Duo Deli Restaurant in Perth
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The Portugeuse Family Table

Hello Everyone,

Paula Tabourel Family Blog

Roxanne and Max

What a glorious summer this has been – I speak about the weather and I speak about the fact that I have had both of my children at home for at least some of the time.   Now I’m the same as any mother of two teenagers; they drive me nuts when they are both at home, bickering one minute, ganging up thick as thieves against Herve and I the next.  Washing, ironing and a never ending stream of food and dishes… and that’s just Max on his own!  But of course, I love it – I live for it. And one of my favourite parts of them being at home is that all four of us will, at some point, sit around the table and enjoy a meal together.

There has been a lot of press in recent years about the benefits of eating together as a family, of home cooked meals and children being taught how to cook.  It amuses Herve and I, Europeans that we are, because we cannot think of what else you would do? I’m not saying my children ate a homecooked meal every night – most of you who follow the blog will know that they ate a restaurant cooked meal for a big part of the their childhood! But it was their dad cooking it to be fair! So when we had a night off it was hugely important to me that we sat as a family and broke bread over a meal that we had prepared and cooked together.

Pig Halle Food Blog Perth

Lets Get Honest About Our Food!

This was never forced – I never thought “we must all sit down and eat together” – it was just a natural way of life. We raised our children as we had been raised.   To be fair, this may have stretched a little too far into the Portuguese at some points, particularly when we had the guest house in Blairgowrie (just before we opened Cafe Tabou).  We catered for a lot of foreign guests who went out shooting partridge pigeon and geese.  One of the reasons they liked to come to us was my nonchalance at cleaning and cooking the spoils of the day’s games.  I would pluck and gut their birds before butchering and cooking them for that night’s dinner. The children would come from school and sit at the bunker chattering as I pulled at feathers and chopped at necks.  They didn’t blink  because it was just how it was… their friends though…. that was another story!

You see, although my parents were city people in Portugal it is common for everyone to prepare their food from scratch – and I mean proper scratch! We bred chickens and rabbits and these animals that I had named would be my pet one day and my dinner the next.  Forget lion king – this is the circle of life! We raise animals with respect and love, we give them a good life and they feed our families.  My father would walk into the large back kitchen with a rabbit by the ears or a chicken by the neck and that was the end of it. My mother taught me how to skin a rabbit and pluck and gut a chicken at a very young age.  These things don’t bother me – I still clean and pluck the partridge that comes to the restaurant!  Skinning a rabbit is no more difficult than taking your clothes off when you’re drunk. Once you get started it all just peels away!!

I found this online AFTER I wrote my circle of life paragraph! I was howling with laughter!

I found this online AFTER I wrote my circle of life paragraph! I was howling with laughter!

And this one!

And this one!

She would cut the throat of the rabbit and I’d stir the blood into the pot.  I know that won’t appeal to the squeamish among you but this was simply a way of life.  We all knew how it was.  When I was growing up in the seventies in Portugal it felt like everyone I knew had a farmer in the family. Each October the entire family would descend upon our farmer cousin for the killing of the pigs. The men would kill the pigs and the women would dismantle it, butchering the beast and preserving it as only we knew how.  We would use the intestines to skin the charcuterie, smoke it and freeze every bit of the damn thing.  I’m talking everything; trotters, heart, snout, ears and cheeks. Each family had one full sized pig and this would keep you going through winter and into summer. I loved those days – we enjoyed every last minute of it.

When I was little I remember the farmer near us would appear with a huge urn full of milk still warm form the cow.  My mum and the other ladies in our neighborhood would all go out with their 1.5 litre jugs, fill up and bring it back into the kitchen to boil it up.  Once it was cooled it would go into the fridge and we’d come in from school and pour a large glass, the smell of fat and freshness still lingering in the ice cold non-pasteurized dairy.  Milk doesn’t taste like that now!

You see, I believe that one of the issues with always eating these ready meals or takeaways is that there is no real connection with your food.  I’m not suggesting we should all skin a rabbit and cook it in its own blood like we did (although it is DELICIOUS!) but there should be respect in the preparation of your food. From blank canvas to end result.    I have never understood the concept of can’t afford to eat fresh – this is not an elitist statement.  We were pretty tight for cash in the days of Tabou opening and I could not have afforded to feed my family on takeaway and ready meals. I believe, through no fault of their own, people don’t know how to cook cheaply.   A whole chicken will feed a family of four for 2 days.  And apart from the costs, nourishing your child with good food is not just a physical thing – it is mentally nourishing.  I’m not saying you should have them stir the blood while your slit the rabbit’s throat but teaching a child how to prepare a meal and allowing them to get their hands dirty while helping is a whole set of happy memories right there.

How do we get the message out there? How do we help parents who don’t know how to do it? I don’t know – I really don’t. But I do know that this needs to be addressed at a grass roots level and a shift in mindset needs to happen in order for us to ensure the next generation know some basic skills.  I was speaking to Willie Little, our fish supplier. He’s been working with some school kids because he is convinced that the reason his shop in Crieff has no 20-something customers is because they don’t know how to cook fish.  Perth city centre doesn’t even have a fishmongers anymore. Its a sad statement and one we all must take responsibility for addressing.

So that’s my rant over – what can I do? Well, I asked on facebook what recipes you’d most like to see here and the results were not surprising… Moules Mariniers, Beef Bourguignon and although you never asked I’m throwing in my favourite and very simple Marinated Strawberries!   A much easier three courser than you might think – go on, give it a go!

See you all very soon,

Paula X

 

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