Every morning while chaos erupts around me, and the new day rings to the dulcet tones of my daughters trying to leave the house ('I feel sick, I can't go today' 'There's nothing for breakfast' 'Where are my school socks' 'Don't be mean to the cat, Muuuuum, she's being mean to the cat'), I go to my happy place, gaze out of the window, drink my tea, and read the local paper. It's generally full of gripping news about large fish being caught, a seal in the river, and how the locals are surviving the heatwave (30C for three days straight!) When I can't stand any more excitement, I turn to the real estate guide so I can unleash my inner sub editor.
My family are very tired of hearing me complain about the illiteracy of real estate agents, and have stopped listening, but occasionally there are real gems from agents who clearly have a closer relationship with a spell checker than with a dictionary. There was a cracker from a few weeks ago regarding a house built on a hill top, the headline being, 'Where Eagles Sore' which made me rather sorry for the eagle. Yesterday's ad for an apartment really took the biscuit though - it was advertised as being 'spacious, light, trendy and sheik'. That made me happy all day..
What caught my attention this morning though, and made me do some table thumping of my own amidst all the morning cacophany, was a full page ad from Coles, voted Supermarket Most Likely to Take Over a Suburb Near You by Blueday's crack research team.
Five years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find fresh fruit or veg that had been grown outside Australia. Even our tropical fruit came from Queensland, which is, admittedly, a very long way from Tasmania, but Australian right? And came on truck or rail, which is slightly better than by air. Then came cherries from the west coast of the US. In winter. Then oranges. In summer. Grapes in spring. I have been venting my spleen about this for some time now. Fresh food flown here by plane? Such a stupid use of a precious resource. And today, for the first time, I have seen the net widening. Today, as well as citrus from the US, there were offers of asparagus from Mexico and kiwifruit from Italy. And, this is really galling, apricots from New Zealand. Tasmania is drowning in apricots, and you can buy local ones from every greengrocer for less than they are selling for at Coles.
Now this may be old news for many people around the world, especially the UK, which is so tiny, and struggles to feed itself, but last time I looked, Australia was a net exporter of food, and there certainly isn't any lack of local product on the shelves. Even out of season you can usually buy Australian fruit and veg that has been stored, all the staples, potatoes and onions, apples and oranges. It used to be that cherries and raspberries were a Christmas treat, to spread lavishly over the pavlova, to eat in the backyard on a summer afternoon, spitting cherry pips into the garden. Now you can pop them in the lunchbox in midwinter. When we should be eating oranges from the Riverland, or apples from down the road.
As you may already have guessed, I don't buy into all this, whining children notwithstanding. I am the person standing in front of the frozen food cabinet, scanning the backs of the frozen pea packs to find some grown in Australia. I am the person never shopping for fruit and veg in Coles, but at the local greengrocers where they still have some sense.
There are two telling statements in the Coles ad, one right next to the Australian grapes - '100% of our in season grapes are Australian grown'. Clearly we are expected to applaud them for that, and maybe not notice that their 'in season' apricots are grown across the ocean. Second, their trademarked jingle, 'There's no freshness like Coles freshness!'
There are two ways you can read that statement. And imagining what state that Mexican asparagus is in by the time it gets to your kitchen, I would have to say, 'Yes, no freshness at all....'