Story by Russ Grayson
UNLIKE the overindulgent who cite Epicurus’ philosophy as an excuse for consuming excessive volumes of overpriced gourmet food and wine, the Third Century BP Greek philosopher actually proposed that people lead modest, contemplative lives in the company of good friends and eat and drink more ordinary, good foods.
With that in mind, I joined local and visiting members of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance in the Bondi Secret Garden to catch up and discuss ideas for the Alliance’s next phase of work. This was an informal, opportunistic meet-up that happened simply because people happened to be in Sydney on the same day. It included Lachlan and Emily from Darwin, two energetic, smart and innovative young people who were not associated with the Alliance but with the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network and who are involved in a Darwin community garden and in developing educational, edible gardens in schools.
There was Nick from Bellingen, Vivienne, a journalist working in PR, Aubrey from Chicago, Fiona, an Eastern Suburbs council sustainability educator, and me. Catriona, with her long background in the organics industry and with considerable artistic flare and attention to detail, organised setting up the table and the lighting in the garden. And did I say that the food was organic?
Walking into Catriona’s secret garden that evening, almost within sound of the swells breaking on Bondi Beach, was to walk into an island of light amid the mysterious shadows and vaguely seen shapes of trees and shrubs. Lights created pools of brilliance, dispelling the encroaching dark of early evening. And the food, well, Epicurus would surely have approved… no gourmet nonsense here, just plenty of organic veges, a couple organic chooks nicely browned, tofu and vege kebabs for the vegos, rice and salad… and wine including a very good organic Tamburlane chardonnay from Orange in mid-western NSW, and something Lachlan had discovered – a very appealing flat cider from South Australia.
Epicurus, so I read, lived in a community, what today we would probably call an intentional community, and said the secret of a satisfied life is to live without fear including the fear of deities, enjoy health, the convivial company of friends and good basic food. I can’t help but wonder what our civilisation would be like were we to one day decide to adopt his approach to life.
It was that conviviality Epicurus suggests that is what the evening felt like… good food, friends and good conversation done lightly. Why, I wonder, do we not insert such evenings into out overbusy lives and so banish that busyness to the fringes where it belongs?