Follow FP Australia contributor, Miann Scanlan, as she searches out most important meal of the day, locally and seasonally!
I place an enormous significance on the first meal of the day. Breakfast can literally set the tone for my day ahead. A heavy, oily or sugar-rich breakfast will make me want to crawl back into bed while a light, fresh meal will inspire me to tackle life head-on and kick some serious goals.
And I’m not alone.
We Aussies love our brekkie. The philosophy behind our favourite meal is largely influenced by our active lifestyle, so light yet filling, flavoursome fresh ingredients and slow-release energy foods tend to fill our plates and delight our palettes.
I remember once reading that Australia was voted Best Breakfast in the world. And I have to agree. I’ve even had friends in America beg me to cook them an Aussie-style breakfast – think avocado, poached eggs, dark wholegrain toast, smoked salmon and fresh lemon, or my absolute favourite go-to breakfast to whip up, this green breakfast salad by Porch and Parlour in Bondi.
But if there’s one thing I love more than cooking a healthy breakfast, it’s going out for breakfast or brunch (the non-alcoholic kind!) and sampling menus across Australia. One particular venue, known country-wide for their breakfast menu, is none other than Top Paddock in Melbourne. Recently I had the pleasure of dining there with a group of nine Free People girls visiting from the US, which meant we had the perfect opportunity to show off our breakfast skills!
What I love most about Top Paddock, aside from the gorgeous interior, incredible coffee and the large round white marble dining table, is the two-pronged food philosophy Nathan Toleman (the man behind Top Paddock) emphasizes.
Firstly, traditional breakfast dishes are given a good shaking. Polenta porridge is robust but doesn’t sit like an anchor in the stomach. Similarly, the Bircher muesli is dense and rich, topped with a poached pear and edible flowers, yet not so heavy you need to be tucked into bed afterwards. Also, like me, Toleman is a fan of traditionally non-breakfast greens at breakfast time. I ordered the grilled broccolini and sugarsnaps with avocado, poached eggs and toast. Ever since, I’ve been literally obsessed with broccolini at breakfast. The menu further opens itself up to dishes like blueberry and ricotta hotcakes or even pan-fried fish with eggs, an uncommon yet surprisingly satisfying morning combination.
Of course, the tried and true favourite avocado on toast is delicious yet, as avocado varieties come in and out of season, the dish continues to look different. Why? Chef Jesse McTavish focuses on seasonal produce and expresses the second food philosophy on every dish: farm-to-plate. Top Paddock has a strong standard of “traceability” for its ingredients, and hence favours local suppliers in the kitchen (you can even read up on the local farms on the menu!) What this means is that they care about where their food comes from, how it was raised or grown and how it gets to them and onto your plate.
I’ve come across a number of hypotheses regarding the benefits of eating seasonally. Most obviously, when you eat seasonally, you are likely eating locally to your region. Eating locally supports local farmers and small business. Eating locally also helps reduce your carbon footprint. For example, eating local peaches instead of peaches that have been driven, shipped and flown across the globe all for saving a few pennies (and the local peaches are exceptionally fresher too, which are easier to digest!)
Another less obvious benefit to eating seasonally stems from Ayurveda, and has everything to do with living in tune with nature’s cycles, by eating what’s in tune with the seasons, and harvesting food in season. This way of eating strengthens our connection to the land and can even make us stronger in our immunity, our digestion and our ability to fight infection. By mimicking on the inside what is happening in nature on our outside, you can balance your doshas. Check out my previous Ayurvedic tips on the Free People blog for fall, winter and spring.
How to eat seasonally!
Do some research
Consider the area in which you live, and research what produce is typically grown in that climate. Obviously you won’t have a full produce spectrum available to you year-round but, on the plus side, this keeps cooking interesting as you experiment with in-season ingredients! If you shop at a large supermarket, always select the produce that comes from your country, or state if possible.
Shop at farmers’ markets
Local food is fresher than non-local food – it doesn’t have to be picked long before its peak ripeness and shipped cross-country or cross-seas. If you buy food in season at farmers’ markets, you’re likely saving money on your health and that of the planet’s health.
Form relationships with the farmers that grow the food you’re going to eat. They’re usually happy to answer questions about their farming practices, and some farmers may even let you in on their harvest calendar, so you’ve got a jump on when the freshest tomatoes will be ready, or when the corn is coming to market. Plus, they will always throw in an extra few bananas or other fresh goodies the more they like you!
Join a farm share or CSA
Developing that personal relationship with local farmers can go one step further with a harvest box from a Community-Supported Agriculture farm. In these co-ops, farmers will sell you a share in their produce for the growing season at a flat rate. What you reap, you sow, literally. I’m a member of a local organic farm share and whatever investment at the beginning of each harvest I receive in produce throughout the season.