feed your VILLAGE
Matt and Lentil Purbrick say we all have a village, and in their new book The Village, they focus on the value of cooking and eating with yours
Matt and Lentil Purbrick began by selling the produce from their farm in Tahbilk, Victoria, to some of Melbourne’s top restaurants, encouraging chefs to adopt principles of local, real produce and sustainable farming and packaging.
But they craved more . . . so decided to open their van doors to the people of Melbourne, selling their home-grown vegetables.
They sold out week after week and have now set themselves the task of being authors, bloggers and educators to advocate healthy, clean eating and sustainability.
The Village is the couple’s second book and focuses on the life-giving value of cooking and eating with your village — whether made up of family or friends.
I asked them a few questions:
Tell us your food philosophy.
Wholefood ingredients, seasonal, regional and best when shared. Our food is inspired by the seasons (what we are harvesting from the garden or what is seasonally available in the wild) and by our village — sharing with them, celebrating with them and experiencing life with them.
Throughout your book you talk about the village. Explain to us what the village is.
The village is something we all have — several different communities, often coexisting, which we are tied to by common interests, values, heritage/family or simply location. The village is something that traditionally has been at the core of human existence — it is togetherness. And it is this togetherness that is the foundation of us all, giving our life meaning, that is what makes us happy and content.
You visited villages around the world spending time with people who were living life for a very long time and loving it. Tell us their ‘secret’ to longevity.
Through three important routines:
Sleep. This is seen as something valued — they rest, they don’t overdo it.
Meditating. You would often see people sitting, really, just sitting, staring into the distance. We named it contemplation hour, as that is exactly what they seemed to be doing.
Online time. You don’t see people online in public — phones, televisions — they sit and talk to each other, rather than screens.
And three personality traits:
Traditional. There is always tradition in some sense framing everything — food, routines, celebrations. These are valued and important to them.
Generous and giving. People are always giving you something to take home, and you really can’t enter someone’s home without leaving with full hands or full stomachs.
They say what they mean and mean what they say. Life is full of passion!
What are their top foods?
Olive oil. They use it in everything. Good fats, oils and animal fats. Every meal is full of good oils and animal fats.
Local everything. Seasonal, local, regional food, cooked from scratch.
Name three important health tips:
The most important of all is community. Having a community that makes you feel safe, secure and loved. One where meals are shared. Within this, life holds so much meaning and this is key to mental health and a long life.
Not too much. Moderation is the key. Fasting. They seem to fast, but without much emphasis or intention, as breakfast is often small, so they are often fasting for 15-16 hours a day.
What are your five top tips to starting up a natural garden?
Soil. So much simply comes down to healthy soil. Start by loosening up what you’ve got, then add a whole lot of grazing animal manure (cow, horse, sheep, alpaca, etc), add lots of worms and wet it all down. Everything starts and ends with soil.
Diversity is key. A natural garden reflects nature, and the key to all things natural is diversity.
Structure. Nature also grows in lots of levels. You have trees, then perennial shrubs, then lower (and climbing) annual plants. Grow them all together, correctly spaced and your garden will thrive.
Don’t forget the flowers. No garden is complete without flowers. They bring in all the good bugs, birds and bees which then go to work protecting your vegetable and fruit plants.
Gentleness. It’s the hardest thing to teach but one of the most important things for gardening success. Treat your garden with love and care, from the smallest seedling to the oldest tree. Natural gardening is about becoming one with nature, taking your time, and really experiencing the process with care and attention.
With small apartments and busy lives, is it possible for us all to grow some produce?
Yes, of course! Everyone can grow something, even if it’s simply one plant. This one plant may inspire more growing or simply connect you with what it means to grow food, what it means to eat seasonally, and connect you with nature.
Five top tips to make cooking for your village easy:
First would be to do it together! No one person cooks for the village, it’s a village effort.
Pickle, ferment and preserve so you always have lots of diverse elements for your dishes ready to go.
Cook beans and grains in bulk at the start of the week and store seasoned and ready for quick, easy and healthy meals to feed many, throughout the week.
Cook big! We usually cook and bake at least twice as much as we need so we have lots of leftovers. It takes hardly any extra effort to cook double but it saves a whole second round of cooking!
Antipasti boards are your saviour for random drop-ins and extra mouths. We always have cheeses, salumi, pickles, preserves, ferments, bread, oil and butter ready to lay out at a moment’s notice.
What seasonal veg and fruit would you always grow, and how would you preserve them?
Summer/autumn: Tomatoes — and make passata.
Summer: Peaches and apricots — easy to grow and easy to preserve! Both freeze them and bottle them whole.
Winter/spring: Leeks — grow abundantly and easily! Make leek jam (recipe in The Village).
Year round: Carrots, wombok, chilli and various herbs to make fresh garden kimchi. Citrus fruits to make Sardinian marmalade.
Your favourite go-to meal after a long day in the garden?
Our sardine pasta. It takes less than 30 minutes to make, massively satisfies a hungry stomach every time and feeds many.
Three things about yourselves that would surprise?
Lentil: Loves her some good hip-hop.
Matt: Once travelled overland from Saigon to Tel Aviv, hitch-hiking half the way.
Both: We don’t get attached to our gardens. We would quite happily grow up a new garden every few years. It’s enough for us to know we’ve left a place more beautiful than we found it if life takes us on another adventure.
Authors Matt and Lentil Purbrick.
The Village by Matt and Lentil Purbrick, Macmillan, $49.99.