On our day touring around the beautiful Barossa Valley we stopped at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with who Maggie Beer is she was the “Cook” in the long running ABC television series The Cook and the Chef. The “Chef” was Simon Bryant, Head Chef at the Sydney Hilton.
I loved the Cook and the Chef series. It was one of those quality programs that sparked the imagination and made you want to run immediately to the kitchen to try the recipes. I loved Maggie’s way with food and her passion for the freshest of local seasonal ingredients.
Her journey to the Farm Shop in the Barossa Valley is as inspiring as it is interesting. This excerpt is taken from the Cook and the Chef website…
Maggie & husband Colin Beer moved to South Australia’s Barossa Valley in 1973 and began farming pheasants on their new property near Nuriootpa. Colin was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study game bird breeding in Europe and America and following their return to the Barossa Valley they opened a farm shop to sell the game birds they were breeding. This humble shop soon grew into the famed Pheasant Farm Restaurant. The establishment of the Pheasant Farm and restaurant marked the start of a career that now spans farming, export, food production, and food writing. After 15 busy years they decided to close the restaurant in 1993 and focus on production of their expanding range of gourmet foods, starting with the signature Pheasant Farm pate, a favourite with restaurant regulars, and in growing demand from gourmet food outlets around the country. In 1997 the then premier of South Australia, John Olson, opened Maggie’s next major venture, an export kitchen in Tanunda. A state-of-the-art facility, the kitchen was purpose-built for the production of preservative-free gourmet foods for the national and international market. The range of products soon expanded, and now numbers over twenty, including meat and vegetarian pates, olive oil, verjuice, preserves, condiments and desserts. They now export to Japan, UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the US. The pheasant farm was never far from Maggie and Colin’s hearts however, and in 1999 they returned to both the site and the original concept of the farm shop, re-opening the premises as Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop.
Now, we had a wonderful time at the Farm Shop sampling Maggies range of wonderful products and enjoying a lunch and what was one of the best coffees we’ve ever tasted, but that’s not the purpose of this post.
As we were about to leave the shop we spied a number of white boxes that each held about 7 lovely looking peaches. We were told that Maggie and Colin had recently purchased a 20 acre orchid in the region and we thought that it was unlikely that this dynamic couple would have done this just to grow some fruit. We’ll watch with interest to see the ideas that induced them to buy evolve as time goes on. We thought that, with Maggie’s famous passion for the freshest and best local produce, these must be no ordinary peaches.
We didn’t try one till we made it back to the Aussie Wide later that evening but the moment we did we were spoilt for eating any other peaches.
Now, I’ve yearned often for a peach that tastes like the ones we grew ourselves in New Zealand 50 years ago but the only samplings most of us are offered today are from the Supermarket chains and they always manage to present a product that is dry, and tasteless. Being one who learns slowly I always get conned into trying their produce, mainly because of their great presentation but they always disappoint.
Is it the growth hormones used in mass production? Is it the CO2 used to gas the produce enabling it to stay “fresh” for many months? Maybe it’s a combination of all of these but it is a fact that fruit and vegies just do not taste as good anymore as when we were young. I want to taste real eggs again, yellow and full of flavour.
I long for the exquisite taste of the tomatoes we grew at the Sunshine Coast and the Apples and Oranges from home grown trees.
The first taste of one of these Maggie Beer peaches bought back my faith in home grown produce.
It was good to know it wasn’t just deterioration in my taste buds preventing me from experiencing the “real” taste of food. As I bit into that peach it exploded in a taste sensation bringing back memories of real food from the past.
It was sweet but not sickly, juicy but not messy. It was firm yet perfectly ripe and the taste was purely orgasmic.
The colour of the flesh resembled a spectacular sunset that turned to a rich ruby red surrounding the seed in the centre.
I had honestly not tasted a peach so exquisite, so utterly delicious for as long as I can remember.
All I could do was call to Kerrie to try one and then close my eyes and allow the overwhelming taste sensation to totally overtake any sound or movement that was currently taking place around me.
The whole of life seemed to stop, suspended for a while to allow the perfection of that taste to be fully absorbed and enjoyed.
I found myself smiling inwardly as the taste stayed in my body for hours, even now, days later I can still experience replays of the sensation. This is how our food is supposed to taste.
How completely we’ve been duped by the misleading marketing today that touts supermarket chains as “Fresh Food People” and successfully convince us that they only buy the best with only us, the customer, at heart.
It’s all Poopycock!
Maggie Beer’s peaches gave me a truly wonderful experience in taste that I’ll forever long to repeat.