Sally Wise, the bestselling author of Slow Cooker, Slow Cooker 2 and Complete Slow Cooker, shares with us what a typical day in her life in the picturesque Derwent Vally looks like, and it sounds incredible!
I suppose when any normal person wakes up, they think of the day ahead in terms of chores to be done, work commitments and so on. For me, it is not this way at all. First and foremost, overpoweringly, it is ‘What can I cook today?’
There is something of a dilemma in this situation as there are only two of us here nowadays. Our days of raising six children and caring for two live-in grandparents have long since passed. So who will eat all the food – how can I justify another day spent at the ovens?
I have worked out my own solutions.
Firstly – the cooking school (Sally Wise Cooking School). A little tumbledown chalet adjacent to the house was the reason we bought our property. It was soon converted to serve as a cooking school – mostly all it took was a great deal of elbow grease. The school is an informal cooking-with-friends type affair and a hive of activity where fun and laughter prevail.
Then there is the stall at our gate. It’s an honesty-box type arrangement. I fill it with preserves, and very often little packages of things I’ve been baking – breads, biscuits, cakes. People are puzzled and often remark that surely I must get robbed of product or money. I jokingly reply that as far as I know, I’ve never lost so much as a biscuit.
We have a range of animals here, a motley crew of other people’s rejects. We are immensely fond of them all. There’s little Poppy the Puppy, a Maltese-Schitzu cross. We have some sheep too. Stars amongst them are Doris, who likes to eat off a spoon, and Ramekin, the dear old toothless ram, who is very partial to a little soft-cooked vegetable to supplement his diet, or a suck on a piece of apple.
Then there’s the cats – three indoor, all rescue animals, and two that are, for the moment, outdoor – an abandoned pair that are obviously totally devoted to each other. I have tamed them in recent months to the point where I can now pet them.
We have innumerable chooks and ducks, all someone else’s cast-offs or their progeny. Any leftovers and scraps go to them, and they are so fat and well-fed that they never go ‘off-the-lay’. We always have an over-supply of eggs in fact.
Our vegetable gardens yield enough for the school and our everyday needs. I should mention that no animal or bird on our property would ever be killed for food (I like my meat anonymous). These are our companions after all.
Once the thinking about cooking is done and the animals are all fed, I proceed to my ‘work’ areas. The cooking school kitchen is a marvelous space. I can produce mess and clutter for hours, then just shut the door and go back to clean up whenever I feel inclined. No need to spoil a good cook-up with immediate tedious cleaning.
In this space are open shelves containing a tumble and jumble of cake tins and ingredients, and a fridge and freezer full of perishables – all standing at the ready when inspiration strikes. I keep a chalk pen handy and write down recipes on the stainless steel benches as I develop them, later to be transferred to electronic format.
My husband Robert also uses this space to brew beer, which we share with friends and family when they come to visit, as they often do.
The second kitchen, the one in the house, is smaller than I’d like, but functional. It has a delightful outlook over the paddocks and gardens, and means I can watch the sheep and passing parade of wildlife as I cook.
I have a third kitchen of sorts. The laundry holds some of my collection of slow cookers and other cooking paraphernalia: ice cream machine, microwave/convection oven and so on. Everything has to be at my fingertips for a day’s cooking.
There’s arguably a fourth, if you count the huge outdoor bread oven Robert built me. It’s as large as a Sherman tank, and thus affectionately named ‘Herman’. It bakes like a dream – everything from pizzas to breads, roasts, cakes and casseroles, many of which find their way to the stall at our gate.
Later in the afternoon, it’s time to type up the recipes. The chickens and ducks know this routine well, and gather under my office window to demand their afternoon top-up feed of grain to keep them warm through the night.
After cooking and eating dinner, goods are packed up to go out to the roadside stall next morning. The remaining jars on the shelves are brought in as otherwise the possums come under the cover of darkness to raid them. They will even go so far as to nibble the labels on the jars, frustrated that they cannot get to the contents. In temper they sometimes even throw them across the road.
The nightly feeding of the cats and dogs follows. Then, finally, the chickens and ducks are locked into their large enclosures after their day of free-ranging, to protect them from any marauding wildlife with ill-intent.
People seem to love it here – we are so fortunate, they say, to live in such an idyllic place, living the good life, and indeed it is so. The Derwent Valley is a beautiful region of abundance, with generous people who share their seasonal produce around with others and with us.
Consequently, there is always something new and exciting to work with. Each day is a delight – an indulgence of cooking and inventing recipes. Who could ask for better than that?
Posted on July 17, 2017 by Bianca Carnevale