Getting down and dirty
THE DIRTY CHEF By Matthew Evans ( Published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $ 29.99)
‘ YOU know, it’s not every girl’s dream to marry a pig farmer,” Matthew Evans reports Emma Harley, wife of his Gourmet Farmer sidekick Ross O’Meara, as saying one day.
And I’ve no doubt it was not his own partner Sadie Chrestman’s dream to receive a pump for Christmas, even if it was a Subaru and no matter how badly the pigs wanted a wallow.
You might think all Matthew and Sadie’s life since leaving careers in Sydney and trying to live off a couple of patches of land near Cygnet has all been documented in the SBS series Gourmet Farmer, but much went unrecorded and not just because fi lming for 16 hours might produce only 23 minutes of telly.
What we saw and more is related in The Dirty Chef.
To recap, Matthew left Sydney in 2008 to research and write his The Real Food Companion in Tasmania.
Even before he bought Puggle Farm the following year, the camera crew began following his adventures in self- suffi ciency introduced by that throwaway line that charmed some and infuriated others: “How hard can it be?”
The reality was, he sought help from those who did know how to do it, those still living by an old Huon Valley ethos: “If you couldn’t make it, grow it, fix it or cook it, you didn’t have it.”
He and Sadie had met shortly before he left Sydney, and some months later she followed him down, and took easily to gardening, rather less readily to pig herding.
“If your relationship is up to it, try moving pigs with your life partner,” Matthew writes. “It’s a good way to have a bit of a shout at each other.”
Their son Hedley, born in 2009, has it all poultry – lamb, pork, vegetables, fruit, milk and honey all raised by his parents.
Wouldn’t you know, Hedley is a fussy eater. His parents go to the lengths of stuffing vegetables into penne to try to smuggle greens into their son. It makes better telly if things go wrong, Matthew says, and, obligingly, he stuffed up fairly frequently such as waiters having to run 600m around a deer fence from kitchen to table at an outdoor lunch on Flinders Island.
Such as, after eight months of toil by he and Ross cooking and selling their wares at weekend markets they make $ 65 each. “So it wasn’t like we did it for nothing.”
Matthew still makes more money at the keyboard than the plough, but everyone is eating well.
“I say, as much out of astonishment as out of any kind of expertise, if a novice like me can grow real things with more taste, more depth, more of the ingredient’s fl avour in it, simply by giving it a crack, then anybody can,” he writes.
Matthew is working on another TV series, not of Gourmet Farmer, but he’s probably a tad too competent these days for a fourth series to make good telly, anyway.