For Rebecca Sullivan, the culture and tradition surrounding food is almost as important as its delicious taste. Dirty Girl Kitchen strives to bring back and celebrate the skills and knowledge that grandmas know best. From planting kitchen gardens to making jam, curing meat, making soap and pickling vegetables, Rebecca and her Dirty Girls bring communities together to share in a vibrant and wholesome food culture, as well as spreading awareness about social, environmental and sustainable food issues.
This March, visitors to the Taste of Sydney festival can catch Rebecca at the Country Kitchen, where she will host some delicious cooking demonstrations, as well as a series of inspiring and provocative discussions around food and sustainability.
In the lead up to the festival, we caught up with Rebecca to chat about the granny skills movement, sustainable food culture and growing your own fresh produce.
What can visitors to Taste of Sydney expect from Country Kitchen?
An intimate area that enables you to ask all the questions you want directly to the farmer, producer and chef. It’s under a big, beautiful tree and will have continuous demos using fabulous produce and lots of tasters. It is a real opportunity to be curious about where your food comes from.
How do you define “granny skills”?
Granny skills are all of those things that evoke nostalgia. They are the simple things. By that I mean simple things that give us joy, like homemade bread, pickling and preserving – all of those things your gran does still to this day. The things that in our hectic lives we claim to not have time to do. They are about economy cooking, wasting less and being in touch with where our food comes from. Most importantly, if your gran does not recognise it, it’s not real food.
Why is it so important to share and pass on these skills?
How can it not be? Heritage, tradition, knowledge. We are growing up in a generation where toddlers don’t know how to use spoons properly, let alone cook. Disconnection is scary and sad.
How would you describe the philosophy of Dirty Girl Kitchen?
Community. It is about collaboration and community, working together for a sustainable future. It is about being prepared to skill-share and about getting your hands dirty.
What is Dirty Girl Kitchen is up to at the moment?
The million dollar question! Building new farm from the ground up, events and education, and beginning our ‘Granny Skills’ trials in schools. As well as this I am doing study into the decline in home economics and loss of home cooking. Excitingly we will be launching a new Granny Skills app and Granny Skills TV soon.
What are some things people can do to contribute to a more sustainable food culture?
Firstly, being an active member of their own community. Simple things like asking to use a little dis-used land in your own suburb or city to grow some food for the community. Not being afraid to ask where your food has come from, regardless of where you shop, market or supermarket. Asking an elderly person to teach you a recipe and passing it on. Just being open to learning and passing it on.
What advice would you give someone wanting to start growing their own food?
Get rid of any misconceived notions in your head such as needing lots of space or it being too hard. It is not hard, and you can grow food in a window sill. Start small and the first time you eat what you grow, you will be hooked.
See Rebecca at the Taste of Sydney, 13-16 March 2014. For more information visit tasteofsydney.com.au.