Recently I chatted with Karalyn Hingston. Karalyn is the Executive Officer and only paid employee of Food Plant Solutions – a small organisation which is achieving great things on a shoestring budget both at an international level and in Australia. I found it inspiring to learn of a small Australian organisation achieving positive outcomes and punching well above its weight. Cooking Circles chatted with her last year and here she gives an update on the organisations’ international development projects.
To say I was excited when I first heard about Food Plant Solutions is quite the understatement. Through Canberra Friends of Dili of which I’m a casual member, I was contacted by a fellow member who suggested I speak to Karalyn of Food Plant Solutions in Tasmania. There were synergies, she explained, with my interests in Timor Leste and its vast edible plant diversity. And it didn’t take me long on this mob’s fascinating website before I was contacting Karalyn to talk more.
The food industry is currently undergoing a massive transformation geared towards various “superfoods” such as quinoa, chia seeds, acai berries, goji berries, maca powder, teff, Kakadu plum (gubinge) products, baobab products, and all things coconut. All of these “superfoods” were originally used by indigenous communities around the world.
When we speak over the phone, Bronwyn and Helen
are bubbly, and they’re busy. The couple from Braidwood, southern NSW, leave for Italy tomorrow on week long eating and talking extravaganza – the largest gathering of foodies world wide, the Terra Madre biannual event by Slow Food.
What is food security? To be food secure is to always have access to sufficient, nutritious, and affordable food. Food security covers the dimensions of time, place, quantity, quality, and cost. To be food insecure is to be lacking at least one of these components. Food insecurity can lead to malnutrition, stunted growth in children, and ill-health. In Timor Leste, two-thirds of the population are food insecure.
Women are incredibly important to agriculture all over the world. In Timor Leste, women in mountainous areas (where 70 per cent of the Timorese population lives) carry out most farm activities including taking care of animals and cultivation of rain-fed crops such as sweet potato, cassava and fruit. Timorese women increasingly took on farm work during conflict as men left towns and villages to fight. Post-conflict, women have continued this work due to men returning from war suffering physical and mental injury. This farm workload is on top of women’s other duties such as child-rearing, housework, caring for elders, and community responsibilities.
How I love this dish. I’ve blogged about it during my trip. I wrote about it countless times over Facebook to Berta in between visits. I ached for the dish every day in Timor Leste, hoping one day, soon, there would be the kind of celebration that called for Tukkir to be prepared.
I’ve said before that making Tukkir is about as wonderful as eating it. For me that’s because the entire family gathers to prepare the dish, kicking back while they work methodically and slowly, telling tales and joking throughout. People appear relaxed. At their finest. Day turns into night, and the fire is lit as the sun drops out of sight. After 2 hours on the fire, the edible part of Tukkir is removed carefully from bamboo. There’s anxious silence as the Tukkir is revealed. Sudden laughter cracks in the air and seats are taken anywhere they can be to tuck into the wonderful, the very special, Tukkir.
Food has been an essential part of our lives in Timor Leste and shapes our modern day gastronomy. Without nutritious food, we can’t grow to be healthy or even survive. The first time I worked with Mana Heidi was a unique experience, especially when talking about food and how much she loves the food in Timor. In the first few weeks of our conversation about food was fantastic and for Heidi, the food in Timor Leste is something special. Trying out the food in a restaurant in the corner of Dili provided us a delicious meal, and gives tourists like Mana Heidi the opportunity to taste local food.