An Aussie version of a hit UK food show strives to change the way we eat, writes
IN THE first episode of River Cottage Australia, its star Paul West explains to the original River Cottager, celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, that the area his farmhouse is on is called Tilba, the local Aboriginal word for ‘‘windy’’.
And as filming of the series wrapped on the NSW south coast on Friday, it’s certainly living up to its name, with the added attraction of horizontal rain.
But wandering around the smallholding, admiring West’s recently added animal family – pigs, cows, chickens and a duck along with a very appealing dog – it’s plain to see lots has been achieved in just four months.
The vegetable plots that Fearnley-Whittingstall helped dig and plant are bursting with winter greens and herbs.
Heart-warmingly, the British TV star is full of admiration for West.
‘‘He’s a really lovely guy,’’ Fearnley-Whittingstall says, as we grab some shelter inside the farmhouse alongside some recently incubated fluffy chicks, huddling under a warming light.
‘‘He’s very passionate, he’s very smart and he has for me exactly the right sensibility to make this thing happen here.’’ What ‘‘this thing’’ is, is not just another cooking show. West is recreating in Australia the idea that FearnleyWhittingstall had more than 15 years ago – to survive largely on food grown, reared, foraged or bartered for, locally.
Over the eight episodes of River Cottage Australia, West will show what it’s like to live off the land – whether it’s
River Cottage Australia groping for octopus in a local estuary or butchering his own pigs.
And the talented chef realises the opportunity he’s been afforded with the show is a luxury not everyone can have.
But he hopes viewers will see the enjoyment he gets from following his food from the farm to his dinner table, and this will help inform even the most sophisticated citydweller to make better food choices. ‘‘Supply will always reflect demand,’’ West says. ‘‘If people start demanding to know their animals have been raised ethically and demanding to know the vegetables they’re eating are seasonal, then companies will listen.’’
This has been reflected in recent times, he says, by supermarkets displaying the provenance of foods including fruits and vegetables so consumers can make informed choices. ‘‘Five or 10 years ago that didn’t happen,’’ West says. ‘‘An orange was an orange, you didn’t know where it was from and chances are the guy stacking the shelves if you asked him, (he) didn’t know.’’
River Cottage Australia: Thursdays, 8.30pm, Lifestyle Channel.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Paul West snapped for