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The power of food

January 29, 2011

We were in Brisbane last weekend for a friend’s party. I almost cancelled going as I thought that it might have been in bad taste to go for a party when so many people’s lives were devastated by the floods…and I also expected that most things might still be underwater, roads floating away, etc, etc. But that was not the case at all. In fact in all the places I saw in Brisbane, there was no evidence of there having been a flood at all. Andrew was there earlier in the week for some work meetings. One of the meetings he had was with a company whose office went under water. When he spoke to them on the Friday before, they were loading up the canoe with essential stuff! Less than a week later he was in their office and they had wall panels replaced (but still unpainted), and no other sign of having gone diving. And that was the story we heard pretty consistently from most people. (Not to detract from the people in more remote areas of Queensland who are probably still struggling to clean up etc). I wanted to drive around the streets to find some visual reminder of the floods. My mind would not compute the difference between the photos I had seen just a week before on the news, and those sent to me by friends and colleagues – Brisbane under water, pontoons and more floating down rivers that once were streets, etc.

The reason for this? The armies of volunteers that came from far and wide to help people clean up their houses and properties. Watching Anthony Bourdain’s show on New Orleans the other night made me realise how lucky we are to have such a strong sense of community spirit here in Australia. Those images New Orleans still struggling to rebuild so many years after Katrina are really quite shocking and shameful I think.

Just about everyone we spoke to had gone to help friends or strangers with the clean up. A funny thread through all the comments was the stories about the food. Apparently there was tons of food on offer as people kept arriving/driving around sharing food they had made. It got to the point where the volunteers were telling each other about the “fantastic stir fry on the next street”; or “the best ever bacon and egg pies a few streets down”;  etc. Since so many people lost power for a few days, there was a huge cooking effort to take food to people who were flood affected. That it also helped use up everything in their freezers was a bonus I am sure. Isn’t it lovely to see that sense of community expressed through the sharing of food (as well as through physical work)?

It caused me to reflect on how food unites us through so much more than the usual family gatherings, celebrations, community festivals and more. Even our little blog community. I have met almost none of you yet I feel I know so much about you as you share your stories of food. I feel so much happiness on seeing photos of Celia’s blossoming garden with abundant produce; Brydie’s sourdough experiments with starter she made herself; Jo baking treats for her lucky dog; Bec’s matter-of-fact approach to sticking to her gluten-free diet and still cooking amazing things; Anna’s patient step-by-step instructions in her recipes; Sarah’s family feasts that are never compromised by a lack of a kitchen; Kalyan’s quests for great food in the streets of Mumbai; and more. To all of you that I have grown to know and feel as kindred spirits – the blogs I comment on and the blogs I lurk around but rarely comment – thanks for sharing!

The photo above? – Taken in a fancy food market in Brisbane in the fresh veg section. How sweet/clever to be selling edible flowers for salads (I didn’t think marigolds would be edible though – do you know if they are?).

15 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2011 2:51 PM

    Couldn’t agree more with your sentiments on how lucky we Australians are to have such a fabulous sense of community when it comes to helping out after disasters. Here in Canberra we experienced this in a massive bushfire that devoured many suburbs & people came out of the woodwork to help. One of my favourite bloggers kept us up to date with the floods & how it wrecked one of their rental properties & made us all aware of the amazing volunteers who gave & gave, it was really heart warming.

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      January 29, 2011 4:25 PM

      You are right Anna. These natural disasters do seem to bring out the best in us as a community. If only we could harness that great spirit in good times as well…we would be unstoppable! 🙂

  2. January 29, 2011 3:05 PM

    What a lovely story! I feel the same way too about our little blogiverse. If I don’t hear from some of my readers or from some of my regular blogs I read, for a while, I get worried about them!
    Our Australian spirit is indomitable. Remember the efforts from the Newcastle earthquake, the Queensland cyclone, and now the floods? Even the help and money we offer to victims of overseas tradgeties like the tsunami, and Hati’s disaster. We certainly do live in the Lucky Country.

    By the way, I believe marigolds are edible but some are bitter, I do know that used to feed them to chickens to make thechicken flesh and egg yolks a brighter yellow!

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      January 29, 2011 4:24 PM

      Interesting about the marigolds and chooks. Hmm..perhaps I should plant some for my chooks. I do love their happy little orange faces poking out around the vegie beds. I used to plant them in vegie beds as they are apparently good at keeping away some of the pests. For that reason I thought they must be inedible.

  3. Sarah - For the Love of Food permalink
    January 29, 2011 3:46 PM

    What a lovely reflection Spice. It’s worth taking the time to remember how lucky we are and how important a strong community is and the recent floods really brought home just how much everyone is more than willing to help others in times of sudden disaster!

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      January 29, 2011 4:22 PM

      It was really uplifting hearing all the stories about the volunteers. I had been feeling so helpless and sad watching it all unfold over the news so it was really nice to hear the good stories as well.

  4. bagnidilucca permalink
    January 29, 2011 4:07 PM

    You are right about the volunteers in Brisbane. There was an army of people helping out in our street while we were cleaning up. I couldn’t believe how our are was cleaned up in just a few days. And yes, people were wandering about offering food all the while. People were happy to do what ever they could to help out. It makes you proud to be Australian.

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      January 29, 2011 4:21 PM

      That is really what we should have been celebrating on Australia Day isn’t it? The ordinary heroes. Were you directly affected? I must head on to your blog to see if you have written about it…

      • spiceandmore permalink*
        January 29, 2011 4:42 PM

        Just caught up on some of your blog posts. Sorry to read about your poor house. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery and give thanks for decent insurance. I am doubly reassured since that is the same insurance company we use…good to know that they are capable of being decent if disaster was to strike! Good luck for the weeks ahead.

  5. January 30, 2011 6:21 AM

    Hasn’t it been inspiring, SG? Watching people rally to help others in flood areas was just amazing. And it wasn’t the usual stories of heroes – of someone who did something special to help another, although there were plenty of those – but just the sheer magnitude of people who were willing to help – anonymously – complete strangers in need. And it doesn’t surprise me at all that food was a big part of that! Re the blog community, it really is lovely, isn’t it? 🙂

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      February 1, 2011 7:06 PM

      The anonymous, everyday heroes – definitely awe inspiring and heart warming.

  6. January 30, 2011 8:31 AM

    What a lovely post. I couldn’t agree more…Food does unite us in so many wonderful ways. Hearing stories of how people had helped out (and are still doing so) makes me feel really proud of the community in which we live or are a part of. The QLD Flood Relief Auction organised by a couple of fellow bloggers, raised $99,000- that blew me away . Plus so, so many other stories of others doing wonderful things to help out.
    The marigolds I think of the movie “Monsoon Wedding”, one of the guys is so in love he eats the marigolds…*sigh* love that movie.

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      February 1, 2011 7:02 PM

      I love that movie too and remember that scene now!
      That is a very impressive effort with fund raising.

  7. February 10, 2011 2:35 AM

    What is it about natural disasters that bring out the best in people? Hope Australia gets on her feet soon.

    Lovely, lovely edible flowers. We can only occasionally find nasturtiums and violets here.

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      February 10, 2011 1:17 PM

      ooh violets…sound delicious and they look so pretty too!
      I hope the recovery goes well too…and that we get on with the job instead of bickering about how we fund it!

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