I took Luca to the Round Oak Allotment Association barbecue in Wadhurst today. Tucked away just behind the tennis courts and playing fields in Sparrow’s Green it’s everything that an allotment should be.
However as we hadn’t really been invited, but had rather tailgated my father who had been, I thought the least I could do was bring our own food.
I grabbed three veggie sausages from the freezer, but for Luca I decided to make something rather more special.
I don’t eat meat. Aside from a previous visit to see my friend Alex I haven’t eaten meat in almost 30 years. Alex, thanks to a fairly significant memory failure, plonked a beef lasagne on the table in front of me despite having known me for a good fifteen or twenty years. I ended up feeling so guilty at all the trouble he’d gone to that I ate it – and it was good to keep my habits under review. My stomach rebelled and frankly it didn’t seem to offer much that quorn doesn’t, except the beef was richer and greasier. I haven’t felt the need to try meat again since.
Luca however is omnivorous. We decided when he was born that eating everything would be the default. I don’t shield him from the reality of where meat comes from – chicken comes from birds like the ones his grandfather has, beef comes from cows like the ones in the fields over the road and lamb comes from those happy little things that skip around the fields.
At the same time I don’t lay it on with a trowel. I don’t really approve of people who indoctrinate their children into their religion (as oppose to those who introduce them, mindfully) and I don’t see why Luca should have his mind made up for him on an important ethical issue.
When he does make up his own mind, one way or another, I’ll respect whatever he decides. In the meantime, if he’s going to eat meat he might as well eat decent meat and not consume the sort of industrially extracted, reclaimed stuff that so many processed meat products use, products that increasingly are being linked to cancers.
Even organic free range meat is a relatively cheap form of protein (compared to fish or cheese, nuts or tofu) so I grabbed what was around and made Luca some suitably seasonal burgers to take along.
Don’t ask me why apple and pork are so strongly associated. It’s probably because pigs are as happy as Larry rooting around orchards. What’s unarguable is that the combination works. It’s a bit like fish and potatoes. It’s hard to believe that potatoes aren’t a sea vegetable or that fish didn’t evolve in the Andes. They’re made for one another. Anyhow – here’s what I threw together.
125g minced free range pork
1 small duck egg
1 small apple (semi sweet eating variety)
1 thin slice good bread
Put the egg in a bowl, whisk and add the teriyaki marinade, pepper and then the pork, continuing to stir vigorously.
After a couple of minutes the pork and egg take on a different, smoother consistency. Peel the apple, grate it into the bowl and combine with the pork and egg mixture. Even though I used a small egg from a young duck (about bantam size) it was quite a sloppy mixture. The egg is really to help bind the pork together so the burger doesn’t disintegrate on the Barbie. You could use less. I stuck a thin slice of wholemeal bread into a blender and added the crumbs that resulted to the mix until some of the moisture had been absorbed and the patties were fairly firm. I then coated them in the remaining crumbs, popped them on a piece of greaseproof paper and onto a plate which I left in the fridge for about an hour while we did other things.
The burgers took about 10 minutes to cook on a barbecue that had started to lose its heat.
The allotment barbecue, meanwhile, was a great success. Allotments hark back to the days before the rich and corrupt enclosed the common land when regular folk were able to keep a cow and some hens and grow enough food to supplement their very modest incomes.
Cobbett, no less, bemoaned the enclosures for the way they ruined the health and livelihoods of rural people.
Well today allotments are thriving in villages and cities alike – and little wonder. They provide exercise, companionship, good food and that sense of self worth that comes from knowing one can provide for oneself. They’re very much a part of these shriven times and after a period of excess a little diligence, thrift and dirty fingernails are the perfect answer to our straitened circumstances. ‘What’s not to like?’ as New York Rabbis are wont to ask as they sow their carrots and dig their potatoes.