New market at Melbourne Uni

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By Mary McConville

As part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Melbourne University held its first weekly farmers’ market at its Union Square. It was frequented by a crush of students and visitors. An interesting variety of products were available.

It would have been quite easy to supply yourself with a good and tasty lunch just from the stalls alone. There were bagels, honey, jerky, tortillas, many juices and the Ghost Kitchen which served Taiwanese street food. There was coffee, of course. This is Melbourne, after all. If you were in the mood for a long lunch and a slow afternoon there were wines and beers and a new version of tonic water which uses cinchona bark (quinine), juniper berries and citrus peel.

After lunch you could shop for dinner. There was beef, fresh vegetables and berries that were fresh and Australian grown. They sold out, bought by customers who were looking for safety and local produce. If you wished to add a sweet touch to finish, there was honey. There were also wax candles and for entertainment, a section of comb with its attendant worker bees.

With your stomach full to repletion you could then recline under cover and listen to two hours of Vegie Box Talks. These were hosted by Richard Cornish who was casually dressed in jeans and a red checked shirt. He chatted with “the Doyenne of Australian Food Culture – Stephanie Alexander”.

Stephanie was simply dressed in black. She now has very white hair and pale skin against which her dark, well-shaped eyebrows stand out strongly. She is still very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about good food and is now doing a lot of work to promote her kitchen garden scheme. According to her, kids love to grow, harvest, cook and eat their own food. Nowadays they are less likely to casually learn in Grandpa’s garden and Mum’s kitchen. It’s a whole new world to them.

Among other guests there was Judith Alcorn who runs Alcorn Recycling. According to her useful waste is being composted in the basement of the Union building.

Other topics that were touched on during the Vegie Box Talks were wine and cheese. One guest was David Brown, a well-established Milawa cheese maker with a rather spectacular, big and bushy moustache. They also discussed fish and meat, and fruit, vegetables and honey. The talks ended on a serious note with a panel discussion on sustainable eating.

With a stomach full of good food and a head full of new ideas, it was enjoyable to wander through the horticultural display set up at the side of the market. It consisted of neatly boxed and cultivated herbs and vegetables. They had yams, rosemary and okra amongst other useful plants.

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