‘You are what you eat’. Seems simple enough given the long known connection between nutrition and the workings of the human body. But isn’t there more to it than that?
What we ‘are’ seems to be a pretty important question in these times of transition, in a region which for so long was ‘the place that kept the lights on’. Now that the simple singular narrative of the ‘energy producer’ is beginning to fade, the void that is left gives us an unprecedented opportunity (albeit, an intimidating one) to rewrite our own story. Whether we’re ready for it or not, the Latrobe Valley community is being given the chance to decide what we are if no longer an industrial coal mining community.
Here at ReActivate Latrobe Valley, we think that what we eat – our food, particularly our locally grown, harvested and prepared food – could be a big part of the story of who and what we are.
This is why we are bringing you Get Cheffed, a Gippsland food event celebrating the gob-smacking talent and mouth-watering produce of Gippsland on February 18, 2018. It will be live, it will be immersive, it will be smelly and tasty, and it will put Latrobe Valley on the foodie map with the help of our friends at the National Sustainable Living Festival. With you in the driver’s seat, we are reframing and reimagining what Gippsland’s Latrobe Valley could be, one tasty treat at a time.
What we eat doesn’t just appear in our digestive system, churned up into nutrients that fuel and shape our bodies and minds. After being grown in the many far-flung industrialised global food bowls, most of our food travels hundreds of thousands of kilometres, pushed from one place to another using fossil fuel energy, getting processed, packed and labelled before arriving on our tables. A study on the typical weekly food basket for a household in Melbourne revealed that, on average, our food travelled 70,803km (1). That’s almost equivalent to travelling twice around the Earth to get to our tables! Once it’s here we go through the familiar motions of delivering it to our digestive tract and away we go – we can get on with becoming what we are. Trouble is, over the past couple of centuries we’ve become pretty disconnected from the true story behind our food, which spells trouble for any sense of identity that we try to forge from it.
After our food is packed and labelled we, as individuals, make most of the choices about what we are based on what we eat. Are you a lamb girl, or more of a chicken guy? Do you prefer Coke or Pepsi, or do you cross into controversial Dr. Pepper territory? You might have made a conscious choice about where you sit on the meat-eating spectrum from full-on carnivore to purist vegan, for example, or whether you want your nuts to be ‘activated’ or not (yes, that’s really a thing). What if we made food choices that built our identity as ‘Goodies’ (Gippsland foodies). What if we started to put our money where our mouth is and support local initiatives that helped to get our food to our tables?
Turns out this kind of foodie fascination ain’t nothin’ new. Many moons ago Greek philosopher Epicurus had it all figured out. He explained, things that are pleasurable are good, and things that are painful are evil. Therefore, to live a good life, you should indulge in all things good, including the best of food and even better company. Our Australian First Peoples understood the profound connection between the food that we eat, and the ecological, economic and cultural systems that provide us that food. Each indigenous nation’s affiliation to different totems (animals, plants and features of the natural environment), ensured a holistic and balanced approach to managing resources. This kept food in the belly for over 40,000 years, and cultivated a deeper connection between the people, the land and the resource economies that sustained them.
Then there was modern science. Over the 20th century the link between eating well and being of healthy mind and body laid the foundation for countless fad diets, essential for the new and improved ‘you’. Now we have oodles of diets to choose from, each with their own social and cultural currency. We call on you to invest your social and cultural currency back into your local community by making food choices that support our local food economy. But we also insist that you have fun, and indulge in a little epicurean hedonism as well.
We believe that Get Cheffed is a special moment in the Gippsland and Latrobe Valley story. The idea has evolved and grown over many cheese and dip fuelled discussions, and has matured into a three-part feast for the senses.
First, we have the Chef Off, where some of Gippsland’s best chefs will compete against one another to create signature dishes using local hero products, the winner being judged by an illustrious panel. Next we have the Chef Up, where local foodies will teach community members food preparation techniques in workshops and demonstrations. And finally, the Chef Tank, where local chefs will judge the culinary delights prepared by community members who want to see their dish featured on a local menu. All of this will be done with a strong focus on supporting local. But before any of it could take root, we had to find some money to make it happen. This is where ReActivate Base came in.
After a little canoodling with the talented crew at Pozible we pulled together a plan to create a crowdfunding platform just for Gippsland. The idea is that all of the local Gippsland initiatives that are trying to grow legs, can be found and supported in one easy place. The timing was right and ReActivate Base was born, and with it came the crowdfunding campaign for Get Cheffed. The target was $6840, and with the help of 57 supporters from Gippsland and beyond we smashed through the glass ceiling to raise $7275. Now we’re cooking with gas!
For us this success symbolised the special thing we have here in the Latrobe Valley – we have guts, we have ambition, and we have each other. From the humble beginnings of the brainstorming table, this event will come to fruition and it will be spectacular. It’s now being included in the program of the National Sustainable Living Festival, which will help us attract visitors to the region to celebrate our food with us, on our home turf. With any luck, the event will grow even further, as we bring on more supporters and partners while the momentum builds. This will be a story about how we are changing the narrative of what we are as Gippslandians, and how we’re working together to shape our local economies and cultures to make it happen. We’re putting our money where our mouth is, and we’re Getting Cheffed on February 18, 2018. Are you?
For more info about the Get Cheffed event, including ticket sales, visit reactivate.org.au/getcheffed.
If you’d like to help out at Get Cheffed by volunteering, sign-up here.
Gaballa, S., Abraham, A.B. (2007), Food Miles in Australia: A Preliminary Study of Melbourne, Victoria