op Alfalfa House and topping up on fruit and other goodies elsewhere as needed. The $25 box of organic veg is great value and always fresh (though oddly I often find the fresh produce in store expensive and of variable quality). We can combine a mid-week collection while restocking the pantry. There’s a great selection of grains, spices and pantry staples but it’s the tempeh collection that  exceeds my Vic market stalwart. The Byron Bay fava and seaweed (soy free) tempeh is exceptional. There's lots of other yummy stuff in the fridge including a locally made coconut yoghurt (the makers are sometimes at Eveleigh Market).

While I still dream of Melbourne’s cornucopia of goodies at an affordable price, the kitchen is now fully stocked with an interesting variety of fresh organic food. I’ve always loved the challenge of culinary improvisation, so a box of mystery goods (bar the turnips and capsicum!) is a joy to create from. 

The dreaded turnip

Despite the odd moments of frustration it has been fun exploring the shopping options in my new locale. And while I think I've finally cracked it, there's something new opening around the corner,  pandering to the gamut of Sydney food fads from vegan to paleo, with a side of kale and activated nuts.

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