Palate Pleasures: Fresh food… the joy in true freshness

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Fresh food… the joy in true freshness. We are so fortunate in this day and age to be able to experience the amazingly superior taste of truly fresh produce. Once you find it, you realise how inferior any other option is – how bland and fl avourless, how entirely lackluster and disappointing in comparison.

Our consciousness of our environment – the awareness of food miles, emphasis placed on sustainable farming practices and desire for foods free from chemicals and hormones has the added advantage of bringing us back to a place where freshness is implicit.

We tend to wait for seasonal produce to become available – avoiding imported items and waiting for local, suspiciously eyeing off and rejecting apples in January and mangoes in July … The same is true of meat and fish -“Is it fresh?” we ask our fishmongers and butchers. Or, “What’s good today?” As consumers, we demand the best and reject the even slightly inferior.

We are high maintenance and knowledgeable customers. The providores of fresh foods fight to stay current with food issues and trends, which range from ethical food production methods to individual dietary considerations – grass fed, grain fed, free-range, biodynamic, line caught, Fair Trade, wild… all the way to gluten free, paleo, non-dairy, wholefood …

The list goes on and on – food is no longer fuel, but a complex web of intricacies, affecting our every sensibility from global consciousness to overall health and wellbeing – we are far more aware of what we are actually putting in our bodies – demanding purity, clarity on ingredients lists and even educating ourselves and learning to make things from scratch after casting a stern and suspicious eye on the evils of major supermarket chains and the like.
We carry this super-awareness and passionate philosophy with us from our greengrocers and fishmongers to our local restaurants when we dine out.

Menu offerings need to meet and then exceed regular and daily expectations in terms of quality and freshness. The sourcing of produce needs to be undertaken with the utmost dedication and passion.

Customers often demand to know the history of ingredients used – the when, where and how, the questions of ethics and sustainability … It is no longer a question of looking at a nice piece of fish on a plate, admiring the aroma, colours, textures and flavours; it is indeed about a complex intellectual interplay embodying a range of philosophical, ethical and scientific elements.

It is undeniable that there are huge benefits to be gained from the global food conscience that has been developed over the past few years. The message spoken out loudly and clearly by consumers has played a massive role in at least reducing shonky food production practices the world over.

The knowledgeable consumer also treats their body as a temple, and this awareness leads to fewer health problems and hesitancy by food service providers to sneak in inferior ingredients in the hope of keeping costs down. There is an overall sense of there being nothing to hide behind anymore – freshness itself cannot be faked, additives and impurities need to be declared.

A stern and suspicious eye is cast over the contents of many a plate being put on a table near you, right now. All this has to keep us providers of food firmly on our toes. And the push from consumers exists all the way from the budget to the top end of the market. Whilst it is essential that anyone who considers opening a modern and successful food service establishment is aware of this demand from consumers, it is sometimes somewhat of a challenge to rise to the occasion … As always, homage needs to be paid to the bottom line, in that yes you still get what you pay for – in budget eateries a $15-20 main course is most likely not going to be line-caught and biodynamic. And the carb fillers on the plate aren’t going to be hand picked micro-greens; they are most likely being tumbled out of a big packet straight into the deep fryer. And the staff might not know if the salmon is from a sustainable source – although gluten free or nut free may very well be marked on the menu, such is the prevalence of dietary requirements nowadays.

So clearly, it is all very awesome that as consumers we have educated ourselves to the point of absolutely wielding power over many of our smaller food providers (the two supermarket chains – we are still working on). And we restaurants are doing our best to keep up with the cool kids. Just bear in mind though, we are still learning ourselves and in a fast moving, fickle and cynical marketplace who still demands value for money, it’s not always easy.

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